Good Samaritan Good Sense

Just last week here in Florida, we had yet another case of a legally armed “Good Samaritan” coming to the aid of a citizen. This latest in a series of such incidents involved an apparent theft at an Orange County Walmart.

According to the sheriff’s office and local news outlets, four young males were seen loading up shopping carts with boxes of disposable diapers. When they left the store without paying, a Walmart employee followed them out into the parking lot, where the alleged thieves were loading the boxes into a vehicle.

According to deputies, it was then that a legally armed shopper showed up and attempted to assist the store employee. At some point during the confrontation, the “Good Samaritan” shot one of the robbers, claiming that the young man “looked like he was reaching for a gun.”

Responding deputies said that after the gunfire, the four suspects drove off and smashed into two cars. Three got away on foot. The one who was shot made it as far as a gas station across the street. Interestingly, it was later discovered that the suspects’ vehicle had been stolen in a carjacking just last month.

Initial information seems to indicate that the responding deputies found the armed citizen’s story credible. “What we have at this point is that the individual felt threatened — one of the suspects reached for something [and he] thought that it was a weapon or firearm,” Orange County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Angelo Nieves said during an interview with Fox News.

I’m sure there will be a lot of “Monday morning quarterbacking” among those in the carry community, but, at least at this point, the “Good Samaritan” does not appear to be facing charges. However, it is good for all of us to remember that police do not file criminal charges — city or state attorneys (prosecutors) do.

As a result, even if the police report indicates that responding officers accepted the armed shopper’s story, an overly zealous prosecutor who thinks the law has been violated in some way could easily decide to move forward with a prosecution. This can sometimes occur weeks, even months, after the initial investigation. How this particular case will play out is uncertain, but the initial impression is that the “Good Samaritan” is, for the moment at least, on reasonably solid ground, legally speaking.

But legal troubles are not the only risk when we decide to come to the aid of someone — especially a stranger. You may recall the case about a year ago where an armed shopper heard a violent confrontation in the next aisle. When he intervened to aid the apparent victim, he was shot in the back … by a second perpetrator.

A grizzled old Marine vet who later spent decades as a homicide detective once told me, “Always remember that rats tend to travel in packs.” That wise saying simply underscores the importance of that most fundamental tenet of carry — situational awareness.

Most of you are familiar with the concept of the “360-degree scan,” where you do a quick left-right sweep of your environment. But unless you practice this move consistently (i.e. every time you practice drawing your gun), the adrenaline and “tunnel vision” affect can take over, and you could miss something … with deadly results. Awareness is essential, both for helping us avoid trouble … and surviving it if we can’t.

And intervene only if you see a clear threat to yourself or others.