Ep. 48 Should I Shoot? Elevated Awareness on the Train

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:

It’s 10 a.m. on a crisp, winter morning and you, your significant other and three other couples are driving in a minivan from your suburban homes into the city to hang out. The day’s downtown plans include checking out the farmer’s market, shopping in some stores in various pockets of the city, lunch at one of the popular burger joints, a tour of the city’s art institute and, if everyone is up for it, dinner at the newly opened BBQ restaurant. You arrive downtown, park in a public parking area, lock the car and begin walking.

Downtown is a mixed bag. There’s a lot of good going on in the city. Most consider these areas fairly safe despite literally being across the street from more run-down areas. But the nice areas are few and far between. As positive as things seem, the city’s rough condition does not improve in three years or even 10 years. So, there are still parts of the city — known for gangs, arson, violence, drug abuse, you name it — everyone knows to avoid.

You and one of your friends have concealed pistol licenses and both of you are carrying today. You are carrying a Glock 19 (with a round chambered, of course) inside the waistband at 4 o’clock with a spare magazine in your front left pocket. Your friend has a Smith & Wesson .38 Special in his front right pocket with a full Bianchi Speed Strip in his front left pocket. As a matter of awareness, you and your friend discuss all these facts with each other. You also go over Col. Jeff Cooper’s color codes and agree that both of you will be, at a minimum, in Condition Yellow (relaxed but aware) all day. You’re not paranoid but prepared. You’re not a tactical vigilante but a trained shooter who will find every way to avoid a problem. But you’re not afraid to defend yourself or your friends if something should happen. Like every time you holster your pistol, you hope to never have to use it.

The outing downtown starts off well and turns out to be a lot of fun. Everything your group has enjoyed so far has been within easy walking distance, but for the visit to the art institute, you decide to ride the city’s elevated train. It’s an unmanned, unattended, automatic transportation system — sort of like a string of buses that glide along an elevated rail — traveling in a loop around the city, stopping at various locations. The fare is 75 cents, whether you ride it for one minute from one stop to the next or whether you ride it all day — which some people do, either because they are homeless or bored.

Your group is walking toward the terminal. Your buddy’s in the lead and you are bringing up the rear. Everyone’s having a good time and looking forward to the train ride because it’ll take about 10 minutes for the train to get you to the side of the city with the art institute, which means you’ll get to enjoy a brief tour of some of the city while you look from your seats in the train. You all enter the terminal where your group immediately starts digging in purses and wallets for dollar bills to pay the fare. That’s when you, about to walk into the terminal door, decide to take a look over your shoulder. And that’s when you spot him: a man in hi-tops, baggy jeans and a light blue hoodie about 25 yards down the sidewalk, staring at your group. He starts walking toward you with a determined gait.

You get your buddy’s attention and nod over your shoulder.

“Light blue hoodie,” you say. “Let’s get moving.”

Your buddy gets it and immediately starts encouraging your group to engage in a bit faster movement and less conversation. Both of you have moved from Condition Yellow to Condition Orange (specific threat). Some of the others in the group quickly acknowledge the wisdom in hustling to the train. Eight loud out-of-towners with handfuls of cash deep in the city… No one panics, but the group moves with a little more gusto up the stairs to the boarding area.

Your buddy is still in the lead and you’re still bringing up the rear. At the top of the stairs, you look back and see the man in the light blue hoodie has jumped the turnstile and is beginning to ascend the same stairs you are on. He takes them two at a time.

The train is waiting, doors open and there’s hardly anyone around or on board. You and your friends board the train and you have a moment for a quick conference with your buddy on what to do. For all you know, light blue hoodie is on his way to work and wants nothing to do with you. But the purposefulness in his movements just doesn’t seem right. You and your buddy agree to have your friends sit at the end of one the train cars with you both standing nearby, creating a sort of human gate between your friends and everything else. You all get in position and the train doors are about to close when, at the last second, light blue hoodie sneaks through the closing doors on to the train. He turns and looks right at your group.

Scenario 1: The train car contains your group and the guy in the light blue hoodie. You size him up: About 5-foot, 9-inches tall, 160 pounds, stocky. You remember his deft leap over the turnstile and the two-stairs-per-step climb. Nimble. Agile. Your right hand looks like it is resting on your waist at 4 o’clock, but your thumb is actually between your waist and the grip of your pistol. If you need to, you can get your gun out in half a second. Your buddy has his hand in his front pocket, but only you and he know his hand is on his gun. Both of you are standing, holding a support bar with your weak hand as the train pulls away from the station, completely on autopilot. Both of you take occasional looks at light blue hoodie. You don’t want to stare, but you want him to know that you are completely aware of his awkward presence. The man holds one support bar in each hand while he continues to look at your group. He’s about 15 feet away.

Scenario 2: You and your buddy look at each other and you both know you need to get off the train at the next stop. The situation is just too weird and you both prefer to avoid confrontation, not aggravate it. The train plods toward the next stop, which is probably a minute or so away. You and your buddy continue to stand guard, hands on or near guns, your friends giving their full attention to the situation. The other guys in the group have moved closer to you and your buddy, just in case.

Just then, the guy in the light blue hoodie moves toward your group, slowly walking about three paces. His right hand goes into his hoodie pocket while his left hand grasps the next available support bar. His face has a smug look on it. Not quite combative or angry but not friendly. He continues to look at you and your buddy and even looks at your hands every now and again. With the man’s advance, you and your buddy now opt for a full-on stare to let him know, as best as a look can communicate it, not to mess. This is Condition Red for both of you, the identification not just of a potential threat but a potential target.

Scenario 3: The train rolls to a stop at the next terminal and the doors automatically open. You and your buddy each take a step forward to allow your group to disembark the train behind you. You keep your hands on or near your guns and your focus completely on the man in the light blue hoodie.

Your friends file out, your buddy follows, always facing the man in the hoodie, and the two of you more or less walk backwards out of the train. The man in the hoodie is smirking at you but not moving, which is a great relief. Your group walks on while you and your friend continue moving away from the train, slowly starting to turn away from the train but keeping your eyes on the man in the hoodie. The train doors automatically close and the trains pulls away, taking light blue hoodie to wherever he is going.

How would any of the scenarios have to change in order for you or your friend to be justified in drawing and firing your gun? How would you have handled any of the logistical decisions, such as whether to board the train, where to stand or whether to engage the man in conversation?

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

About the author: S.H. Blannelberry is the News Editor of GunsAmerica.

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  • Auggie Will April 3, 2017, 11:39 pm

    I enjoy reading these if only to see what other people think or would do if they were in the same spot.
    Seeing how they had to cover other people while dealing with the problem I feel they had a good game plan as far as color condition and even having the others follow directions with out stopping and having to explain the situation to the others.
    All in, all this is a group that one could only hope to be part of as I’m sure the readers here would agree?
    Who takes the time to talk about “What if” before going out.
    The biggest asset the two armed people had is the ability to be able to commutate with their eyes & one or two-word speech in these situations.
    I have always been a magnet for A– H—-, to the point that when I am at my favorite club and having a problem I look over to the cop working the door and when we make eye contact I look at who is causing the problem.
    He is on it asap taking them to the door and out.

  • Ron Stidham April 2, 2017, 8:12 am

    I live in the country where these types of instance’s are not common. That being said, I have not been in a confrontation as described. I agree with the get off the train, trying to deescalate this scenario. Giving the party time to shred the ominous, impending doom feelings. Now back to where I live, there is someone always turning around in the drive-witch I do not like, also stopping at the next road past my home-well within sight, and staying there for minutes at a time. These things make me uncomfortable, but if I go for my gun every time someone has the bad sense to do these things, I would be as bad a neighbor as the people that put me in that situation. Having a level head isn’t always easy to do. Being aware is, keep calm and go with it. Stay alive

  • Harry March 31, 2017, 11:19 pm

    Gary’s comment goes unanswered. Firearms are illegal on mass transit in the State of Washington.

  • jd March 31, 2017, 6:14 pm

    I like the idea of telling the potential threat to stop and don’t come any closer, you are making me uncomfortable and frightened for my safety. Don’t force me to defend myself. Don’t show your weapon but keep your hand on it. no brandishing but let him know you have something to defend yourself with. does he want to threaten you and find out what you have? or does he want to back off?

  • scaatylobo March 31, 2017, 3:11 pm

    As a retired LEO and NOT one to allow myself to be put in a “situation”.
    I would have most likely made it obvious that I was MORE than aware of his approach [ as was he ] and that there was a line.
    Yes, it might seem confrontational —- but at some point I want the ‘blue hoody’ to know that it was not a game he could expect to win.
    My standard expression that has worked for about 4 DECADES is,”take another step and I drop you”.
    OK, that was when I was an LEO.
    Now it might be more like “PLEASE do not take another step SIR”.
    The capitals would be very loud and clear.
    Love the scenario and been in a few ‘moments’ such as that.
    Keep um coming.

  • Captain D March 31, 2017, 1:40 pm

    To answer the questions in my persective: How would any of the scenarios have to change in order for you or your friend to be justified in drawing and firing your gun? How would you have handled any of the logistical decisions, such as whether to board the train, where to stand or whether to engage the man in conversation?

    As I was reading through the scenario imagining the events, witnessing Hoodie jumping over the turnstile and climbing the stairs in an rapid pace, a couple questions entered my mind. What if he was just racing to make it to the train? 2nd thought was to send along the friends and confront Hoodie on the stairs two on one and engage conversation, “what’s your hurry buddy?” 3rd, why would any one person want to attempt a crime against eight people unless he thought he had an advantage, like a gun/weapon concealed?

    First thought, don’t get on the train where we would be cornered. Better to step to one side on the platform and see what Hoodie does when he hits the top of the stairs and see’s we have not boarded yet. If he boards, take the next train or change travel plans. If he stops at the top of the stairs and looks at the group I would engage conversation by asking, can I help you with something or what’s on your mind Hoodie? From there he has three choices; go back down the stairs, board the train or advance towards the group with what we deem questionable intent in condition red. Clay Hamann has it right in his comments below; lethal force is called for only if a person presents a clear and immediate threat of death or serious bodily injury.

    Second thought was if we were to board the train prior to Hoodie, split up the group. Four go left and four go right and put Hoodie in the middle between the two groups. Make it quite apparent he is being watched. Now we have a tactical advantage because he cannot approach all of us at once. With a gun on both sides of Hoodie in condition red he’s going to have his back to one of us on an attempted approach. Hopefully recognizing he’s the monkey in the middle he’ll exit at the next stop and we proceed with our day. But then again not everything goes the way we think it will because there is so many other scenario’s that can happen. Best choice for me, don’t board the train.
    Great Should I Shoot scenario Mark, thank you for stirring the brain cells..

  • gary March 31, 2017, 11:56 am

    Last time I checked it is illegal to carry on a buses, trains, and oh yes plains!!!!!! At least in Florida

  • Rob March 31, 2017, 9:03 am

    Sometimes there isn’t much that interests me on these emails other than this, and I always read it. We never grow too old or too good for preparatory training. Please keep this coming.
    To whomever is responsible for preparing this training, good job. To the one responsible for adding it to Guns America, Thank You!

  • Dianne M Daniels March 31, 2017, 5:43 am

    Excellent description of the scenario, as usual. I was visualizing the scene as I read through it, and “seeing” the images. I’m fairly new to gun ownership, and this scenario is one I could easily imagine. In fact, I was born and raised in Detroit, which has an elevated rail system through the downtown much like you describe. I would personally lean toward scenario 3 – getting off the train at the next stop to avoid a potential confrontation. Scenario 2 would likely be the reaction of my husband and the other guys in our group – but he doesn’t have a carry permit, I do, so I’d take the “back seat” so to speak and let the fact that I’m carrying be a surprise to the man in the hoodie. Hoodie guy put his hand in his pocket, which could be nothing, but could be him touching a weapon. Either way, I’ll try to avoid the confrontation if possible. Another aspect, though, is the relative size and implied fitness of my husband and our companions. My hubby is 6’3″ tall, goes about 280 lbs, fit and athletic like a football player. I’m 5’10” tall, about 190, not as athletic, but I think I move with ease and grace. A guy at 5’9″ tall would not be seen as a threat automatically by either of us, which is probably NOT the right answer, but it’s a result of the lives we’ve lived so far. I’ll be watching this thread to see how others weigh in and to see what other permit-holding ladies have to add…

    This is a really great series of articles, I’ve learned a lot!

  • Clay Hamann March 27, 2017, 8:51 pm

    As is always the case, the only circumstance where lethal force is called for is if a person presents a clear and immediate threat of death or serious bodily injury and has the means to inflict that damage. Simply being in possession of a deadly weapon is not enough. He/she/they must make an offer of violence or move in such a way that causes an average person to believe that their use of deadly force is imminent and in progress.

    • Tyrone Greene March 31, 2017, 12:44 pm

      May be true for us civilians, but not so for LEOs. According to the court’s latest ruling, LEOs can shoot you in your home just for having a weapon on you.

      • R.H. March 31, 2017, 2:13 pm

        No Mr. Greene, LEO’s cannot “shoot you in your home just for having a weapon on you”, you must first make a “furtive movement” or take threatening action first. There is much more to it than what you have described and all circumstances are different. Please don’t spread misinformation.

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