A Story of Survival
Earlier this year, I interviewed a reader of The Well-Armed Woman blog about a situation where she was required to use her gun in self-defense. The kind of situation in which any of us could find ourselves. We have changed her name and some of the details to protect her identity. Please share your thoughts in response, to the questions at the end. We as women who carry, can learn from one another. Erin Simpson
Casey couldn't sleep. It was three in the morning and her stomach was growling. Her husband was out of town, but due to call in about a half hour or so to touch base.
Lying in bed wide awake, Casey decided that some hot French fries and a coke from a nearby all-night fast food restaurant would settle her stomach and help her get back to sleep. She threw on some clothes, slipped on some flip-flops, and headed out in her husband's late model Toyota FJ Cruiser.
Conscientious about safety, Casey had her concealed carry permit and always carried. She picked up her Smith & Wesson .38 snub nose revolver and placed it in between the driver's seat and the console where she could reach it if the need arose, along with her cell phone.
Casey was aware that the need could arise that night. While her home was in a "nice" part of the small coastal town where she lived, the most direct route would require driving along Fairview Road, a sketchy area consistently plagued by drug deals and prostitution. But she figured she would be all right - the entire trip should take her no more than 20 minutes, her car was in good condition, the doors would be locked, and she had a gun and her cell phone. Plus, having lived in the town all her life, she was confident she knew what to do to stay safe.
Part of that confidence came from the hours she'd spent at the range with her husband, who had diligently taught her defensive shooting techniques, including how to draw from a holster and from her concealed carry purse. Though the snub nose .38 wasn't her favorite or her regular carry gun, Casey had experience shooting it and thought it would be sufficient protection for the short trip.
Travel to the restaurant was uneventful. Driving along Fairview, she noticed three young black men, dressed in typical gang-style clothes, hanging out on the opposite side of the street but didn't give them much thought. It wasn't unusual to see people hanging out on Fairview in the middle of the night.
Casey was enjoying a couple fries from the bag when she pulled out of the restaurant and onto the cross street that led back to Fairview. Shortly after turning onto Fairview, she again noticed the three men, now on her side of the street. This time, though, as she approached, they quickly walked out into the street and blocked her lane of travel.
Casey didn't know what the men wanted and wasn't sure what to do. One instinct told her to just keep driving and try to dodge the men. But she'd heard rumors of people setting up fake accident scams on this road. She didn't want to become a victim of such a scam or to hurt anyone, so she stopped the car. She immediately reached for the gun next to her seat as her thoughts began to race.
At once, the three men positioned themselves around her car: one to the right, who began pulling on the passenger door handle; one in front of the car, who put his hands on the hood and began resting his knees on the front bumper; and, terrifyingly, one who approached her door, motioning for her to roll down the window, saying, "Roll the window down, shawty."
The tint on her car windows was dark, so Casey wasn't sure what the men could see inside the car, including her gun. She also didn't know whether any of the men had a gun. All she knew is that she had to keep her eyes glued on the man by her door. She couldn't reach for her phone to dial 9-1-1, because she'd have to take her eyes off him.
Casey rolled the window down just a few inches to tell the men to back off. When the man at her window realized she hadn't fully complied with his request as he apparently expected her to do, he became aggressive, and shouted, "Roll the f*%$in' window down, shawty!"
Casey shouted, "No!", and, growing more fearful, yelled, "Tell your friends to get away from my car or I will blow their heads off!"
The man at her window took his hands off the car and began pretending to attempt de-escalate the situation, repeatedly saying, "Everything's OK, shawty; Girl, everythang's fine."
Casey is not sure why, but at that point, she began telling him her rights as a gun owner. She told him she could shoot, and that she would be within her rights to do so. She told him he was committing a "forcible felony" which gave her the right to defend herself with lethal force. She also continued to tell him that he and his friends should get the f*&^ away from her car.
The man at the door continued to try to placate her, saying, "It's cool shawty - we ain't got to go that way..."
Casey became even more uncomfortable and agitated. She watched as the man's eyes darted from the friend standing in front of the truck back to her. Meanwhile, the man who had tried to open the passenger door headed back to the rear of the SUV. He tried to pull open the back door, but because it was also locked, he became angry and began to beat on the door with his fist. Casey began crying and yelling, "GET AWAY FROM MY TRUCK!!!"
When the men didn't move away or clear a path for her, Casey realized she was going to have to do something. She carefully lowered the window another couple inches, just enough to get the barrel of her revolver over the top of the glass.
As soon as the man by the door saw the bore of the gun pointing directly at him, he began backing up. His partners, however, could not see what was going on, and didn't move at all. They kept telling the man at her window to "Hurry up dog, take this bitch."
Casey began loudly counting to three. By the time she got to the count of two, the man at her window had taken several steps back and told his buddies to back off, saying, "Everything is cool; this one can go." Unfortunately his buddies did not back off, so Casey fired one warning shot across the street into the shoulder of the road.
After firing her gun, Casey saw that the man at the window had wet his pants. He yelled, "Girl, get out of here; baby, just leave." The other men finally ran off, leaving Casey a clear roadway. As she sped away, she heard the man who wet himself say, "You'll regret this."
Casey headed down the road, crying hysterically as she tried to drive. Not far away, about a mile or so, there was a police sub-station, and she flagged down an officer in a cruiser, who was apparently headed her way having heard the gunshot. The officer listened to her story, which Casey did the best to share while crying. He knew the men she was likely referring to, and sent for back up to track them down. The officer asked Casey why she did not shoot them. Casey told the officer she did not want to kill anyone.
Casey made a report and the men were eventually caught and tried for attempted carjacking. Casey later learned that there had been another witness to the events of that evening, so she was not required to testify. She is not certain whether any of the men were convicted, but is certain that she scared the crap out of them that night. She is also sure she saved herself, not only from being carjacked, but from being raped or even murdered. And finally, she is sure that if anyone ever attempts to block her roadway again, she will not stop, but will take evasive action and call 9-1-1 as soon as she gets to a safe location.
After the event, Casey suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and found help in dealing with it through hypnosis. She highly recommends seeking assistance with the aftermath of any shooting. She also recognizes how important all the training she had done with her husband had been in that moment, and that she likely owes her life to her husband as a result.
Questions to consider:
- How do you feel about Casey's response to this situation? What do you think she did correctly? Is there anything you might have done differently?
- Do you routinely consider safety concerns before heading out from your home?
- If you store a gun in your car, what should you consider before doing so? Have you trained concerning how to protect yourself from carjacking, or in techniques involved in shooting from your car?
- Has your training sufficiently prepared you to handle the physical and emotional stress involved in defending your life with a firearm? If not, what else would help?
- What other course of action might Casey have taken when she saw the men approach her car? Is it better to try to avoid a confrontation at all costs? Are there other ways she might have used her car to protect herself?
- When is the right time to reveal you have a gun when encountering a potentially life-threatening situation?
- Is there any danger or benefit in conversing with your assailant during the encounter?
- Based on your knowledge of self-defense law in your state, would Casey have been justified to shoot any of these men? If yes, at what point would you say she was justified?
- Has your training and/or any life experience prepared you to deal with the possible traumatic after-effects of being involved in a self-defense shooting?
Erin O. Simpson 2012 ©