Decisions about what you’re capable of

While researching personal protection incidents in 2015 involving armed females, I came across a story that I found disturbing on several levels. The incident actually took place in October of 2014 but was featured in the Armed Citizen® column of the NRA Official Journals in January 2015.

The incident began when a woman discovered a man raping her pet pit bull one morning. The NRA synopsis is as follows:

Alice Woodruff heard noises outside her home around 10:30 a.m. When she went to investigate, she found a nude man attacking her dog in the backyard. Woodruff grabbed her pistol as a family member dialed 911. She then ran to her car to retrieve the gun’s magazine. She kept her distance from the man and warned him not to come toward her as he ranted about being with ISIS and having Ebola. He then claimed to be the anti-Christ. Woodruff held the man at gunpoint until police arrived shortly thereafter. After a nearly two-hour chase, the assailant was arrested and is expected to be charged after his release from psychiatric placement in a local hospital. (/Republican American/, Waterbury, CT, 10/24/14)

Let’s leave aside the issue of raping a dog, which is disturbing enough. A friend in the animal rescue community has informed me this is far more common than any sane person in the civilized world could believe. Several other more commonplace decisional issues are apparent.

First, in an interview with a local TV station,  the woman stated:

I ran in, got my [.380 pistol] out of the bedroom, and realized as usual the ammunition is in my car locked in my glove box.

This is a serious problem of mindset and decision-making. Perhaps the woman is attempting to ensure there is no unauthorized access to a loaded weapon in her home. However, her protocol carries this rule to unreasonable extremes. Fortunately, the situation allowed her to “[keep] a picnic table between herself and the man as she opened the car to grab the magazine” Then:

I showed him the clip went in but I always kept the gun at my side while I was talking to him.

This is yet another decisional issue. She should have loaded the gun the moment she had accessed the magazine. Waiting to demonstrate to the man that she was loading the gun actually demonstrated to him that 1) she wasn’t ready to respond in the first place, and 2) she was not mentally prepared to shoot him.

The standoff with the man continued for several minutes as the man made numerous irrational statements. Although she warned him not to move toward her during the standoff, he eventually did. According to the story, the man was standing about 20 feet away from her. While the intent of the Tueller Principle has become heavily misconstrued in the training community, its applicability to a situation like this is clear. As a result of his moving:

Woodruff fired into the ground nearby when he moved toward her, though she said she wasn’t going to kill him.

The warning shot didn’t deter him. He tilted his head back, stretched his arms to his sides as if he was on a cross, and told her to shoot him, she recounted.

As more people own firearms for protection, it’s likely we will encounter an extrapolation of the ‘suicide by cop’ into ‘suicide by citizen.’ While I have said in the past ‘never say never’ about warning shots, we have to also consider that they may not work and a Plan B will be necessary.

But the single most inappropriate decision by this lady was to have a gun at all. A statement she made clearly indicates a firearm is not an appropriate tool for her to own.

And now I have to be the judge and jury and god for him? That’s not fair.

There’s nothing wrong with deciding you are not able to take another person’s life. We all have unique moral principles that guide us. This is why I never proselytize about gun ownership. Having a firearm for protection purposes is a deeply personal decision of the same magnitude as deciding to lose one’s virginity, get married, or have a child. However, someone who cannot bear the thought of taking another’s life in self-defense should not have a firearm as a protection tool. Pepper spray, a Taser, or some other alternative would be indicated.

Eventually, the authorities decided that the woman will not face any charges.

“She feared for her safety,” Deputy Police Chief Christopher Corbett said. “She fired a warning shot into the dirt.”

That warning shot was a reasonable thing to do given the circumstances, Corbett said.

“Every situation is unique,” the deputy chief said. “If you fear for your life, or if you fear for someone else’s life, you can use reasonable force to defend yourself.”

A consideration is that a warning shot may be no more legally justifiable than actually shooting someone. Gunowners do sometimes face criminal charges for firing warning shots.

This incident show a number of nuances to the decision process that we as gunowners should consider ahead of time. Although things worked out in this particular case, it had the potential to turn into a Negative Outcome in a number of ways.

8 responses

  1. Excellent analysis. I think the most important thing I learned from doing Craig Douglas’s “Experiential Learning Lab” was that I was overestimating my ability to make decisions about use of force in a chaotic, challenging environment.

  2. Everything you discuss is true, however, I did not read anything that suggested she had to do anything but secure her residence and call the police. As distasteful as having your pet attacked is it is not an imminent threat to you. Granted if the situation escalated to a home invasion she was in a poor position to defend herself due to her choice of weapon storage.

    1. You are completely right. Many people will choose to defend their pets, perhaps to include using deadly force. However, they need to be cognizant that even if they consider their pets as their ‘children,’ the law may not take the same view. I could be wrong, but I am unaware of any jurisdiction where pets have the status of ‘people’ rather than ‘property.’

  3. Rabbit Foot Gun is what this woman owned.

    She believed it was a magic talisman that would keep evil spirits at bay and not a tool that might actually be used to stop a lethal threat by putting rounds on a living human being.

    I doubt that she has analyzed the situation or feels a need to change her behavior because in her mind the Rabbit Foot Gun worked as expected.

    Hope she doesn’t find out she has used up all her luck.

  4. This was a slow motion self defense (delusional) train wreck.

    Her protocol is all about NOT shooting under nearly Any (big word) circumstance. Good lord, just run away or into your home, lock the door, call 911 and wait it out. Give the gun to someone willing and able to articulate a deadly threat.

    Thankfully for her this was a slow motion self defense situation. It will give her confirmation bias she’s “doing it right.”

    I feel bad for the dog.

  5. […] Source: Decisions about what you’re capable of […]

  6. […] is another analysis of a real-life incident over at Claude Werner’s blog, The Tactical Professor. In this case a man attacks a dog (you’ll have to read the story for the disgusting details, […]

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