[HTML1]

As this video shows, a deadly encounter can develop in seconds. Lucky for WREG reporter April Thompson and cameraman Ben Short, the confrontation with a gun-toting local didn’t escalate. And it was mostly luck; neither Thompson or Short acted appropriately in the face of an irate aggressor. Let’s break it down .  .  .

1:26 – Thompson’s voice-over states “But what happened when I turned to leave the house is something I didn’t expect.”

Why didn’t she expect it? As a reporter, Thompson should know that her work is, by its very nature, inflammatory. (Don Henley didn’t write Dirty Laundry for nothin’.) Thompson should always be on the alert for people who take her work a tad too personally. She should always have an escape route and plan ready to rock and roll.

Double so in this case. Despite Thompson’s assertion that she “didn’t expect someone to answer” when she showed-up at the scene of a heinous crime, what did she expect if they did? This kind of door-stepping journalism (a.k.a., public interest trespassing) runs an inherent risk of raising hackles. Duh.

1:30 – “A speeding truck screeched to a stop . . .” When someone’s driving the Welcome Wagon like a SWAT team on a no-knock raid, it’s not a good idea to move like you’re on a Caribbean beach. It’s time to get the hell out of Dodge.

1:38 – I can’t really hear what the guy’s saying. But Thompson is walking towards him (on the “wrong” side of the mailbox), rather than towards the truck where, ideally, she could put the vehicle between herself and the potential aggressor.

1:42 – Thompson answers the man’s demand for her to leave with a feeble and thus, dismissive “OK”. She immediately asks him “Do you live here?” Police, reporters and other authority figures (yes journalists) assert their authority by asking questions. “Do you live here?” is a cop question.

This was not the time for Thompson to try to take control of the situation. De-escalation depends on ceding authority and obeying commands and making clear statements that that’s what you’re doing.

Here’s what she should have said: “OK. We’re leaving right now. We don’t want any trouble.” Screw reporting. And then leave.

1:48 – Thompson isn’t just not leaving, she’s planted herself in the ground. Both her hands are full. And she’s explaining her actions to the young man. Sweet talking him. As if he doesn’t know they’re an ambulance chasing TV crew. And wants to engage in a discussion about the finer points of journalistic practice

1:52 – The agitated man tells the crew to leave. “Right now.” That’s the second time he’s given them a direct order and still . . . there they are.

2:03 – He attacks the camera. If that’s not a clear signal that the subject of their story is unhappy with their presence and willing to use violence to get them to piss off, I don’t know what is.

2:07 – He’s storming back to the truck. Now why do you think that is April? I would be thinking two possibilities: 1) get a weapon and attack me or 2) start the car and drive over my ass. At that point,  the camera is still rolling and the crew is still stationary.

2:21 – April’s in shock. “Why . . . is he gonna pull a gun on us?” Gee. I dunno. Maybe ’cause he’s angry about the news coverage surrounding his best friend, as he clearly stated before he went and got the gun?

Once again, situational awareness is the key to survival. When a threat arises, if you have the chance, do what you can to appease the attacker. To make him or her calm down—as you plot your escape or attack.

Thompson and her cameraman had numerous opportunities to de-escalate the situation. They did nothing of the kind. In fact, Thompson’s post brandishing commentary indicates the sort of sanctimonious self-righteousness that made her blind to the threat in the first place. In other words, she learned nothing from the experience. Thankfully, we can.

Recommended For You

54 Responses to Self-Defense Tip [courtesy WREG’s April Thompson]: De-escalate

  1. April Thompson and Ben Short had no reason to expect that Brandon Odom would pull a weapon on them . I’m a former Marine. Vocal confrontations are a daily thing. Once Brandon Odom showed his weapon, the news crew backed off and appeased Odom, who takes off in his truck.

    Mind you, Odom had a load weapon in his vehicle, pull it out and approached the crew intending to use it. I really doubt he has a permit. All of which is illegal.

    A person can attack you whether you reason with them or not. Some don’t like certain races or ethnicity, so the person attacks as a way to make a statement. Some do it for no reason at all like the attacks in France. That’s why police carry firearms for those individuals you can’t reason with.

  2. Seeing the video there are a few things I see.

    At 1:42 the reporter is on the road when asking if the angry man if he lives there. Officially she is on public grounds and has left the premise.

    There was no threat, verbal or otherwise noted, in the video. Being on public property the assault was unprovoked as they are on public land.

    The angry man could also de-escalate the situation. Instead of screeching to a stop and blocking the road, he could have pulled off to the side and watched. If he felt like asking them to leave, and then he didn’t. He could have called the police to report trespassing and noted details. He didn’t.

    There was not imminent threat of death, bodily harm or sexual assault. There was no threat of property damage as the reporters agreed to leave and were on public property. Thus no reason to pull out the firearm.

    The news crew did de-escalate when the angry man pulled his firearm. They did the right thing and called the police when they were in their vehicle.

    • Were the reporter and photographer on the right side of the law in this situation? Absolutely. It reminds me of something from Driver’s Education:

      “He was right, dead right, as he sped along.
      And he’s just as dead as if he’d been wrong.”

      In the Texas CHL class we cover “signs of impending emotional disturbance. ” Symptoms people exhibit just before they flip out. Brandon Odom was throwing them right and left, and the news crew was in Condition White.

      • Reporters probably knew what was going on – an uneducated hick using a gun to look tough. Not really deadly.

        • My wife is a newspaper reporter. I know how she gets when she’s interviewing, and it isn’t Condition Yellow. She’s gathering facts for a story about other people, and she’s not part of it. Luckily when she ran into a much less serious threat she learned from the experience.

          It doesn’t sound like this reporter has, but something may sink in as she processes the event.

          OTOH photographers are hopeless. When they’re looking through their lens they act like what they see is on TV. I’ve seen several get run over, by people, bicycles, autos, because they didn’t realize that it was actually coming at them.

          Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.

  3. I’ve got no sound here at work, so I don’t know what all was said, but just the visual cues would have been enough for me to quickly and quietly pack up the cameras and leave. You are absolutely right, she and her crew were VERY lucky, but she also got a story that probably aired first, at the top of the hour (big ego boost for a reporter) and that alone can be inspiration for her to behave in a similar manner the next time. What you and I see as extremely poor judgement, she sees as a ticket out of Mudlick AR and the fast track to a major market TV news station.

  4. Yeah, RF, I have to disagree with you on this one. You may disagree with how she (and other reporters) do their job, but that’s not relevant to this discussion. Everything that occurred prior to him pulling the gun out of his truck is something that reporters like April Thompson deal with on a daily basis. Confrontation is just part of the business. A reporter who obeyed every random person’s direction to leave or “don’t point that camera at me” would not be a reporter for very long. If the family friend had stepped out of the house when she knocked on the door, and said, “Get off the property,” that would have been something she needed to pay attention to. She and the cameraman had every right to be where they were, on a public street, and had no reason to obey some random friend of the family’s direction to leave.

  5. I am reading the first two comments above, and apparently we didn’t learn anything either. The point I get out of this is that if you are in a situation similar to this. De-escalate the situation. How do you De-escalate this situation? The report and cameraman could have left when told to leave.
    As history has proved, the reporter got a story and her 15 mins of fame. Was that her intent to start with?
    Have you ever been in a situation where you had to deal with a reporter that just wanted the story?

  6. Sorry Robert, the reporter and her camera represented no threat to him, he did not live there, and he entered the situation on his own. No sign was posted about trespassing, he had no reason to pull out the tool.

    IGOTD.

    • I don’t think he’s defending the actions of the guy who pulled the gun, he’s pointing out the actions of the reporter who simply escalated the situation to the point of him pulling a gun.

  7. I’m going to start calling this blog The Truth About Submission and Fear of Guns.

    You can’t start every conversation, especially if you’re in the business of interviewing people for the news, with the submissive attitude to walk away from anyone who seems grumpy. Good grief.

  8. There’s an element of truth to Skyler’s critique. I myself find the video raises an odd issue: I think the TV gal did nothing legally wrong. Some danger may add spice to her life. But here’s the thing: When the situation ended well I decided that if this guy had a permit, I’m glad he brandished a gun unlawfully on video. Why? His permit will be pulled…and when he does inevitably do something even stupider with a completely illegal carry gun, they’ll have to count it against the illegal gun carriers, rather than put his action in the next installment of “Permit Holders Gone Wild, Spring Break Edition.” That’s a good result.

    • I don’t get it. Skyler says that TTAG favors submission. Another bunch of yahoos claim that TTAG is backing Zimmerman, who was the anthesis of submissive.

      Seems to me that some guys don’t know what they’re hating on, RD. And just so you understand, I’m not pointing any fingers at you. Especially since, according to another post today, that would be a felony.

      • Just so you don’t point the wrong finger. Laugh. I can only make sense of the apparent contradiction this way: Most readers think a CCW person should follow the safety rules and obey the relevant laws, while avoiding needless confrontation. They are angry with Zimmerman because he was aggressive (not respecting norms) without legitimacy, and actually kept moving into greater danger. But they don’t want to feel that they should be driven from their activities or work by bullies. “Walk tall but obey the law,” if you will. They also feel, as a ‘class,’ embarrassed by Zimm, and so lash out at him, which is human. Many simply cannot imagine Zimm getting bush-wacked by the angry, possibly panicked, kid, starting with a very hard hit on the back of the head, possibly with his cell phone. That was my son’s first take on the PD facts, and my son is expert at this sort of thing. “For all the kid knew, Zimm was a Blood or Latin King defending his territory, “why are you here?” Zimm, he believes, would have had his hand on his piece if he’d seen Martin before the first punch. Who knows? I’d actually go with my son’s analysis.

      • Ralph, I just wrote a detailed reply. It didn’t appear after posting. This is the third time today. I must be on double-secret-probation.

        • The site’s been acting a little strange for me, too. My comments don’t show up until I hit F5, and then they magically appear.

          Query — how is your son an expert?

        • How? Practically. I can’t describe it in an open forum, for reasons you have the exact background to understand. He’s not an expert professionally. He’s currently finishing a math BS degree (three years late) and we’re regular tennis rivals. Close. His interest lies in investing and the technicalities of markets now. But there was a time, three full years, when he knew the city, the whole city, up close and personal. He had his own money by international mistake, and liked nightclubs, cars, and pretty women. His knowledge of fighting with ghetto muggers is extensive, but I’ll leave the details out. It’s a public forum. Fortunately, amazingly, he always had a witness to back him up and he never got hurt himself. His instincts in that area are very good, considering he was so often places I’d never go at 2 or 3 a.m. He understands the urban night-world, and minorities, in a way I never will. Now its just math, computers, tennis, and the quiet life, though the girls seem to still be around. His understanding of why and how people fight is quite reliable, the kinds of people I never knew. There you have it.

        • Ralph, he was just doing what young guys do if they can get away with it, can afford the horse and sword, and if they can take the heat….for awhile. I’m glad he survived that period. After that experience I can now imagine the time millenia ago when each generation of young men, new warriors, overthrew the previous one during their years of reckless strength. Exciting chaos that must have been hell. I can only say that it probably beat three years in the Army including a year Vietnam…as a rebellion. The risks were high in both, but the scenery was much better for him. Query: Did you happen to have kids? Any that are attorneys? (What I’d really like to hear is whether the creation of Cyb. Set. was a plus or minus. But I’m too polite to ask. Laugh.)

  9. While RF’s breakdown has some merit, there is little apparent editing in this and the situation unfolds pretty quickly. What RF doesn’t seem to realize is that for an apparently armed tweaker, there is no such thing as de-escalation. I assume he’ll face a nice long stretch for putting his unedumacted self on video tape threatening people w a gun I’d bet even money he isn’t supposed to have.

  10. As a gunowner, sport shooter, Second Amendment proponent, and veteran, I can’t believe that anyone in their right mind would author article that places the blame anywhere than where it belongs: squarely on the stooped shoulders of that slackjawed local. It’s idiots like him that give all the other law abiding gun owners a bad reputation.

    Mr. Farago, what you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

    • I’m pretty sure this entire line of conversation could be moderated out of existence without anyone noticing, or caring.

      At least, that’s what I’d do.

  11. Really big TTAG fan, but agree that this article adds absolutely no value but to show a bias towards the “gun wielding guy” no matter what… the big lesson here should be: “you have the right to be pissed, the right to come aid your buddy, but not to pull a gun in a public road just for the sake of it”. This would help a lot of people understand that carrying a gun brings responsibilities with it (and a stupid mistake may land you some jail time…).

  12. Geez, (most) everyone’s a critic today.

    This is a regular feature of TTAG, where a scenario is used as a foil or conceptual model from which we can think about the implications of safety and potential DGU. They are meant to foster “what if” types of discussion and not arguments as to who’s right or wrong – especially when thinking of the offered situation in a literal sense. There is no one “right” answer or one way to think about them.

    Lighten up.

  13. MotoJB: You may be delighted to know the answer to this question: Which state in the US has the highest incidence of incest? Mississippi? West Virginia? No. Vermont. Get your stereotypes straight.

    • …ok, so the stereotype is even more relevant in VT. Whatever. Your fact wasn’t the point I was making. Unfortunately, the stereotype still stands.

      • The point seemed to be a view on the rural low-income South. That world is black, it’s white, now it’s also latino. And it’s no worse, stupider, poorer, or less educated than many neighborhoods in Cali’s central valley, or Chicago’s south side, or the south Bronx. What does that have to do with dealing with the in-your-face guy in the truck? For that matter, what does inbreeding have to do with safety. I can think of some very smart groups that are rather inbred, limited acceptable mates due to aristocratic background or religious orthodoxy. How should that affect the back-away-early or don’t-let-him-cower-you decision? If you answer, I’ll read it. I don’t think you got your real point across to people.

  14. Thanks for the feedback. You’ve definitely triggered some serious soul-searching. I’ll comment more later. For now, allow me to add a few personal points . . .

    1. I’ve been in this exact position. I was the [unarmed] producer of a WTBS camera crew doing a story on snake handling in rural Georgia. We were taping a segment outside the church (on a public road) where a member had been bitten by a rattler and died. Even though the head of the congregation had given us permission to video, a couple of men showed up in a pick-up and told us to pick-up and go. We did. Why wouldn’t we?

    2. I’ve also been in plenty of stupid place where stupid people were doing stupid things. (My testosterone levels have dropped since then and I have kids now.) I’ve been the subject of some extremely threatening behavior. I’ve always managed to talk my way out of it. Not because I can’t fight. Because I know what’s worth fighting for. It isn’t a story, a girl or some inflated idea of personal honor.

    3. Along the same lines, I believe there’s nothing wrong with pretending to be subservient to someone in order to avoid violence. It buys you time and costs you nothing. As they say, revenge is a dish that’s best served cold.

    4. If nothing else, in this case, the guy going to his truck was a sure sign that the time to leave had arrived. It’s important to look for signs like that, if you want to stay alive. That’s true whether you’re armed or not. But definitely when you are.

    • I understand your point now – maybe it’s just the way it was written that came out wrong (I personally felt that you were saying the TV crew, not that dumb guy, were at fault for the whole situation). I believe that who should have de-escalated (or better, not escalated) was the guy with the gun. I agree the TV crew should just have been more vigilant, getting out of dodge when he went to the car. Anyway, still a fan of TTAG 🙂

    • Robert, 
      All in, I’m with you on this one. While your specific experience (point #1) may have colored your reaction somewhat, I, too, have been in a few situations with less-than-stable persons and I always try to de-escalate and move to a safer place. I watched this three times and after the first viewing I imagined myself, with my CCW, in the reporter’s shoes. While wary all the while, I would have raised my hands and backed toward my vehicle as soon as he lunged toward the camera–break it off to live another day. If I had waited until he retrieved his gun, I would probably have drawn mine, with possibly deadly results for him, or me, or both.

      A good post makes me think reflectively. This was a good post, good scenario training.

  15. RF wrote: “Even though the head of the congregation had given us permission to video, a couple of men showed up in a pick-up and told us to pick-up and go. We did. Why wouldn’t we?”

    Gee, let me think. Ah: Because you have just given them what they want, and thus have encouraged them to do it again. Others will suffer because you didn’t choose to stand up for your rights.

    I’m not encouraging anyone to provoke a fight just to prove a point. And if someone pulled a gun on me, I wouldn’t stick around to argue the finer points of the law. But even though you were in the right, you left just because a couple of guys told you to. That’s certainly the way to go if all you care about it avoiding confrontation and personal risk. If, on the other hand, you cared about the rule of law and discouraging unlawful behavior in the culture at large, you would have at least attempted to reason with them. They might have backed down if you pointed out a few pertinent facts — and if so, you would have discouraged them trying the bully routine in the future. If they didn’t back down, and got physical or threatening, you could have called their bluff by calling the cops — again, you would have discouraged them trying it on someone else.

    You tucked tail and ran, because that was the easiest thing to do. It’s as simple as that.

    • Anyone who knows me knows I never take the easy way out. Quite the opposite, in fact. And when I’m in someone else’s territory I am more than aware that the law of the jungle prevails, no matter what principles are supposed to apply.

      • “Someone else’s territory”, you say?

        “We were taping a segment outside the church (on a public road)”

        You seem to be voluntarily ceding all public areas to “someone else”. I repeat: that’s the easy way out. Very useful for self-preservation. Not so useful for cultural preservation.

        One of my litmus tests for any decision: “What if everybody did what I’m about to do?”

        If everybody responded to bullies as you did, this world would be much worse off. Will you argue that point?

        A quote from Braveheart comes to mind.

        • Braveheart was a movie. You do know that, right?And it wasn’t historically accurate, nor even close, except that William Wallace was hung, his balls cut off and burned, his intestines pulled out of his body and burned, and his body hacked into quarters.

        • All “public areas” are not created equal in the real world. I would not be very smart asserting my rights to the locals in “Crip” territiory any more than a gang banger from the “Bloods” would be wise asserting his rights in central PA. Unless you want to be a dead martyr for your cause, sometimes it’s best to retreat and live another day.

  16. The guy didn’t point the pistol at anyone. I was pleased with his muzzle control. I’m not sure there was a crime there.

  17. As a gun owner with 7 firearms to my name, I just want to point out the real life lesson here: rednecks who grab guns as a FIRST resort, not a last, are irresponsible firearms owners, and make us all look bad.

    That’s the real lesson, folks.

    This guy should have his permit revoked immediately for brandishing, and he should be arrested.

    Anyone who orders someone away from what appears to be a street (and PUBLIC space) with a lethal weapon needs to have their head checked.

    But as usual, we can’t expect Robert to write anything that passes the BS test.

    • “But as usual, we can’t expect Robert to write anything that passes the BS test.”

      Actually, this post was unusual for RF in not “passing the test.” That’s why you saw so many regulars immediately call him on it.

      As for what “we” can and can’t expect from RF, is that the “royal we” or do you have a mouse in your pocket? Because it sure doesn’t include me. I have yet to see you write anything that I agree with, so I take offense to being included in any “we” with you.

      • Matt. Sorry to bother you so much. If you disagree with me, maybe you should disagree on the merits of the discussion, instead of semantics…

  18. Ralph @ 1707 hrs: “may God have mercy on your soul
    Do you do weddings, confirmations and bar mitzvahs?

    If Ernie doesn’t I do. Feel free to contact me for ministerial services.

  19. Anyone who watches April Thompson knows that everyone wants to pull guns on her once you meet her! LOL

    No news reporters were hurt in the above flippant comments.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *