Sunday, March 29, 2020

Early Release? COVID Scare Putting Criminals on the Streets

The Utah State Prison system released Joshua J. Haskell to a halfway house and then released him from the halfway house on March 17, 2020 due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19. Two days later police arrested Haskell and charged him with breaking into a random home, tying up a woman at knife-point, and threatening to kill her.

The victim told police that she was sleeping when she woke up to the sound of creaking stairs and discovered a man she had never seen before standing in her room holding a knife.

The woman told police that she began screaming and yelling, at which point Haskell told her to be quiet or he was going to cut her head off. He then tied the woman wrists and ankles with shoelaces. Haskell told the victim he was taking her bank cards and her PIN numbers, cash, her car, and that if she gave him the wrong numbers he would return and kill her.

The victim’s son who was also in the home heard his mother screaming and called 911. Police officers arrived at the house and found Haskell still in the bedroom with the woman--they arrested him at gunpoint.

Haskell, who police say has a lengthy criminal history, had drugs and drug paraphernalia on him at the time of the incident. Haskell has previously been convicted of multiple felony charges, including possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute, assault, and burglary.

On 23 March 2020, prosecutors charged Haskell with five felonies including aggravated burglary, aggravated robbery, aggravated kidnapping, possession of a weapon by a restricted person, and illegal drug possession.

Police reportedly found no signs of forced entry and the victim apparently didn’t hear anything until the creaking of her stairs. Although it is unclear just how Haskell entered the home, the victim told police that her back door could be wiggled and pushed open, even when latched.

So how do you prevent someone from entering your home, or failing that, at least force the intruder to make enough noise that you do not find them standing over your bed with a large knife?

LOCK YOUR DOORS! Get into the habit of checking every exterior door (including the one to the garage) every evening before you go to bed. I do this every night and occasionally discover a door that someone in my household left unlocked.

If you don’t have an alarm, get one. Wireless alarms are relatively inexpensive and require little technical expertise to install. If you have an alarm, set the alarm--it only works if it's on.

If your doors do not lock, get them repaired. A key step in home security is to make it as difficult as possible for someone to enter your home. Most pre-hung doors are not very sturdy and therefore it is relatively easy for a burglar to kick them open as shown in this video: Home Burglary

One solution to ensure that no one can simply kick in your exterior doors is to install heavy metal doors and frames. These are very decorative and somewhat costly; however, no human can kick them in.

For exterior wooden doors (make sure they are solid wood at least 1-3/4 to 2 inches thick), you can install the Strikemaster II Pro or similar products such as the Door Armor Max (formerly EZ Armor), or Door Security Pro to reinforce the door jams and hinges. I did this as the house was being built so it was relatively painless; however, they are not that difficult to install.

You should also be able to lock your bedroom door. A wood bedroom door made from at least 1-1/2 solid wood, with a deadbolt, and reinforced frame and hinges will make it impossible to enter the bedroom without power tools to breach the door.

If you cannot afford to make these modifications or do not own the property, consider purchasing a door security bar. These come in various configurations with the best being the heavy duty variety. Once in place, they are easily removed from the inside yet can withstand a considerable amount of force when someone tries to open the door. At the least, someone forcing the door should make enough noise to alert the room’s occupants.

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Sunday, March 22, 2020

The FBI 50-round Qualification

Shooting the current FBI 50-round qualification using the target. I first encountered this target in Tom Givens Shotgun Instructor Course and have been using it in recent Short Range matches.

The FBI uses the Q-19 target with a scoring area that measures 20-inches long, the body is 12-inches wide, and the head is 6-inches wide. The FBI scores each shot inside as 2 points and shots outside the target as zero points. 

The target's center "B" zone is a 5-inch circle. I used the "B" zone only and dropped two shots outside of it. Using that scoring I fired a 96 out of a total possible 100. 

FBI Agents must shoot 80 points or above on the Q19 target to qualify. FBI Instructors must shoot 90 points or above to qualify. 

The FBI qualification is as follows: 

3 yards 

    - Draw and fire 3 rounds strong hand only, switch hands and fire 3 rounds support hand only, all in 6 seconds 

5 yards 

    - Draw and fire 3 rounds in 3 seconds 

    - From the Ready, fire 3 rounds in 2 seconds 

    - From the Ready, fire 6 rounds in 4 seconds 

7 yards 

    - Draw and fire 5 rounds in 5 seconds 

    - From the Ready, fire 4 rounds, conduct an empty gun reload, and fire 4 more rounds, all in 8 seconds 

    - From the Ready, fire 5 rounds in 4 seconds 

15 yards 

    - Draw and fire 3 rounds in 6 seconds 

    - From the Ready, fire 3 rounds in 5 seconds 

25 yards

    - Draw and fire 4 rounds from Standing, drop to a Kneeling Position and fire 4 more rounds from Kneeling, all in 20 seconds

To see the video click here.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2020

I Almost Just Shot Myself!

Picture Courtesy of Daniel Bales
The Serpa and similar auto-lock trigger finger manipulation holsters have been commercially available in some form since 2006 with at least four variations currently on the market. As a retention holster, this design protects and retains the pistol and automatically "locks" the pistol in the holster when it is inserted without the need to manipulate any additional devices.

The retention release mechanism is located on the outboard side in the pistol's trigger/trigger guard area. To properly operate the release, the shooter establishes a strong-hand grip, extending and straightening the trigger finger exactly like a draw from any style of holster. The shooter then applies finger-pad pressure with the straight trigger finger to the "release button" that deactivates the retention and allows the shooter to draw the pistol.

There is a problem however. Unless the shooter deactivates the retention before beginning upward pressure on the pistol as part of the draw, the retention will continue to hold the pistol in place. Often, the inexperienced shooter then begins tugging on the pistol and tends to bend their trigger finger and transition from finger-pad to finger-tip pressure.

When the novice shooter finally manages to deactivate the retention and draws the pistol, this bend in the trigger finger positions the finger near or on the trigger, and the finger tends to stay in motion. As the trigger guard clears the holster, the finger enters the trigger guard and contacts the trigger — occasionally with unpleasant results. 

Tex Grebner of YouTube fame recorded a video of  accidentally shooting himself using a auto-lock trigger finger manipulation holster. The backstory behind his incident is interesting. He was practicing with several pistol and holster designs that day which resulted the perfect storm of ill-timed events.

Over the years I have become a firm believer in the "family of pistols" concept. I routinely see shooters trying to practice with pistols of radically different designs and they end up unable to shoot any of them well. Pick a pistol and holster design and stick to it.

Many instructors and academies simply ban these holsters from their classes. That is one solution. I have been present when two people shot themselves while improperly drawing an auto-lock trigger finger holster.  The pictures enclosed below courtesy of Daniel Bales in Reno, Nevada show a recent incident. In this case however, the shooter was standing in such a manner or tilted the holster during the draw in such a manner that the bullet did not cause any injury.

Pictures Courtesy of Daniel Bales

The holster is not the problem, it works exactly as designed. However, this design does seem to be extremely attractive to untrained shooters who often do not practice enough to use it correctly. If you are going to use an auto-lock trigger finger manipulation holster, you absolutely must train with the holster until a safe draw is second nature.

For instructors and range safety officers: If you have a shooter using a holster of this design, the key tell-tale sign that the shooter is drawing incorrectly is the belt will rise as they are drawing.  If you see the belt rise during the draw stroke, stop the shooter immediately and discuss the proper draw with this holster. 

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Saturday, March 7, 2020

Street Encounters: The Slide Lock That Saved a Life

Carjacking Suspects
A friend of mine provided his first person account of this incident. I use the name Jim to protect his privacy.

On the evening of 30 January 2020 at approximately 7:00 PM, I decided to take a quick trip to the local convenience store with my daughter and her boyfriend. As a pulled into the store’s parking lot, I noticed three cars in the corner of the parking lot with a small group of people standing around one car which had its hood open. I thought this was rather odd since they didn’t seem to be working on the car. I finished in the store around 7:30 pm and departed to return home.

The sun had long since set and it was a rather dark evening as I turned into the main entrance to my housing area. The entrance consists of separate, single entrance and exit lanes with a wooded “green belt” bordering both sides and a median separating the two. Once you enter the narrow lanes, coming in or going out – you are committed with no means to easily bypass something or turn around. Other cars entered behind me.

After I had traveled a short distance, a man suddenly ran from the wooded area into the middle of the road, blocking it. The man was in his late teens, early twenties with jeans, a gray “hoodie” sweatshirt, and holding a pistol in his left hand. The man was yelling that he had just shot someone and to call 911. My daughter noticed the man’s pistol as well and said “dad draw your gun.”

As I stopped my vehicle, I quickly drew my pistol, positioned it in my lap in my dominant hand, and oriented it toward the driver’s door. As I did this, the man ran to the driver’s side of my vehicle, repeatedly yelling “call 911.”

As the man approached my vehicle, I was hyper focused on the pistol and noticed that the small two-tone semi-auto had the slide locked to the rear. As the man started banging on my driver side window with the gun in his left hand, I also noticed that it did not have a magazine inserted. Further, he was grasping it around the slide and did not have the pistol in a firing grip.

The fact that he did not have it in a firing grip and that the slide was locked to the rear caused me not to shoot him. My window was cracked open so I yelled in a commanding voice, “What is in your hand?” The response was one that confirmed what I already knew – the man yelled, “A gun!” I repeated the question and added, “Hey Asshole -- get away from my car -– I will call 911.”

As the man backed away from the car, I drove forward to an area that widened to multiple lanes and reversed to a position in the exit lane on the grass where I could observe where I had been as well as the exit lane. The encounter may have lasted a total of 10-15 seconds from the moment when the man jumped into the street until I drove forward.

From the new vantage point, I called 911 and told them what had just transpired. The 911 operator said “Oh you must be calling about the shots fired.” I told the operator that I had heard no shots but that there was a man with a pistol running around in the neighborhood. While I was on the phone to the dispatcher, I observed someone run from the wood line and get into a parked car in the exit lane and drive off at high speed. I told the dispatcher this and the ended the phone call.

Incident Area

I then reversed direction and went home. As my daughter and I discussed the incident, she told me that the man’s shirt had been covered in blood. I have no memory of seeing any blood. When my wife entered the housing entrance a short time later, there were police cars at the location and an ambulance. The attendants were placing an individual into the ambulance.

And now with a tip of the hat to the late, great Paul Harvey, the rest of the story.

Later that evening, after a follow up with police and a visit from the crime scene technicians to lift hand-prints from my driver’s side window, I began to comb the internet for an explanation of what had happened. There was no reporting on the incident nor posts to social media pages, etc. However, around noon the following day an EMT who lives in the area posted a description of the event.

The man that I encountered in the road was the victim of a carjacking. He had met supposed car buyers at the convenience store to show his vehicle. One of them climbed into the vehicle to take a test drive with the owner. When the two men entered my housing area to turn around, the criminal drew a pistol and ordered the owner out of the vehicle. The owner was also armed and a “gunfight” erupted in the front seat of the car. The owner, according to reports struck the robber twice and one of the robber’s shots grazed the owner’s shoulder.

At that point the owner exited the vehicle and the carjacker must have exited as well. Although at the time I believed it was the man I had encountered, in fact the person I saw run to the car and drive off was the carjacker. The car’s owner remained at the scene.

Since I don’t have access to the police report or official statements, I cannot tell you how many rounds were fired between the two individuals nor if the owner purposely unloaded his pistol and locked the slide back or if he ran out of ammunition, causing the slide to lock open. All I can say with certainty is that this event could have gone horribly wrong if the slide of his firearm had not been locked back and I had not had the presence of mind to focus on what I was seeing unfold before me.

What lessons can we learn from this incident?

From the carjacking victim’s perspective, one obvious lesson is do not meet unknown people at a convenience store to try and sell your vehicle. Beyond this however, the question of his behavior with his pistol during the incident provides a lesson.

The carjacking victim likely emptied his pistol during the gunfight in the car and had no additional ammunition. Keeping the pistol in his hand as he approached the SUV was a very bad decision that could have cost him his life had he not had it in a non-firing grip with the slide locked back. Lesson: Holster your pistol as soon as it is safe to do so after a shooting incident. Running around with a pistol in your hand is an invitation for disaster.

From Jim’s perspective, he was carrying a 2” J-Frame in his pocket and he was wearing his seat belt. Just by coincidence, he was wearing a pair of pants with lower pocket openings that allowed him to draw the pistol while seat belted; however, he admitted he does not often wear such pants. If you carry a pocket pistol can you draw it when sitting with your seat belt fastened? Try it—you probably cannot do it quickly. Jim has rethought his pocket carry in the vehicle and now places the pistol hidden in the console where he can quickly grab it.

Jim said he experienced tunnel vision and was completely focused on the pistol with no thought to what might have been occurring to his left or right. Although his daughter noticed the carjacking victim had blood on his shirt, Jim had no memory of it. This is normal in these circumstances; however, it can be disconcerting if you don’t know what to expect. Remember, it is important to break the tunnel vision as soon as possible through looking to your left and right. Tunnel vision can also be problematic if you give a statement to the police in the immediate aftermath of an incident and do not recall seeing something that would be obvious to a 3rd party observer.

Practice giving commands to unknown contacts. Jim (like many people) has difficulty practicing commands during range sessions and matches. I am uncertain why this is the case; however, I have noticed this reluctance in quite a few students and match participants. If you do not practice giving commands in training, you probably will not give coherent and logical commands during a stressful incident.

Give a command that fits the circumstances. Yelling “What’s in you hand?” was not particularly useful in this instance. If you watch videos of officer involved shooting you routinely hear police giving commands that don’t fit the circumstances. The only way you will be able to do this under stress is to practice giving commands for a variety of scenarios.

If you have a first-person account of an incident that you wish to share (in other words it happened to you), please contact me.

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