With his voice trembling and his eyes watering, Thomas Yoxall of Arizona recounted the incident that changed his life forever at a press conference last week.
Earlier this month, Yoxall shot and killed a man to save another man’s life.
As previously reported by GunsAmerica, it all started around 4:30 a.m. several Thursdays ago when Arizona State Trooper Edward Andersson was responding to reports of gunfire along the median of Interstate 10 west of Tonopah, Arizona.
Andersson pulled up to find a vehicle flipped over in the ditch. He did not immediately see anyone around the vehicle, so he began setting up flares.
The suspect, identified as Leonard Pennelas-Escobar, shot Andersson twice as he was lighting flares, once in the shoulder and once in the chest. Escobar proceeded to beat the trooper with his pistol and slam his head into the pavement, according to CBS affiliate KPHO.
That’s when Yoxall pulled up in his truck. Seeing Trooper Andersson being beaten “in a savage way” spurred Yoxall into action. He grabbed his gun, ordered Escobar to stop assaulting Trooper Andersson, and when the suspect failed to obey the commands, opened fire, killing him.
“To be honest with you, it was very visceral and instinctive. I had to help. I knew I had to help. So there wasn’t an option for me,” Yoxall said at the press conference at Department of Public Safety offices in Phoenix.
Yoxall told reporters that he has no military or police training. However, he does shoot regularly and he is a responsible gun owner. He also believes that his presence that day was not by accident but by divine will.
“I firmly believe that that morning I was put there… by God,” Yoxall said. “It’s difficult to think about that day still.”
Yoxall is seeking guidance from his pastor and is hoping he can put the trauma of the incident behind him. Meanwhile, trooper Andersson is recovering from his gunshot wounds.
Just a quick thought. I believe this press conference is instructive to the many millions of gun owners who carry but have never had to use deadly force. Too often we hear from the armchair commandos who talk cavalierly about “killing bad guys.” You know, the guy who reads an article about a deadly force encounter and responds by saying something like:
I woulda pulled out old slab side, put two in the perp’s chest and one in his big head because it’s better to be judged by 12 rather than carried by six and I wouldn’t lose one wink of sleep over killing that evil thug. Easy-peasy.
While it’s possible that one could use lethal force during a highly traumatic encounter and not be flooded by a wave of emotions in the ensuing weeks and months, it’s probably unlikely. Most of us are normal, non-violent people who haven’t had to take a life. To assume that one can just kill someone and not feel anything afterward is naive, which is why Mr. Yoxall response is so telling. It underscores the reality of killing, how it’s never as cut and dry as it appears, how it comes with an emotional toll, and how it changes the lives of many people, in this particular case, from the suspect to the victim to the shooter to all their respective families.
Carrying a firearm for self-defense is a serious business that may have serious consequences. It should be treated accordingly. We do no favors to ourselves or the gun community by pretending otherwise. I’m grateful that Mr. Yoxall — through his lucid remarks and very raw emotions — stepped forward to remind us of this fact.