Perception is a Strange Thing

Occasionally a Network member tells a story so full of lessons that although it is not specifically focused on the legal aspects of armed self defense, we must find a forum in which to share the report with other members. The following is told by our member, Tony P. of North Carolina. We appreciate his interest in telling us his experience so we can all learn.

-- Gila Hayes

Although it is possible to be involved in a lethal force encounter on any given day, in many respects I was not adequately prepared for when it visited my world. What follows are the details of what happened to me, or perhaps to be more accurate, what occurred “around” me.

Although I’ve legally concealed carried for many years, I’d only been a member of the Armed Citizens’ Legal Defense Network for a short while. I’d watched the videos provided with membership, took some notes, and made a concerted effort to incorporate the practical teachings offered into my mindset. In retrospect, I can tell you that I was able to practically use some of those principles, while other principles I ignored completely. I was smart; I was foolish.

As is the norm, while commuting home from work I travelled a busy interstate highway. About half way home it becomes apparent I need to get gas. A short distance ahead I see a tall gas station sign and take the exit. It is daytime and the area looks “ok.” In my mind getting gas was the priority at hand.

The gas station is only about 100 yards from the interstate exit. I am sitting at the pump with the engine running, while talking to my sister through an in ear Bluetooth headset, the radio is on and playing music on low. From the pumps behind and one row over I hear a commotion. At the time, it sounded to me like a woman was angry at someone (perhaps a child) and was loudly urging them to comply with something. My mind tells me “It’s no big deal, just stay in the car until it’s over, and don’t get involved in other people’s business.” That assumption was wrong!

Within what seemed just a few seconds I see a number of people at the pumps rush to get in their vehicles and drive away at what seemed near light speed. Now I know something is very wrong! I shut off the radio, tell my sister I’ve got to go, rip off my headset and look around. From the front left of my car I see a tall, slender man with white hair and a stainless revolver moving forward and shooting past me but not far past! Was he robbing someone? Will he point it at me? Whatever is going on, it isn’t good. I retrieve my holstered gun from my jacket pocket, pull it out of the holster, open the door, step out of the car, duck a little and look for cover. I was surprised that I was able to do all that reasonably well. I remember thinking “Is it safe to take cover behind a gas pump?” I chose the big pole next to the pump that holds the roof up. I believe there is a steel girder contained inside and is probably my best cover. Not sure. I notice I am having tunnel vision out of fear, and I am trying to fight that.

The man moves forward and it becomes apparent he is not shooting at me. That’s good and what a relief! As I look to the left I see a man on the ground next to a car with a broken out rear window. Did the white haired man just shoot him? Looking further back I see two masked armed men grab a small aluminum case and a suitcase from the man’s car. They get in their own vehicle to make an escape. In their haste they drop the large suitcase and its contents spill out on the ground. The masked men flee. The white haired man holsters his weapon. Things calm down. At this point there are only four of us left at the scene (including the victim). I holster my weapon and return it to my jacket pocket, and come out from cover. I change hats to now become a First Responder. I approach the victim to see how badly he is hurt. Fortunately, he is only bruised, has a small head contusion, and is not shot. He is confused and shaken. He can barely speak. We help him up and get him to sit in his car.

I ask if anyone has called 911. No answer from anyone (which seemed strange to me at the time). I make the call. I tell the dispatcher what just happened and give details as requested. It seems as though the dispatcher is keeping me on the line unnecessarily long. I want to get off the call as I have a fear that the gunmen could return (they didn’t). I hang up. The police arrive on scene in less than three minutes. I have my driver’s license and concealed carry permit at the ready. When first questioned, I let the police officer know that I am armed and possess a concealed carry permit. He asks where the gun is. I tell him in my pocket. He asks to see my driver’s license and concealed carry permit. He was a little surprised I had them ready, and thanked me for that.

After questioning it became clear that it was daylight armed robbery in which a Good Samaritan stopped the crime and forced the masked gunmen to flee. The shouting I heard was the gunmen yelling, “Down, Down, Get Down!” over and over. To this day we do not know if either of the masked gunman was hit. Thankfully, the victim was not seriously hurt. The Good Samaritan was not charged. Early in their investigation, the police took possession of his weapon (but did return it to him just before we all left). Everyone on scene was asked to separately give detailed statements.

Apparently, I was the only one on scene that was able to provide a description of the gunmen and their vehicle (including a partial license plate number). I gave details such as height and weight, but could not tell their race as they were both masked. The police asked if I saw their hands. I did not think to look at their hands. I cannot even tell you if they had gloves on.

What did I learn from this? I made several mistakes that could have gotten me injured, killed or worse. Yes, to me there are worse things than getting shot. I also made a few good decisions and acted accordingly.

Firstly, my level of situational awareness in public needs great improvement! A Bluetooth headset might add driving safety for talking on the phone, but once off the highway (or anywhere in public) it’s time to take them off and be aware! I will also be turning off the radio in public. Additionally, if I hear any commotion I will certainly pay attention to see if there is a threat! There is no substitute for being aware of your surroundings.

Most importantly, having learned from the Armed Citizens’ Legal Defense Network videos: unless you know exactly what the situation is, or you are directly threatened with lethal bodily harm, do not shoot! Personally, this was my best takeaway from this incident.

If you are witness to a crime it is important to try to be observant and make that 911 call as soon as possible. When talking with the 911 dispatcher let them know there is currently no threat on scene. Once law enforcement arrives, comply with their directions. Keep in mind the police do not know “the players” when they first arrive on scene. Do not do anything to make them suspicious or nervous.

The training received in the videos provided by the Armed Citizens’ Legal Defense Network may have stopped me from shooting someone in error!

This account was difficult to write. I still get emotional when reviewing in my head what happened that day. I try not to dwell on it too much. My hope is that it might help someone else in a similar situation.

I’ve recently renewed my membership for three years and plan to attentively watch the videos again very soon. I have more to learn. It may become a Thanksgiving holiday tradition for me (for several reasons).

God bless you all.


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