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Shooting Incident Evaluation… Home Invasions!

This is a true story; what would you have done?

On the Front Sight Weekly Blog from Monday Feb. 14, Dr. Ignatius Piazza has posted two videos.  One is a homeowner from Colorado who had fought off a home invasion, the other is the Denver Area District Attorney.  What caught my interest was some of the things the homeowner said to the media after the attack.  In the courses I’m involved in teaching, one of the cautions given is to NOT speak to the media in the aftermath of a shooting incident.  As often is observed, media, be it print, radio or TV seldom gets the facts correct.  In this case, the victim does a fairly good job and the interviewer points out that the man was within his rights to shoot the home invaders.  Several things concerned me about what the victim said: He did not believe a home invasion could happen to him, and he missed his first shot from a position of strength.  His choice of firearm was pointed out to be questionable as he chose to use a .410 buckshot shell in his Taurus Judge revolver.  After touching on these, I’ll get into what should be done to protect yourself from the potential aftermath of an incident such as this, and draw some comparisons to what happens when a citizen is involved and also a person, in law enforcement, is involved in a shooting.  This is called and “officer involved shooting” or OIS.

First Point: Looking at what the man stated about not believing a home invasion would or could happen to him, this shows a total lack of awareness to the reality of modern life.  Home invasions happen more and more frequently, and to close one’s eyes to this fact can be fatal.  Yes, it can and does happen.  There was one just five doors down the street from where I am sitting right now; this is the third anniversary since it happened.  It got a LOT of people, family members and neighbors to evaluate their home defense plans and to take further steps to prevent it from happening to them.  Just research the reports in your area and you will be shocked.  Home invasion is a preferred method of attack by professional and amateur criminals alike.   Here, where I live, we CAN fight back and do not have to retreat from our habitation as is required by law in some other areas.  When people close their eyes to threats that are real, the end result is the same: they usually end up dead.  Awareness includes being aware even in your home, a place many think is “safe”.  This could be a very long discussion, so we will move to the second point and address awareness in a separate posting.

Second Point: The victim missed the first shot.  Dr. Piazza comments that using sights can prevent misses.  I wholeheartedly agree!  This is one fundamental I see ignored or just, through ignorance, not applied.  Even with a shot shell, you have to aim.  I also suspect that the adrenaline in his system may have caused him to yank on the trigger, not press and follow through.  Long trigger pulls that are found on a double action revolver like the Judge can pull shots off target if the user has not practiced regularly.  While teaching I frequently have new shooters in my classes, who are not accustomed to the heavy triggers on their handguns, be they semi-autos or revolvers.  Most have been thumb-cocking the exposed hammers, by-passing the heavier and longer trigger stroke.  When they first try it, the result is a low shot or a complete miss.  Could this have happened here? Not being present to see, I don’t know.  Past experience tells me it is a possibility.

Third Point: Using a shot shell.  The Taurus revolver used by the victim holds five rounds.  I have shot them and have seen them shot, often with good effect.  Problems occur when people fall victim to the shot shell myth of “point in somewhere near the target and it will magically hit”.  The heavy trigger pull has been noted, now looking at the .410 shot shell which, by the way is a caliber, NOT a gauge as often miswritten or reported, has a few single projectiles or buckshot.  Other than a newly introduced shell specifically for the Judge and other .45 Colt/.410 revolvers, most .410 buckshot shells have a few small spherical “shot”.  Dr. Piazza points out the centerfire cartridge that can be fired in the Judge, the .45 Colt, is much more effective than the shot shell, I agree again.  Unless a hit to the face is made, those small buckshot projectiles, and even worse with the birdshot round, are not good stoppers.  The victim did come out of this situation, but we see a lot of problems that could have tipped it the other way: lack of awareness of the type of threat, missing the first shot, choice of ammunition, and lastly, speaking to the media.

After you are involved in a self-defense shooting incident, it is recommended from a host of experts and sources to NOT speak to anyone.  Ask for an attorney to be present and consult with that person before you make ANY statements. (Just like it states in the Defense Actions Ready Kit)

In the immediate aftermath you are dealing with emotional and physical reactions that can cloud your ability to remember correctly.  Any thing you say can and will be used against you, so don’t speak until legal counsel is present.  Questioning by police responders is standard procedure after this kind of event.  I have been informed from reliable sources that law enforcement personnel involved in shooting incidents in the area I live, speak to NO ONE for 24 hours.  A citizen should have the same consideration.  Counseling is also offered to an officer after an OIS incident.  Counseling for a citizen involved in this kind of incident is taught as part of the National Rifle Association’s Personal Protection in the Home Course.  The class goes into some detail about what happens afterwards and is a great source for a citizen to learn more about how to prepare for the aftermath of a shooting incident.

In “Police and Security News’s” section called “Above and Beyond”…is an article from the Jan/Feb 2011 edition (No author listed) notes that when an officer is involved in a shooting incident, research shows the person should not be interviewed until they have had two sleep cycles.  At that point memory is clearer, they are less affected by the physical and emotional trauma of the event, have had a chance to “decompress”, and benefit from deep sleep which is believed to help memories consolidate and become more complete.  This helps them to be ready to face the trauma of revisiting the life-threatening experience.  It should be the same for the citizen who has faced a similar situation.  The article points out that sleep disturbance is common for the first 24 hours after an OIS and can affect the officer for up to a week afterwards.  Massad Ayoob also notes this phenomenon in his book “In The Gravest Extreme” and is a great source on what happens in the aftermath of shooting incidents.  The postponement of giving statements due to the emotional/physical state the victim is in, could lead to better recollection.  That is the conclusion I reached after doing some further study of the matter.  To conclude, do not talk to the media, recognize and prepare for the real threats that exist, use your sights, practice and train, and use an adequate caliber that you have practiced and trained with.  It is only about you prevailing and winning, and going home.  Nothing else really matters.

Steve Beckstead

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One Response to Shooting Incident Evaluation… Home Invasions!

  1. DC Handgun Info July 9, 2011 at 10:24 am #

    This is excellent advice. I have learned that one federal law enforcement agency of my acquaintance has the same guideline re: NOT talking to the police for 24 hrs. Massad Ayoob suggests stating the following to responding officers in a self-defense shooting, “I was the victim, X was the aggressor, those are the witnesses, and you will have my full cooperation as soon as I have talked to legal counsel.”

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