Yesterday, we had a look at a firearms instructor who forgot the first rule of a gunfight: don’t have one. And the second: run! Today, we have the tale of a burglarized home owner who was mad as hell and wasn’t going to take it anyone. A man who decided that three times was not going to be lucky for the robber, and so decided to mete out a little pistol-whipping punishment . . .

“The third time I’d put these bars in here, so the window couldn’t rise up,” said McCauley.

On Thursday, McCauley was home sick.

“He came up and pounded on the door, I guess to make sure I wasn’t home. I didn’t answer because I was feeling miserable, so I didn’t move,” said McCauley.

McCauley said he then heard someone trying to break into his house.

“He had a big fishing knife and he was prying on (a window)” said McCauley.

McCauley said he grabbed his gun.

Well, I’m not entirely sure about Mr. McCauley’s assertion [via kirotv.com] that he ignored the pounding on his door because he was ill. Pounding, not knocking, mind you. An alternative explanation: McCauley knew very well what was happening. He’d already decided a plan of action to deal with his repeat visitor.

“I came out and told him to stop. He didn’t stop so I fired a round next to him. That made him stop,” said McCauley. He had a little shock and awe going on in his eyes.”

A “warning shot” may not be the worst thing you can do when confronting a perp, but it’s right up there at the top of the list.

First, what would YOU do if you were jacked-up on God-knows-what, had a gun and someone started shooting at you? Would YOU think “OK, I’m not going to take on THIS guy”? Or would you draw your weapon and run for cover whilst returning fire? What if you had, oh I don’t know, say, a hunting knife?

Second, you are legally and morally responsible for every bullet you fire. If a “warning shot” kills someone, it’s your fault. Sure, McCauley fired into the dirt next to the perp. But the principle’s the same: you are not allowed to shoot “at” someone unless your life or the life of a loved one is imminent danger, and imminence is imminent (i.e. if the bad guy’s just standing there with a knife, he’s not fair game).

A responsible gun owner does not fire warning shots. You can challenge the perp—DROP YOUR WEAPON—whilst pointing you gun at center mass (finger off the trigger Suarez fans). But it’s shoot or don’t shoot. There is nothing in between.

Calling the police is an important part of the “don’t shoot” option. Especially if you end up neutralizing the threat. You do not have to stay on the line; just dial 911, say “home invasion at this address” and drop the blower on the ground. That fact alone may keep you from spending any quality time in a small room with Bubba.

Getting back to Mr. McCauley’s account, that line about “shock and awe” indicates a little too much cinematic satisfaction with the situation. A suggestion borne out by subsequent events . . .

Police said a neighbor heard the shot and called 911.

McCauley said he dragged the man inside, pistol- whipped him and waited for police.

“I was holding him by his hair and pointing a gun at him. He really wasn’t going anywhere,” said McCauley.

Many gun gurus will tell you that it’s not a good idea to try and hold a perp at gunpoint. The more time the bad guy has to think of a counter-attack, the more likely it is. There are ways to minimize that possibility. Maintaining distance is foremost amongst them. The closer they are, the easier it is for the bad guy to attack.

Pistol-whipping a perp may be a satisfying activity for a beleaguered burglary victim, holding him by the hair might be effective on the psychological level, but it’s too intimate for the (questionably) good guy’s safety. Close contact of any kind makes it extremely easy for your opponent to begin a life-or-death fight for control of your weapon. A chance for them to find their spare knife, a hidden gun, a pen, whatever, and kill you dead.

To properly hold an enemy, you have to issue commands that keep the perp rooted to the spot, at a distance, and hope they respect your authority. If they make a move towards you, you could shoot them. But again, you’d have to prove that your life was in imminent danger. “So, how far away was He Was A Victim Really when you shot him?”

Meanwhile, the cavalry that arrives, eventually, may not be your own. Burglars tends to work in pairs. Gang members have homies a plenty. If you’re holding a BG, you’re exposed to an ongoing threat of even greater danger. Not to mention your own cavalry. If the adrenalin-crazed cops come running to find you pointing a gun at someone, what are the odds they’ll see the unarmed man as the bad guy?

Your best bet: mentally note the bad guy’s appearance and tell him to leave.I understand the natural and laudable desire to bring a criminal to justice. But allowing the bad guy to get away is certainly a defensible option worthy of your consideration. Pistol-whipping? Not so much.

“It was the best sick day I’ve probably had,” laughed McCauley.

Seattle police said McCauley has a right to protect his property and it’s unlikely he’ll be charged with a crime.

When the bad guy gets caught, it’s usually smiles all around—no matter how aggressive or irresponsible the gun owner’s behavior. After all, the tax payer was acting as a responsible citizen, right? But the gun owner’s first, perhaps only responsibility, is to protect his or her life. This is not how you do it.

25 Responses to Irresponsible Gun Owner of the Day: Matt McCauley

  1. First, I agree completely about calling 911 (first). I also think dragging the guy into the house, pistol-whipping, holding at gunpoint, etc. are all really, really bad ideas.

    But, …

    You aversion to warning shots makes no sense. We had this discussion before. If a warning shot (safely, into the dirt) gets the guy to run off, good. If not, you’re no worse off than before. Would you shoot center mass to a guy prying a window open with a knife? Or wait until he opens it, then plug him? Or cower in a safe room?

    This obviously sounds like the owner set up a little ambush. Nothing inherently illegal about it, he was in his own home. In several states, that equates to his castle. He’s more than justified in facing down a home invasion threat. He just took it a little too far from protecting to vigilante for most tastes.

    • A few years back a guy in Arizona was hiking in the forest alone. He came upon the camp of another guy. The guys 2 large dogs aggressivly ran towards the hiker, barking and snarling etc. He drew his Colt Delta Elite and fired a warning shot. They scampered off. This enraged the dogs owner and he charged down the hill shouting “Ill kill you MFer” or something of that nature. The Hiker, at a distance of 10 feet IIRC, fired one shot from his 10mm into the chest of the attacker, killing him. At one point in the trial, the prosecuter cleverly argued that he fired a warning shot for the dogs, why no warning shot for the man?
      Other factors that complicated his defense:
      His 10mm was just too powerful.
      The attacker was “un armed” even though he was enraged, had a size advantage, running down hill, and in his 40s, while the hiker was pushing 60. Also he was backed up by the dogs who probably would have joined in to protect their “Pack Leader”
      Google Harold Fish for the details of this case of “If its a good shoot, its a good shoot” logic gone right down the crapper. No charges were filed until months later when political pressure was put on the elected officials. He went to prison.
      Our State Legislature went to bat for him, passing and changing laws that would retroactivly help his case and his appeals, but to no avail. He did 5 or 6 years I think before he was able to get out.

      • Alright … ? So, what would you have done in that situation? Shot the dogs, then the owner? Shot the dogs, then grapple with the owner? Leave you gun holstered and get chewed up, then beat up? It’s a no-win scenario you present anecdotally.

        Anyone can come up with a no win scenario. I think pretty much everyone agrees that this guy got screwed, judging by the change in laws by the state legislature.

        This example doesn’t invalidate the many examples of perps running in fear after a warning shot fired by a lawful owner.

        • Intentionally missing the perpetrator is admitting that he is no threat to you. The only kind of force that comes out of the barrel of a gun is DEADLY FORCE. (Beanbags and the like not withstanding)

          Police: Why did you fire your weapon?
          You: He was trying to break in with a knife. I felt threatened.
          Police: Then why didn’t you shoot him?
          You: ???
          You are only authorized to use deadly force against an immediate threat. If you have time to fire a warning shot, the threat is obviously not immediate. (Otherwise you would have shot them) Thereby, firing at someone who is not putting you in “Jeopardy” is aggravated assault. Just because people are not always prosecuted for it doesn’t mean it is right. Police are not trained to fire warning shots.
          http://thetruthaboutguns.com/2010/09/prbrown09/ny-man-arrested-for-firing-warning-shots-at-mass-o-strangers/

          There is the infamous anecdote of the guy who responded to pounding on his door by shooting a warning shot high into the top of the door, killing his very tall, drunken neighbor.
          There are plenty more instances of warning shots that have killed unseen bystanders.
          There is no perfect solution for the Harold Fish incident. I usually carry an asp baton as a less lethal alternative and or pepper spray in a coat pocket.
          I would have done whatever it took to survive. HE was right to shoot the man but his warning shots, along with poor choice of counsel, and a few other factors, undermined his entire defense.

        • Travis, I respectfully disagree and call BS on your “intentional miss” theory. That does NOT mean there is no threat, it means you are attempting a less-than-lethal response first. The two examples you give are hand-picked bad examples. Just as I can hand-pick bad examples of “self-defence” shootings to throw back.
          I’m not saying that a warning shot is a good idea, or that it’s tactically sound. I just don’t have the extreme animosity against it that is demonstrated here by Farago and others. There are times and places where it might be appropriate, and times and places where it ain’t.
          If you can’t accept that, well, you got your opinion. I got mine.

        • The problem in all of these scenarios, and it has been discussed many times, is foolishly stating to Anyone, much less law enforcement, that you fired a warning shot. If you fired in the direction of the perp (or his dogs) you should make no statement until you have a lawyer present except that you were in fear for your life. If you do say anything it must be no more than claiming that you missed your shot and then stopped shooting because the threat went away.

  2. To qualify my ambush comment, if I’m home and someone is knocking (or pounding) on the door, I don’t necessarily see the need to answer it. Just like I ignore phone calls from time to time. I have no legal duty to answer the door. If the guy assumes no ones home, he still has no right to break in. I would yell a warning if he’s prying on the window, maybe take a warning shot (depending). The only reason I said the above was an ambush was that he was obviously expecting trouble.

  3. “if the bad guy’s just standing there with a knife, he’s not fair game”

    I beg to differ. If he does not drop the weapon when I tell him to, he becomes fair game. Watch Massad Ayoob’s video, Police Survival Shooting. He (and Dennis Tueller, who originated the study) proved that a man with a knife standing 7 yards away can close and cut you in well under 2 seconds. A man with a knife less than 7 yards away constitutes a clear and present danger.

    • BROWN V. UNITED STATES 1921
      Detached reflection cannot be demanded in the presence of an up raised knife.

      various courts have held that 21 feet is the max for self defense shooting on the street against a knife.

      If you live in a castle doctrine state and the guy is in your home or property you control, has a means of killing you (knife) and threatens to do so, and standing pretty close well…………..

    • I had to take a two day training for using handcuffs, pepper spray, restraining people. And that seven yard stuff is no bullshit. Try it sometime with your bud or significant other. You need to make damn sure the BG doesn’t get too close to you no matter what.

      • That’s part of the reason we trained to draw and fire while on our backs and grappling. If you let a BG get that close to you he/she will be on you much faster than you could ever think possible and you will be rolling in the dirt fighting for your life.

  4. Any time a person comes to my door I view them on my video system before I go anywhere near the door. I don’t do this because I’m paranoid, I do it because I may not want to deal with that person. As for our home owner, he should have shot this fool and that would have stopping this badguys life of crime for good.

  5. “It’s not the wild west where you can clean up the streets with a gun. Even though sometimes that’s exactly what’s needed.”

  6. I forget if it’s NC or SC, but in one of the Carolinas you can shoot them while they are trying to break in, but once they are inside you have to retreat.

  7. Georgia’s law is ….. O.C.G.A. § 16-3-23
    Use of force in defense of habitation

    A person is justified in threatening or using force against another when and to the extent that he or she reasonably believes that such threat or force is necessary to [b]prevent or terminate such other’s unlawful entry into or attack upon a habitation[/b]; however, such person is justified in the use of force which is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm only if:

    (1) The entry is made or attempted in a violent and tumultuous manner and he or she reasonably believes that the entry is attempted or made for the purpose of assaulting or offering personal violence to any person dwelling or being therein and that such force is necessary to prevent the assault or offer of personal violence;

    (2) That force is used against another person who is not a member of the family or household and who unlawfully and forcibly enters or has unlawfully and forcibly entered the residence and the person using such force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry occurred; or

    (3) The person using such force reasonably believes that the entry is made or attempted for the purpose of committing a felony therein and that such force is necessary to prevent the commission of the felony.

    http://www.georgiapacking.org/GaCode/?title=16&chapter=3&section=23

  8. I’m much more afraid of being shot by the cavalry than I am by the criminal. The complications of trying to hold some scum bag until the police arrive are legion, and the scum bag isn’t the only one amped up on adrenalin. When the police get to your home they won’t know just who to believe – all they’ll see is one man with a gun pointing it at another man without. Lord help you all if they are young cops with the standard issue attitude; with an old cop you at least have a chance of not being shot.

  9. Yet another reason to use a full size handgun for home defense — you can’t psitol-whip a bad guy with a Ruger LCP.

    • Lee Marvin to soldier fitting a bayonet to his M1 Garand: “What are you planning to do with that? If you’re close enough to stick him, you’re close enough to shoot him.” “The Big Red One”

  10. When my house was broken into I walked in on the bastard. I chased his as down the street were is Bonnie was waiting in the car. I got the plate number and the police were called. The off record discussions I had with the police ended with “Thank god you didn’t harm him outside of your house or worse kill him.” The anger and rage I felt at that moment soon turned to WTF was I doing he may have been armed and I may not be here today enjoying our conversations. Rage is strong and needs to be controled or we could end up in a bad situation.

  11. Car owners are responsible for the actions of their autos, too- but you don’t see them being sent to prison for life when they kill someone with their car… or DWI for the tenth or twentieth time.
    Another case of the “Irresponsible Gunowner” being the blog author. (Shaking head in disgust.)
    Shy III

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