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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