Ep. 39 Should I Shoot? ‘You Mad, Bro?’

Editor’s Note: The following is a post by Ed Combs, the Associate Editor of Concealed Carry Magazine.

Check out the last five episodes in this series:

These posts are all about the more unexpected angles of going about armed, the kind of stuff that some concealed carriers never even consider. They’re always difficult scenarios, and that is entirely by design. That said, I pull the specifics directly from past personal experience, experiences of other current and former law enforcement officers, and raw footage of violent crimes. The scenarios that I guest-post here are real, and the way I present them is designed to make you and all other concealed weapon permit holders think more deeply and broadly about the defensive use of force than you otherwise might.

Say you’re walking through the parking lot of a grocery store and you say something under your breath. Maybe you mumbled to the person next to you that it’s cold or hot or rainy. Maybe you’re alone and mumbled one of those statements that we seem to mumble more often as we grow older. It was a non-statement; it was just one of those things that happens sometimes.

You continue to walk toward the door of the store, but when you’re about 20 yards away from it, you feel a hand on your shoulder as it spins you around. You almost lose your balance, and as you get your hands up and orient yourself, you see who’s connected to that hand: he’s about 5 inches shorter than you but is about as muscular an individual as you’ve ever seen. His face, neck and arms are covered with tattoos, he’s wearing black jeans, black Converse All-Stars and a tight black T-shirt, and he’s demanding that you repeat what “you couldn’t have possibly been stupid enough to just say” to him.

Well, what do you know … it appears that he’s certain he heard you.

NOTE: Yes, I know that some of you guys are Ronins who live in caves, drinking gasoline while putting cigars out between your toes. Yes, I know that a lot of you will swear up and down that this could never even remotely possibly happen to you. Yes, I know that you’re just SO situationally aware ALL the time, and that anyone who could ever, under any circumstances, be snuck up on shouldn’t even be allowed to live in the United States of America. If this is the case, then I would ask that you either humor me or pass this link along to a mere mortal who could use the help.

Let me reiterate that you didn’t really say anything at all, let alone to him. No one reading this would be foolish enough to walk around insulting strangers, even under their breath, because this is exactly the kind of disaster that such behavior can generate out of thin air. You really were just mumbling a song lyric or an old saying about walking in the cold, and this entire exchange is a terrible misunderstanding.

You tell him so as you raise your hands and back up, but the little bugger is extremely fast and it’s hard for you to keep track of where he is for more than about a second. His language is intensifying; he’s now bragging about how many men he’s killed with his bare hands and how he isn’t afraid to “go back inside” for killing a such-and-such like you.

There’s now a crowd forming, and some of the people have pulled out phones and are very clearly recording what’s happening. You keep moving away from him, but the crowd makes it hard to maneuver; he’s still all over you, and now he’s demanding that you strike him. You again tell him that you have no intention of fighting with him, but this only seems to make him madder.

Then he says it: “******, I’m gonna kill you. You gonna die today. You hear me?”

The crowd immediately backs away, and some of them actually flee the area altogether.

“Should I shoot?”

In this specific scenario, we’re getting into a pair of crucial legal areas referred to as “victim-perpetrator factors” and “disparity of force.”

How old are you? Are you, like our bad boy here, also a starkly muscular prizefighter who could probably kill the average person with a single right to the back of the jaw? Are you over the age of 40? How about 50? Are you older than 60? Do you walk with a cane? Would you describe yourself as downright elderly? Would you describe yourself as disabled, and would others agree? What is your experience with single combat, unarmed or otherwise? How’s your eyesight? Arthritis? What are your knees up to these days?

Just to reassure some of the folks who think I go too hard on the private citizen and bring up too many concerns for the predator, what does the crowd appear to be doing? Do they appear to know this man? Do they appear to be siding with him? Have any of them begun to verbally assault you? Are any of them yelling things like “Wolrdstar!” or “Take him!”? Are you incapable of elbowing anyone out of the way, let alone what appears to be an entire high school’s worth of gawking under-achievers?  I don’t expect you to be able to keep a running tally of every single person in the area, but these are all factors that can (and do) come into play in the aftermath of a defensive shooting.

You’d never seen this man before this interaction, but from what you know about him, he’s extremely dangerous even if all he has in his pockets is chapstick. He’s told you about how many people he’s killed and how he’s been to prison, and now he’s actually said aloud that he intends to kill you. Under such a circumstance, you have no choice but to believe him.

“Should I shoot?”

As in any use of force, you need to be ready to articulate exactly why you did exactly what you did. In most law enforcement agencies, any time an officer lays a hand on a citizen outside of a handshake, that officer has to explain in writing exactly what led up to and the justification for that use of force. Such a document is called a “Use-of-Force Report,” and it will be used internally and, if necessary, in court.

If you’re forced to shoot someone to save your own life or the life of another, you will have to do the same. The biggest difference will be that you won’t have the backing of a badge, a department and a union. Unless you have a legal backup plan, you’ll be on your own.

“Should I shoot?”

Just as you don’t have to wait to be shot or stabbed or clubbed to shoot an attacker, you don’t necessarily have to be punched or kicked before shooting either.

“Should I shoot?”

If your life or the life of a loved one is immediately and unavoidably in danger, the answer is basically always, “Yes.” If not, the answer is always, “No.”

I’m still a comparative youngster who’s roughly the dimensions of a decent-sized black bear. I also have a few years of calming down meatheads like this guy under my belt, so I might not (even though he’s just told the assembled crowd that he intends to kill me). If I can’t calm him down or get out of the crowd, I might well end up being forced to immediately stop the threat that he presents.

I also understand (as should all of you) how dangerous that assembled crowd could be regardless of my relative youth and experience. I understand that if I am forced to shoot this man, the chances of the crowd scattering are better than the chances of them all attacking me at the same time, but not so much better that the latter isn’t crossing my mind. If they all rush me at once like they mean it, they’ll basically neutralize my skillsets apart from rapid target acquisition and engagement until either I run out of ammunition or they get tired of getting shot.

I think I might still have a chance of talking him down, and I’d really rather get out of this without having to shoot a local hothead in front of 30 of his closest admirers. I’ve done so under similar conditions in the past, so at this point, it’s still worth a try. He’s running out of time, though … and so am I.

How about you?

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

{ 14 comments… add one }
  • mocatz February 5, 2017, 11:28 am

    You need an intermediate force option like tear gas or mace. If you have a coat maybe you could get away with concealing a taser. If the situation escalated after using the aforementioned devices I think deadly force could be warranted at that point.

  • John Chinn January 27, 2017, 7:38 pm

    Jesus people. It’s as though becoming a person’s friend using humility isn’t even an option anymore! (and with all due respect to those that have had a situation where there is no opportunity for rational relationship) my first response would simply be, “Dude, I’m so sorry! I apologize greatly! I would much rather share a beer with you right now and be friends! I really didn’t mean to say what you thought I said.” and if it doesn’t go well after that, well, the situation is lost. Time to start pulling a trigger.

  • NRApatriot January 27, 2017, 1:17 pm

    A question to the author of this article. I am an permitted concealed carry citizen nearing sixty years of age but still possess broad shoulders and a defined muscular body with very little gray in a full head of hair. I don’t look my age and look more like I could still hold my own in a fist fight but six years ago I had to have an emergency installation of a pacemaker for my rheumatic fever ravaged heart because it went into level three heart block. It protrudes over my pectoral muscle prominently and looks as if a cigarette lighter is stuck under my skin and it’s easily snagged on things. If it gets damaged and stops working, the lower half of my heart has nothing to tell it when to beat and may stop altogether. A deputy sheriff friend told me, under our castle doctrine law I had no duty to retreat nor explain my condition to a would be assailant and if I was in reasonable fear for my life had every right to shoot said would be assailant. According to our castle doctrine statute I urged my reps to get passed into law, if in fear of your or some other innocent individuals life, use of lethal force is permitted without worry of being prosecuted or sued by the perpetrator if he survives or their family if he doesn’t. Does not your article only pertain to states that do not have castle doctrine or stand your ground laws?

  • lost one January 27, 2017, 12:57 pm

    something no one has brought up–you are responsible for every round and where it ends up. say you make a clean, fight stopping hit on the BG. did that bullet stop inside the BG? did it go through and into one of the crowd pressing in? will the crowd disperse or attack you for shooting an “innocent” spectator?

    • Grids January 27, 2017, 2:14 pm

      There is no such thing as an innocent spectator in a situation like this, if group think has them siding with the meathead and you have no way of getting out of the crowd, they are all just as much of a threat and at fault for anything he does or tries to do to you.

      • Bruce February 10, 2017, 7:40 am

        I disagree Grids. A crowd of gawkers, even mouthy ones, are innocent bystanders. Now, if one of them advances on you with the BG that’s different but at this stage they are just walking and maybe offering encouragement. Deadly force against them is not justified IMO.

        • jjkarn April 18, 2017, 10:33 pm

          Actually, they do not have to advance on you to be guilty. In a lot of jurisdictions, if the “bystanders” are doing nothing more than physically preventing you from leaving, it becomes unlawful restraint, and if they are intentionally preventing you from leaving a situation that is likely to cause you harm, it becomes aggravated, and they become accessories to whatever crime is attempted by meathead.
          Only if they do not impede your exit are they innocent.

  • Captain Dave January 27, 2017, 12:20 pm

    I found this one interesting because I recently had a very similar encounter. I had dropped my wife off at Walmart and since she was only going in for a minute I pulled up in front of the store in the no parking area to wait with engine idling. I was reaching into the center console for my phone when someone knocked on the passenger window. I rolled it down and this guy started screaming at me that I’d just cut him off down the road. I told him that he shouldn’t worry about it since he was apparently ok but now he wanted me to get out and fight. What surprised me most was that he was far shorter and smaller than me, but he I’m 68 and he looked about thirty eight. The biggest difference with the above scenario is that due to many years previously in martial arts, I was very calm and displayed no fear whatsoever. I replied that if I got out to fight, it would be a bad day for him, so I was not going to do that. He only became more enraged and yelled about being willing to do another five years just to get to beat the crap out of me. I thought I might get my phone out to record him, so my hand remained in the open console. He kept eyeing me and I later figured that he may have thought my hand was on my gun. Only thing is, I didn’t have it with me that day. When my wife came out of the store and approached, I got concerned for her safety, so I sat up and undid my seat belt, at which time he made a hasty retreat. My guess is that he thought I’d just pulled back the slide to load a round. The bottom line is that remaining calm and collected usually puts the other guy into thinking instead of action.

  • Joseph January 27, 2017, 8:32 am

    Will is absolutely right on all points. I would only add that, in order to do what he has advised, you need to have decided on who that lawyer will be (NOT your divorce or tax lawyer) and have their night and day phone number with you in advance. You carry a weapon for defense before the attack. Carry that number for defense after the shot. I am a lawyer – and I carry the number of the right kind of lawyer with me all the time. I also recommend you read Will Drider’s comment again, specifically regarding who to call and what NOT to say. It’s just me, but I wouldn’t call my wife. Let the lawyer do it. But on the other hand, I am divorced . . . .

    • C T March 3, 2017, 10:02 pm

      I was driving up the canyon on a 2 Lane Rd. in a 1977 dodge military truck going as fast as I could which was about 40 miles an hour floored, cars are passing me on the left in the lane specified for passing I was on the right when the road narrows to one lane a car behind me got up on my tail and started honking I reached out the window and flagged him around when I seen it was safe for him to pass this happen for about a mile till he touch my bumper slightly I could feel the movement I found a construction area where I can pull over and let him buy, I pull over into the dirt and instead of pulling past me he pull in front of my truck he got out and he had a tire bat they used truck tires I seen him come around the back of his truck and I looked in my mirror and his friend got out and stood behind me, I am licensed to carry legal in the state I am 69 years old and not planning on a fight but I had no
      Where to retreat with the man behind me he had something in his hand I couldn’t tell what it was , He stood behind I couldn’t back up and I had no choice but to pull my 45 and put my scarf over top of on my 45 as to conceal it so I didn’t get stopped by the police later for brandishing a firearm, he come around slowly and raise the bat and said something to me like it’s your ass now, I had my 1911cocked and locked he seen me pointing he thought it was my finger he said I’m gonna shove that finger up your ass after I beat your ass up when he got about 3 foot away I took the safety off he heard the click of the safety and stopped I told him don’t force me to stop you, now what would you have done in the situation ? I know that his buddy might’ve seen my hand grip but he didn’t see anything he backed off and I told him that he’s got it wrong and he almost forced me to do something I would normally do , He was about one second from being shot and along with his friend whatever he had in his hand I didn’t know what it was I couldn’t of done anything to protect myself but it seem reality struck himwhen he knew it was a gun. A young man will fight you middle-age man might run but an old man just May shoot you and your buddy and Drive away. I hope whoever these guys were that they don’t do this again because I was A three gun competitor for over 20 years so want to give me your comments? What would you have done they finally got in the truck and pull away , That allowed me to back up and drive in the same direction waiting for the police to stop me but they never did. And they just saved them selves a lot of trouble when they could’ve just pull around me and drove away I didn’t make any jesters other than to come around me and passed my truck I couldn’t pull over any further and I sure couldn’t stop in the middle of the road give me your opinion if you know the law what would’ve been my justification for shooting them, either that or backing up over one of them. Thanks for your comments.

  • Paul January 27, 2017, 7:50 am

    You can debate these “When to shoot” issues, ad infinitum. Circumstances are more often perceptions, than reality; particularly in a court of law. Use of deadly force should be clearly justifiable ; or it should not be used. You may “get off” in a criminal court; in other words, found not criminally liable for the death of another, but you may not fair as well in a civil court. The justification for use of deadly force has implications under civil law which may have you paying out large sums of money to the family of the deceased for a wrongful death action. Before deciding to use deadly force, its best to know what legal pitfalls you face for a bad decision. It’s not as simple as you may think.

  • Will Drider January 24, 2017, 1:37 am

    The second the BG put his hand on you, spinning you around and impeding your lawful movement with phusical force: you are justified to use force “in kind” to protect your self and regain freedom of movement. With the age, and physical disparity: defuse, delay and move towaards/into the store that has responsibility for the area. I would rather say I’m sorry for any miss understanding and regret if he interpeted something as being directed at him. He adds a verbal death threat and his thoughs supporting it. He has laid a hand on you already and continues to closely persue within striking distance. He has in fact demonstrated means, motive and oppertunity; that combined with the age and physical disparity show great potential for “additional” physical attack which could render you defenseless, incapacitated, to suffer great bodily harm or dead with the first blow or within seconds of him starting. I felt his power and aggression when he first grabbed and spun me. BG is displaying more anger, volitility and physical threat NOW.

    I would draw (other hand blocks/protects my head) but not fire unless he was in muzzle burn range due to the crowd behind him. He will either back off or God will decide whether he lives or dies. I would give no verbal warning as BG has already crossed that line. I will continue my retreat into the store, holster if not followed, make the 911 call reporting the attack, shot(s) fired but no specifics: NONE! and request LE and Med. Hang up. Make personal call to wife : I’m okay or going to hosp, probably to PD Station, call lawyer. Tell cops: I will fully cooprate after I have talked to my lawyer. I have a CCW Permit and ID in wallet and gun IWB right side. I will not answer ANY questions period. I do want medical care. Stress even after the fact can kill you also have EMS check all contact points from BG ASAP. They might dissappear or be blown off by investigators. You might be red , scratched or bruised where you were grabbed but it will fade quickly. You may have abraisions at neckline where clothing was yanked across it. Cops don’t like being told how to do their job. Get the Sup in charges name, tell him directly to bag BGs hands to protect Dna/fiber evidence from his attack an to also take your shirt into evidence. Advise your lawyer of this.
    You will want to talk about the incident, its natural and the adrenaline rush and crash makes it worse. DON’T: not to cops, EMS, booking staff, guys in the holding cell, good cop/bad cop, not even your Spouse! Wait for your LAWYER.

    • Jay Hammond January 27, 2017, 9:23 am

      Assuming you are not in total fear of your life, I would definitely NOT draw unless you plan to shoot. Drawing is intention, and most likely would NOT diffuse this situation. It would only probably make the guy more angry, then you brought a gun to a fist fight. Second, drawing is a commitment. In most states, it’s considered “brandishing” and could get YOU arrested. If you draw, you are the one that escalated the situation. Obviously, if you feel your life is in danger, and there is an immediate threat to your life, then draw and shoot to stop the threat. Otherwise, leave it hidden and holstered.

      What if you draw, and the cops pull up at that moment? Can you let your intentions to an officer be known around the crowd/noise/etc., or are you perceived as the threat since you are pointing a gun at an unarmed guy? What if I pull up, and see you pointing a gun at some dude? I can tell you that if I did see this, I would probably draw down on YOU. My first instinct would be that YOU are the aggressor. Second, if you are withdrawing, with a firearm drawn, into the store, how do I know you aren’t trying to rob the store?

      When I put my pistol on in the morning, I become the most polite, apologetic, courteous person you will meet. I’m really an a$$hole, but when my pistol is on, I’m a super nice guy. I will do everything I can to avoid a fight or any confrontation. The point is, I don’t want to be in this situation, ever.

      If you’re going to draw, you better be ready to squeeze the trigger at the end of the draw. Otherwise, you are just posturing, which will -likely- get you in trouble. I don’t believe all that crap about how showing your firearm will stop a situation. In this particular scenario, the guy probably would just get more angry, probably advance on you, putting you in a situation (the situation changed because of your actions) to use deadly force when it may not have been necessary. The civil law attorneys would have a lot of fun with that one if/when you got arrested….

      • NRApatriot January 27, 2017, 12:27 pm

        I have been threatened and simply pulled my shirt up and placed my hand on the .357 magnum revolver in the belt slide holster on my hip and informed him if he stepped any closer it would be a fatal mistake! I looked him in the eye and didn’t say another word. It never cleared leather and it amazed me how he calmed right down. I have a pacemaker in my chest but I look and am fit. None the less, my heart would stop if it got damaged.

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