On a hot summer night, you have three more hours to drive before you get home. It’s been a long business trip with some wins and some losses. You have visited more clients than you care to remember and right now, you just want to get home. If you stop for gas now, you can grab a cup of coffee and pull into the driveway by 1 a.m. There’s no traffic on the roads, and you can really make some time on the interstate.
The gas station looks well-lit and actually kind of quiet. There is one truck at the pump as you pull in and start pumping your gas. A minivan pulls in just seconds behind you, and a tired father who has clearly been on vacation too long with his four young kids gets out to fill up. You both nod in quiet understanding. It’s as if, without any words, you say to each other, “Been there. I feel for you.”
You decide to wash the windshield as the tank fills up. Just as you pull the squeegee for the last time, you hear the telltale click of the auto-stop lever on the nozzle. Dropping the window-washing stick back into the bucket, you grab the nozzle, replace it on the pump and head inside to pay and get your coffee. Joe Minivan is not far behind you, and the guy from the pickup truck — which clearly had a bigger tank — is also just finishing up. It looks like all three of you will converge on the cashier at the same time.
Senses Start to Tingle
As the three of you enter the store, it seems that everyone had the same idea: drinks and snacks. You fan out in a different direction, looking for the “healthier option.” Reaching into the cooler and pulling out a bottle of mocha latte something-or-other, you hear the door of the shop open. You begin moving toward the check-out counter, ready to pay for your gas. Joe Minivan is already there, and the driver of the pickup truck has found a bag of chips and a soda and is moving into the line behind you.
The sound of the door opening indicated that two men were coming in. From your spot in line, you notice that one of the men is looking around the entire store. The other guy has turned his back to his companion and is looking out the door, holding the door handle with his left hand. His right hand is in the pocket of his hoodie. At about the same time, you notice the other man also has his right hand in the pocket of his hoodie. Just as the hair on the back of your neck stands up, the man scanning the store pulls a small auto-loading pistol from his hoodie and shouts, “Alright. Don’t do nothin’ stupid. I only want the money. If y’all play along. We’ll be gone. Everybody get up here where I can see ya.”
The robber starts waving the gun and directing people toward the cashier’s counter, while you instinctively set your merchandise on the counter and begin to blade your body, thinking about how you can get to your gun if you get the chance. You notice the accomplice is still looking out the door while the robber is shouting for people to move. Pointing his gun at the cashier, he demands that the young man behind the counter open the cash drawer and put the money in a bag. When the teen cashier fumbles opening the drawer, the robber screams, “Hurry up, Kyle! Get that money in the bag, dammit!”
Taking Stock of the Situation
You consider reaching for your gun but think about what it means to draw against an already drawn handgun. You look for cover and decide there is nothing really accessible and begin to think that maybe, just maybe, the robber will take the money and leave. You might just be a witness to this robbery instead of a participant in a deadly force encounter.
As the robber continues to demand that the cashier hurry up, you begin to slowly sidestep toward the only piece of cover you see — the hotdog roller off to your right. Your movement is too quick, and the robber notices, directing his attention and his gun toward you.
“Where you think you’re going? Get over here and gimme your wallet.”
Your heart is pounding so hard you can hardly hear. Your feet feel like lead as you plod forward. Your hand reaches back to your pocket, passing right over your gun resting in your inside-the-waistband holster. You pull out your wallet and hand it over. This apparently gives the robber an idea. He decides he wants all the wallets and begins demanding them from the other patrons. You think about reaching for your gun while the robber is focusing on the other shoppers but just don’t feel like you can win the race.
With all the wallets in his bag full of money, the robber could walk away, but he seems to want more.
“What else you got? Is there a safe in the back? Show me that safe! Everybody, get in the back. We goin’ to find that safe. Move!”
And he starts directing everyone to the back room. What do you do?
- Follow orders and move to the back room, hoping he will take the money and go.
- Bolt for that piece of cover, draw your gun and come up shooting.
- Create a diversion and charge at the robber in an effort to control his gun while you reach for yours.
Things to Consider
Can you get your gun into action? If the robber decides to fire at you, what are the chances he will hit you? How well can you move? Are you injured? Does your back hurt? Do you have a bum knee? Can you make it to cover? You have lots to think about, but there is one overriding concern: The back room is the execution chamber.
Typically, when a robber decides to move victims from one location to another, something bad is about to happen. These robbers have made no effort to conceal their identities and are not satisfied with the money they have gotten. Moving people to the back room gives them a chance to commit murder, unseen. There is no way anyone should comply with the order to move to the back room. It’s like being told to get in the car. Once the criminal removes you from the scene, things only get worse.
The second option listed above might be the best. Move as quickly as you can to that cover and look for a safe shot at the bad guy. But remember, there are two bad guys. Focus on the most imminent threat first. That is usually the closest guy with a gun but pay attention. Target fixation is a real thing. You must not focus on only one guy and ignore the other. Use cover to the best of your ability, engage the biggest threat first and keep looking for that other bad guy.
Sometimes it might be better to go for the bad guy’s gun, rather than draw your own. But again: two bad guys. If, as the situation plays out, you find yourself so close that you can make a lunge for the gun, you might want to try that. But that brings an entirely new list of things to think about.
Have you had any training in taking a firearm away from someone? Is this robber bigger and stronger than you? Where is the other bad guy? Will that accomplice come to the aid of his friend or will he bolt at the first sign of trouble? Can you get both hands on the bad guy’s gun or gun hand? Once you do that, can you keep that gun pointed away from you? I’m sure there are more things to consider, so it looks like grabbing for the robber’s gun would not be the best option but could be a good option if you could not get to cover and start shooting.
Whatever You Do
The worst option is to be herded into that back room like sheep. Don’t go in there! You are betting your life on the kindness and mercy of people who have used guns to steal money. Do you really think you can trust them to spare your life? If you go into that room, all you have is hope that the bad guys will decide to allow you to live.
The stakes in this scenario, like all deadly force scenarios, are extremely high. Lives are on the line. Your life is on the line. You are caught up in the middle of a robbery that could quickly turn into a mass murder. You have a chance to fight back. Should you shoot?
About Kevin Michalowski
Kevin Michalowski is executive editor of Concealed Carry Magazine and a fully certified law enforcement officer working part time in rural Wisconsin. He is a USCCA- and NRA-Certified Trainer. Kevin has participated in training across the U.S. as both a student and an instructor in multiple disciplines. These specialties include pistol, rifle, shotgun, empty-hand defense and rapid response to the active shooter. Kevin is passionate about the concealed carry lifestyle, studying the legal, ethical and moral aspects of the use of force in self-defense. He is a graduate of the Force Science Institute Certification Course and has worked as a professional witness and consultant on matters concerning the judicious use of deadly force and deadly force decision-making.