Ep. 50 Should I Shoot? Trouble at the ATM

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:

Saturday, 9:30 a.m. It’s a typical day for you as you plan to drive from home into town to run a few errands. All your stops are listed out in order on a piece of paper so you can drive the shortest distance and make the fewest turns. On the list: returning a defective tool to the big-box home goods store, picking up some dry cleaning, picking up a prescription for your mother and then to the bank to get some cash for the week. In addition to your list, you grab your keys, wallet, folding knife, mobile phone and your gun — a single-stack 9 you carry inside the waistband, in front, near your appendix.

Getting situated in your car, you place your mobile phone in a carrier attached to a vent on the dashboard. This setup allows you to talk hands-free and also see the screen when you drive — not that you allow it to distract you, of course. You head out, windows down, enjoying the moderate temps during this Midwestern spring day.

The return, dry cleaning, and prescription pick-up take only several minutes apiece. As you turn into the bank parking lot, you pull up to the one drive-through ATM lane. A couple people are ahead of you, so this shouldn’t take too long. With the bank building on your left, your car faces the bank’s main parking lot where there are several cars and a few people going in and out. You glance at a placard on the wall: Saturday lobby hours are 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. With all the online and drive-through capabilities available, you can’t remember the last time you physically entered your bank. But, apparently, people still prefer to handle these kinds of transactions with a teller, face-to-face.

The person in the car at the ATM finishes and pulls away, turning to the right. The next vehicle — the one in front of you — is a big pickup truck with flames painted on the side, large mudder tires and an enormous rusty hitch. The truck moves up to the spot next to the ATM and stops. The driver rolls his window down. You move your car up right behind it. The car behind you moves up as well.

Just then, the truck lurches forward about 5 feet and the driver jumps out. He has a bandanna half-covering his face, his right hand is in his right jacket pocket and he’s pointing it (whatever it is) directly at you. He signals you to stop or stay put by holding up his left hand with his palm toward you. Totally caught off guard but trying to figure out what to do — because everything you’re seeing is so surreal — you put your hand on your gun and prepare to draw.

You’ve had a concealed pistol license for years, and you’ve carried a concealed gun for just as long. Even though there have been a few instances where you were in a heightened state of alert, you’ve never had to draw on anyone. The thought races across your mind, unbelievingly: Would today be the day?

Should I Shoot?

Scenario 1. Convinced you’ll do as you’ve been told, the man removes his right hand, empty, from his jacket pocket as he moves to the rear of his truck. Reaching over the truck bed, he pulls out a massive chain and begins fastening it around the ATM. He fastens the chain to the truck hitch, looks directly at you, points at you and gives you the same stop or stay hand signal. Then he jumps back in his truck. Is this really happening? In broad daylight? Gathering your wits, you reach with your right hand to your phone, hold down the home button, which brings the phone’s personal assistant feature to life.

“Call 911,” you say.

“Calling 911,” the phone assistant answers obediently and starts the call.

Scenario 2. The driver of the truck puts his vehicle in drive and inches forward, taking up the slack in the chain. When it becomes taut, the driver guns it. Both rear tires howl as they spin, straining for grip on the pavement. Smoke starts billowing from each tire well as the truck jerks to the left, the chain tight as can be. You roll up your windows as your phone connects to a 911 operator.

“911, what is your emergency?”

You do your best to relay what is happening 10 feet in front of your car, that you’re stuck in the position you’re in and that the driver probably has a weapon of some kind. The operator asks you to hang on while the police are dispatched. In these few seconds, the driver’s actions have caught the attention of several people in the bank parking lot. A few immediately get on their phones, presumably to call the police.

Just then, the truck engine idles and the chain slackens. The man jumps out of his truck, looks at you, looks at the ATM and then jumps back in the truck. He guns the engine, the chain tightens and the tug-of-war continues. You’re still stuck, unable to go forward, unable to back up but relatively safe as long as the man thinks you’re going to continue to obey him by staying put in your car. At this point, you’ve withdrawn your gun from its holster and are holding it in your strong hand. You’re relaying as much as you can to the 911 operator.

Scenario 3. The commotion caused by the truck draws the attention of a bank security guard who appears from the main entrance of the bank. As the guard rounds the corner to view the ATM lane, he instantly recognizes what is going on and draws his gun on the truck driver, shouting for him to stop. The guard is facing you just as much as he is facing the truck driver.

Just then, a portion of the ATM machine gives way, causing the truck to lurch forward a few feet before being halted again. The security guard treats this as an act of aggression by the truck driver and fires two rounds at the driver — or, at least, through the windshield. You’re unable to see whether these shots have any effect, but the truck engine returns to idle and the chain goes slack again.

Seconds later, it’s all lights and sirens as the police roll into the bank parking lot. The squad cars screech to a stop to the front right of the truck. The officers get out and draw their guns from behind their open squad car doors.

The 911 operator is telling you the police should be on the scene and asks if you’re OK. You start to open your mouth to answer when the driver of the truck opens the truck door and jumps out. He points a gun in the general direction of the security guard and squeezes off a couple shots while moving toward the rear of his truck — toward you. The security guard returns fire, missing the man but hitting your windshield, which shatters into a spiderweb but stays in place. Through it, you can see the truck driver, approaching you, gun pointing directly at you.

At what point during Scenario 1 or 2 would you have been justified in drawing your gun and shooting? How would you handle Scenario 3?

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

{ 20 comments… add one }
  • loupgarous April 15, 2017, 4:44 pm

    Right at the beginning, the perp had his hand in his pocket and MIGHT have been menacing you. “Menacing” isn’t the same thing as “placing you in reasonable fear you or somewhere else would be in fear for your life”. Of course, when both of his hands came out empty of anything but heavy chain, even the menacing disappears, and the offense is grand larceny.

    You’re a CCW permit holder, not a reserve police officer (I’ve lived in counties and parishes where you signed up for the sheriff’s posse when you got your CCW permit). At no point do you have the right to initiate deadly force to prevent a theft in progress, unless it’s your property being stolen, and an armed intruder is in your domicile stealing it. You DO (depending on the state you live in) have the right to draw your pistol from your car if your state holds that your car is part of your domicile, and some states extend full Castle Doctrine rights there – as long you’re defending yourself from an intruder IN your car (aborting a carjacking in progress, say).

    So, once Clyde Barrow’s hands come out empty and are busy rigging a chain, you can’t lawfully shoot him. But it’d be a splendid idea to discreetly have your gun where you can use it fast, chamber a round and slip the safety off, as you are a witness to a grand larceny who might be killed to keep you from identifying the thief in court.

    • loupgarous April 15, 2017, 4:48 pm

      I ought to have typed “placing you in reasonable fear you or SOMEONE else would be killed or grievously harmed”.

  • mblack April 14, 2017, 2:08 pm

    Exit my car, stay low, inform the last person in line to leave tell the others to do the same find cover when everyone had a chance to be safe and wait for police, if he swings gun towards me drop him like a bag of trash.

  • Mister Ronald April 14, 2017, 11:26 am

    Day or night, If I have to use the ATM ___My gun is in my hand and ready____
    I never had a problem at all, But there is a first time for everything.
    Of course I always scout around looking to see if any suspicious people are around and if so I just wait or go to my other ATM.
    I do practice a lot of point shooting using my left hand because that is the hand my Glock is in, My right hand does the transaction.

  • murphy April 14, 2017, 9:52 am

    Do you get paid by the word??? IMHO – so many wasted words-sentences setting up the scenario – I usually skip to para 3 of so and overlook at the useless intro rambling. If I wanted to read a novel I would read Brad Taylor or Brad Thor.
    Hate to be negative as you do pose some interesting questions – but like so many times in life I have to say “get to the point” – and ask the f**^ing question. No offense buddy – and I really like the conversation/discussions – so take these comments as a personal issue – Other may (and probably do) really enjoy the (extended) intro you provide.

    • Darin April 15, 2017, 11:09 am

      Nobody made you read it but you keep doing it. I respect your opinion but not your approach. When one picks fights via keyboards we all instantly recognize the low self-esteem. The need for authority and power. They attack, escalate in their reply and continue to get uglier until they win. I won’t come back to view the thread but I will pray for joy, happiness, and healing. For healing in the area of pain that brings forth your edge and anger. Bud, your likely a very good man. Use your gifts for good. Don’t hate.

  • Rich K. April 14, 2017, 8:48 am

    I would have likely drawn and fired as soon as I saw the driver of the truck jump out wearing a mask and with his hand in his pocket apparently pointing a gun at me. At that point, I would have felt that my life was in danger, since the suspect was, to all appearances, armed and behaving in a hostile manner and pointing – or trying to appear as if he was pointing – a weapon in my direction. The fact that he is wearing facial concealment in an apparent attempt to hide his identity while in the act of committing a crime while armed would only heighten that. In my state, one of the standards of “shoot/don’t shoot” is “would a reasonable person, under the same circumstances, feel that his or her life was in danger or that they were in danger of grievous bodily harm”. Too many armed robbers, especially if under the influence of drugs, will shoot their victims (and hang the consequences) in order to eliminate witnesses to testify against them. Not all of them will, but enough to make me feel that MY life in in danger if faced with an armed criminal. “Better to be tried by twelve, than to be carried away by six”.

    • tired tom April 14, 2017, 10:35 am

      in my state you’d go to jail.. you’re not under threat…yet… you have no vigilante rights… so far, there is no threat of bodily harm, loss of life

      • Michael April 14, 2017, 12:12 pm

        Concealed identity, “his right hand is in his right jacket pocket and he’s pointing it (whatever it is) directly at you”, this constitutes an imminent threat. I don’t know what state you live in but where I live this is all you need.

  • Tim April 14, 2017, 8:42 am

    Remove myself from the area… find cover not concealment and then continue to put distance between myself and this crime. By Scenario 2 the “felonious tow truck driver” would have more to worry about than watching for me escaping. I would have put my vehicle in reverse and given the person behind me a short 3 count to escape the situation as well, but if they didn’t move then exit my vehicle from the passenger side using the cover of the vehicles to find the first best cover available and then leap frog away from cover/concealment to get distance and then find a bathroom to clean my shorts then dial 911. And I totally agree with the comment from above “Alway be able to see the rear tires of the vehicle in front of you touch the ground, minimum.” That’s just safe courteous driving 101 and in this particular circumstance may have saved your life… and your windshield… those suckers are expensive.

  • Fred Jones April 14, 2017, 7:27 am

    Scenarios 1&2- no justification to shoot. Scary? You bet! Life threatening? I don’t think so. Scenario#3- in my opinion is that if I am in imminent danger it is justified to use whatever means possible to protect myself.

  • tom olofsson April 14, 2017, 7:15 am

    I would have been justified in sending rounds down range when the bad guy exited his truck and pointed his gun at the guard. I would have had a reasonable fear of great bodily harm or death to happen to myself or others. The guard and the innocent bystander in the vehicle behind mine were both at risk in addition to me.

  • M.C. April 14, 2017, 5:46 am

    In #1 and #2 I do not believe a liberal, leftist, judge or jury would be 100% convinced that you could prove your own life was in danger(jeopardy) which justified deadly force. In #2. With him in front In your vehicle an engine block is a better barrier and shield than your car door and you can always drive your car into him if he tries to get at you from the front. I think it would be a big mistake to try to get out of your vehicle. Bad guy would be provoked and see your sudden movement as a threat. You would draw fire and become a target to him even more immediately important than the money.
    In #3 you would be then justified to shoot to defend self….PROVIDED… if it is clearly obvious to cops that HE is the bad guy, not YOU.

  • Jonny5 April 14, 2017, 4:38 am

    I would take the first one with a couple of rounds to centre of mass then move to the pick up and do the driver from his side window with a head shot. He’s otherwise occupied so won’t be paying as much attention. Moving back to the first guy who will no doubt have a pretty catastrophic sucking chest wound, I would despatch him from this mortal coil with a shot to the back of the head, a humane act to ease his suffering.
    Then I would probably be able to advance to the next level and enjoy my new GTA 6.

    • tired tom April 14, 2017, 10:37 am

      you’d go to jail

  • J April 14, 2017, 3:02 am

    Hopefully the engine is running, one should never forget their vehicle may be an excellent alternative as a weapon. Should there not be an adequate backstop available one’s vehicle may be a viable option.

  • Will Drider April 11, 2017, 12:08 pm

    At #1: BG is masked, communicated a lethal threat (doesn’t matter if he actually had a gun or not) and directed the restriction/control of your movement. Though you are justified to use lethal force at this point, odds are you can’t draw/shoot faster then he can shoot: you comply. When BGs attention is on the chain and ATM, I’m hauling ass out the passenger side door (to keep a barrier between us). After clearing the car, check BG actions while drawing. If BG is not responding to me, I’m heading to cover. You don’t call 911 when you need to immediately doing something to defend, protect or egress from the threat. Call 911 when you can safely do so. I’m not going to risk my life for a ATM.
    I would not be in place as the situation deteriorated into #2 and #3. I would reholster if I had sufficient cover and distance from the BG that would allow time for a response if needed. I don’t want a good guy CC or cop to come from behind and assume I’m part of the problem. Its hard not to watch or get a mental update on the action but that brings a risk of exposure and catching a bullet.

  • Clay Hamann April 10, 2017, 9:58 pm

    #1 and #2 no shoot . My personal policy for most situations is, if I draw my firearm, it is to shoot. In this case I would have drawn immediately and tucked the gun along the side of my leg. When #3 erupts, it is hard to say what to do with out knowing the layout of the area. Regardless of whether you stayed back 10 feet or 30 feet, most ATM lines haave barriers on each side so that leaving the que is not really available. If there are buildings adjacent to the area it would be wise to take cover behind it. The fact that the guard shoots and hits your car indicates that the suspect is between the two of you. Returning fire from the car is not safe. I would prefer to be outside my vehicle rather than in it if the suspect approaches. Returning fire is easier without the obstructions that are present in a vehicle. Take cover behind your vehicle and await the Police or further developments. If the suspect approaches, shoot him.

  • Chris April 10, 2017, 2:09 pm

    At no point in scenario 1 or 2 would you have been justified in drawing your gun and shooting since at no point were you in a life threatening or grave bodily harm situation. Yes the perp is committing an unlawful act but did not show any aggression towards the individual. Hopefully you would not be in scenario 3 as described. If you are a concealed carrier and have been for years then you might have attended a gun course or two, potentially read gun and self defense magazines and articles and are aware of the color conditions. If so then you might be aware to always keep a good distance between your vehicle and the car in front of you at all times, including the drive through ATM. If so that might have given you the chance to remove you and your vehicle from the situation and then call the police. I don’t think I would have called the police while in his view. It is easy to make out the mouthed words “call 911” and might have drawn his attention to you and angered him. If you didn’t have room to maneuver your vehicle then you should have gotten out of the car with your keys and removed yourself from the situation and from being so close. At that point you would have been able to call 911 from a safe distance and not be in the line of fire if you thought he was potentially armed, or if the guard became aware. That would have been better than sitting in your vehicle watching this unfold. Otherwise if you were in the third scenario, I don’t know at that point what you do, only you would know personally what to do at that point. You might get down on your floor board and let them shoot it out with your weapon drawn and pointing towards your driver side window in order to defend yourself should the perp try to commandeer your vehicle. Should you decide to shoot because he is firing in your direction and you feel the moral obligation to do so, you might keep in mind the other officers that are there and someone might get confused on who is who in all the confusion and gun fire. You might get shot by friendly fire. In the third scenario that’s a tough one.

    • Mark April 10, 2017, 6:30 pm

      A very thoughtful and considered answer. I, too, was immediately concerned that the driver in this scenario left too little space between his vehicle and the perp’s truck. I have often thought of how easy it would be to rob people in this situation – as a matter of fact, that’s where I thought that this story was going when I started reading. I think this reader had a very good handle on the situation. Alway be able to see the rear tires of the vehicle in front of you touch the ground, minimum.

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