Ep. 52 Should I Shoot? Gas Station Showdown

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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:

Driving home from work one weekday, you pull into a gas station to fill up and get a cup of coffee. Pulling up next to the pump, you put your car in park and turn off the ignition, clipping your keys to your belt. You also retrieve your subcompact pistol from the backpack on the seat next to you and tuck the holstered gun into your belt — appendix carry. Your jacket will cover it nicely while you make this quick stop. Putting your gun on, even for quick errands like this, has become second nature to you. And you’ve seen enough gas station security video footage to know how quickly an incident can go down.

Normally you’d pay at the pump with your debit card, but because you’re getting a drink from the gas station, you decide to go in, get your drink and pay for the drink and the gas all at once. In the gas station store, you quickly glance over the myriad of refrigerated soda pop available to you and instead decide a large cup of coffee is the way to go. The commercial coffee machine is just completing a brew cycle so you’re assured it’ll be a fresh cup. Small pleasures.

Holding a large empty coffee cup in hand, you’re just about to pull the coffee machine handle and fill your cup when you hear an electronic chime behind you. It’s the sound of the gas station door, which is about 30 feet away, being opened. You instinctively look over your left shoulder and over the aisles to see who came in. The customer is an enormous man wearing gray sweatpants, a sweatshirt and work boots. He’s also wearing a baseball cap and large, dark sunglasses, and — of most interest to you — he has a messenger bag worn across his body, hanging off his right side. His right hand is tucked inside the bag.

The man walks up to the counter and hands the clerk a note. The clerk nervously takes the note, reads it and then looks up at the man. The man motions with his left hand toward the cash register and then uses his right hand to put the messenger bag on the counter. His hand is still in the bag, but you can see the clerk has a clear view of what’s inside. The clerk then punches a few buttons on the cash register, the cash drawer opens and the clerk steps back a few feet. At this point, the big man turns and looks around the store behind him and sees you standing at the coffee machine.

Should I Shoot?

Scenario 1. As the man looks at you, his right hand comes out of the messenger bag enough so that you see he is holding something black. Given the clerk’s reaction and the man’s behavior so far, you’re virtually certain it’s a gun. You stand completely still as your heart pounds and your mind races. Then the man speaks to you.

“Stay right there. Don’t try nothin’,” he says. “No one has to get hurt.”

You nod but say nothing. Your strong hand holds a large coffee cup and, regardless of what happens, you desperately want to free your hand in case you have to go for your gun. Then the man turns his attention to the register, and reaching across the counter with his left hand, he methodically starts grabbing bills from the open cash drawer, putting the money in the messenger bag, even as his right hand stays inside it, wrapped around … whatever he’s holding.

Scenario 2. The clerk has said nothing but has stood virtually frozen in place, just a yard from the cash drawer, eyes on the large man and the messenger bag. The clerk’s hands have been at his side, but you notice his right hand moving toward his back. You look at the clerk with a determined stare, as if to say, “Stay cool, man. Don’t try to be a hero.”

The large man finishes cleaning out the cash drawer and then speaks to the clerk.

“Get me some smokes,” he says.

Then the large man looks directly at you.

“Don’t try nothin’. Stay there,” he orders.

The clerk turns around and reaches for the packs of cigarettes lining the area behind him. He grabs two packs and holds them out to the man who takes them with his left hand and puts them in his messenger bag. At this point, the man brings his right hand out of the messenger bag. He’s holding a large semiautomatic pistol, which he points at the clerk and then at you, in quick sweeping motions, as he begins walking backward toward the door.

Scenario 3. You’ve seen replica BB guns before and you’ve seen more than enough news reports where thieves have used a BB gun in a robbery or hold-up. The guns are shiny black plastic. Often the would-be robber removes or colors the orange safety marker on the end of the barrel black in an obvious attempt to disguise the fact that the gun isn’t real. But replicas they are, and most of them are very good ones, matching the exact dimensions of the real guns they are intended to replicate. The gun in the large man’s hands looks real but not quite real, and you simply can’t be sure as he continues swinging it back and forth, pointing it at you and then the clerk as he walks backward out the gas station door.

After he exits the gas station, he gets into the passenger side of a waiting late-model coupe, which speeds off before you or anyone else can see the license plate. You make a mental note of the make and model of the car and its general direction when it left the gas station parking lot, while the store clerk dials 911.

In what way would any of the three situations have had 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.

{ 24 comments… add one }
  • Auggie Will May 6, 2017, 3:14 am

    This is a very good scenario!
    What’s between me and him? If nothing or just bags of chips I would be looking for cover and then as I make my move draw my 1911.
    As long as he has not shot the clerk or anyone else I would hold my fire all the while keeping him in my sights.
    There is a lot to think about here and little time. One thing no one has said anything about is the “Clerk” in the line of fire?
    If he heads to the door with the $$ well then the clerks going home and so am I, after I pour myself a free cup of coffee.
    If he shoots the clerk or turns to point his gun at me again then I feel I have no other way to go but to let him have it.

  • Matt M April 29, 2017, 2:04 pm

    Yes in all 3 scenarios you are in the midst of an armed robbery, but, you are in no imediate danger, no threat aginst your life has happened other than the big guy telling you not to move. You make no sudden moves to make the big guy even more nervous than he already is. We all know when you get nervous in a high adrenaline situation your muscles are tense ready to explode into action…..that includes the finger on the trigger given in that situation the amoint of pressure needed to pull it is virtually nil. You do nothing but observe all you can to help authorities when they arrive and you, the clerk and the big guy chalk one up in the win column…..you’re still alive to go see your family thet night.

  • Larry Brickey April 28, 2017, 10:18 pm

    I would have kept my cool and left my gun holstered. Not a good opportunity in any of the 3 scenarios. I would have tried to get the license number.

  • Blankovich April 28, 2017, 4:34 pm

    Seems to me, at least in Texas, if someone actually points what looks like a real gun at you that you have the right to shoot back/first regardless of whether they are retreating. In Texas castle doctrine and no duty to retreat extend to any place you can lawfully be present. You do have to fear for your life or that you will suffer great bodily harm. It appears to me that scenario number 2 fits all of this criteria. If I didn’t have my weapon in my hand and the bad actor was waving his gun around in my direction, I would probably (nobody knows exactly what they would do until this situation actually happens to them) hit the floor behind whatever I could and then get my weapon in my hands as fast as I could. Drawing and then shooting at someone who has their weapon out and pointed at you means you lose unless they miss because their shot went wide or you dodged — hit the floor. Once on the floor I would set myself up at low ready on one knee and then proceed to simply wait until either it’s all clear or I have to shoot if the bad actor comes after me.

  • Patrick Coder April 28, 2017, 2:11 pm

    Waste his ass he stole the gun ,didn’t take time to see if it works !In fact it’s a look a like taken from a rent a pig

    • Wayne LaPiere April 28, 2017, 5:11 pm

      Gee Patrick, I sure hope you don’t carry a gun.
      Rent a pig? You are not a very nice fellow.

  • bob h April 28, 2017, 12:57 pm

    If you shoot in scenario #1 you better know a good criminal defense lawyer because you will need one..
    If you attempt to shoot in scenario #2 or #3 you better hope you’re lucky enough to end up in a trauma unit being treated for gunshot wounds. Only a fool tries to outdraw a gun in hand adversary. Gun in hand almost always wins. If you are lucky enough to win you better know a good lawyer to defend you against a civil suit. The robber is RETREATING.

  • Capn Stefano April 28, 2017, 12:41 pm

    “At this point, the big man turns and looks around the store behind him and sees you standing at the coffee machine.”
    ~~~~~~
    Then you’re a dumb ass for not setting the coffee down as soon as the dude came in, wasn’t looking at you, and withdrawing behind cover. By the time he looked at me I’d have my Witness 10MM or G21 at low ready, out of sight behind the snacks. This scenario is one reason why I no longer carry lesser calibers or capacities

  • William Robert Fornortener April 28, 2017, 11:44 am

    With the NRA’s highest priced “Conceal Carry Insurance” policy, I would have opened up in all three scenarios and emptied 18 rounds…as at least one, hopefully two rounds, would have hit the Obama voter. All those rounds and only two possible hits, Fornortener? ! Yes…detailed studies have shown that in intense firefight, your pistol/rifle range “accuracy” is basically gone and lost and you’re throwing rounds out creating Las Vegas odds that some (one, hopefully) will connect with the Democrat small loan borrower and end the threat to your life. (“DSLB”>>>The new Politically ccorrect Orwellian term for armed robber).

    • Oaf April 28, 2017, 12:55 pm

      And where would your other 16-17 rounds end up? Nah, who cares about the pre-school across the street or the mom pumping gas at the pump just outside. You Rambo’d the bad guy in a wild hail of semi auto gun fire. Great job!

      • DJL April 28, 2017, 5:22 pm

        I don’t think the dude getting coffee life was being threatened, plus the robber was retreating. Careless shooting as outlined, is what gets innocent bystanders killed, like the attendant, and your dumb ass in prison and facing at least one lawsuit! It’s not your job to be cop, judge and jury either. You better take some gun self-defense classes and do some reading on what qualifies as a “righteous shooting.” A self defensive shooting = when your life is being directly threatened, and if you don’t take immediate action, you fear you’ll be killed on the spot. That’s not remotely close to any one of the scenarios presented.

  • pete April 28, 2017, 11:33 am

    LOL, these articles should be renamed “Can I shoot some guy and get away with it legally?” For god’s sake stay out of law enforcement. You’re not qualified, trained, authorized, or mentally fit to stick your nose into these situations. Shoot someone over a few bucks? Get real! Observe and report. Observe and report.

    • Capn Stefano April 28, 2017, 1:04 pm

      “At this point, the big man turns and looks around the store behind him and sees you standing at the coffee machine.”
      ~~~~~~
      Then you’re a dumb ass for not setting the coffee down as soon as the dude came in, wasn’t looking at you, and withdrawing behind cover. By the time he looked at me I’d have my Witness 10MM or G21 at low ready, out of sight behind the snacks. This scenario is one reason why I no longer carry lesser calibers or capacities

    • DJL April 28, 2017, 10:06 pm

      It’s surprising how many think that because they can carry a gun, that getting involved in a robbery that’s not directed at them, think shooting a person with a gun, doing a hold-up for example, is the right thing or even remotely legal. I live in AZ and carry in public everyday. I’ve taken numerous defensive and tactical classes at some of the best training centers in the country, i.e. Gunsite in Paulden, AZ. They train the everyday guy, right up to and including special forces teams: http://www.gunsite.com. All of the training in self defense I’ve had, every instructor preaches that your first action is to look for a way out of the situation. Do not insert yourself in any way! The time to act is if and when you and / or your family are, or become the direct target of grievous bodily harm. Getting involved in a shooting because you have a gun, but not the target of the threat, is a ticket straight to prison. If you kill that “robber”, even if he’s threatening a cashier at gun point, you will also be sued by their family and lose everything you own, and probably your family too. As you won’t be seeing them for many years. The tactic is to get you and your family to safety, away and out of harms way by avoiding becoming a target too. Here’s a very good guideline of when you may be in the right to lethally defend you and / or your family: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castle_doctrine

  • Fake Count Dracula April 28, 2017, 11:20 am

    Of the scenarios above, #2 comes closest to a shooting situation. Once you have a suspicion it is a BB gun, I don’t think you can honestly say you believed the clerk’s life was in jeopardy. “Virtually certain” isn’t a threat to the clerk’s life.

    If the bad guy points the gun at me, start with a double tap, center mass–if I have a reasonable belief that I am going to be killed or maimed. Then MOVE; if you stay in the same place you stand the risk of being shot if the double tap didn’t work. After that it’s move and shoot, move and shoot until the bad guy goes down. Still your suspicion this is a BB gun or the fact you are “virtually certain” may make this a bad shoot.

  • Mister Ronald April 28, 2017, 10:16 am

    Will Drider said it all and is 100% correct.

  • Doctor J GROVES April 28, 2017, 9:43 am

    Pull

    Shoot

    Kill

    Each scenario

  • Jim Miller April 28, 2017, 9:28 am

    Just wanted to say how much I enjoy (and learn) from this series. Very thought provoking and the comments (usually) are also informative and give me something to think about. This one is one of the better ones and the previous comments are excellent.

  • James Drouin April 28, 2017, 9:19 am

    “In what way would any of the three situations have had to change in order for you to be justified in drawing your gun and shooting?”

    Given the specifics of the scenarios, only overt violence on the armed thief’s part would justify trying to beat action with reaction.

  • Will Drider April 26, 2017, 12:21 am

    I am always suprised by your scenarios starting with the the CC gun being carrier off body like in a pocket in a back pack. Is there a reason for this poor accessibility choice?

    You are justified in all three scenarios as BG projects physical threat then verbally comunicates it. Odds are 50/50 drawing against a gun already in hand but potentially obstructed. It could also prompt action against the clerk. Drawing against the exposed gun are worse. There is temptation to seek potential cover but these stores have anti theft mirrors that allow viewing blind spots and your actions would be observed. The BG had a light disguise on and his threats though menacing did not invoke a feeling of leave no witness alive mentality. BG did not gather clerk and witnesses together for better control or ease of elimination either. BG was also calm and controlled,, not screaming threats or waving the gun all around randomly. Less likley to make a rash mistake or shoot without provication. Probably not his first rodeo. You must also consider any action you take verses what could happen to the clerk. Do you draw and he shoots the clerk. You run/draw and clerk is now a hostage BG says he will shoot if you don’t drop you gun and come out. With my perceptions I would not have drawn and fired. This begs the next question: What if the BG with gun out demanded your wallet? You carry a thin dummy wallet with a few fake cards (donated by credit card companies via mail offers) and eight dollar bills (you have the serial # for each one) you can give up, Right? Draw and fire now? When he exits and turns? Shoot the shit out of the getaway car? Nope. Give it up and let the BG put some distance between you and him. It doesn’t matter under the Law if the BG is using a fake or real gun, BG is presenting it as real: treat it as such. You would need to be dead sure it was fake before taking action on that premise. If your wrong you could be dead wrong.

    • Ned Harrison April 28, 2017, 9:36 am

      An excellent summation. While you may be legally justified (depending on the jurisdiction)in shooting in any of these scenarios, actually doing so is risky. The air of professionalism the robber projects suggests he’s on-script and on his way out with a minimum of fuss and bother. That’s why 7-11 has a policy of just giving the armed intruder what he asks for and letting the insurance cover the loss. And yeah, I carry a throw wallet; I’ve used it three times so far. I stock it with expired gift cards, though… 😉

    • Victor Mumford April 28, 2017, 1:07 pm

      I 100% agree on your thoughts. I see no reason to shoot in either case only to escalate the situation. I for one know that not all of your bullets find there intended target so don’t want to run the risk of hitting someone else IE the clerk or patron outside pumping gas….. That would leave me wanting to be dead hurting or killing an innocent.

  • Chris April 25, 2017, 3:27 pm

    It’s hard to define what would have to happen in this situation that would warrant you to pull your gun and fire upon the perpetrator. I guess the answer would be different for everyone because only you would know what to do and when to do it in those life threatening situations. What would trigger setting things into motion for one individual would vary from person to person. No amount of money or theft is worth your life or the clerks life and had it been an identifiable BB gun I certainly wouldn’t want to take a life based on that information. I guess the only real things that would need to change for me is that I would have to be reasonably certain it was a real gun as well as it appearing that he was going to do any harm to myself or others, then I would use my defensive weapon. I would say that when he looked back at the register after looking at me the first time I would have tried to switch the coffee cup to the other hand, trying to hold it in the same place and use my strong arm to discretely pull my weapon and hold it out of view at my side. If the perp came my direction and I felt that I was in grave danger then I would have let him know I am armed. Easy to say that as an armchair commando but since I have time to think that’s what I would try to do. I will say that in extreme circumstances sometimes you have no choice but to react without even consciously making a decision. It’s like you step outside of yourself, do what you need to do and then after, think what just happened or wow I just did it as if you were compelled by an outside force without thinking about it.

    • Fake Count Dracula April 28, 2017, 11:29 am

      Not letting the BG know I have a gun until after I have let the first two rounds go. Then I move, fast and low; working towards the door. No point of identifying yourself as a threat when it might make me or the clerk a potential target of lethal violence.

      Finally put all that IPSC training to use.

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