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Ep. 47 Should I Shoot? Late Night Banging at Your Door

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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:

The sound of breaking glass is unmistakable, especially at 1:50 a.m. as you are lying in bed and the rest of the house is dark. Quiet. Asleep. That sound…

It didn’t make a crash like someone dropping a beer bottle on your tile foyer. No, it was lighter and more scattered. More like a window being tapped out by a tool. Maybe a small hammer. It was distant but distinct.

Break-ins aren’t common in your neighborhood, and you’re a normal, everyday private citizen in a modest suburban subdivision where all the homes look alike. But you know criminals aren’t too picky when they’re desperate. And apparently, they’re clumsy too. Just the same, you reach over and put your hand on your biometric handgun safe. It reads your fingerprint and, in half a second, the door pops open and a small light comes on inside. You wait for your eyes to adjust. Yep, there it is. Your 4-inch barreled .357 Magnum revolver — stainless steel, loaded with .38 Special +p defensive ammo, equipped with a laser aiming system — is inside, ready for service.

The rush of adrenaline now has you wider awake than ever as you simultaneously sit up, listen and ready your gun. As you bring the revolver out of the safe, you accidentally bang the cylinder against the side of the safe with a clunk. Freezing mid-motion, you listen. Nothing.

You set the gun on the bed and move your feet around, trying to locate your shoes while carefully moving your hand over your nightstand, looking for your tactical light. Ah, there are the shoes. And there’s the light. And there’s your mobile phone on a charger on your nightstand. All of your motions seem out of order as you try to carefully dress while straining to hear.

This isn’t the first time you’ve thought about what to do if there is an intruder in your home, but it’s the first time you’ve ever been awakened like this. Your bedroom is on the second story of a typical colonial-style house. All the bedrooms are upstairs, but there’s no one in the house but you. If you can get to the top of the stairs — right outside your closed bedroom door — you can hold an excellent tactical position. Anyone coming up those stairs can be warned, and, if they are a true threat, easily targeted. And looking down those stairs affords you a view of the front door and living room, and, to a degree — because the houses in your subdivision are so close — your neighbor’s house.

It only takes a few seconds to get your bearings, get dressed, put your phone in your pocket and stand up, gun in one hand, tactical light in the other. But it seems like several minutes. Every few seconds, you stop cold, listening. Listening hard. Hoping to hear nothing, but if there’s something to be heard, you’re hoping to hear it and simply gain more information about whatever is going on. All you can hear — or feel — is your heart pounding.

You move stealthily to your bedroom door and, gun at the ready, open it quickly, stepping back and briefly shining your light into the hall. Nothing. Peering around the doorframe, you look down the stairs, which are just to your right. The exterior lights on your house are on, so there’s some light coming into the living room. You can see your furniture. Everything looks normal. You stay there for a minute, just watching, allowing your eyes to grow more accustomed to the dark. And listening.

Your living room is bordered on three sides by large windows with transoms. During the day, an enormous amount of sunlight can pour in, making the room exceptionally bright and cheery. At night, you sometimes close off the views by twisting the stick control on the mini blinds. Last night, you left them open. All of these windows, as best as you can tell, are intact. You can also see out the windows into the side yard. Your neighbor’s kitchen window is 30 feet away. And that’s when you see it: the silhouette of a human figure, in your side yard, moving near your neighbor’s window, looking into it.

Are your eyes playing tricks on you? You carefully move down a few stairs to get a better view while staying in the shadow and not using your light. Sure enough, it’s a person. Looks like a male, probably 5-foot, 10-inches and 250 pounds. Dark baseball cap, gray hoodie, blue jeans, maybe tan work boots. Beer bottle in hand. You know it’s not your neighbor because your neighbor is not a he but a she — a nurse who is, in fact, working her late shift tonight. She’s not one for late-night visitors and this guy’s middle-of-the-night visit simply doesn’t look right. At this point, you’ve forgotten about the noise of the glass breaking. It’s time to call the police on a very suspicious character.

So you pocket your tactical light and dial 911. It is answered almost immediately. “County Dispatch, what is your emergency?”

Just then, someone bangs heavily on your front door and a woman’s voice yells a name you don’t recognize. With your focus on the man in the side yard and on trying to call 911, the banging and yelling startle you so much you drop your phone, which bounces down seven steps, coming to a rest face-up.

The pounding on the front door continues and the yelling of a name continues. You watch the man in the side yard turn around and look in the direction of your front door, which is uncomfortably in the same direction as you are. He yells something toward the other person, then hisses, “Be quiet!” while gesturing with both hands, palms down, in an up and down motion as if to say, “Keep it down!” And then he walks out of sight, toward your front door.

The person at the front door grasps the door handle and tries to open it. It’s locked, of course, but the person twists and rattles and shakes the door. Your mobile phone display is still lit up, “911” showing on the screen along with a timer counting up the seconds and minutes while the call is connected. You stay stock still on the stairs, heart pounding, hands shaking while holding your revolver in sort of a low-ready position. The man in the side yard returns into your view and this time looks not into your neighbor’s window but directly into yours. Right into your living room. Right at your phone. Right up the stairs. Does he see you?

Should I Shoot?

Scenario 1: The man quickly pulls back from the window and goes toward the front of the house. The banging and yelling continue. The door rattles and shakes. You seize the moment, quickly descend a few steps, grab your phone and lunge back up the stairs. Did the man see you? You put the phone to your ear and catch the dispatcher mid-sentence. “…no response on the line, 4210 and 4240 are en route, sir.”

Relieved the dispatcher is still on, you stammer out a situation report: “I, I, I’ve got someone banging on my front door, yelling and some weird dude in my yard. No idea who they are.”

The dispatcher is calm and reassuring: “You say they’re outside your house. OK, what is your location?”

“I’m inside my house,” you reply. “They keep banging on the door, trying to get in. I have no idea who they are.”

“Stay on the line with me,” the dispatcher says. “We have officers en route to your location.”

Scenario 2: The man who was in the side yard must have convinced the other person near your front door to cease the banging and yelling because it all suddenly stops. Well, the banging stops. Now two people are in a heated argument right outside your front door. One of them has a gruff voice — this one you presume to be the man from the side yard. The other voice indeed is female. You can’t understand what they’re saying because they’re yelling over each other.

You stay put on the stairs, gun in hand, trying to relay what you can to the dispatcher, including the fact that you are armed. At that point, blue and red flashing strobe lights fill your living room as two squad cars pull up into your driveway with a screech and the sounds of doors opening.

A commanding voice resonates over a PA system: “You two on the front porch: Hands up and face the house!”

Suddenly, there’s a huge crashing noise and your front door violently swings open. The man from the side yard bursts through the doorway but trips over the threshold falls hard into your foyer.

Scenario 3: He ends up lying on his side, howling in pain, grasping his left shin with both hands. You drop your phone, level your gun at him, retrieve your tactical light and shine it on him. Police officers are approaching the porch, guns drawn. The man’s hands are still on his shin as he groans in pain.

From the PA system you hear: “Homeowner! Put down your gun and keep your hands in view! We are entering your house!”

You comply, putting down not only your gun but also your tactical light. A police officer appears at your door, shining his light at the man and then at you.

“Stay right there, it’s over,” he says, but you’re not sure who’s he’s talking to.

You stand still, arms out, showing your hands, as a second police officers steps in to handcuff the man.

Should I Shoot?

How would any of these three situations have to change in order for you to be justified in shooting?

Epilogue: In a situation like this, you might not ever find out the whole story, but here it is: The police successfully arrested the two people outside your home on multiple charges. Both were found in possession of controlled substances and both were intoxicated. The woman, in fact, was diagnosed later at the hospital with acute alcohol poisoning. The man was armed with a neck knife and modern .40-caliber pistol with all the serial numbers scratched out. Both were known drug dealers.

Eventually, police would learn that the couple, in their stupor, were looking to visit another dealer in a subdivision across town but couldn’t figure out how to get there and somehow ended up in your yard and at your front door. The sound of breaking glass you initially heard that night was the result of the man tossing a rock at your neighbor’s upstairs window in an attempt to signal the dealer he thought would be in there — a pre-arranged code between the two parties. He picked too large a rock and threw it way too hard. And thus began a rough night that thankfully ended well.

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

{ 21 comments… add one }
  • MO'CATZ March 24, 2017, 11:41 pm

    I don’t have these problems because I have cats! Google ‘cat chases bear’, nuff said.

  • Captain D March 24, 2017, 1:25 pm

    So the question is: “How would any of these three situations have to change in order for you to be justified in shooting?”
    In any of the three scenarios the would be intruder(s) would need to forcibly enter your home first – 1st. Without Police in pursuit or at the scene. They would need to be aggressively approaching you to justify a “Should I Shoot” moment of thought or action.
    Since you have a better vantage point on the second level floor already. The intruders only means to reach you is to come up the stairway which you have covered from your bedroom doorway vantage point. Retreating to your bedroom doorway commanding the intruder to stop and leave the home immediately and that you are armed may not get the response you are looking for if he/they are mentally and physically impaired. Drunk or otherwise.
    For me, to justify shooting #1; The intruder(s) would need to reach the top of the stairwell, have ignored my commands and is intent on reaching me; Shoot until the threat is stopped. #2; At any point the intruder pulled his gun while mine was already pointed at him from my clear vantage point; Shoot until the threat is stopped or otherwise physically discouraged from harming you/me.
    Food for thought. The last thing I want to do is shoot someone even in my home. In the few seconds you might have to make a split decision to shoot.. With a clear enough mind and in control of my mental factor, I might take a miss shot as he is climbing the stairs in attempt to discourage his hostile approach. Then again that might just piss him off in which case he has entered your Should I Shoot decision. Just my thoughts, you?

  • Jason March 24, 2017, 11:19 am

    Some people have a massive misconception of the castle doctrine. From a legal standpoint it is a PRESUMPTION that one has a reasonable fear of imminent serious bodily injury or death when an assailant is in his or her home, this justifying the use of deadly force. It is not necessarily a slam dunk defense, as some presumptions may be rebutted in the face of contary evidence (such as in this case where the potential assailant is seemingly injured to the point of ceasing his attack as well as law enforcement being present). I am not speaking against the castle doctine in the slightest (I am an advocate for it), but people need to know how it actually works in the legal sense before stating that you can shoot anyone who comes into your home uninvited without any repercussions from the law.

  • John N. March 24, 2017, 9:51 am

    If it is me, I call 911 while still in the bedroom. I go to the top of the stairs and stand by, but unless someone tries to come up the stairs, there is no reason to shoot.

    When the perp crashes through the door with the police in hot pursuit, I’m already safely at the top of the stairs, gun in hand to use if needed, but I let the pilice do their job before I open fire. Only if the police or me (or my family) are in immediate danger do I need to use my weapon.

    • Fake Ghenis Kahm March 24, 2017, 11:58 am

      The stairs are the key tactical point here. They force they bad guy(s) into a “choke point.” If I determine they are after me with the intent to main, inflict great bodily injury or use lethal force, I can cover just about the width of most staircases he/they has/have to climb to get to me with 1 blast of 00 buck. As long as I am up on top of the stairs and he’s trapped on low ground, I have THE tactical advantage and can exercise it whenever it looks like the situation is going to get western.

      Dial 911, when the cops get finished with their coffee (or “Kawfee” if you’re on the east coast) and donuts, the bad guys will have gotten bored and left. If not, within the half an hour (around here 0.5-1.0 hours is the average response time for anything from LE to EMS. A lot of time, volunteer EMS just never bothers to show up.) The cops usually show up, eventually. USUALLY.)

      So, what if he trashes your downstairs. That’s what (I think, I’ve looking at mine and I am not sure what it covers) homeowner’s insurance is for. I am not going to maim and kill someone over a 42″ television set or a computer.

      Personal preference: Ditch the handgun, unless it’s a Taurus Judge (even then it’s marginal); go with a 12 or 20ga loaded with 3 in. 00 buckshot.

      • matthew martinez March 24, 2017, 7:07 pm

        +2 but my preference is some walmart generic birdshot. packs a punch withing range and wont go through walls. with one on target youre done for 2 is a finisher. easier to weild too.

  • kimberpross March 24, 2017, 9:34 am

    I believe those that would use the castle doctrine and legally shoot when the guy enters the home underestimates the psychological impact shooting another human will have on them, especially if they kill them. Using as much judgement as one can in the high stress situation is prudent on whether it truly is a imminent threat. Once the police arrive, you are on the stairs, the guy burst into the house running from the police. Unless he looks at you and pulls his gun, likely he isn’t worried about you. I say let him go, even if he ran into another part of the house. At that point let the police deal with it. Worst case, the police misidentify you as the home owner a shoot at you if you engage. Now, if there were other family members in the house, three shots center mass when he burst through the door. Not going to allow the situation to escalate and endanger a family member.

    • Fake Ghenis Kahm March 24, 2017, 12:04 pm

      According to the 11th and 4th circuit courts, cops are under no obligation to make any determination who is the ‘bad’ guy and who is the ‘good’ guy and can start blasting the minute they see a firearm. There is no way I am going to show cops anything but empty hands, preferably lying on the floor, face down. I don’t want to be shot by a trigger happy cop over a 42″ TV, either.

  • Bob March 24, 2017, 9:22 am

    I am no lawyer but I play one on the internets….really I just guess about things and you never really know what would happen till it happens. It seems like with the cops there as this guy plows thru the door and you alone in the house you should follow their instructions and be backup in case things go way south….Had their response been longer it could have gone a whole different direction.

  • DeBee Cirket March 24, 2017, 5:33 am

    Put the gun down to get your shoes?

    • OngoingFreedom March 24, 2017, 1:42 pm

      I sure would, if the shoes were handy (note to self: change nightly preps). Remember the broken glass? Who’s to say if you have to traverse that glass in your responding movements. Time dependent of course. If I hear steps pounding up the stairs as I are reaching for my slippers that plan is being dropped real fast.

  • Rick March 24, 2017, 5:12 am

    In any of the situations, you do not have the right to shoot. There is no reasonable assumption of an emanate threat. Always retreat until there is no retreat and no other choice. This does not mean you allow yourself or family to be harmed first. You just vacant the threat until you can no longer vacant the threat. It’s easy to pull the trigger and be wrong.Make sure you’re right first.

    • FRANK BEAM March 24, 2017, 7:39 am

      YOU OBVIOUSLY LIVE IN A COMMUNIST STATE THAT DOESNT HAVE A STAND YOUR GROUND RULE,
      WHAT YOU SAY IS BULL CRAP., SOMEONE IS IN YOUR HOME ????? YOU KILL THEM – PERIOD…

      • Oaf March 24, 2017, 10:43 am

        You’re going to shoot someone with no visible weapon for coming in your front door WITH AT LEAST 2 COPS right behind him giving orders? Good luck convincing a jury your life was in danger on that one.

      • darrell Reeves March 24, 2017, 12:43 pm

        Yes I do unfortunately live in Commiefornia with the most restrictive gun laws in the union. The liberal, la la communist legislators only want the police and the military to have weapons for the most part. It is okay for my tax dollars to pay for a C.H.P. armed security detail for these seditious lawmakers, but it is not okay for me to be armed or it is a bear to get a CWP for me to carry.

      • bob h March 25, 2017, 11:50 am

        You obviously misunderstand both “stand your ground” laws and when/how to use your caps lock. To successfully use a “stand your ground” defense the very first thing your attorney has to convince a judge or jury of is that you either were or reasonably believed you were in imminent danger of grave bodily harm or death. I hope you never have to use a stand your ground defense because if you do all it will take to convince the court you were not in imminent danger and paint you as a trigger happy nutjob and put you in prison is to quote you- “SOMEONE IS IN YOUR HOME????? YOU KILL THEM- PERIOD”. Even if the prosecutor in a criminal case doesn’t search your internet history I guarantee the plaintiff’s attorney in the civil case alleging wrongful death will so best case scenario you lose everything you own.

    • OngoingFreedom March 24, 2017, 2:00 pm

      Depends on your state, and a jury of your peers.

      In some states as soon as the homeowner observed the attempt to force entry into his home he is justified in shooting through the door. In other, extremely restricted states, he will have to retreat as far from the intruders before he is justified in using lethal force.

  • Tj2000 March 24, 2017, 5:02 am

    Cliff,
    The only thing about what you said, The armed homeowner would have been well within his rights to use deadly force in this situation and in my humble opinion, should have. Is that when he fell and hurt himself he posed no immanent danger or threat. As an LEO we are trained and we train citizens in our concealed carry classes the difference between immediate and immanent.
    This guy was immediate ,he posed a threat but was in no real position by clutching his leg in pain. besides he was well covered by police.
    Now if he wasn’t hurt and got up or pulled his weapon then he becomes immanent and full of holes from the police and the home owner.
    Great scenario.
    TJ

    • Fake Ghenis Kahm March 24, 2017, 12:09 pm

      Perhaps your next CCW class can include a spelling module.

      It’s imminent, not immanent. “Yes, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I was in ‘I’m-MAN-nent danger.” Immanent–existing or operating within; inherent. Entirely different meaning.

  • Will Drider March 22, 2017, 9:03 pm

    Mark, There are general similarities in your article above and the dead homeowners at story link below. Could you address this.
    https://www.gunsamerica.com/blog/another-fed-court-rules-exercising-2a-diminish-rights/
    Thanks for your time,
    Will

  • Cliff March 21, 2017, 11:00 am

    I guess I am a little confused as we have an armed homeowner not protecting himself and family when confronted by an armed home invasion? I see a lot of accepted risk in this story that is well beyond my acceptable level. The armed homeowner would have been well within his rights to use deadly force in this situation and in my humble opinion, should have. Too many things could have gone the other way and caused a tragedy for the good guys!

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