What Did I Just See? Should I Draw My Gun?

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It’s noon on a beautiful spring day. Over your lunch hour, you decide to run some errands and end up at a nearby big-box store to buy badly needed toilet bowl cleaner and a piñata for your nephew’s upcoming birthday party. As you head down the center row of parking spaces, movement to your left catches your eye.

Between two cars, partly obscured by a shopping cart full of merchandise, a violent struggle is underway. A man dressed in dark pants and a light blue polo shirt has grabbed the arm of a casually dressed woman who is punching him savagely with her free hand. The pair twists and turns, and the man attempts to deliver a knee-strike. The blow only grazes the woman’s thigh. The fight continues as the man wraps both arms about the woman, just above her waist, pinning her hands to her sides. With what appears to be all her might, she shoves backward, slamming the man into the side mirror of a parked car, smashing the mirror and causing him to lose his grip.

The woman twists free and delivers a savage kick to the groin of the man trying to hold her. The man crumples just as two more men arrive on the scene — one at the front bumper and one at the rear. The woman continues to kick the man on the ground as the man at the front bumper tries to pull her away. The man from the rear bumper reaches to his belt and grabs something before stepping forward, obscuring his hands from your view.

What Should You Do?

Your Options as a Responsible Gun Owner:

  1. Do nothing. This is none of your business, and inserting yourself into the incident does nothing for you. Drive on.
  2. Call 911 and give the location of the fight and the best possible description of those involved.
  3. Pull out your phone and start recording video.
  4. Exit your vehicle, move to a position of tactical advantage, draw your gun and order everyone to freeze.
  5. Exit your vehicle, move to a position of tactical advantage, draw your gun and shoot the man reaching for the item at his beltline.
  6. Can you think of another option?

Things to Consider

You have absolutely no information about what led up to this confrontation. It could be literally anything, and you have come upon it at a time when it would take plenty of explaining just to bring you up to speed. What could be happening here?

  1. Is the man a member of the store’s undercover security team? Does he believe he has spotted a shoplifter and is now trying to apprehend her?
  2. Is the woman defending herself against an assault from an angry ex?
  3. Who are the secondary players in this event, and why did they arrive when they did?
    • Could one or both of them be accomplices of either party in the fight?
    • Are they just good Samaritans who decided to jump in and help?
    • Are there any more people waiting around to jump into this fight?
  4. Do you have any legal or moral responsibility to be involved in this fight?

You might want to pull out your phone and start recording the action just to capture what was going on at the time you arrived. Remember, your video will not tell the whole story, but it could provide some crucial evidence if this situation turned into something even more severe. But there are things to consider about that course of action as well. You are sitting in a car in the center of a driving lane in a parking lot. By blocking traffic, you might prompt some other hothead to confront you. Also, if the police are currently on the way, are you blocking their approach?

Your Car Isn’t Great Cover

Remember that your car only provides you limited protection, and the best means of protecting yourself with a car is to drive away from danger. As you sit in your car watching this event unfold, you are offered only limited protection if bullets start flying. You just saw a man reach for his waistband and now you don’t know what he has in his hand. If this man has introduced a gun into the mix, bullets could be coming your way. And the windows and thin sheet metal of your car offer very little protection.

What about getting out of the car and getting involved in the fight? You need to think long and hard about whose side you are going to jump in on. At this point, you have four people involved. It’s very tough to control even one uncooperative person, let alone four. Who poses the biggest threat? Is it the woman who kicked the man in the groin and continued putting the boot to him after he went down? Is it the man who grabbed something from his belt? What was it that he grabbed, and whose side is he on? What about that fourth guy who arrived; is he there to help the woman or the man? We still don’t even know what’s really going on. All the information you really have is that two people are fighting, and two more people got involved. Right now, facts are pretty slim.

Be a Good Witness

My suggestion on this particular incident is to stay in your car and call 911. Give the location of the fight and a description of the people involved. If you can do so safely, move your vehicle out of the traffic lane and give continued updates to the dispatcher as the fight unfolds. It might be wise to exit your vehicle and use the engine compartment area for cover while you are reporting the activity to the dispatcher.

This is not your fight. Stay out of it, but provide what assistance you can to the lawful authorities. Your goal is to protect yourself and your loved ones. As a witness to this incident, you may feel you have some responsibility. Based on the information given in this scenario, that responsibility ends at being a good witness. Any fight can escalate into a use of deadly force. Do not make the mistake of walking in on something you know nothing about.

Think About Other Scenarios

What appears above is by no means a comprehensive list of every option available to you. This column is designed to make you think about the vast number of considerations you will be faced with if you stumble into an incident that requires an immediate decision. You are not simply making one choice. Each choice leads to a series of further choices.

Asking, “What would you do?” starts an incredibly lengthy decision-making matrix that you must consider long before you are faced with such a decision.

 

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 attended 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.