It is between 5 and 6 in the morning. You’re working in the back room at a sandwich shop. The shop is near two major roads and open all night. You hear one of your co-workers yell from the front counter. You look through the doorway and see your co-worker with her arms in the air and a man pointing a pistol at her.
You own a gun. You’re armed today. You present your firearm and shoot the attacker until he turns away. The attacker runs outside and drops his firearm. You and your co-worker step into the back room and call the police.
You speak to the police when they arrive. They find your attacker outside and say he died. You read in the news that the attacker’s gun was a pellet pistol. You’re not charged.
There are a number of things we wonder after reading this report. However, it is clear that the defender did a number of things to save his co-worker’s life.
This store faced many of the same risks we see at an all night convenience store. In fact, the store front looks like it used to be a gas station. It stands alone on a corner near major roads. It is open all night with reduced staff. These elements increased the risk of robbery and the store staff recognized the threat they faced. The defender chose to carry a firearm at work long before this robber walked through the door.
The armed employee responded to the call of alarm and saw his co-worker being robbed at gunpoint. He recognized the situation as an immediate, unavoidable, and lethal threat. Because the threat was that severe, it justified the use of potentially lethal force so that innocent people were not severely injured or killed.
To his credit, the defender probably recognized the threat because he had thought about it before. That is important because we won’t know how to react unless we’ve already imagined being in this situation and already decided what to do.
We want to recognize a threatening situation rather than have to stop and evaluate it for the first time.
Using lethal force is a complicated decision. The victim in the armed robbery was probably at the cash register and close to the robber. That means we’re putting our co-worker at risk by shooting near them. There may also be other innocent individuals in the store. The store employee who was being robbed had a gun pointed at her. Wounding the robber might cause him to flinch and shoot our co-worker. There are risks if we act and risks if we don’t act.
Yes, inaction is a risk as well. We’re betting our co-worker’s life that the robber is willing to threaten them with murder but won’t actually press the trigger. In the moment, we won’t get a second chance to reconsider our decision. Our defender decided to shoot the robber. He also made effective hits with his shots.
It helps to know the shots you can make and the shots you can not perform reliably. There are good arguments for shooting at the smaller target of the attacker’s head and good arguments for shooting at the larger target of the attacker’s chest. Most of us have seen sandwich shops like this one before. Some of the robber’s body was probably hidden behind the counter and the glass panels that sit on top of the counter. Recent practice reminds us what we can do.
This news story is interesting for what it says and also for what it doesn’t say. The report never said that the defender gave a verbal warning. A verbal warning doesn’t seem appropriate in this case. A warning might work in other situations, but in this case an innocent person was being held at gunpoint.
Our defender stopped shooting when the attacker turned away. He didn’t chase the bad guy across the parking lot. According to the news reports I’ve read, the defender stayed inside.
Many small businesses have glass walls so that customers can see inside. We’d like to get out of that fishbowl after a robbery. It sounds like the defender and his co-worker retreated to the back room. Check on any other customers in the store and invite them to safety too. There are risks and rewards for moving forward and locking the front door so that other attackers can’t run inside to grab their partner and the gun he might have dropped. How easy is it to lock the door in your place of business? Do you have to watch the front door, or can you lock the door and holster your gun?
Check to see if anyone is injured. Then call 911 and ask for help. If there are customers who retreated with you, ask them to call 911 as well.
Suppose you and I were working in that sandwich shop and that we’re both armed. We want to avoid a fair fight with the armed robber. Which of us has the easier shot if I’m at the cash register with a gun pointed at me while you are in the back room off to the side? The defender at the counter held at gunpoint faces a disadvantage in any contest with the robber to see who can shoot the fastest. In contrast, the defender in the back room can use cover. They can draw slowly while they are out of sight. They can expose the gun barrel and the side of their face while they stand well away from the doorway. The person in the back room might shoot and never be seen by the attacker.
You’ll discover opportunities like that if you and your co-works make a security plan. Both employees can benefit from knowing what to do. If I am being robbed while standing at the counter, then I want to drop to the ground as soon as I hear gunshots. I’ll crawl to the back room and call 911.
Unlike many convenience store robberies, I could not find security video to go with this story. Cameras and recording equipment are affordable for almost every small business. If you have security cameras, then you probably want to post a sign on the glass that says, “You are being recorded.” Those signs deter some shoplifting and some robbery. It is hard to measure the return on investment by posting a cheap plastic sign.
Video systems also save you tens-of-thousands of dollars in legal bills if you’re forced to defend yourself. They reduce the legal bills for the employees and for the business owners.
Those legal bills can add up quickly. I have a prepaid self defense plan so that I have a lawyer who will talk to me. Having a lawyer to call should be part of your security plan too.
Rob Morse highlights the latest self-defense and other shootings of the week. See what went wrong, what went right, and what we can learn from real-life self-defense with a gun. Even the most justified self-defense shooting can go wrong, especially after the shot. Get the education, the training, and the liability coverage you and your family deserve, join USCCA.
About Rob Morse
Rob writes about gun rights at Ammoland, at Clash Daily, at Second Call Defense, and on his SlowFacts blog. He hosts the Self Defense Gun Stories Podcast and co-hosts the Polite Society Podcast. Rob was an NRA pistol instructor and combat handgun competitor.