Defense of others

Courtesy of Sean D Sorrentino we find the following story about a defensive gun use in South Carolina. The incident is still under investigation at this point, so some details may change, but what we have so far makes it appear to be a valid shoot. This was a domestic situation gone horribly wrong, with the ex-boyfriend attacking the victim and threatening to kill her.

[The attacker] showed up at the woman’s house and started beating her, according to Sheriff Booth. He said Clark dragged the woman 50 or 60 yards by the head to a nearby barn and held a gun to her head.

That’s when her roommate ran out with her gun and started shooting at Clark, according to Sheriff Booth. He said Clark did shoot the roommate in the leg in the process.

The woman’s dad had recently moved into a nearby trailer and heard the shots. He proceeded to run down to the barn to protect his daughter. “The father shot,” said Sheriff Booth, “He tried to shoot back at the father. His gun did not go off, and he struck the suspect in the head several times in the head and chest…killing him immediately.”

That’s the story as told by the Sheriff who is investigating. The family, of course, claims “Something ain’t right.” It’s still early, so we will see.

Assuming, however, that the Sheriff’s version is correct, there are a few lessons we can learn from this case.

Restraining Orders: First, I want to draw attention to the fact that the attacker was subject to a restraining order, and barred from any contact with his intended victim. As others far more eloquent than I have noted before, a restraining order is nothing more than a piece of paper, and does not, in itself, offer any protection from an attacker. It is nothing more than a legal document that allows a court to impose punishment if its terms are violated. In many states, the police are not even required to enforce a restraining order – the person who is “protected” by the order must file a complaint with the court after the order is violated. It does absolutely nothing to stop or even deter someone who has already decided to commit assault, rape, murder, or some other violent crime. This appears to have been a premeditated attack, and a simple restraining order was useless to prevent it.

Situational awareness and personal security: The available information doesn’t tell us how the attacker actually got hold of the intended victim, though there are hints that this was premeditated and the attacker had actually been watching her from hiding and waiting for an opportunity. There is no information to offer a critique of this specific attack, so I will just remind my reader(s) of a few things. Keeping your doors locked and verifying who is at the door before opening it are just common sense, especially you have a restraining order in effect against someone. You should always remain aware of your surroundings – maintain Condition Yellow. Keep your self-defense tools handy, again, especially when there is a restraining order in play.

This was not his first crime: “Clark did have a criminal record, including three assault and battery convictions that date back to 1984.” Killers rarely start their criminal career with murder, and killing is also rarely their first violent crime, despite Joan Petersen’s outraged denials of this simply and verifiable fact.

A gun does not guarantee victory: This is another thing we’ve seen before, and more than once. Even if you’re prepared to use it, and you’ve practiced, and you have a good opportunity to use it, your gun does not mean that you will succeed in protecting someone, or even that you will survive. It simply gives you a better chance than you would have without a gun. In this case, we see that the victim’s roommate acted to protect her, and did fire her gun, but was unable to hit the attacker before being shot herself. My best guess (which could easily be wrong) is that, either deliberately or unconsciously, she was aiming high in order to avoid hitting the victim, and thus her shots missed the attacker as well. This is not something I’m going to criticize. The risk of accidentally hitting someone you’re trying to protect is something that can only be decided at the moment, in the heat of the action, and is not subject to review by anyone else.

Shot placement is critical: This attack was ended by the victim’s father with a head shot. “[H]e struck the suspect in the head several times in the head and chest…killing him immediately.” This is the core reasoning behind the saying “shoot to kill” – killing an attacker is the most certain way to end an attack as quickly and decisively as possible. In reality, if you are defending yourself or a loved one you simply want to end the attack. You don’t, at that moment, necessarily care whether the attacker survives the experience or not, as long as he stops and you or your loved ones are safe. While a head shot is normally an immediately fight-stopping hit, we aim for center mass because it’s far easier to hit – it’s a bigger target area, filled with vital organs and large blood vessels, and it moves less than even the head does.

The attack was stopped by someone with a gun: It took someone with a gun to stop this attack before it turned into murder – and it was stopped long before the Deputies arrived. While I’m not familiar with the area, I would be fairly confident in betting that the nearest law enforcement officer was at least 8-10 minutes away at top speed. From the description, I’d be equally confident in betting that the whole incident, from the moment the attacker grabbed the victim to the time he died, took no more than 2-3 minutes at the most. The attacker reportedly pointed a gun at her head at least once. How long does it take to pull the trigger? If he hadn’t used a gun, how long does it take to cut someone’s throat if you’re already that close? If the gun controllers had their way, and the roommate and father had been forced to wait for the closest Deputy to arrive, it’s very probable that the victim would have been dead long before he arrived.

Guns are the best tools for defending yourself and others: A younger woman and an elderly man faced a violent, probably middle-aged attacker determined to harm – and probably kill – someone close to them. If they had been limited to feet and fists, the way gun controllers would prefer, do you think they could have succeeded in saving her life? A gun allowed them to do so at a reduced risk to their own lives. Self-defense, and defense of others, works.

[Source: WIST-TV online article, retrieved 4/26/11]

(h/t: SayUncle)

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1 Comment

  1. Thanks for the link. Your make some good points. I think that I’ve identified the location on Google Maps. If you search for Round Up Rd, Johnston, SC, you’ll see a house on the east end of the dirt road. It looks like the same place in the satellite view. You are right that it help would be a long time coming.


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