Why Element of Surprise is Key: Homeowner Shoots Would-be Carjacker

I’m not a self-defense expert. I’ll be the first to admit that. But I feel that I’ve covered defensive gun uses (DGUs) and crime enough in my career as a gun journalist to talk intelligently about the subject. When a DGU video goes viral, like the one above, which was recorded in Uberlândia, Brazi, I typically like to break it down and discuss what I learned or noticed during the encounter.

Here are several things I noticed, starting with the most striking aspect to the footage which was the element of surprise.

Element of Surprise

Just like in battle, in a self-defense situation the element of surprise is critical. If the assailant ambushes the victim that victim is at a distinct disadvantage. He hasn’t had time to assess the threat, prepare a plan to deal with that threat (fight or flight) and execute that plan. Instead, the victim is on his heels, merely relying on instinct and training (if he has any) to engage the assailant.

However, if the victim recognizes the threat before it confronts him, he can plan and, if he chooses to fight back with force, use anticipatory self-defense to gain the upper hand. In other words, strike at the threat before it strikes at you. This is precisely what happens in the video.

As the homeowner, an off-duty police officer, pulls into his garage he notices that several would-be robbers are entering in from behind. It appears the victim draws his gun in preparation for the confrontation. When the would-be carjacker, identified as 32-year-old Eliseu Santos Paulo, opens the victim’s door it’s apparent that he wasn’t really expecting much resistance, let alone gunfire. Paulo had his gun pointed to the floor and not in a position where he could fire off a round on target quickly. Had he known that the police officer was armed, he probably would have either (a) left the victim alone altogether or (b) would have approached the vehicle in a more cautious manner with his gun pointing at the door.

In any event, the victim turned the tables on Paulo, shooting first and taking him by surprise.

Paulo would later die as a result of his injuries. Meanwhile, the victim and his wife were unharmed.

Capacity

Capacity matters. Not in every defensive gun use, but in many it does — especially in those encounters with multiple assailants. By my count the victim fires at least eight rounds at the intruders. For those of you who carry six-shot revolvers or single stack pistols, perhaps you may now be reevaluating your carry choice. Then again, maybe you’re aren’t. Maybe you’re comfortable and confident with six or seven rounds.

Gunshots Send Criminals Running

I don’t have an exact percentage, but I’d wager to guess that at least 90 percent of the DGU videos I’ve watched show criminals running at the sound of the first gunshots. To put it another way, the vast majority of criminals do not adopt a military mindset. That is to say, they’re not willing to back their buddies and use force against force against a victim who is shooting at one of their pals. Instead, they flee the scene at the first sign of trouble.

As it applies to the video, Paulo’s buddies did not attempt to engage the victim. Perhaps they weren’t armed so they couldn’t. But chance are, even if they were armed, they still would have ran as opposed to opening fire on the victim.

Shoot Until the Threat is Neutralized

This is a lesson that many often forget but notice how that even after he has been shot, Paulo fires back at the victim. You have to shoot until the threat is no longer a threat because an armed wounded man can be every bit as deadly as a non-wounded man.

Luck

Yes, luck always plays a role. In this particular instance, the victim is lucky that: they didn’t attack via the passenger door where his wife was seated, they didn’t start shooting right away, they ran after their friend was shot, etc.

Bottom line: to survive a deadly encounter one has to be lucky. All the training and preparation doesn’t really matter much if one doesn’t have lady luck on one’s side.

Conclusion

Again, I’m not an expert but those are my quick observations.  What did you take away from watching the video?

{ 10 comments… add one }
  • John gancho November 1, 2015, 12:29 am

    Damn, driving a Prius too. I guess he superseded us all.

  • Ken May 27, 2015, 3:32 am

    The last sentence of the article bothers me a bit. I believe that your preparedness and your awareness mindset as well as your actions can sway Lady Luck to your side of the balance.

    • JoeUSooner August 26, 2016, 11:43 am

      Yes… “Luck favors the prepared.”

  • Richard May 26, 2015, 10:59 pm

    I see it a little differently. While it certainly was very important the victim saw the perp enter and be able to draw his weapon his shot placement, at point blank range, was very poor. He made abdomen hits which are nowhere near as effective as hitting the vital triangle at center of mass. The victim was most likely using a .380 or 9mm, probably ball ammo, another factor allowing the perp to shoot and run. This is what gave the bad guy the ability to fire back then run; inadequate stopping power combined with poor shot placement. The very first gut shot was most likely fatal but it probably took 30 minutes before he succumbed.

    The eight shots fired were unnecessary. The shots fired at the first guy were warranted because he didn’t stop and maybe the first shot at the 2nd attacker but the rest were fired at fleeing perps, the threat was stopped so there was no need to shoot and endanger the neighbors. Anywhere in the USA those shots would most likely result in charges being brought against the victim and if he hit a fleeing perp in the back he would be slapped with a civil suit and lose.

    While I have nothing against capacity I personally don’t feel at a disadvantage against the likely threats I would expect when I carry my J frame with 5 rounds of Buffalo Bore 125gr JHP 357 mag. The 357 mag is the Number 1 One Stop Shot in history, two shots center of mass and the only thing I have to worry about is hearing loss but I’m alive.

    Yes, indeed, Situational Awareness is the key to survival right along with training, practice and the ability to place rounds center of mass. Shoot until the threat has stopped.

  • Larry Reade (Arkansas) May 26, 2015, 3:20 pm

    I think the single most important point to note is that good old Paulo, even after having several rounds pumped into him from what looks like a substantially large caliber weapon, has the ability to fire back & then run off into the night before ultimately dying.

    Always remember, people almost never get shot & then die right away like it is portrayed in the westerns & cops & robbers shows. They are still very dangerous, maybe more so than before they are shot.

  • Capn Stefano May 26, 2015, 11:43 am

    Carrying weak calibers is a great way to get shot. I pack an EAA Witness Elite 10MM with Underwood 135 grain JHP @ 1600 FPS. 15 shots on tap, each over 700 foot lbs of total energy transfer. There are videos of this load dropping bull elk

    • Exacliber May 27, 2015, 6:44 pm

      I think shot placement would have been more important caliber. The cop was coming from a sitting position, it was natural he hit the carjacker in the abdomen.

      My experience with GSWs makes me think hitting him in the gut with 10mm wouldn’t have killed him any faster. Abdominal wounds are messy, but they carry with them a high survivability rate if you get to a hospital fast enough. The carjacker probably bled to death because he didn’t/couldn’t seek medical attention.

      My opinion, I don’t think the ballistics of the 10mm vs. .40S&W or 9mm would have added anything. He was shooting the guy in the gut from three feet away.

      As an aside, I would have attacked while the car was outside, waiting for the garage door to open. Huge disadvantages to starting a gunfight in an enclosed space. Wouldn’t have given the cop time to prepare.

  • Retired Navy Spook May 26, 2015, 9:41 am

    As J.L.R. notes, situational awareness is key, and a lot of potentially dangerous situations (badly lit parking lots at night) can simply be avoided with a little pre-planning. Car-jacking and road-rage are, IMO, the two most likely situations in which the average person may be faced with using lethal force to defend him/herself. And, even though they both occur in a vehicle, they require two completely different mindsets. Situational awareness plays an important role in preventing or responding to a car jacking, while road rage can come completely out of the blue. You can try to avoid doing things that will likely set someone off, but often people fly into a rage for no apparent reason. In my one and only experience with road rage, the mere presence of a firearm was enough to stop it.

  • J. Landon Reynolds May 22, 2015, 1:16 am

    I would like to point out, that before the ‘Element of Surprise’, must come ‘Situational Awareness’.

    Having spent 20 years in the military, much of that time traveling abroad, I’m pretty familiar with the importance of ‘Situational Awareness’, especially in a foreign country, or in crime ridden areas like Washington D.C., Memphis, Tennessee, Detroit, Michigan, Chicago, Illinois, and many others.

    Secondly, I’d like to point out this: “What if BOTH the driver and passenger had been armed, and had responded accordingly?” Think of the increased firepower and the better response that would have been possible.

    Folks, Concealed Carry is a Family Affair. It should be viewed as a Partnership.

    BOTH husbands and wives (boyfriends & girlfriends) should be carrying, and BOTH should know how to use those firearms as tools to the best of their advantage. If BOTH a husband/wife have a carry permit (where required), then BOTH should be carrying 24/7, in partnership.

  • Will Drider May 21, 2015, 3:37 pm

    From the delay of entry by bgs, they were not by the door when car entered. They may have been seen before car entry and assesed. When the garage door reverses and starts to open again, is the tipoff something is wrong and cop changes from evalaluation to preperation. Keeping cops gun out of view until put in action added to bgs comfort level and added element of surprise and first shot advantage for cop.
    Attacking parking cars is very common in South America. Often the recent purchases are taken in addition to wallets and purses. Criminals even stalk stores waiting for someone to buy the expensive product then follow buyer until an oppertunity to rob them presents itself. The most common is theft of purses from women who have been to a bank. Common getaway is by motorcycly. This is the main reason for all the high walls and electric gates in mid to upscale housing.

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