Editor’s Note: The three-part story that follows, which originally appeared in Concealed Carry Magazine‘s January 2021 issue, is an account of a self-defense incident that occurred in North Carolina in 2019 and the legal turmoil that followed. The details within the story were confirmed through interviews, police records and court documents. The USCCA Member featured in the story has asked that his full name not be used in order to help protect his identity. It has been less than two years since this event occurred, and while his life is largely back to normal, he doesn’t want to attract unwanted attention to himself or his family. We have also left out the names of his family members and others who were involved in this incident, as well as specific dates and locations.
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A couple of hours later, Brian’s ex-wife was feeling a little better, so they decided to run over to the mobile home and check on the dog. Their 8-year-old daughter joined them in Brian’s truck for the 5-mile trip.
“It occurred to me that it might not be safe to go over there, that he might be there,” Brian said of his ex-wife’s attacker. “However, it also occurred to me that if I had assaulted a woman and committed arson, I wouldn’t stick around. So I didn’t really think that it was going to be dangerous or threatening.”
Brian’s ex-wife was relieved to see the dog run out as soon as Brian pulled his truck into the driveway. The dog jumped right into the truck, no doubt happy to see its owner and to escape the 90-degree heat.
Brian examined the home. The worn gray and white trailer was noticeably rickety and rusty even before it was set on fire, but, surprisingly, only about half of the structure received major damage. Brian and his ex-wife decided to try to salvage what they could from inside.
Not Backing Down
“We’re loading it into the truck, making trips in and out,” Brian explained. “As I was going through some stuff, I heard her saying something. I looked up and there was a man standing there. He was just standing there nonchalant, smoking. My first thought was that he was the landlord and had seen her there and came over just to inspect the damage.”
But Brian’s ex-wife got more and more agitated as the conversation went on and then started yelling and crying as the man entered her home.
“I said, ‘Wait. Who is this?’” Brian recalled. “She said, ‘That’s him! That’s the man!’”
Brian, who had never met her ex-boyfriend, told the man to leave, but he refused. Brian quickly ran into the home and put himself between the man and his ex-wife, trying to protect her as the man started yelling threats. Brian shoved the man outside.
“I just stayed in between him and her and kept telling him to leave,” he said.
Brian, now standing on the porch between his ex-wife and her ex-boyfriend, realized he had left his phone in his truck, where his daughter and the dog were still sitting. He was trying to figure out how he could get to his phone to call the police without leaving his ex-wife vulnerable to her ex-boyfriend’s escalating aggression.
“At this point, a couple of women came over and were telling me to leave him alone,” Brian said. “I said, ‘I’m not doing anything. I’m just telling him to leave.’”
After a few minutes of this standoff, the man charged up the stairs of the front porch, attempting to bullrush through Brian to get back into the home. Brian, who is 5 feet, 9 inches tall and north of 200 pounds, knocked the smaller man down.
“I just, basically, like a football block, just hit him … and he went back down and laid down on the ground,” Brian said.
The scene quickly grew more tense, however, as the man started screaming threats at Brian’s ex-wife again from the ground while the two onlookers started yelling aggressively at Brian.
He was confident that, once he told his side of the story, he’d be released
The man stood up and charged up the steps again.
“I stuck my boot out and kicked him in the chest, and he went back down,” Brian explained. “At that point, he got up and ran away, so I decided to go to my truck to get my phone.”
The ex-boyfriend ran to a blue Chevy Suburban parked on the property, grabbed something and made a beeline back toward Brian. As the man began running toward him, Brian could see he was now holding a steel pipe, the type used as a handle for a hydraulic car jack. Brian, who had begun dialing 911, dropped the phone and reached for his gun, a Ruger LCR .38 Special snub-nosed revolver that was holstered in the middle console between the truck’s front seats.
“Once I pulled my gun and showed it to him, he stopped, maybe 8 feet away,” Brian recalled. “He stopped right around the bumper of my truck, and I was at the driver’s side in front of the driver’s door. He stopped, but then he took another step like he was trying to get closer to me. I pointed my gun at him, and I told him, ‘Back off!’”
“What are you going to do? Shoot me?” the man responded.
“I don’t want to,” Brian said. “Just go away.”
The man took another step.
“Well, at this point, I’m thinking, ‘This guy’s nuts. I’m pointing a gun at him and he’s got a metal pipe or a metal bar, and he’s trying to come closer to me.’”
This stalemate lasted several agonizing seconds, with the man barely out of arm’s reach from Brian. Finally, the man lunged forward with the pipe above his head. Brian fired his Ruger.
The attacker, hit in the abdomen, wavered but kept his feet for several seconds before collapsing onto his back.
“Somebody call 911!” Brian yelled.
Not knowing if anyone was doing so, he reholstered his gun in the middle console of the truck, got his phone and called 911 himself. His ex-wife ran out to the truck to comfort their daughter while Brian explained the situation to the dispatcher and requested police and paramedics immediately.
“Then I went to render first-aid,” he explained.
The bullet had hit the attacker below the breastbone, and there was no exit wound on his back. Brian attempted to stop the bleeding, but it appeared to be mostly internal. The man was breathing and conscious, but Brian assumed he was probably going into shock. Brian monitored the man’s heart rate as sirens approached. At this point, Brian realized his truck was blocking the ambulance’s access.
“There was an opening in the fence, and that’s where my truck was, and there was no way for paramedics to get a gurney in there or anything like that,” Brian explained. “So I jumped into my truck and I pulled it forward as the first officer was arriving on scene.”
Brian jumped out of the truck and signaled the location of the wounded man to the officer. It appeared as though the man had now stopped breathing. Brian identified himself as the shooter as the officer started checking the attacker’s vitals. The second officer, arriving moments later, put Brian in handcuffs and escorted him into the back of a squad car.
“I understood,” Brian said. “You know, I didn’t dispute that or argue it or anything. It was OK.”
Arriving officers, detectives, paramedics, witnesses and onlookers swarmed to the scene and packed the tiny yard. In total, four officers and six detectives responded along with three paramedics. The paramedics administered CPR before quickly loading the attacker into the ambulance. He was declared dead on the way to the hospital.
Minutes later, detectives drove Brian to the sheriff’s department. He was confident that, once he told his side of the story, he’d be released and the incident would rightly be declared self-defense.
“My mindset was I was justified in doing what I did,” Brian said. “I knew the law, and I knew that I had a right to carry a firearm. I had a license to carry a firearm, a concealed carry. I knew that I had a right to stand my ground. I also knew that I had to protect myself and my family.”
At the sheriff’s office, the detectives shuffled Brian into the interrogation room. They read him his rights, and one of the detectives began asking questions, leaving every so often and returning minutes later. It was the first time Brian began to worry about how the incident would be handled.
“I was starting to get a little skeptical because he wasn’t allowing me to finish any of the answers,” Brian explained. “He would ask me a question, and then, as I was trying to answer it, he’d ask me another question. So I got the feeling that he was not interested in my version of what happened.”
Brian was questioned for approximately 30 minutes. At the conclusion, he was informed that he was under arrest for first-degree murder. The time listed on the arrest paperwork is 2:48 p.m., exactly three hours and 15 minutes after the first call regarding the incident was logged by the 911 dispatcher.
However, it also occurred to me that if I had assaulted a woman and committed arson, I wouldn’t stick around.
A detective drove Brian to the county jail for booking. He asked if Brian would like to make a phone call. Suddenly, Brian remembered his USCCA Membership.
Brian retired from the Army in 2016 and then moved back to North Carolina from Texas in 2017. He had to take a course to get his concealed carry license in the state. During the course, his instructor strongly recommended that the students look into some type of insurance or legal protection to assist them if they were ever to be involved in a self-defense incident. The instructor gave real-life examples of cases where people who shot to defend themselves or their families were still arrested, charged with crimes and racked up incredibly high attorney bills attempting to clear their names. He had mentioned that civil lawsuits could also be filed against those who defended themselves with a firearm.
Hope and the USCCA
Brian was skeptical, but he decided to look into it. Eventually, he decided to give the USCCA a try.
In the back of a squad car on the way to county jail, Brian was thankful that he had listened to that instructor. Upon arriving at the jail, he was booked into a cell on A Block, the highest-security area where the most violent offenders are held. After a few hours, he was brought back out to make his call.
Brian tried to call his ex-wife so he could ask her to contact the USCCA on his behalf, but his phone was logged into evidence and he couldn’t think of her number off of the top of his head.
Then, Brian believes, God stepped in.
“She [his ex-wife] happened to call, right at that minute, the front desk,” he said.
The detective who answered the phone wrote down her number and handed it directly to Brian. Brian called and asked her to contact the USCCA immediately. She was too emotional and distraught to complete the call, but she reached out to Brian’s parents. Brian’s mother connected with the USCCA Critical Response Team that night, and the Critical Response Team ensured that the insurance company received notice of the incident.
“Confronting Chaos,” Part 2 of 3
Jailed for months while facing a first-degree murder charge, a North Carolina man found hope in his faith and the USCCA.