Situational Awareness: “Pick Your Seat”

William died in an old-fashioned pub on August 2 at approximately 4:15 in the afternoon. He was carrying a Smith & Wesson that he knew very well how to use, but Jack shot him from behind, in the head with a .45. Jack was caught and tried twice. The first time, an impromptu jury—hurriedly assembled in a local theatre—ruled “not guilty;” the second time, Jack was not so lucky and has since been executed for the crime.

At 8:15 a.m. on November 29, Maurice went into a coffee shop with his Glock 17. He wanted to kill someone. Working on laptop computers and drinking coffee inside were Mark, Ron, Tina, and Greg. Maurice approached the counter, drew his gun, and shot both Mark and Tina in the head. He then shot Ron in the neck. Greg rose, returned fire, and shot Maurice in the stomach, at which point Maurice shot him in the head. Maurice fled, but two days later, Ben shot Maurice, killing him.

Coworkers Alyn and Igor were murdered while eating lunch at 11:20 a.m. on June 7. Alyn and Igor were armed and well-versed in the use of handguns. The murderers, a husband and wife named Jerad and Amanda, then fled to a retail store where they murdered Joseph. Cornered in the store, police killed Jerad; Amanda apparently shot herself to death.

The eight murders and eleven deaths occurred over a span of 138 years, but they share a common feature: those murdered were in a public place and they were distracted.

The Rest of the Story

In 1876, Bill Hickok was seated, playing poker at Nuttal & Mann’s #10 Saloon in Deadwood, South Dakota when Jack McCall shot him. McCall simply walked up to Bill’s back with a loaded .45. A part-time cop, part-time gambler, Bill was distracted by his weak card hand of two pair: black aces and 8s. Not a hand to take to the bank. Hickok, it is said, never sat with his back to the door…until the day McCall killed him.

In 2009, Lakewood, Washington officers Mark Renninger, Ron Owens, Tina Griswold, and Greg Richards were working on laptop computers prior to the start of their shift. They sat comfortably inside a Forza Coffee Company shop sipping hot coffee and eating their Danish. All four were experienced officers, in uniform, armed, and wearing ballistic vests. Mark and Tina, the first to die, may never have even noticed the killer.

Perhaps Alyn Beck and Igor Soldo were distracted by the abundance of cheap food at the Las Vegas CiCi’s Pizza outlet in 2014. And Joseph Wilcox might have developed the sudden tunnel-vision that comes with moments of extreme excitement. After Jerad and Amanda Miller murdered the two municipal officers, they ran across the street to a Walmart. There, Jerad fired a shot into the air and shouted at everyone to get out. In the rush to the exit, shopper Joseph Wilcox, who carried a legal concealed weapon, attempted to intervene. Wilcox approached Jerad from behind when Amanda shot him three times.

The Takeaway

Bill, Mark, Ron, Tina, Greg, Alyn, and Igor were targeted because they were law enforcement. Bill was also famous and had recently, legitimately, won money from his killer. The other six human beings were murdered simply because they were cops, targets of opportunity. All were casual in a public place, innocent and unprepared.

Some suggestions emerge from these (admittedly) randomly chosen examples that apply to concealed carry. And of course, except for the well-known Hickok, the six officers were highly visible wearing uniforms and duty gear.

  1. Event seating could be critical to survival. Single men want to sit in the “viewing seat” to check out the women who come and go from a restaurant or bar—maybe unattached women do something similar. Written in this manner it sounds creepy, but maybe this is not such a bad strategy for those of us who carry.
  2. And sitting at a table rather than in a booth will give you more flexibility to draw and maneuver if you ever need to do so. The sides of a booth may give you some protection from gunshots as will the people—the bodies—on the other sides.
  3. Seated with your back to a wall, you have as much as 180 degrees of safety and a narrower, more focused field of view. At least, no one can sneak up behind you.
  4. Depending on your group size and consistency, think about making an effort to keep your companion(s) away from your draw hand.

Being vigilant is exhausting, but it could save your life…especially if you’re worrying about betting on two pair, those aces and 8s.