Mike Maloney understands carburetors, spark plugs and the complicated electronic systems that make automobiles move. He knows the joy of piecing together metal parts and rubber gaskets, clamps and pumps, relays and wiring harnesses. In addition to a car guy, Maloney is a dirttrack, countrified stock car racer.
At 70 years of age, Maloney is a member of the can-do generation that is easing into retirement, but he’s keeping his hands busy. He is a U.S. Army combat engineer veteran and spent three decades working at Ford Motor Company before retiring.
Having worked, saved and lived as best as he could, Maloney and his wife built a new home on 3 acres in a semi-rural area of Clermont County, Ohio. Their house sits 600 feet off the highway along a gravel road shared with several neighbors. Thinking ahead for emergencies — such as a natural disaster or even a home invasion — Maloney equipped his new home with a secure “safe room” and surrounded his property with strategically positioned cameras.1 The home has an unattached garage, where he spends a good amount of his free time on his car hobby.
Thus, one warm evening in the fall of 2019, Maloney was busily working away in his garage. His wife was away babysitting the granddaughter. At about 9 p.m., he pushed the dolly away from the side of the car and walked into the house to grab a cup of ice water.
Maloney is a firm believer in the Bill of Rights, including the freedom of speech and the press, freedom from illegal search or seizure of his property, and the right to bear arms. He often carries a Ruger LC9 or a Taurus PT99 as a matter of personal habit and has several other defensive guns strategically positioned in his home, including a loaded shotgun in the garage. On that night, however, Maloney discovered the difference between having a firearm “positioned in the house” and having one on his hip when he needed it most.
Maloney walked toward the back door of his home and opened it, but something out of the ordinary caught his attention. He first noticed a shirt lying on the floor that wasn’t his. He picked it up, wondering how it got there, and then observed a man lying on the floor a bit further into the house. The stranger had trashed Maloney’s kitchen.
How, he wondered, could this have happened without him even realizing it?
The man on the floor raised his head and began to sit up.
“Hey, man. What’s going on?” Maloney asked the stranger as casually as possible. “Do I know you?” Maloney anxiously inquired because the man appeared to be strung-out on drugs.
The man sat up and replied, “What’s going on?” Then he scrambled to his feet.
“Yeah, we partied last night,” Maloney said.
That wasn’t true, of course, but Maloney hoped that if the man stopped to think about it, it would give him time to grab the SIG P226 9mm he had hidden in the kitchen. Mike found the pistol but couldn’t remember where he left his cellphone. He shouted, “Alexa!,” hoping the device would answer so he could locate his cellphone and call 911. But it didn’t.
Maloney ordered the intruder to “stay right there” and to not move. He went to the alarm system box, but it wasn’t working or, with his adrenaline skyrocketing, he couldn’t recall the sequence. (When the incident was over, Maloney figured out that he must hold the alarm button for three to four seconds to activate it.)
The intruder didn’t move out of the kitchen.
“Keep cooperating and we’re cool, OK?” Maloney reassured the man, with the pistol now in hand.
About that time, Maloney realized that his phone was in the garage. The intruder was becoming restless and was beginning to fidget.
Maloney backed carefully toward the kitchen door, then outside and the few steps to the garage. No matter what Maloney commanded, the intruder followed him. Then the intruder began to taunt him, “That gun’s not loaded or you would [have] shot by now.”
Maloney backed from the natural light of the yard toward the artificial light of the garage. He noticed that the intruder was heavily tattooed and interpreted them as gang tattoos. Despite the light, it seemed dim inside the garage, and the intruder, although presented with an opportunity, did not flee.
Finding a cellphone on the workbench, Maloney dialed 911. The dispatcher told Maloney a sheriff’s deputy was on the way and to not hang up because he, the dispatcher, would stay on the line with him. Maloney placed the phone on the ground and noticed the shotgun. He picked it up in his left hand.
“Nah, those aren’t loaded,” the intruder said, taking a step forward.
“Stop!” Mike yelled at him.
But the man did not stop. Neither did he lunge forward or flee, or shout epithets or threaten Mike in any other way. He kept inching forward. The whole situation was odd and confusing.
At this point, many responsibly armed Americans — perhaps most — would have leveled the pistol or shotgun and pulled the trigger. What if his wife had been home alone or playing with their granddaughter when this guy chose their unlocked house to enter? Maloney didn’t want to think about what might have happened then, but he didn’t want to shoot the man either. The man wasn’t carrying a gun or a knife, as far as Maloney could tell, and he hadn’t lunged for a weapon — a wrench or a screwdriver — from among his tools.
Maloney placed the phone on the ground and noticed the shotgun. He picked it up in his left hand. “Nah, those aren’t loaded,” the intruder said, taking a step forward.
Maloney estimates the man followed him for about 30 feet. At any step, Maloney might have stumbled or fallen over backward. With the intruder’s close proximity, that would have left him in a very difficult position. It is under such circumstances that a falling, alarmed individual can inadvertently pull the trigger and either shoot himself or fling an ounce of lead in the direction of some innocent bystander.
“You don’t have any bullets in those guns,” the intruder repeated, sneering and moving forward.
It was at this point that Maloney fired the pistol. He aimed to the side and shot into the ground. Inside the garage, the sound was deafening. The intruder flinched but continued coming closer, and Maloney fired again — this time with the shotgun — into the air. The concussion was almost overwhelming.
Editor’s Note: The USCCA strongly recommends against warning shots. Prosecutors can easily refer to your warning shot as a “miss,” and they can make a case to the jury that you actually did attempt to kill the alleged attacker, even if you claim that you only fired into the ground (a bad idea) or into the air (an even worse idea since you’ll have the responsibility for wherever your bullet eventually lands).
The Cavalry Arrives
It had been 20 minutes since Maloney discovered the shirtless man on his kitchen floor. Mike heard vehicles on the gravel road to his house and, within moments, five sheriff’s cruisers raced into the yard. The deputies tackled and handcuffed the intruder.
The intruder had a high dose of recreational chemicals in his system. This wasn’t the deputies’ first run-in with the man either. Earlier in the day, a sheriff’s deputy had taken him into custody for sleeping in the road of a low-income housing project. The deputy dropped the man off at a hospital, but he either walked out, escaped or was released. Hours later, he broke into Maloney’s home.
With the intruder in custody, the sheriff’s deputies started to question Maloney.
“What are the serial numbers of the guns?”
“Do you know this guy?”
“Have you ever seen him before?”
“Why did he choose your house?”
And then came the question he has been asked again and again since the incident: “Why didn’t you shoot him?”
Luck, or Something Else?
Raised a Roman Catholic, Maloney spent six years in the National Guard. When in uniform, he didn’t have to shoot anyone — and he didn’t want to start now, even though the intruder certainly gave him a reason to do so. Mike would probably have had the full backing of the law if he had pulled the trigger.
At about 9:30 p.m., Mike’s wife returned home. Seeing the sheriff’s cars scattered in her yard, Maloney recalled, with a grin now that it’s all over, “She kind of flipped out a little bit if you could imagine.”
Maloney followed the intruder through the legal system. He didn’t have to attend the various depositions and court appearances or stay in touch with the sheriff’s office and the prosecutors, but to Maloney it was important. The process wound on, the trial being put off with motions and busy calendars and legal whatnot. In the end, the intruder — who had been released on his own recognizance after posting a $15,000 bond — was sentenced to two years’ probation.
Maloney recalls the judge telling the intruder that it would only take one slip-up to yank the probation and send him to jail for 18 months. And then, according to Maloney, the judge called him to the stand, and in their discussion of the facts, the judge leaned toward him and whispered, “If I’d found that man in my house, he’d never have walked out.”
So Maloney was prepared but perhaps not ready. The house has a safe room and a sophisticated alarm system and is surrounded by cameras. Maloney and his wife have cellphones and are well-armed. Nevertheless, a man walked into their house unseen, ransacked the kitchen, took off his clothes and fell asleep on the floor. When awakened, the intruder stalked Maloney, sneering and taunting him. Maloney fortuitously found his phone and called for help.
Maloney could have shot him. He says he knows he could have, but he chose not to.
“My training in the Army and what I’ve since learned from the U.S. Concealed Carry Association,” Maloney explained, “gave me the confidence to handle an intruder in my house, to hold him at gunpoint and wait for the sheriff without shooting.”
Never underestimate the value of training and preparation. It could save your life, just like it did for Mike Maloney.
(1) Maloney installed cameras on each corner of his new home. The monitor is in the computer room in the house. After the intruder’s arrest, the Clermont County Sheriff and prosecuting attorney requested the footage.