If you can’t watch, the driver of a mercedes stops in the middle of a 3-way intersection here in Atlanta. The mercedes passenger gets out and starts pacing towards the camera car holding a pistol. He racks his slide as he walks and you can see him talking to the driver of the camera car. Gun guy walks back to the mercedes and it leaves through the intersection. No shooting. There is no audio.
Here’s what the driver said about the incident:
So, put yourself in his shoes. How would you answer these questions knowing what he knows:
Do you leave enough maneuver room when you drive(even in busy city traffic) to be able to quickly maneuver around the vehicle in front of you? Are you prepared to run someone over and drive through a car door if that’s your only recourse?
Does anyone who stops in the middle of an intersection, gets out, and immediately beelines towards your car EVER have anything constructive to say? Would you wait around to see?
Do you have the composure to resist doing the “monkey dance” of chest beating and insult hurling which escalates the situation? Can you feign compliance and de-escalate and placate him, even if you have no idea what he thinks you’re guilty of?
Can you access your firearm fast enough in your vehicle to have your pistol ready before his is on you?
Does this problem need a gun solution?
Those are some things to think about. In addition I found it interesting that he had a personal revelation about himself in reflecting on the situation. He has stopped carrying his gun (though he wasn’t that day either, probably fortuitously) because he realized he’s a hothead and is playing out the possible outcomes, surely many negative, that could have resulted. I wonder if he will change how he deals with people in the future.
That’s it. Thanks for reading. Let me know your thoughts.
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Craigslist can be a great resource to pick up used goods for not much money. But obviously, it has been used to setup many robberies and some murders. When high dollar items are involved, the other party knows you’ll either have a valuable item or a pocket full of cash. Scumbags can’t resist easy money.
This one happened near me, so I wanted to write my thoughts. It’s not difficult to find ‘how to not get ripped off on Craigslist’ lists out there. Here’s a couple:
Do not meet in a secluded place, or invite strangers into your home.
Be especially careful when buying/selling high-value items.
Tell a friend or family member where you’re going to meet some-one you contacted through Craigslist.
Take your cellphone along with you.
Consider having a friend accompany you during Craigslist purchases.
Trust your instincts.
This is good advice. It’s very vague and hand-wavy advice, but good. Since ‘be especially careful’ is completely non-actionable advice, I’ll try to get a bit more specific to guide you to safer CL transactions. I won’t pussy foot around. I will tell you the most secure way to do a CL transaction. It will involve carrying guns. This is probably something your local newspaper will fail to include in their article about CL security. Mine will augment and detail some of the points from the above list.
Tell a third party friend the time and place of the transaction, and give them the phone number that the CL buyer/seller gives you. The bad guy in the above article used a burner phone, but not all bad guys are smart like that.
Always take a friend.
Always take a gun and wear it concealed during the transaction.
Always make sure your friend has a gun too. Discuss your plan if something goes south.
When talking to the seller/buyer, have them describe their car ‘so you can spot them coming’. Whether you are early, or late, you can keep an eye for their vehicle and any extra passengers or vehicles.
Always plan to arrive 5-10 minutes late (or early) to the transaction. If you’re late, you can pull a quick surveillance run around the parking lot where the transaction will take place. It also will give you an excuse to get a description of the buyer/seller vehicle before you arrive. If you get there early, you have the advantage of monitoring all incoming vehicles to the parking lot and will be able see the number of occupants and if there is more than one vehicle making the same movements in the lot. Look for the number of people in the buyer/seller car and if there are any adjacent vehicles where people are paying attention to you.
Use Police Station’s parking lots when possible. If that’s not possible, pick the most public and heavily trafficked lot you can think of. Walmart, Mcdonalds lots, etc. If someone is asking you to meet them at 2am, it might not be a great idea.
When you make the transaction, take a page out of the cop’s playbook. Use a ‘contact/cover’ type arrangement. Average Joe won’t notice that your friend is casually leaning on your car or walking around in adjacent parking spots during the transaction. While you’re doing the deal, have your friend outside of the car feigning a phone call or just looking around. Here’s a photo I found of the police technique. One officer is the contact officer who deals with the person, and the other just sort of watches. Think of this when you run a high dollar CL transaction. (1/30 edited this section to clarify).
As you leave, remain aware of people or vehicles moving around your car. Also keep an eye on your rear view mirrors for a few minutes to see if any other cars are tailing you.
All of these steps add zero time to your transaction, take longer to read than perform, and will keep you much safer. I realize it reads like paranoia and like I think I’m a Mall Ninja. It’s hard to convey the tactics any other way, or I would. I realize the probability of you getting robbed/murdered during a CL transaction are very slim, but it’s trivial to add a few precautions that can help guarantee you prevail in the event of a robbery. Besides, statistics are a small comfort when you find yourself to be the rare exception.
Parish said the breeder, identified in the DeKalb police incident report as 40-year-old Walter Gonzalez, was initially hesitantto meet the buyer late at night at the home, but did so after the suspect offered him an additional $500.
When the breeder and a second Winder man, Salvador Burgos, arrived with the dog, they saw the suspect and another man standing outside by the garage.
“Mr. Gonzalez got out of the vehicle and met with the suspect near the vehicle,” the incident report states. “After Mr. Gonzalez showed the suspect the dog, the suspect drew his weapon on him.”
According to the report, the suspect, whose name has not been released, then demanded that Burgos get out of the vehicle.
“Mr. Burgos stated that as he moved over from the driver’s side to the passenger side of the vehicle, he drew his firearm and fired upon the suspect,” the report states.
Gonzalez and Burgos told police they left the scene because they were afraid that the other man that was with the suspect would return, but stopped a short distance away and called police.
Responding officers found the suspect dead in the front yard of the home.
So our good guy took a friend…with a gun…and didn’t get killed and put the bad guy in the ground.
Which story do you want written about you? Planning isn’t paranoia.
Stay Safe and go get a sweet deal on a used treadmill,
Note: Edited 1/30/15 with a new news story and clarification of the tactics I mention.
As my son gets older and is interacting more with the world around him, I have been trying to figure out ways to make ‘situational awareness’ a part of his life from an early age. Growing up, my dad didn’t have any particular method to make me pay attention to the details of the world around me as far as I can tell, but he did always pay attention to small details about people. He always pointed out accents, mannerisms, posture, and mood of people we interacted with. My mom always played ‘which of these things is not like the others’ in children’s books, but nothing as it related to other people. ‘I Spy’ in the car was always a popular game in the van. The groundwork was laid, but only as a way to pass the time.
In my adult life and especially after I adopted personal defense on as my primary pursuit, I was able to focus this attention to useful details that seem to allow me to see situations unfolding before others are aware of it. For instance, I notice details about vehicles, odd characters in crowds, I see friends in crowds before they see me, I notice things that are strange and otherwise out of place, or when a person’s focus changes to me in a crowd. This isn’t to say I’m a ninja, my filter is just tuned to catch a lot of this stuff. I want the same for my son because I feel it could save his life.
I was recently reading Sentinel, by Patrick McNamara, which is an outstanding book in which the author uses his military and PSD (personal security detail) experience to frame personal protection for a family. It’s a great book, a quick read, and worth the cost (especially the Kindle version). His style of writing is very to the point and has an obvious military flare, which I sort of dig. In it, he highlights a game that you can play with your kids to teach them to pay attention to small details as it relates to the world around them. He calls it The Awareness Game.
Everyone plays ‘I Spy’ with their kids. Usually it’s looking for innocuous things such as colors, numbers, cars, buildings, and so on. Instead of that, ask your children to note small details about the people, things and places you see. Here’s some examples:
What state was on that red sport car’s license plate?
What color were the security guard’s shoes? Did he have a gun?
Is this the same car that was parked here when we arrived? (as you exit the store)
What color was the truck that we parked next to?
What was the last mile marker we passed on the highway?
How many kids did that momma have with her in the grocery store line?
What was strange about the old man asking for money?
What was the waiter’s name tonight at dinner?
What floor did we just get out on? (exiting an elevator)
Asking these types of questions will (should) put your child’s focus out into the world instead of in their immediate surroundings. They might not always answer correctly, but if they start putting importance on seeing details it can only help them. If you make it fun they will probably start to challenge you back, keeping you on your toes. You’re building a teammate from the ground up.
The efficacy of this game is purely hypothetical for me at this point, as my son is still talking baby talk and not potty trained…but I will be playing this game with him as soon as he’s ready. I want to streamline the learning curve for him and give him the tools to live in condition yellow starting early. This isn’t just about spotting bad guys. The ability to recall details like license plates, phone numbers, a person’s description, the address of a building, a flat tire on the family car, etc, is a useful skill that can help your child avoid minor inconveniences, and possibly save his/her life. Let the games begin!
Protect the Brood,
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One of my readers asked some great questions after reading the Mundane Movements Series (link 1 and link 2). Here is what Daniel M. said:
…I would love to see some insights on movement and defense at schools where guns are not allowed. My wife is a principal in a bad part of town and often works late after everyone else is gone. I assume many of the same ideas apply when headed to your car, carrying a purse, bag, etc. If you had insights on how an individual teacher/admin could defend simply one classroom from some kind of threat that would be cool too. Not a whole school/active shooter scenario, but one teacher, one class kind of thing. Or like out at recess with a class of 25 kids. (I know it’s a lot, but I thoroughly enjoy this and find it so useful!)
First, thanks for the questions! I’ll do my best to answer them to the best of my knowledge and try to base it on the information I have regarding the two questions. I’ll break it up into two posts to keep the length manageable. I’ll also stay in my lane, because bad info in these cases can prove fatal. First, I’ll discuss the unarmed ‘late night walk’ scenario for the unarmed person. The general rules don’t change regarding looking at hard corners and other hiding spots, having keys and pepper spray in hand, looking for erratic movements and unwarranted attention, etc. and all the things we talked about in those first two articles. In my mind I’m imagining that she’s exiting her school into a large parking lot with few other cars and few people, a few street lamps, a large perimeter of bushes or trees, and maybe a 200-300 yard walk to her car. If she works in an urban setting or a parking deck, she will have to tailor her plans to account for her situation. I’ll add some additional bullet points to give you and her some things to think about. Even if not all of the bullet points apply to her or if it’s slightly less dangerous than I’m assuming, hopefully there’s something she can learn from this list.
Just like in the Mundane Movements article, where she parks in the morning will allow her nightly departure to be much safer. Distance to the exit, street lights, ‘combat parking’, parking near cement or earthen barriers, parking away from tree lines, are all worth considering.
Encourage her to leave with others whenever possible. It sounds like you would encourage that if it were possible, but I’d be remiss to not mention it. There is always strength in numbers. My fear would be that someone would start to realize her exit patterns and just lie in wait. Either just outside of the exit door, or near her car.
Upon approaching her car, have her make a large arc around her car (30 feet or so) to see the previously unseen before getting so close that someone behind the car could emerge and she would have no time to react.
Related to the patterns thing, if she can vary her departure time semi-randomly, that could throw off an ambush directed at her enough for her to foil it.
Make sure she has her cell phone charged when she’s leaving. I encourage my wife to carry her Cell Phone Mobile Battery Charger in case she’s caught with no wall outlet and a dead phone.
Encourage her to take a quick peek out of whatever windows she has access to before she goes bursting out into the parking lot. If she sees something out of the ordinary, she’s locked inside and has the time to figure out the best course of action.
Have a bright flashlight in her off hand while walking to the car (O.C. in the dominant hand). I’ll let you google what is ‘needed’ for a tactical flashlight. But suffice it to say, getting hit with a few hundreds lumens when you think you’re approaching in the dead of night can be a real OODA loop re-set. A flashlight combined with well rehearsed and confident verbalization skills, and a big can of eye-burny-goodness goes a long way to buy time for escape. The flashlight can be used to probe dark corners of buildings, between cars, inside and under her car as she approaches it, the corners of the buildings, and anywhere she wants to illuminate. There are no laws (that I’m aware of or would obey) against shining a really bright flashlight in someone’s eyes if I needed to. Light everything up!
When she is leaving, before she walks out into the dark of night and lets the security of the main door close behind her, have her stop in the still opened exit door and spend thirty seconds or so looking at every single piece of landscape she can see from that vantage (don’t forget behind an outward opening door). Having a flashlight with good throw (to light things up at distance) would be very useful here. She could just spend the time with a slow and deliberate sweep of the immediate area. Once she feels comfortable, she can continue to her car. If she doesn’t, she can take a step back inside and make a decision.
Encourage her to prop her exit door open with something like a door stop or something, temporarily, while she is on the way to her car. This way, if something happens while she is stranded between her car and the building, she has a place to run. Once she is safely in her vehicle, she can swing back to the building and pick up her doorstop.
Footwear. She should bring a comfortable pair of shoes to work and change before she leaves. Suggest that she take a pair of sneakers in which she can run quickly if the need arises. As The Tactical Professor says, “The road to Hell is paved in flip-flops”. I think the same can be extended to high heels or dress shoes. Mobility is life. You need to be able to move quickly.
Encourage her to get training in the use of O.C. (Pepper Spray). Good training will include a force on force module where she will be able to verbalize, move, and get used to ‘pressing the trigger’ on inert pepper spray against another human. I can and will make a post about my knowledge about O.C., but a blog can’t replace live training. (Edit: A teacher friend of mine pointed out that carrying any sort of O.C. on a school is strictly forbidden. I will say this. Just because you shouldn’t carry a weapon, doesn’t mean you can’t carry a weapon. I hope that’s clear. You have to make your own choices and weigh the risks and rewards)
That’s all I’ve got regarding unarmed movement late at night. I’d be interested to hear any further suggestions from readers so we can help Daniel out (and folks like him). Interestingly, my wife sometimes has to make similar movements in parking decks at her job. I’ve made similar suggestions to her, and I can only hope she’s heeding the ones that she feels are most applicable. The next post will discuss websites to read, tools, and ideas on how to secure a single classroom in the event of an active shooter (while staying in my lane and not pontificating too much).