You’re at home asleep on a weekday night. It is after midnight when you feel your house shudder and hear someone kick in your back door. You go downstairs and see an intruder in your home. The intruder pulls a gun out of his pants and points the gun at you. You run back upstairs to your bedroom. You grab your gun. The intruder chases you into your bedroom and shoots at you. You shoot your attacker. Now your attacker turns and runs back outside. You stop shooting. You hear a car drive away. You stay inside and call 911.
Police also get reports of someone who matches the description of your attacker who was dumped at the side of the road. Emergency medical services take him to a local hospital where he is pronounced dead. Police find your attacker’s gun. You are not charged with a crime.
Our defender did a number of things that saved his life that night. There are also a number of things we might do differently. Let’s look at both.
I like that our defender recognized that the world can be a dangerous place, even inside his own home on a weekday night. He chose a firearm as a tool to defend himself. The homeowner stored his firearm in a location where he could get to it quickly at night. He stored his gun in a condition where the firearm was immediately usable as he grabbed it.
I’d give the defender good marks for being prepared. There is more to say, but we’ll come back to that in a moment.
The defender recognized that the intruder was an immediate threat. He also recognized that the armed attacker also posed a lethal threat. The homeowner tried to flee to his bedroom but the robber followed him. Those conditions become critical if we have to mount a legal defense of our actions later.
The homeowner defended himself when the robber pursued him into his bedroom. The homeowner shot his attacker until the attack stopped. The defender then stopped shooting as the attacker ran away. The defender stayed in his home rather than pursue the robber down the street. The defender then called 911 and asked for help. He gave a brief statement to the officers when they arrived.
I read a few news articles about this event and they are not entirely consistent and clear. In one story it sounded as if the homeowner was able to lock his bedroom door and the intruder had to break through that door as well. That is what we want. It also isn’t clear if the attacker shot at the homeowner as the homeowner fled upstairs or if the homeowner was shot at later when he was armed. I love that the attacker’s shots missed our good guy, but I hate that our defender was shot at. We want to avoid a gunfight where bullets are going both ways. Maybe we can improve on the defender’s response.
We don’t want to get shot. The easiest way is to not be standing there as a target. The homeowner heard the sounds of the break-in. I understand that there is confusion as you’re woken up and you are not sure about what you heard. I want us to set aside that confusion and defend ourselves and our family first. Lock your bedroom door and get back behind the bed away from the bedroom door. Grab your gun and your phone and call 911.
That sounds so simple and it is nearly impossible to consider when you’re jolted awake. The way we make good choices in the middle of the night is to have thought about them ahead of time. We want to turn good choices into good habits.
Take your safety seriously and put together a plan for keeping your family safe. Talk through that plan so you have lots of options. Walkthrough that plan so you find its strengths and weaknesses. Practice the options that work best for you so you know what to do at 1 am when you hear the sound of breaking glass.
I’m sure you know this, but a plan where you fight hand-to-hand with an unknown number of attackers in the dark is a bad plan. You don’t know how many people are downstairs. You do not know where the bad guys are or how they are armed. In this story, there was the intruder who entered the home and the second robber who waited outside. That situation sounds scary to me. Plan to let the police figure those things out for you.
We have millions of new gun owners who bought a firearm for their defense. We can fool ourselves into thinking we have a good plan until we walk through it with our family. If you walk through your plan then you will probably discover that the unloaded gun at the back of a shelf in the bedroom closet isn’t a defensive tool in the middle of the night. I recommend a small bedside rapid-access safe so you can keep your gun loaded. That makes your firearm available and secure.
One option in your plan is to gather your family if you hear a break-in. In this case, it sounds like the bedrooms were upstairs. Consider guarding the top of the stairs as a way to quickly protect your entire family as they sleep. Your safety plan has to fit your situation.
You’ll see what works as you walk through your plan and practice with only a finger gun. Practice the plan from beginning to end, from the sound of breaking glass to the call to your lawyer. Please do me a favor and leave a comment about the last time you walked through your safety plan. Did you learn anything new?
Have you tried using your phone with a gun in your hand? You might want help. Practice who will call 911 and what they should say. You want your hands and feet to know what to do at 1 am while your brain is still half-asleep. That takes practice.
I hope our defender put his gun away and pointed out the evidence to the police. I’m thinking of evidence like the bullet hole in his house where the bad guy shot at him. Like the ejected cartridge casing from the attacker’s gun that show how far away the attacker was. Things like the gun the attacker dropped as he turned and ran. Don’t forget the spent cartridge case that is in the back corner of your bedroom where you were hiding as you tried to get away from your attacker. Even the fact that the attacker had a getaway car and driver is significant.
All that evidence shows that you were an innocent person who used a firearm as a last resort when you faced a lethal and unavoidable threat.
The defender did a lot of things correctly, and then we hope he called his lawyer. If you’ve taken a class on the legal use of lethal force then say little. If the middle of the night is the first time you thought about the legal issues then say less. Point out the evidence and be quiet. Do you have a lawyer to call?
Rob Morse highlights the latest self-defense and other shootings of the week. See what went wrong, what went right, and what we can learn from real-life self-defense with a gun. Even the most justified self-defense shooting can go wrong, especially after the shot. Get the education, the training, and the liability coverage you and your family deserve, join USCCA.
About Rob Morse
Rob writes about gun rights at Ammoland, at Clash Daily, at Second Call Defense, and on his SlowFacts blog. He hosts the Self Defense Gun Stories Podcast and co-hosts the Polite Society Podcast. Rob was an NRA pistol instructor and combat handgun competitor.