Sunday, June 25, 2017

Did You Shoot 'em Too Hard?

What is excessive force?

In combat I suspect it’s waste.  Does it matter if you kill an enemy with three rounds of 5.56X45 or drop a 1000 pound bomb on him?  Dead is dead.  One is a little more (okay, a lot more extreme) than the other.

In self-defense it’s a little different.  Police are authorized to use required force to apprehend someone, but even that has limits.  In Cleveland Dec 2012, following a car chase, the police poured 137 rounds into the stopped car.  "This was now a stop-and-shoot – no longer a chase-and-shoot," County prosecutor McGinty said…. "The law does not allow for a stop-and-shoot."

While the police at the scene felt all that shooting was necessary, the courts seemed to be saying it was excessive and therefor illegal. 

Civilians are required to use equal and proportional force to stop a deadly threat.  It’s the equal part of that equation that gives us the willies.  “What if I’m just a little too short or a little too much?” you ask as if deadly force is like sugar that can be weighed out in advance.  The extremes seem very clear. 

If someone pokes you in the chest with an index finger, shooting him is excessive.  Splashing gasoline on an attacker with a club and setting them on fire will also seem excessive.  And while you may be legally right to shoot someone with ten rounds of .22 LR, I suspect the civil case will suggest that you did not need to use all 10 rounds and that was excessive and you should compensate the survivors.

Now, is this just an internet armchair lawyer blowing steam?  Well, I’ve got a case that’s a little off point, but I think it contains an element of excessiveness.

The case?  State v. Garrison.
Jessie Garrison went to see his sister at her apartment.  Mr. Sharp, the sister’s ex-boyfriend shows up drunk and starts arguing with the sister.  Garrison intervenes and at some point Sharp goes for the gun in his belt.  Sharp is drunk and Garrison is able to remove the gun from the waistband.  At this point Sharp picks up a steak knife and advances, with the knife raised high, on Garrison.  Garrison retreats but finally with the gun he removed from Sharp, shoots him in the left ankle.  Garrison then fires once more and kills Sharp.

The court rejects his self-defense argument on the grounds that Garrison’s act of shooting Sharp was unreasonable.  The trial court felt less drastic alternatives were available to avoid harm.  Especially after shooting Sharp in the ankle. (“Murder and the Reasonable Man” by Cynthia Lee)

Ms. Lee is using this case to help her illustrate her ideas, but I see it a little different.  We don’t know all the specifics and that’s where the devil lives.  But, I believe if Garrison had shot Sharp twice in the chest his self-defense plea would have been better received.  Shooting Sharp in the foot and then in the chest seemed excessive to the judge.

Ms. Lee goes onto to say  “The type and degree of force used by the defendant to ward off the threat may or may not be reasonable depending on the gravity of the threatened harm and whether less deadly alternatives are available…”

It’s worth noting that Ms. Lee is writing an academic publication and may not have given us the entire fact picture.

Still it’s worth observing that the armed citizen needs to use the minimum force required to solve their threat of deadly harm when possible.  This may include changing to hollow points (reduces the number of rounds fired), use normal police calibers (unless you’ve got a good reason like I was hunting bear and it’s all I had when I was attacked), marksmanship (two self-defense rounds are better than seven) and disengage when the threat has stopped.  It might also involve locking ourselves in a bedroom with our sister and calling the police.

We tend to think justified self-defense shootings are like checking off a punch list.  It isn’t.  Courts can be tricky, juries fickle and outcomes uncertain.  It behooves us to understand the devil’s home.


Book Review:  Murder and the Reasonable Man by Cynthia Lee
This book challenged me to think about assumptions and prejudices I have.  You may share some.  Do you believe a black teenager is more dangerous than a white teen?  Does it seem righteous when a man catches his wife in bed with another and kills her on the spot?  Try that last sentence with the genders reversed; the wife catches her husband in bed…

How does gay panic affect your claim to self-defense and does it work for one racial group better than another?  Do police get away with murder?  What can you do to minimize your odds of not being shot by the police?

It’s all there, you just need to read between the lines.  Ms. Lee gives you an academic view of the legal system you will not see on “Law and Order” or from the newspaper.  Our justice system is imperfect and if you intend to protect yourself and your loved ones, you need some understanding of it.

Ms. Lee, according to her bio was an associate of Cooper, White & Cooper in San Francisco, California, where she was a member of the firm's criminal defense practice group.  How many truly innocent people did she work with?  This is not a put down.  It’s been suggested most criminal lawyers seldom deal with innocent people.  You may have to prompt or suggest ideas to your defense counsel to get the best outcome.  The more you know the better prepared you will be for it.


Read her book, it may make your head spin but it will open your eyes.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Shadow Shooting

Ohio Castle law seems to suggest that you can legally shoot anyone who doesn’t belong in your house.  I say “seems” because one, I’m not a lawyer and two, I think the state is waiting for case law to be generated.  Don’t become the poster child for this.

The law is, as the Ohio CCW manual says, rebuttable or not absolute.  If the prosecutor can prove you lured the person in, or they had a right to be present, or that you weren’t in danger, you may be in for an extended vacation at the graybar hotel.

With this in mind, always identify your target.  A gun light is a useful tool, but so is a hand held light.  Other lighting arrangements can be wired so as to illuminate any intruder while you stay in the inky shadows.

Unidentified Target
Is it your son, daughter's boyfriend sneaking out, confused neighbor or VCA?


The Akron Beacon Journal 12 May 2017:  “A 22-year-old woman is expected to survive after her father mistook her for a burglar and shot her, Akron police said.”

The article continues  “...heard someone breaking into his kitchen ... he yelled … no one responded … could see a shadowy figure … assumed it was an intruder … aimed and fired … hit the daughter.”

The daughter was house sitting somewhere else and returned home unexpectedly.  She was transported to Summa’s Akron City Hospital.  No charges have been filed as of press time.  In any case, family get-togethers and holidays will be strained.

All this could have been prevented if Dad had a light.

Forget what your buddies say, what the talk radio guy mumbled on the air, what the internet told you with the following exception:

Always identify the intruder in your house.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Senseless

Drs. Field and Bolanos were in love.  He was anesthesiologist who built-up a pain management practice and she was a pediatric anesthesiologist in Boston.  Together they bought a 1.9 million dollar condo in the prestigious Macallen Building, a posh luxurious building that features a doorman and security card access to the building and elevator.  Being on the 11th floor they thought they would be safe.  Wouldn’t you?

Well, you would dead wrong.  Just like Drs. Field and Bolanos.

At this point we only know about the crime, not the how or why.  At some point Field sent his buddy a text saying a gunman was in the house.  The police received two calls about this, one from the front desk and the other from his friend.  Would you expect your friend to rush over if they received a text that an armed man was in your house?

When the police arrived at the apartment they found Dickless Wonder (No, I’m not going to tell you his name. This blog doesn’t give criminals publicity.) and the two doctors.  They were bound by the hands and had their throats slit.  DW appears to have smeared the walls with blood and ransacked the place for jewelry.

Some reports indicate he had a realistic airsoft gun and the police shot him.  He survived and was arraigned in a hospital bed.

DW in hospital bed.  That's a pretty good eye-fuck he's giving someone.

There’s a lot of unanswered questions.
  • How did he get in?
  • Why did he select these victims?
  • How/why did Richard Field text his friend and not the police?
  • How did the doorman get involved?

There’s a lot of speculation and if it were an episode of Law and Order we’d find out by the end of the hour that one of them hired the DW and it went bad, somehow. 

But here’s the tactical side:
  • Being wealthy doesn’t make you safe.
  • Never assume that doormen and mechanical/electronic locks and safeguards will keep you safe.
  • Know the police will never arrive on time. 
  • If we assume Field was hiding and unable to speak, why not text 911?  It may not be possible in his area.  From the FCC website:

The FCC encourages emergency call centers to begin accepting texts as text providers develop text-to-911 capability, but it is up to each call center to decide the particular method in which to implement and deploy text-to-911 technology

Is it possible from your location?  Will you remember to include your address?  Will you also remember to turn off the keystroke sound? 
  • Never let anyone in your house, apartment, condo, etc. until you’ve identified them and you understand what they want.
  • Never allow yourself to be tied up, taken to another location, or held hostage. 
  • We are tool bearing mammals.  Have the tool you need to fight with on you.  Never give up.



I’m sure as this case develops more will be revealed, but take it as an object lesion.  Be prepared to defend yourself and your loved ones.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Dead Man's Gun

By now you’ve seen the store security tape of Heriberto Aceves trying to draw and load his semi auto against a criminal with a loaded gun. (Oct 2016)

This is what it's like carrying an empty gun
This is what it is like when you carry an empty gun for protection.

Heriberto didn’t make it and died trying.  His son Juan, also present, is killed as well.

What happened?  Did gun have a feeding jam?  Was the magazine seated properly?  Did he fail to properly sling-shot the slide?  I’ve seen various attempts to explain what was happening, but I suspect only Heriberto really knows.  In any case it took him too long to bring his force multiplier into action.

Let’s concentrate on how long it takes to bring a person to weapon ready status.  I’m not talking about how fast you draw but how fast you go from no weapon visible to being ready to squeeze the first round off.

It took Heriberto too long.  If you were at home, how long would it take you to get a loaded, functioning weapon ready?

Is it on you or is it unloaded under the sofa?  Or bedroom?  Is it in a safe/lockbox, hidden and where do you have to go to get it?  Spare magazine next to it or high capacity available?  Maybe you have to use a normal magazine for concealed carry, but nobody says your reload can’t be high capacity or your home gun can’t be loaded with an extended magazine.

Imagine the sound of a cinder block going through the glass sliding door in the back of the house.  You need to:
  1. Recognize what the noise is and what it means;
  2. Get the occupants, children, spouse somewhere safe;
  3. Get your weapon ready;
  4. Get yourself to a point of advantage and dominance.




If the gun is up the flight of stairs and in the back bedroom or is unloaded under the sofa with the magazine or speed loader in the end-table drawer, how long will it take you?

Even a gun carried on you in condition three* is essentially unloaded. You need to rack the slide which loads the gun and cocks the action.  How long does it take?  I saw a video of two men load a 1911 .45 acp under the influence of a hugh skin pop of adrenaline.  Each of the trained shooters fumbled the load.  No surprise there, with racing heart and cold numb fingers, I’m impressed it took only two attempts to get the gun loaded.  Imagine the difficulty of drawing from concealment and needing to frack the slide!

Even in condition two, (hammer down on a loaded chamber), a single action firearm requires you to cock the hammer.  If you rack the slide to cock your weapon, a round will be ejected.  Now you’re one round down in a gunfight for your life.

Clearly the better answer seems to be a loaded gun on your person.  Nervous about carrying locked and cocked?  I’d suggest a wheel gun, double action first round or a double action every shot.  (As I type this I’m wearing a Glock which can be considered a double action.)  Pick one that fits you.

What about the AR rifle?  There are advantages to using a rifle for home defense.  (You should be aware I’m lumping all domiciles, even temporary ones like hotel rooms in to “home”.)  Better accuracy, better stopping power, larger capacity are just a few of the pluses.

But assuming you’re not walking around with a slung, loaded AR while making eggs in the morning, where’s the rifle?  In a case?  Is the scope turned off or are you using iron sights?  Where’s the magazine?  Is it loaded?  How loaded, or are you planning to top it off from a stash?   Is the adjustable stock set or are you prepared to shoot with a collapsed stock and your dot as a giant ghost ring?  Is the sling set or simply flopping around and do you really need a sling in your own house?  It’s all doable, if you have it planned and practiced.

Remember the Seven P’s.

Prior planning/practice prevents piss poor performance.

Let’s grind away a little on the terrorist fantasy.  Here’s a version of it that I share with others, even though I suspect its pure fantasy.

You see the action unfolding and retrieve the rifle and prepare to help save the day.

Once again where’s the rifle?  In a case or mounted in the trunk?  Let’s dismiss carrying it in the passenger compartment unless you’re 007 or the police.  Is the dot turned on?  Some dots run for years, others a month.  So it should be obvious that the scope gets turned on as soon as the rifle gets in your hands, if not left on all the time.  Maybe a 3X fixed optical scope is what you really need and not the tacti-cool scope the Navy Seals use.

Where’s the magazine? Is it loaded?  Is the stock adjusted?  Sling adjusted and rubber-banded out of the way?  Gun light installed or laying in the case? 

So how long?  How long will it be from first indication of trouble to weapon ready?

Why don’t you find out?  Go to the range and set it up like to carry or how you keep it at home.  Use a timer and on the buzz, get the gun out, load, adjust, futz with it and get a shot off to stop the timer.

How long?  Too long?  Well, you can change that.
Can you shave stuff to make it faster?  Magazine with the rifle instead of located in external pouch or a separate location.  Preset the collapsible stock or simply mark it so you just have to pull it to position. Zipper pulls on the case to assist you in opening it.

What about safety glasses and ear protection.  Can you do without?  At home a suppressor could be the ticket.  Maybe you’re willing to trade minor ear damage today for having a tomorrow.  That’s not a bad trade in my opinion.


*Condition One:  Loaded gun, single actions cocked, safety on, double actions decocked and off safe;
Condition Two:  Chamber loaded, hammer down with single action, double action has the safety on;

Condition three:  Loaded magazine, but chamber empty, safety set any damn way you want;
Condition Four:  unloaded, empty gun.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

And BATF says….


The world can be confusing at times.

If you own an AR pistol and you put an arm brace on it you may have been tempted to throw it up on to your shoulder. Most of us Range Lawyers had an opinion on whether or not that converts a pistol to an NFA short barrel rifle requiring a tax stamp.

Most of you also know there has been a series of letters going back and forth between the BATF and concerned citizens and corporate lawyers.

So far, this seems to be the clearest presentation on the current BATF letter dated March 22 2017.  http://www.breachbangclear.com/brace-yourself-for-atf-opinions/

It’s interesting reading as you get an understanding of government organization mindset and a bit of the history.  If you own an AR pistol you might want to read it to keep yourself out of trouble as well as to help explain why it may not be illegal to shoulder your AR pistol.  I can think of at least one range where a good understanding of BATF's letter would be very useful. 

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Paving the Road to Hell....


It seems like every day we are assaulted with news of a killing/murder.  But we can learn important lessons from these incidents.

The Akron Beacon Journal reports on March 20 2017 William Knight shot and killed Keith Johnson.  The conflict started over what was later identified as a stolen dirt bike.

While I’m writing this the investigation is still ongoing.  There was just an editorial in the same paper and it is still too early to know if Mr. Knight was justified or not.  Everything that follows is gleaned from the ABJ, which under the best of conditions is a third hand source and important details are missed.  Still there are a few lessons we can learn.

Before we start, let’s remember I’m not a lawyer and these are my opinion.

Background to death
Knight’s son-in-law believed he had found an internet ad selling his stolen dirt bike and arranged for a meeting.  It had been arranged that a police officer would accompany them, but at the last moment the officer was unable to attend.  Knight, with his daughter and her husband, decided to keep the meeting, probable fearing the bike would be sold and lost to them. 

Loading the hand basket
Knight’s daughter contact 9-1-1 when she felt the meeting was escalating towards violence.  It is never a mistake to get the professional moving.  The presence of police often stabilizes conflicts and at the very least, helps determine who started out as the good guys.  After all, who calls the police, good guys or bad guys?

At some point in the meeting Mr. Johnson attempted to drive away on the dirt bike and the son-in-law grabbed the dirt bike in an attempt to restrain Johnson.  Things went to hell at this point.

The trip to hell in a hand basket
Knight drew his weapon and shot Johnson.  The daughter tells the 9-1-1 dispatcher her dad just shot someone.  Whatever the daughter said it should have been more along the lines of:  “OH MY GOD!  My dad was just forced to shoot someone in self-defense.  Send help.  We need the EMS and the police.” 

Maybe even better would have been:  “OH MY GOD!  We need police and EMS’s right away!”

Yes, it’s a lot to remember, but if 9-1-1 is functioning properly, it’s recording everything you say.  Make sure you don’t create problem with your words.  Yes, your attorney can explain away poorly selected words as the shocked, confused statement of a person terrified by what she was forced to witness, but why complicate your life.  It’s going to get a lot more complicated.

Knight took the cell phone from his daughter and spoke directly to the dispatcher.  This is where things take an even worse turn for Knight.  Talking directly to the dispatcher, Knight attempted to explain the situation.  Here my understanding of the subtext.  Under stress and shock of being forced to commit an act abhorrent to normal people, many will suffer from logorrhea.  It’s from the Greek meaning an outpouring of words.

Knight told the dispatcher he fired his gun to protect his family and he had no choice.  We don’t really know if that’s true.  It seems reasonable that if the son-in-law let go of the bike, Johnson would have driven away.  During the trial Knight’s attorney will have to prove that Johnson would have driven over someone, or dragged someone behind causing grave or fatal bodily harm and such harm would have been unavoidable.  The dirt bike gives him a disparity of force, but did Johnson act in a manner what would imply he was about to apply this force?  We’ll see what the court case produces.  If Knight would not have spoken to the dispatcher and discussed it instead with his lawyer, perhaps better words could have been chosen to explain his actions. 

Knight continues to talk, telling the dispatcher it’s dark and he’s not sure where he shot Johnson, but he thinks it’s in the chest.  It’s later discovered Johnson was shot in the head.  Not knowing what you shot at is almost a textbook definition of reckless and indifference to human suffering.  As far as Knight knew, the bullet could have been heading at his son-in-law, an occupied dwelling or the person he intended to shoot.  Again, the attorney will have to show how this wasn’t reckless, but the words of a man repulsed by being forced to take human life now trying to mitigate the consequences to his subconscious.

Knight should have told the dispatcher, “He forced me to defend my family.  We need police and EMS.” 

I would have moved everyone back, asked if anyone else was hurt, asked other people to call 911 and kept the gun pointed in a safe direction.  When the police arrived I recommend you put the gun on the ground and stand on it with your hands up.  Follow their instructions to the letter.

At least that is what I hope to do on what could be the worst day of my life.

A Pause in Free Fall
A man is dead.  I don’t know if Johnson has children.  We know he has a girlfriend and family.  They will never see him again.  Knight has to live with the fact he killed someone over a $4000 toy.  He’s altered his relationship to everyone he knows and possibly destroyed his daughter’s marriage.

I’d never say you shouldn’t try to retain or recover you property, but really is it worth a bad outcome? And this is a bad outcome for Knight.

He’s being held on a half million dollar bond.  That means he has to give a bail bondsman 50 thousand non-refundable dollars (!!!!) or come up with a 500 thousand in cash or real property to get out.  I’m sure when he finds a lawyer the attorney will tell him to sell his house so he can pay the legal fees.

All this just to recover a $4000 toy.

I’ll have more when it goes to trial.
Stay tuned.


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Blue Light

Blue lights to support the police



Every once in a while I hear an idea that just stops me in my tracks.  Chiefly because it is so wrong.

I just heard (from one source) that people were displaying blue lights on their houses to tell the police that there is a firearm present.  When I advised the person this wasn’t required by state law, I was informed that it will make it safer for police.  How this occurs wasn’t explained to me.

This is at odds to all the websites I visited.  They claim it is to show solidarity with the police.  That makes much more sense to me. 

But having a public indicator that a firearm is present/stored at this location is stupid.
One: It tells criminals that your house is a one stop shop for guns and ammunition.
Two: Any police officer entering a dwelling and doesn’t suspect weapons are present is a fool.
Three: Why would you want to share that information with anyone?

To me this is the stationary version of having a “Driver doesn’t carry more than $50 in ammunition” bumper sticker on your car.  Why ask for trouble?

Yes, feel free to fly a flag, post a sign or light a light to show your support of the police.  But if the promotion is to mark guns, I wouldn’t do it.
 
You’re free to do it and that’s to my benefit.  They’ll break into your house, not mine.