How Things Can Go Wrong  


    Two armed persons openly brandishing firearms enter a retail store confronting frightened shoppers and store clerks. One of the shoppers, an armed citizen holding a concealed-carry permit from his state, observes one of the armed persons near to where he was standing at a jewelry counter. The citizen did not see the second armed person who had separated from the first armed gunman. The citizen challenges the first armed person with his firearm pointed and orders the gunman to drop his weapon. The second armed person approaches from the periphery of the citizen’s position. This armed person, without warning, shoots the citizen and kills him.

    A Good Samaritan, while sitting in the cab of his pick-up truck in a parking lot, observes a male subject brandish a pistol and shoot a female victim in the leg in front of a retail store. The victim, bleeding, hobbles into the store. The shooter flees to a nearby parked vehicle in the same lot. The Good Samaritan, who is open-carrying, as required by his state, exits the vehicle and approaches the shooter at the truck he is attempting to enter and attempts to disarm the subject. The Samaritan orders him to stop and give up. The shooter wheels around and fatally wounds the Samaritan. 

    A shooting assault incident is underway at a local police district station. A single shooter is firing from the rear seat of a stopped automobile outside the police building entrance. The vehicle has two other occupants in the front seat. Police in front and eventually those inside the building engage the shooter with return fire. Central police communications are notified by officers on the scene via 2-way portable and telephone of the assault. Within minutes of the initial shots, another shooter begins shooting from the sidewalk adjacent to the building and in close proximity to the first shooter. Police, unsure of this shooter’s connection or identity, begin engaging in this position. This second shooter is killed by police. The first shooter is wounded and taken into custody with the other occupants of the car.

    A shooter is firing at the façade of a restaurant. Three victims, an adult woman, and two children, are felled and wounded almost immediately after the first shots rang out. Two different citizens, both drawn to the incident by differing circumstances, both legally armed, approach the restaurant front entrance where they find the gunman. At this point, the gunman was no longer shooting. Neither saw the wounded victims. Both observed damage to the restaurant windows and doorway from their opposite vantage points. And both citizens could not see each other nor were they aware of the other’s presence. One is in the adjacent parking lot and the other on the far side of the restaurant. The citizen in the parking, pointing his pistol in the direction of the subject, calls out to the armed man and orders him to drop his revolver. The armed man raises his revolver and points it in the direction of the citizen calling out to him. The second citizen, having already drawn his legally carried pistol, aims at and fires upon the gunman. The gunman appears to stumble, apparently wounded in the lower body by this citizen. The citizen in the parking lot having moved to better cover engages the gunman and strikes him. More shots are discharged by both citizens and the gunman is gravely wounded causing him to go down. Both citizens eventually approach the gunman after detecting no response or movement. It is at this point they realize who the other was as they only had a voice command heard and the detected gunfire to go by prior to this physical contact.

    The first incident occurred in Nevada in 2014. The second incident happened in Texas in 2015. The third situation took place in Maryland in 2016. And the last scene was in Oklahoma this year. In the first, the concealed-carry armed citizen did not see both shooters enter the store. He did not have a complete picture of the scene. In the second situation, the Good Samaritan was ill-prepared for the shooter to abruptly turn on him, even withholding a firearm on the subject, and shoot. In the third scene, the second shooter was an unidentified plainclothes police officer acting independently. Uniform police were unaware of his presence. In the last and more recent incident, initial responding uniformed police had conflicting reports of the shooting scene. This is a common outcome of such incidents. They believed they had multiple shooters, as reported by 9-1-1 callers. In fact, the husband of the woman and father to the children wounded thought the two armed citizens had been involved in shooting his family.

    In situations such as described above, how is one to discern what is what and who is who? Even the police cannot always arrive at a clear view of situations once on or at the scene. In the Oklahoma incident, what if the shooter had entered the restaurant? What if both armed citizens were forced into entering the restaurant from different points? Would they have known who the good guy was? Which one was the bad guy? Could some innocent patrons been wounded or killed? Police believed them to be suspects and they were arrested on that scene. In fact, the local prosecutor needed weeks to investigate and determine if they had justifiably used deadly force and had articulated a reasonable defense of being threatened under Oklahoma law. They went to the scene and exposed themselves to the threat. The threat was not visited upon them directly. In the final analysis, the prosecutor did not prefer charges against either citizen. In the police-involved shooting of another officer in Maryland, no charges were brought either. Should the plainclothes street crimes officer declared his position via 2-way portable radio? Should this officer have first reported to the announced and established Incident Command Post (ICP) within blocks of the station? How were the officers outside and inside the police building, under siege, to know who this second shooter was? In the two incidents where the Good Samaritans were ill-prepared, it is a sad outcome clearly. Could the one have taken cover? Could he have waited to observe what was going to play out? In being patient, not hasty for the taken down, would he have seen the second shooter, the one who killed him? In the incident of the citizen approaching the shooter at his vehicle, could he have called police via his cell phone, which he had on him, and report a description of the suspect and the fleeing vehicle? Should the Samaritan have followed the victim into the store to render first aid assistance until Fire/EMS/medic rescue arrived?

    In closing, look how things can go wrong in chaotic shooting scenes.  What I have expressed here is just a thought for consideration. Even the well-trained police sometimes get it wrong. These are only a few circumstances of the many situations that have occurred over the last several years. In fact, in only five incidents of the last few years have Good Samaritans been fortunate to disarm, shoot and be cleared of wrongdoing. Intensive, comprehensive, and constant training is necessary to confront these armed situations. Whether one is legally open-carrying or conceal-carrying, what does the bearer know of their state’s criminal laws and their duty as citizens in confronting an armed threat at their residence or elsewhere in the public domain? What culpability does one have in using deadly force? Will they be able to clearly articulate the threat to themselves in order to rise above any legal threshold standard? Do these citizens, legally armed, have the insurance coverage to protect them from any potential wrongful act or harm they may commit? Stop, pause, even think before engaging in a gun battle for which you may be ill-prepared or ill-advised to become involved in! Can you take other safe actions before it all goes wrong for you---and others? In the 2012 Aurora, Co theatre shooting incident, the killer was wearing police-like tactical gear, helmet, and clothing. Would you know or have known if he was the bad guy or good guy? The theatre was dark. Imagine if others had firearms in that setting. How many others have been wounded or killed, innocently, beyond what the killer had already done before exiting out a rear door in an attempt to escape? A very observant uniformed police officer who had just arrive on the scene noticed the killer in what appeared to be in unidentifiable tactical gear and was exiting rather than entering the scene, as trained to do (no “Police” identifiers). Furthermore, this officer knew police tactical units had not yet arrived on the scene. Only patrol units had “marked out” with the police dispatcher. He stopped the killer, verified and promptly placed the killer under arrest. Special Operations Tactical police had not even been called out at that point. Give this thought---serious thought and consideration! Know your state’s laws! Know your potential liability!