Where Do I Start?

Parking Lot Horror

I had gone alone to Target and I parked “out” a bit as I always do, and down the center aisle right in front of the door. I tried to make sure there were no vans or SUV’s next to me. I scouted the parking lot for potentially dangerous situations, made a mental note of two guys milling around between the door to Target and the door to the Mall, then went into the store. Got in the store and the hair on the back of my neck immediately stood up. I scanned the area but didn’t see danger. Just a TON of folks out shopping. My instincts were saying something wasn’t right, but the folks in the store were the least of my worries.
I  moved quickly through the store to get what I needed, still on high alert, then came to an area where a large group of Target employees was stocking shelves. Being in the next aisle over from them, I could hear them clearly arguing (shouting) about being on welfare and living in Section 8 housing. As I came around the end cap, one of the guys looked right at me and said, “And white people shouldn’t be shopping in this Target”. RED ALERT!!! Because I had my sunglasses still on my face, I didn’t allow my facial expression to change and just pretended to ignore him.

Headed to the checkout. Finally got through and went out the door. Once again, the hair on my neck pricked up. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the guys who were milling around when I first got there. I kept walking but focused on the tiny corner of my glasses that reflects what is behind me to keep an eye on them. As I got about halfway between the door of the store and my car, I noticed two men working on a supposedly broken-down car with the hood up. They watched me as I walked toward my car. Then I realized there was now a van parked in the space directly opposite and one space over from where my car was parked – literally feet away from my car door – as I got closer, I could see a man hunched down in the seat, and then realized the two “millers” were now walking toward me.

I swear to you on the life of my children, everything went into slow motion from that point on. I could now clearly see the two men following me as the two men working on the car started coming toward me. The man in the van got out and started speaking to me incoherently (I couldn’t understand a word he was saying because my brain was now in high-danger mode) and pointing at me. Since I had my purchases in bags over my arm, and my keys in my hand ready to unlock the door, I slowly unbuttoned my coat with my free hand and moved my shirt aside to withdraw my firearm. Got her out and flipped off the safety – still hidden beneath my coat. I got to my car and somehow got it unlocked and the door open before they reached me. I moved the gun between my leg and the car to “low ready”. The man from the van had his pants around his knees like most hoodlums do here, so he was moving rather slow, but the other 4 guys were now moving more quickly and coming right at me. I realized the van man was trying to distract me with his words and movements. He was now shouting at me. I kept shouting NO back at him…NO NO NO and got the car door between him and me. I jumped into the car, slammed the door shut and locked it just as van man got to it, threw the gun on the seat next to me, jammed the keys into the ignition and floored it just in time for the two “millers” to reach the back of my car. I saw the other two from the broken car literally feet away. I almost ran the van man over. I was SO lucky there was no car parked in the spot directly in front of me. I would not have gotten away and would have been forced to do something I never want to have to do – shoot.

Even though it was terrifying, I was shocked to find myself in complete control. When I say everything went into slow motion, it’s the only way I can explain it.

The instant I felt I was in danger, my brain scouted the entire area – where is my shooting alley, what is my target and what is beyond it, are there any innocent civilians around that may get caught in a crossfire, do these men have weapons other than their fists, I don’t see any weapons, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have them, YOU CAN’T SHOOT – YOU DON’T KNOW…if I have to shoot van man, will it scare the other four away…or will it merely piss them off and make them come faster…was this a set up…the employee in the store – did he set me up…the guys milling around near the door…the guys pretending to work on the car…if I have to shoot, who will witness that it was in self defense?  No matter how this plays out, I will be in the wrong. They will say I am a crazy white woman who just started shooting and I will go to jail forever…all I can do is get to my car and get the hell out of here!

All those things went  through my head in a flash. I didn’t panic, but I moved like a ninja (at least it felt like it – slow motion like the movie “The Matrix”). I’m not sure how I actually got away, and I WOULD have shot if one of them had gotten to me before I got the door closed. But the only one I could even totally identify is the van man.   He was driving an older model Dodge Caravan – dusty blue with the hood paint peeling. The windows were all tinted very dark and were the tinting you put on yourself. There were air bubbles against the window from a poor application job. He had been crouched low in his seat as if trying to remain unseen. He was the biggest threat because he was closest and could get to me in a mere instant.

I nearly took out 2 other cars speeding out of that spot, but at least they were empty and had I hit them, nobody would have been hurt but me. I could see all 5 men standing together in the parking space I had just vacated in my rearview mirror. It was obvious what their intent was – they meant to do me harm or carjack me. I just blew out of there until I got to the main road. Then it all hit me, and hit me hard. I just started bawling. Heaving might be a better word. Then my brain kicked back in and I realized they could be following me, so sucked up my tears and instead of going my usual route home, drove so that I would HAVE to pass my own local police station. By then, there were no cars behind me and I was relatively certain nobody had followed. By the time I got home, my crying had turned to anger. I was so angry I had to sit down and just “stop moving” for a few minutes. What was I thinking going to that store? What would I have done if I had actually had to shoot? I would have unloaded…then gone to jail. What would have happened had they actually gotten to me before I was in the car? Over and over again in my head – still today, over and over again. I think I sat for an hour just staring and reviewing my options. But in hindsight and after reviewing, there was no other way I could have done it – other than not shop at that store. I’m still kicking myself for that.

After I calmed down some, I called my husband at work. His first words were, “Why the hell didn’t you shoot?”. BECAUSE YOU CAN’T JUST SHOOT FOR THE SAKE OF SHOOTING, YOU MORON!!!  My logical brain kicked back in and I started repeating everything I have learned back to him…You must be in immediate and immense danger to self. I was not – I still had an exit – as long as everything went as my brain had laid out. You have to take into account all the other people around. If you miss, or if the bullet passes through your target, it could ricochet or hit someone else. It was not a chance I was willing to take when I still had the chance to escape. If they are not laying hands on you or shooting at you, you just CANNOT SHOOT! I told him about every single thing that went through my head.

When he got home from work, he immediately came down to my office to talk to me. He asked me if I felt safer knowing I had my gun. I said yes and no – there is a LOT to think about before firing. Yes, I would have used it if necessary and no, because I had to take into account everything and everyone around me. I went over everything that had gone through my brain again. He said HE would have shot anyway. All I could do was shake my head. THAT is the kind of stuff that makes our government want more gun control. He asked me if I would have shot if they’d gotten to me. I said in no uncertain terms, “I would have unloaded on them – kept firing until all 16 bullets were spent”. He asked me what I would have done if I didn’t have my gun. I told him I would have HAD to do the same thing and hope and pray they didn’t get to me. There was no going back into the store. The two men behind me would have stopped me and I’m relatively certain that not another soul would have stopped them.  Most folks in this area will willingly stand idly by and watch instead of taking action. They will not “snitch” on “their own”. They would have come up with any story to make it look like I was the aggressor and cover for the men who tried to attack me. I live here. I know them. It would have been an end to life as I know it had I been forced to use my gun, no matter how it played out. There wasn’t any other way other than to never go to that Target again (But it can happen anywhere, so if I can’t take my gun, I just won’t go). At the end of our conversation, my husband said he was proud of me. I AM proud of myself. I used my brain, I was able to escape the danger, and never had to fire a shot.

The only problem is now my brain won’t get out of “red” mode. You can’t walk around in red alert all day or it will wear you out! I’ve got to figure out a way to drop back into yellow or orange. I think it will take a few more days. I’ve been having a hard time functioning and can’t think of anything else yet because I’m shell shocked and still trying to get my wits back about me. But at least I’m still in a mode that will keep me alert.

Though horrible and scary, this experience HAS been enlightening. It told me a few things about myself that not every armed woman will get the chance to discover – that I apparently do well under stress and don’t panic. That I am still able to observe my surroundings and see what’s going on to protect the innocent from stray fire. That I am able to discern whether or not I have an escape and can deescalate a situation or avoid having to fire. That my instincts are always right, and I should always listen to them. That had I not been well trained, I may have made a serious mistake. That I am grateful for having the training I do, and that I have now seen the true benefits of continual training. And that I should NEVER go to an area I know to be dangerous.

I always thought I was making a statement by supporting local stores – that I am unafraid and will not be intimidated – but I can see the error of that particular mentality. I need to avoid potentially dangerous situations. Times have changed, and we cannot trust anyone, no matter how well we think we know them (in my case, the surrounding area). I don’t WANT to shoot unless absolutely necessary. I know I made the right decision this time. I only hope I make the right decision again if I’m ever in a similar situation.

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