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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.

{ 1 comment… add one }
  • 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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