Subject: DGU or not?
From: An Anonymous friend of mine
Date: Mon, Dec 05, 2011 12:32 am
To: Joe Huffman
was wondering if you’d mind posting this (sourcing it as “from an anonymous friend of mine”) for people to think about and comment on. It happened to me just a few days ago. I’m not entirely sure what all I think about it, just yet.
Defensive Gun Use… maybe
Sometimes when a person uses a gun in self defense, it’s obvious: clear threats are made, shots are fired, blood is drawn, legal issues considered with lawyers, and much paperwork is filed.
Sometimes, it’s not so clear-cut. Case in point:
I was out for a walk in the woods, on a public trail that was foot, bike, and horse only. It is clearly marked as such, with obvious “No motorcycles” symbols. I was about a mile from the (empty) parking lot when I heard the sound of motorcycles coming from up ahead. I saw two young men in hoodies (late teens or early twenties) coming down the path on mini-bikes (very small motorcycles) and around the “S” curves in the trail. I had my DSLR, so I took pictures of them as they came by – it was not very discreet, and they obligingly flipped me off as they went by and around the next corner. I kept walking. I heard the mini-bikes continue along, and then stop and idle, then turn around and started coming back my way.
I looked to see if there was anyplace I could jump off the trail to let them go on by (I didn’t want a confrontation if I didn’t have to have one), jogged a few yards forward and ducked off to the side and hunkered down. I heard the bikes stop back up the trail a piece, and one rider said to the other, “Did you see him jump off right there?”
I figured there was no benefit in keeping down at that point, so I stepped back over to the edge of the trail (I was up a slight embankment), and looked at them. I vaguely recognized one of them – likely a former student. They were back down the trail about 15 yards or a little more, stopped, and looking at me. They asked, aggressively and feeding on one another’s comments and attitude, things like, “Why did you take our pictures, are you weird or something?!”
I replied “I take pictures of a lot of things out here. Mushrooms, birds. And people breaking the law; the trail is clearly posted ‘no motorcycles’.” And I took another few pictures, causing them to promptly attempt to conceal their faces with their hands, but neither of us moved toward the other.
They argued with me a bit, saying they didn’t see any signs, I should delete the pictures, etc. I said I’d walk the trail and if I saw any damage, or vandalism, or heard reports of problems later, then I’d show the photos to the appropriate authorities; if not, then no harm no foul no report. One of them started to get off his bike, saying belligerently, “I guess I’m going to have to fuck up your camera!”
I didn’t change my stance, sweep my coat back, flash a pistol grip, or do anything cinematic. I just stared straight at them, shook my head slightly, and said quietly, but clearly and confidently, “Nah, you don’t want to do that, because then I’d have to defend myself, and that could get… messy.” Not threatening or taunting, not challenging or belittling, not meek or desperate, just confident and not intimidated in the least. In my mind I was thinking about the Glock with a full magazine on my hip, and the fact that I had plenty of distance / time to draw (15 to 20 yards), a great backstop, no innocent bystanders, recent range-time, and good terrain advantage (they’d be running up a somewhat muddy trail, then have to climb a two-foot embankment and go another few steps). I was thinking they were much younger, and outnumbered me, I’d been to the PT recently for my hand, he’d made a clear verbal threat, and running away was clearly not an option with them on mini-bikes, so the legal side was solid. If these two insisted that things had to go all to shit, his day WAS going to be a lot worse than mine.
They suddenly appeared to have a situational epiphany. The lead guy sat back down on the bike, and his body language and tone changed dramatically and instantly, becoming much more easygoing and polite, saying “we didn’t know it was off limits, we didn’t come in the normal way, it’s not like we are out doing drugs, we are just trying to having fun in the outdoors, we’ll turn them off if we pass any horses, please don’t turn us in,” etc. I said again, if I didn’t see any problems on the trail, and heard no reports of problems or vandalism, then I saw no reason to file paperwork, and it would be best if they continued on their way, and I’d continue on mine.
I turned around, and headed on down the trail, listening carefully. I heard them start back up and motor off the other way, slowly. On my way back, I passed their tracks in the mud; they were clearly driving slowly and carefully, as there was no splash or anything torn up anywhere from their tires. I got back to my car, and drove home without any further incident. (Ironically, reviewing the pictures later I noted that far and away the best pictures I got were after they came back to harass me and stopped, and most of the ones I took on their first pass by me would be almost completely useless in trying to identify them (low light means slow shutter speed, and fast moving bikes in a telephoto lens meant out of focus)).
The weirdest part of my recollection is the emotional part. I felt utterly calm. No sweats, no accelerated heart rate or breathing. Just a quick series of mental checklist flashing by – can I avoid them by ducking off to the side somewhere? Then, Can I de-escalate verbally? Well, that’s out, so document the scene and then What’s the physical situation: terrain, backstop, distance, footing, how will I draw from concealment? What’s their mental state, how would I describe how they are acting (body language) and their tone, what specific words did they use? What’s the legal situation? – they came back acting like they knew they did something wrong and knew I’d photographed them and they made verbal threat (intent), two of them apparently in decent shape (ability), all alone in the woods with an empty parking lot at the trailhead (opportunity). It was odd. Not dream-like or anything, just very…clear. Or something.
Was that confrontation a Defensive Gun Usage? I don’t know. I didn’t display or draw or fire or even say I was armed and able to defend myself. I know taking the pictures was the proper thing to do. I don’t think they were unusually psychotic or evil or out searching for victims. But I’m not sure that I’d have been (or acted) nearly as confident in my stance without a gun on my hip, currently having a flakey shoulder and tweaked hand. It may be that they were all bluster, and anything stronger than abject submission would have stopped them. It may be that I could have said the same thing, and had the same effect, knowing I had a Spyderco Delica in my pocket, and some martial arts experience. It may be that the punk just suddenly realized he was being all sorts of stupid, and a possible ticket was much less of a problem than an assault and battery charge.
Maybe. But maybe not.