God gave us five senses (and a sixth, our intuition) and being aware of them is only half of what you need to do in order to stay safe from all sorts of dangers in the world, not just the social and asocial predators out there. Walking into work today, I had the opportunity to consider what good our senses are if we don’t confirm the information they are sending to our brain. This is a regular topic from your Basic CCW course to the Advanced “Operator” courses available in the firearms world. Trainers incessantly talk about awareness because it is our first line of defense, and the one that will get you out of 90% of the dangers you come across. Haven’t we all heard:
“Pay attention to your surroundings!”
“You must be situationally aware!”
“Your general state should be Cooper’s ‘Condition Yellow’!”
… and so on. I’ve heard some variation of that admonishment (and said it myself) in every class I’ve been to. That gets me to today’s lesson. The second half of that equation is confirming what your senses are telling you, which is what I did today with a very regular occurrence in all of our lives.
As I walked from my parking lot to the office (about 3 blocks), I began crossing the street at the light. Iced coffee in hand, I clearly observed the light change, and I had the white “Walk” sign. I had looked both ways (even though it was a one way street) and observed a car approaching the red light. It was still quite far away so the driver had ample time to slow down and stop. I began crossing the street and at about the mid-point, I realized the car was still coming pretty fast. I didn’t see it. I could hear it. Rather than make the assumption he was going to stop, I looked to my left and confirmed that “yes, the car was still coming at me” but “yes, he was in fact slowing down and coming to a stop.” He just had to get his foot a little harder on the brakes. Maybe he was on his phone, maybe he was still waking up, it really doesn’t matter. My brain received “out of the ordinary” information signaling potential, albeit unlikely, danger. I still picked up my pace anyway, not much, but enough to move me “off the line” of the vehicle.
To put it into Boyd’s OODA loop, I observed by hearing a vehicle still moving faster than I expected, I oriented by turning my head and visually confirming what I was seeing, I decided by noting the driver was slowing down sufficient to stop, but still I acted by picking up my pace enough to get me off his line. This all literally happened in less than a second. There was no real danger, but I confirmed my senses and acted to move into a better position had it turned into danger. Maybe his foot would slip off the brake. Maybe he realized I was that lawyer who screwed him over years ago and here was his chance. Maybe he would have a psychotic brake in that moment and began a vehicle rampage. All unlikely, but my decision to follow through with OODA at least put me a better position if something did. And it cost me nothing more than a turn of the head and small increase in my step.
Don’t just be situationally aware. Confirm your awareness.
In the “play stupid games, win stupid prizes” department, a GGWG is spending 10 to 20 years behind bars for shooting another man at church. The Pennsylvania Superior Court recently affirmed his conviction, rejecting his claim that he was defending himself in Commonwealth v. Storms.
Storms had a valid license to carry firearms and was carrying in church. He also had the terrible sense to purchase a “conceal carry badge.” As if buying a badge isn’t bad enough, he then pulled the badge during an altercation with an unruly parishioner at church. As noted by the Court, “[Appellant] had a permit to carry a concealed weapon. As soon will become relevant, he also obtained a gold concealed weapon permit ‘badge.’ The unofficial badge is not issued in connection with the permit but can be obtained on the Internet.” Storm then inserted himself into a situation he frankly should have stayed out of, and let actual badged law enforcement handle.
An unruly parishioner caused a bit of scene at Storms’ church one Sunday. Ushers tried to calm the man down, and the associate pastor told them to back away and call the police. At this point, Storms should have stayed out of it. The unruly gentleman, soon to be a victim, was calm by all witness testimony, had been given notice to vacate, and police were on the way. This was a simple defiant trespass at this point which police could have handled. Instead, Storms wanted more done, and approached with the intent of removing the victim from church.
The trial court recounts what happened next:
With the two separated by a row of chairs, [Appellant] asked [Decedent] to go outside with him. When [Decedent] refused, [Appellant] flashed his unofficial concealed weapon permit badge. [Decedent] recognized it as a fake, telling [Appellant] as much in colorful language. [Appellant] then revealed his 9-millimeter pistol. The victim reacted by punching [Appellant] in the face and proceeding toward him. [Appellant] absorbed the blow and, rather than retreat down the open aisle behind him or call for help from the hundreds of people in church, squared himself into a ready fire stance and shot the unarmed [Decedent] twice. One of the bullets pierced [Decedent]’s heart and he died soon thereafter despite life-saving efforts by fellow parishioners and emergency medical responders.
There was unquestionably a 20 year age difference between the two, and Storms testified he believed the victim was “younger, bigger, faster, and stronger” than him, could kill him, and would take his gun and use it. While this may all undoubtedly have been true, a disparity of size and strength, as well as a generalized fear of having your gun taken, does not excuse “continuing the difficulty that results in the slaying” nor failing to retreat when it was safe to do so.
Brandishing a fake “badge” unquestionably continued – created, in fact – a difficulty that was not present until Storms intervened. The victim was calm and police were on there way. The badge elicited an unsurprising reaction from the victim and escalated his anger, causing him to focus on Storms. Now, it is absolutely true that a citizen may make an arrest in Pennsylvania. See 18 Pa.C.S. 508(b). However, one cannot create the need to use deadly force by inserting oneself into a situation. You lose the “mantle of innocense.” Juries do not buy that, and neither did the appellate court here.
Ditch the badge. Leave the arresting to the professionals, and you won’t spend 10 to 20 years in jail like Storms is.