Ep. 44 Should I Shoot? The Car Accident and the Driver with the Pistol

Editor’s Note: The following is a post by Mark Kakkuri, a nationally published freelance writer who covers guns and gear, 2nd Amendment issues and the outdoors. His writing and photography have appeared in many firearms-related publications, including the USCCA’s Concealed Carry Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter @markkakkuri.

Check out the last five episodes in this series:

It’s 7:05 a.m. and as typical a Tuesday morning as there ever was. You’re driving in your SUV on your way to the office where you work. You live in a half-suburban, half-rural area, but it seems there’s always a healthy measure of rush-hour traffic. The commute, while only 11 miles, often takes 20 to 30 minutes when the weather is good. And any amount of precipitation might double your driving time.

It’s winter and there’s a light snow falling. Traffic on the southbound two-lane road you’re on has backed up, more than what you would have expected. As you brake and take your spot in the line of vehicles, you look at the other drivers around you. Most are showing signs of frustration, some are looking at their phones, some are glancing at their watches. You look in your rearview mirror and watch the driver behind you throw his hand, which had been on the top of the steering wheel, up in the air as if to say, disgustedly, “Well, this is just great.”

As you and other drivers inch forward around a curve and over a slight hill, the reason for the backup becomes apparent. It’s not the weather, at least not directly. It’s what looks like a fender-bender: Two southbound vehicles are partially pulled over on the right shoulder but still on the road enough that traffic has to carefully go around them. The vehicle in front is a new black sports car, and the vehicle behind it is a very large older pickup truck. Probably an accident, you think, but there are no police officers on the scene. At least not yet.

As you inch up on this scene, you see the rear bumper of the sports car has been significantly damaged. The front of the pickup truck, equipped with an old, rusty grill guard, has no visible signs of damage. But you quickly lose interest in the vehicle damages when you see a man, presumably the driver of sports car, out of his car, standing between the two vehicles, gesturing at the truck driver. The truck driver is still inside his truck. The sports car driver wants him to get out.

You’ve heard of road rage but never really seen what looks like is going to turn into an active fight or at least some kind of heightened confrontation. But your attention to the situation hits its apex when you see that the driver of the sports car is carrying a handgun in his right hand. Looks like a Glock. Right out in the open.

To make the situation worse, a couple of the passing drivers lay on their horns or gesture to express their displeasure at the delay caused by the two vehicles on the side of the road. You wonder: Do they not see the gun? As you take all this in, you hear the distant wail of a siren; sounds like the county is on the way. The sports car driver is still gesturing to the truck driver, pointing at him and then pointing to the shoulder of the road and beckoning him to get out. The driver of the truck does not seem to be responding.

At this point, your SUV is in the right lane and you’re looking at the scene through your windshield and your passenger side window. And suddenly you realize you’re about to be uncomfortably close to a man with a gun who’s just been rear-ended.

You’ve had a concealed pistol license for more than 10 years but never had to use your gun, let alone put your hand on it in a scenario where you felt even a bit threatened. But, today, with this situation brewing, you find your right hand has moved toward the passenger seat, toward the side zip pocket of your shoulder bag, where your handgun resides in a holster attached to a stiff panel — an off-body concealed carry solution you got for Christmas.

Should I Shoot?

Scenario 1: As you inch forward, passing the sports car, your eyes remain on its driver. You turn your head back and forth, watching the vehicle in front of you, then watching him directly and then, as you pass him, watching him by using your side and rearview mirrors. He seems engrossed with the pickup driver and something on the other side of the vehicles. All of the sudden, the sports car driver moves from between the two vehicles and starts walking southbound, next to his car. In fact, he is walking toward you, approaching your vehicle’s rear passenger side. Your eyes dart from the road in front of you — blocked by traffic — to the gun in the man’s hand. He seems to be looking right into your rearview mirror. And now he’s gesturing at you to…what, pull over and stop? Seriously?

Scenario 2: Your heart pounds as you watch this unfold, seemingly in slow motion. Does nobody else around you notice? Or care? The vehicle in front of you has stopped and so you have to stop. The sports car driver is now directly outside your passenger-side window. Your window is up. Your doors are locked. Your right hand is now moving to unzip the side-zip concealed carry pocket, which is going to be difficult with one-handed. Escape seems impossible; you’re blocked in by traffic, but you don’t want to leave the relative safety of your vehicle. You’re watching the sports car driver immediately outside your vehicle. You can’t see his gun any longer and he’s now turning toward your vehicle, about to engage you in some way. Your mind races as you contemplate what you would do if he bangs on the window or yanks on the door in an attempt to open it.

Scenario 3: The sports car driver peers into your vehicle and you lock eyes with him. His right hand comes up and he presses a sheriff’s badge to the window while signaling with his left hand for you to roll down the window. You glance at your rearview mirror at the sports car and notice its headlights flashing in an alternating pattern and red and blue flashing lights in what looks like a damaged grill. It’s an undercover sheriff’s vehicle. Relief pours over you as you slowly move your hand from the zipper pocket of your shoulder bag and rest it on your car’s shifter. The sports car driver, a county sheriff’s officer, raps his knuckles on the window with a friendly smile. You roll it down all the way.

“Hey buddy, I’m Lt. Christiansen, Grove County Sheriff,” he says. “Can you pull over for a quick minute and help me out? I just hit a deer with my car, which in turn resulted in the poor guy in the truck hitting me. My car won’t budge and I want to move it further off the road and into the shoulder. Not sure what the truck driver’s doing; he’s probably in a bit of shock. Anyway, I have a tow strap and I figure your SUV would have no trouble with this while I wait for a wrecker…”

“Sure, glad to help,” you respond. “But for your safety and mine, I want you to know I have a license to carry a concealed pistol and I do have my gun in the car with me — in this shoulder bag, in fact.”

“OK, buddy. Thanks for letting me know,” he says. “You keep your gun in your bag and we’ll be good, OK?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Thank you.”

“Um, Lieutenant, didn’t you have your gun out a second ago?” you ask. “What was going on with that?”

“Yep, unfortunately, I had to put the deer out of its misery,” he says. “It’s laying just off the road on the other side of my car.”

As you carefully pull off the road and position your SUV to help the police officer, you reflect on the presumptions that abounded in the scenario and how things turned out to be not what they seemed. A vehicle hitting a deer, an unmarked police car, a plainclothes officer, a scared pickup truck driver, the possibility of slippery roads, rush hour traffic, a law enforcement officer who had to put a hurt deer down and blocked traffic patterns. Plenty of room for an accident to go from bad to worse.

In what way would Scenario 1 or 2 have to change in order for you to be justified in drawing your gun and shooting?

For more critical information on the use of deadly force and other firearms and self-defense topics, visit www.uscca.com/GunsAmerica.

{ 16 comments… add one }
  • Ro March 6, 2017, 8:05 pm

    Blannelberry
    You’re a fear-monger, the way you wrote this short story. Any good deputy who would have put the injured animal out of its misery (which is a good idea) would have then IMMEDIATELY holstered his gun.
    I can tell you this – anyone, and I mean ANYONE, who approaches my car with a gun in his hand will IMMEDIATELY be presented with a Mozambique as soon as I set my foot on the ground while getting out of my car. He would not be expecting me to be armed, nor would he have any idea that I would have a gun in my (semi) hidden hand when I egress my vehicle. And, yes, I train for situations such as this – MOZAMBIQUE !
    Road rage is bad enough but when a rager has a gun in his hand when he gets out of his car, he will be summarily be transported by a coroner. That is how we all should PLAN to handle every situation as you presented here.
    You are doing a disservice by talking the deputy approaching cars with his gun in hand, unless he is IN UNIFORM and performing a felony stop. You need to re-assess your priorities when it comes to writing about LEOs in any/every situation.

  • David Grenier March 3, 2017, 8:33 pm

    Approached by someone who is visibly armed, has the firearm in hand, is agitated, in what looks like a road rage incident, and who is not identifiable as a police officer – you fear for your life when he approaches – shoot that SOB. You don’t know there’s no danger until the end of this scenario. In real life, waiting until the end can get you killed. Police shoot armed citizens all the time for fear of their lives. In fact, sometimes they shoot innocent, and even unarmed, people. But if they are in legitimate fear for their lives, they get away with it. There’s no reason why a citizen shouldn’t have the same latitude. It’s not a game or a thought exercise when your life might be on the line – you do not have the luxury of finding out ALL the facts first. If the appearance of the situation makes you fear for your life, you have a right to act on what you have perceived, even if it turns out tragically wrong. Waiting for ALL the facts might result in it turning out tragically wrong for your family – because you aren’t around anymore.

    I’d wager that if the first-person recounting this scenario was a cop, he would have at least drawn on the other driver, and may have shot him, because his perception of the situation made him think he was in mortal danger. Under the circumstances, I’d call it tragic, but justified.

  • Penrod March 3, 2017, 5:04 pm

    While I think the LEO erred seriously by not holstering his weapon immediately after shooting the deer (since it was not visible, presumably it was at least in the ditch, so the LEO walked some distance to get back up where our driver saw him), this raises my greatest nightmare: the possibility of believing someone desperately needs shooting, shooting him, then finding out I had misinterpreted the situation: no shooting was needed.

    In this case, as described, the driver was right not to engage with his weapon, but he should have made sure he could have if the man with the gun escalated. I think the LEO screwed up by appearing on the road with his gun in hand and even more so by approaching the SUV driver with gun in hand (end of Scenario One). There was no reason to be trying to talk with the truck driver with an unholstered weapon, both because he may have scared that guy silly, and because he obviously set other people to code orange. Walking around in plain clothes with a gun in hand was not wise. Approaching a third party with gun in hand was extremely unwise. He is lucky he didn’t get shot by the SUV owner. Finding the SUV owner guilty of over reacting would have been a very cold comfort.

  • Observer March 3, 2017, 3:27 pm

    An officer in plain clothes is still an officer. After he put down the dear, he should have put his fire arm back in the holster. He wouldn\’t have been a threat to you or anyone else if he was conpitant enough to know that a gun in anyone\’s hand could make any situation turn bad.

  • PEEWEE HENSON March 3, 2017, 12:48 pm

    INJECTING ONE’S SELF INTO A ARMED CONFLICT IS NOT A GOOD IDEA, USUALLY. I’M OPEN TO ALL SUGGESTIONS SO FEEL FREE TO CHIME IN; MY THOUGHT WOULD BE TO NOT ENGAGE UNTIL THERE IS ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY OF THE SITUATION. NEVER PRESUME OR LEAVE YOURSELF OPEN TO SECOND GUESSES FROM PURE OBSERVERS (AKA PRESUMPTUOUS THINKERS)

  • Kerry Clayton March 3, 2017, 10:53 am

    So why was Lt. Christiansen walking around the scene with a pistol in his hand if as the scenario suggests the situation was only a traffic incident?

  • Mr. Sparkles March 3, 2017, 9:47 am

    Very thought provoking article. Some may miss the point and they are either such perfect CCWers or they have not ever been in a similar situation and had to or intend to think their way through it.

  • Walt M March 3, 2017, 9:41 am

    Strange how those who may benefit from the advice often are oblivious to it. The article had great advice.

  • Kevin G March 3, 2017, 6:33 am

    What was the point of this article? I just wasted10 minutes of my life thinking I was going to get some sound advice but instead I’m late to go to the gym for what? A story about road kill.
    Thanks.

    • Stan March 3, 2017, 7:58 am

      +1

    • Jerry March 3, 2017, 10:09 am

      I like the article and it points out that often times initial reactions do not tell the whole story.

    • Jim Miller March 3, 2017, 10:24 am

      I agree with Jerry and felt the 5 minutes of my life was well spent in this case…sorry for your “loss” Kevin!

    • BaronSuzanchi March 3, 2017, 2:14 pm

      It took you ten minutes to read that?

      Maybe you should be hitting the library instead of the gym.

      • Observer March 3, 2017, 3:28 pm

        Ha

      • Richard March 3, 2017, 11:40 pm

        Or maybe Kevan needs to go back to the first grade to learn to read again, lol.

      • This is a great response. I will be chuckling for long time March 17, 2017, 10:34 am

        Simple and Snappy retorts are the best and this one struck me as one of the best of the best. Thanks for starting my day with a laugh.

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