Saturday, March 3, 2018

Not my circus. Not my monkeys

Catawba County, NC: On Jan. 22, 2016, Jefferson Heavner and his friends stopped to help a driver whose car had spun off an icy North Carolina road during a heavy snowstorm that blanketed the area. But the driver opened fire on the group, killing Heavener.

Camden, NJ - According to the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office, Mosby was abusing his ex-girlfriend and the altercation spilled into a building common area where Carey was sitting. “Carey intervened and tried to protect the woman and her toddler, when Mosby again started to physically assault her.” Mosby then shot Carey once in the chest and fled. Carey was pronounced dead at the scene.

Many years ago, a friend of mine tried to intervene when he saw a man beating a woman in a bar. When he stepped in, both individuals immediately attacked and severely beat him. The woman’s comment? “Nobody hits my man!”

As you consider the situations described above (and dozens of others like these) questions arise: Could you get involved? Should you get involved? Must you? In many (perhaps most) states the answer is a qualified yes to the “could you” question depending upon the circumstances. However, should you get involved in someone else’s problem? As you charge forward, pistol in hand, do you really know what you’re getting yourself into? 

“Not my circus. Not my monkeys.” A saying that has become popular in Army circles (my day job) and if we think about it, a saying that often fits into our day to day circumstances. Unless someone is using or attempting to use unlawful force or deadly force directly against you or someone under your direct, personal protection, the immediate question arises: Do you actually know what is happening? 

You must answer this question quickly and accurately if you are considering intervening in someone else’s problem. If you are not directly involved in the altercation or incident, is it worth stepping into an uncertain fight with unknown people? Your financial future, freedom, and literally your life may depend on this answer.

Look at the buffoonery underway in this video. Numerous private citizens are trying to corral an alleged purse snatcher. During the course of this incident, Ms. Emma Cotten, is seen on the video pointing a pistol at a suspected thief as other men had him pinned to the ground. Ms. Cotten then fires one round toward the individual and others after the alleged purse snatcher broke free from his captors and started running through the Wal-Mart parking lot. A grand jury returned a true bill for a deadly conduct charge and prosecutors have indicted Ms. Cotton for her discharge of the firearm in this incident—this is not a trivial offense in Texas.* 

Should you get involved? Be very cautious about coming to the defense of others, especially strangers. Although many of us would like to be Good Samaritans and a few want to be “Heroes!”, do you want to perish as a result of stepping into someone else’s problem? A more prudent course of action might be to call 911 and be a good witness. 

Must you get involved? In Texas (and I suspect in most states) the license to carry law does not confer a public duty that would require a licensee to get involved in stopping a crime. In other words, must get involved is never a requirement; however, we can all imagine witnessing an attack so monstrous that we just could not stand by and let it continue. If the situation is such that you believe you must intervene before police arrive, think of your own safety first. 

Can you confront the individual from a position of cover? Are there obstacles between you and the individual that will inhibit him from getting close to you? What if the assailant simply ignores your commands and continues the assault? Are you prepared to escalate? Are you able to deal with these possibilities and the aftermath?

Your decision to get involved and try to stop a crime in progress is entirely up to you. However, a point I always make while teaching a License to Carry class is that the time to think could, should, must is ideally well before you face the decision during an unfolding incident. Maintain situational awareness and make the best decisions that you can based on your training and experience. 

One thing to always remember is that you will live the rest of your life (as short as it may be) with the consequences of your actions. The time to think about these potential scenarios is before you find yourself witnessing a crime unfolding in front of you.

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Sec. 22.05. DEADLY CONDUCT. 

(a) A person commits an offense if he recklessly engages in conduct that places another in imminent danger of serious bodily injury.

(b) A person commits an offense if he knowingly discharges a firearm at or in the direction of:

(1) one or more individuals; or

(2) a habitation, building, or vehicle and is reckless as to whether the habitation, building, or vehicle is occupied.

(c) Recklessness and danger are presumed if the actor knowingly pointed a firearm at or in the direction of another whether or not the actor believed the firearm to be loaded.

(d) For purposes of this section, "building," "habitation," and "vehicle" have the meanings assigned those terms by Section 30.01.

(e) An offense under Subsection (a) is a Class A misdemeanor. An offense under Subsection (b) is a felony of the third degree.


(a) An individual adjudged guilty of a felony of the third degree shall be punished by imprisonment in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for any term of not more than 10 years or less than 2 years.

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