First-person armed citizen
A Confrontation and the aftermath
11/07/2013: Urbana, IL
It has been estimated that between 200,000 to 300,000 righteous use of a firearm in the defense or possible defense of innocent life go unreported each year because the firearm is either never discharged or an armed citizen never reported the incident even after discharging their firearm since no deaths were involved. In each case the armed, law-abiding citizen says he or she believes they may have been killed, kidnapped or severely injured if they hadn’t pulled their pistol. I am now one of those people.
Now that I have your attention, here’s my story. One afternoon, on 11/07/2013, I was coming back from Walmart located on Illinois Hiway 130 when I turned west onto Washington Avenue in east Urbana. When I completed my turn I noticed about 100 meters up the roadway a large, muscular black male in a gray hoodie — about six foot two weighing approximately 230 to 250 pounds — walking on the north shoulder of the road facing eastward toward my 2013 Sonata. Given his gait and body language, even from a distance I got the impression he appeared to be somewhat agitated and certainly a person of interest, so I immediately slowed way down to give myself time to react to this unfolding scene. Unfortunately he also took that opportunity to begin drifting into the middle of the road with quickening strides with one hand in the kangaroo pouch of his heavy, gray sports hoodie. My spidey senses were redlining! Within seconds I was only about 40 meters away and slowly approaching at less than five miles an hour when he sidestepped to the right lining up with the front passenger side of my vehicle waving his free right hand, the other hand was still hidden.
At that moment, still somewhat hesitant, I popped open my center console and removed by Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9mm pistol with my right hand, the left hand was still on the steering wheel. Once “armed” I was about ten meters away from the possible perp and wondering how I was going to get to my loaded magazine from the glove compartment since I had been LEGALLY transporting my Shield in an unloaded condition per the requirement of a Illinois Supreme Court ruling two years ago. As a refresher, the Illinois justices had ruled that a vehicle’s center console and glove compartment are considered containers, therefore transporting a pistol in said compartments was LEGAL. When I first heard that ruling I found it quite an unbelievable (but imminently sensible) set of circumstances giving the current state of irrational hoplophobia in the People’s Republic of Illinois.
The situation was unraveling quite rapidly and quite uncomfortably with my growing concern that I had an unloaded pistol in my right hand. At that point I was at full stop because this stranger now totally blocked my car by jumping back into the middle of the road. I got the definite sense I had been expertly herded to a stop. I glanced at his face noting a prominent snaggle-toothed mouth and then immediately returned my attention to his left hand that was still hidden from view in the hoodie’s front pouch. While never leaving the front of the car he made one more quick motion to step to the passenger side of the car while motioning vigorously that I should lower my window. That was odd since I would have thought he would attempt to approach the driver’s side window. I suppose I could have used that opportunity to act like I was going to roll down my passenger window and then quickly pop open the glove compartment and grab a loaded magazine, but I didn’t. I’ve never encountered anything like this and things were moving way too faaaaaast!
I did note there was no stalled vehicle on the shoulder or anyone else walking down Washington Avenue all the way up the gently sloped ridge another one hundred yards ahead. I shook my head with regard to his motioning for me to lower my passenger window and now kept my eyes locked on him. But not wanting to run the stupid bastard over I immediately motioned for him to get away from my vehicle with my free left hand. In response he immediately reversed himself and began rounding the front of my vehicle. Now I was going from DefCon 2 to DefCon1 with an empty pistol in hand! Fortunately he didn’t know that.
Honestly, I was just on auto-pilot at this point and distantly noted I was angry at myself for having probably just done something incredibly stupid which put me in a less tenable defensive posture while having my butt still in a seat inside a stopped car. I still didn’t want to run the guy over … not just yet anyway because maybe it was a legitimate emergency or he was on some kind of drug high or something. He was now passing the headlight on my driver’s side fender but before he cleared that I had cracked my window about eight inches.
He immediately reacted to the new stimuli. “Hey! Hey, you got any money?” he yelled while waving his right hand about still keeping his left hand hidden from my view. Oh, oh! He hadn’t directly threatened me yet with the exception of forcing me to stop by standing in the middle of the road but now he’s yelling to find out if I had any money. I mean, what the … is this a hold-up, an honest inquiry from a cash strapped beggar or what?
At that point he must have spied the M&P in my right hand which I was now holding steering wheel high for him to see. Startled he immediately jumped back another couple of feet from my car and that’s when I floored it yelling, “No, I don’t have any money for you!”
Now why did I yell that? Adrenaline rush? Relief? Who cares, 275 horses was putting distance between him and me.
I watched his receding figure in my rearview mirror because I wasn’t sure if he was going to take a potshot at me if he really did have a pistol or just retire in defeat because he didn’t panhandle another sucker. I still don’t know if the guy was armed, pretending to be armed, or was just one of those troubled homeless guys that are always panhandling on the streets of the People’s Republic of Urbana. But the confrontation is over and I haven’t yet read the morning paper’s police blotter to see if some kind of incident happened on Washington Avenue involving an armed assailant or an overzealous panhandler.
I never told my wife when I got home that afternoon. I waited until the next morning to discuss my encounter because I was deeply troubled not only by the incident but also by my various responses as the incidence unfolded. Should I have lowered my driver’s side window? Could I (or should I) have gotten to my loaded magazine in the glove compartment in time? Dare I take my eyes off his hands? Did I over-react … under-react? Could I have done something different during those ten to fifteen seconds? Mostly what I remember was the crystal clarity that I was seeing things and how time had slowed down a bit but then sped up several times during the encounter. Through it all I had to keep fighting a deep sense of being out-of-control of the unfolding events and therefore had to fight the desire to simply become a spectator. That could have become a potentially deadly state of mind if the encounter had escalated to the next level. It was that adrenaline burn you hear so much about: heightened senses, tunnel vision (I don’t remember hearing the classical music station playing on my XM Sirius at the time), fine motor skills become more difficult, flight or fight conflicts arising, etc.
I’m mostly upset with myself in having only an unloaded pistol in my hand. And I’m angry at the state of Illinois for putting me in this almost no-win situation because the political fascists in this state have been unconstitutionally slow walking the Conceal Carry permit process since the original court ruling. Three weeks ago I was one of the first Illinois citizens to complete the required 16-hour concealed-carry class. But an empty firearm is no better than a hammer and thankfully the perp still hadn’t given me provocation to shoot him even if I had those 8 rounds of 115 grain Hornady Critical Defense 9s nestled in my grip.
So I knew I was essentially defenseless sitting in my car with an unloaded pistol but he didn’t. Fortunately the potential perp reacted the way I had hoped by jumping back at the sight of the pistol and then hesitating, thus giving me the opportunity to make my escape with pedal to the metal. One more example of where when seconds count, the police are always minutes away.
Now I will be the first one to tell you that one should never, ever bluff with a drawn pistol — loaded or unloaded. I never intended to bluff, I just couldn’t get to my loaded magazines without fumbling around while trying to keep a watchful eye on what I thought was approaching danger. And in retrospect if I had been loaded I never would have shot the guy unless he produced a firearm. I’ve always believed it’s incredibly risky to bluff with an empty pistol, but given how quickly the events unfolded in my case and how the potential perp had (from all appearances) effectively blocked my vehicle, I was simply SOL and my options were decreasing with each passing second. I could play my best with the cards that I was dealt.
One of the most important rules you bring to any potential gunfight is if you ever pull that concealed pistol you better be in the frame of mind to use it and to use it effectively defending your life or the lives of your loved ones! And if the imminent threat is truly there, once you start you can’t stop until the threat has been removed. Far better to be utterly righteous in your use of deadly force and be judged by twelve than carried by six. And you never, ever fire a warning shot for several reasons. First, it’s tactically stupid. Second, you’re wasting a round you might need later. Third, that bullet has to come down or impact somewhere and it could find its way into an innocent bystander you don’t even see.
In retrospect, though I’ll be playing this over and over in mind over the next few weeks, I did the best I could given the speed of the encounter. I still kick myself for not possibly availing myself of other options like immediately throwing my car in reverse or swerving all over the road trying to get around this suspicious character …. but the guy was really, really fast. He must have known I wasn’t going to run him over because law abiding citizens generally don’t rashly engage in such extreme actions when there’s still that tiny bit of doubt as to what is actually going on. Potential criminals WILL use your basic decency and humanity against you if they can. That’s why they’re criminals. Their big edge is they often have a ruthless outlaw mentality and a planned out agenda. They’re often seasoned law breakers while you’re the targetted law-abider hoping for a good outcome. As a law-abiding citizen you will always be at an initial disadvantage and it’s entirely up to you to turn it around and gain the advantage over the (potential) evildoer so you don’t become a fatality statistic. Yeah, it’s unfair, but that’s the nature of the beast. And the best place to learn the legalities of any potential actions you make take in the defense of innocent life is in those certified concealed-carry classes which have many hours of legal instruction. Make sure you sign up with a reputable and accredited CC class with multiple instructors (there should be one instructor to every six students) and not some class run by someone out to make a quick buck.
Though this is just one more firearm self-defense by a law-abiding citizen which will go unreported to the “authorities”, I’m still a statistic. I’m one of those several hundred thousand Americans each year who “used” a firearm to ward off a potential life-and-death situation be it a potential mugging, carjacking, maiming or murder. But then again the man may have been a completely harmless kook out panhandling in the most dangerous manner possible. Nobody but the perp himself will ever know.
BTW, don’t ever let the lying anti-gun/anti-carry propagandists ever get away with spewing their idiocies about how firearms aren’t really an effective way to stop potential criminal behavior. Boldly challenge them in letters to the editor or face-to-face when the opportunity presents itself. For example, each year more violent felons are killed by armed, law-abiding citizens than are killed by all of law enforcement around the nation. So should law enforcement disarm because they aren’t as effective as armed citizens in taking violent felons out of the general population? Of course not. So why should we?
The Carter Justice Department the then growing reality that in 32% of the cases involving an attempted rape, an unarmed woman ends up being raped. Women armed with a knife or a firearm are raped in only 3% of those cases. It’s the anti-gun/anti-carry misogynists who callously engage in the immoral stupidity which ultimately finds it more virtuous for a woman to be raped or murdered than for her to be explaining to a police officer why she had to kill her assailant with a concealed-carry pistol. Anti-gun/anti-carry hoplophobes should be held accountable for what their gunless society idolatry has wrought in a broken and increasingly perilous world. In their “utopia”, criminals will remain armed while the law-abiding are disarmed. What an incredible insanity. What a cruel hoax.
Now I can’t wait to get my carry permit so I’ll never be left holding an empty pistol.