“What would you do if you were confronted with masked man pointing a gun in your face?” myfoxphilly.com asks. “Not many of us would have done what John McGowan did.” It was Jimmy Hoffa who famously advised “Rush a gun, run from a knife”—after rushing a gunman trying to shoot him in court. Anyway, that was a good day for the union leader. As it was for John McGowan. But it didn’t start that way . . .

His car just got totaled and John McGowan’s night was about to get even worse.

It was 1:30 a.m., Saturday morning, inside a Norwood Sunoco. Surveillance video shows a masked man walked in, and points a gun inches from McGowan’s face and demand money.

“And he was like, ‘give me the money. And I said, ‘you are messing with the wrong guy,'” McGowan recalled.

The wrong guy indeed.

At this point in the story you might be thinking McGowan is a Keystone stater who’d spent the day falling down (if you know what I mean) with a penchant for catch phrases. The next bit indicates that he may have what the Brits call “form” and we Yanks call a previous criminal history.”

McGowan, no stranger to a street fight-without hesitation, went after the guy, tackling him right into the rack of potato chips.

“I just started wrestling with him. We went to the ground and got him in a Brazilian Jujitsu choke hold and just beat him with his own gun,” McGowan said.

Two shots were fired. One of them just missed him.

McGowan held the man until police arrived a minute later. It’s good that he did. Inside the truck of the 20-year-old suspect, police found an AR-15 rifle with 60 rounds of ammunition.

‘Cause right after robbing a Sunoco at 1:30am 20-year-old CJ Gostynski was going to shoot up an old folks home with an AR-15 (assault rifle!) and 60 (60!) rounds of ammo. Or not. And I’m going to take exception to the “without hesitation” characterization of McGowan’s counter-attack. The video indicates that McGowan was two for three on the speed, surprise and violence equation.

Anyway, as always, result. If I’d been caught on the hop at a gas station at 1:30am—and I don’t think I would have—I’d hand over the cash, get some distance ASAP and reach for my Roscoe (if it was safe to do so). But then the only Brazilian Jujitsu choke-hold I know is the one where you try not to throw up after downing a Caipirinha Cachaca cocktail. Just sayin’ . . . [h/t DrVino]

46 Responses to Defensive [Non] Gun Use of the Day: Man Fights Robber At Gun Point in Gas Station

  1. The Brazilian hold that I recommend most involves both hands on a Taurus Judge. But choking out a bad guy is fun, and there’s no mess to clean up afterwards.

    • I had the “pleasure” of getting in a brawl with a guy after he stole a lady’s purse.

      When I chased him, he pulled a knife and would stop and swing it every 50 ft for a few blocks. I didn’t have a cpl at the time.

      1. Nobody stopped to help (busy nightclub area).
      2. I did choke him out. He threw up all over me, but wouldn’t stop trying to stick it in my kidney, and I didn’t let go til I thought he was dead. His sweat, blood, and what seemed like 15 gallons of vomit were all over me (shooting him would’ve been cleaner).
      3. Nobody cared when it was over. Her purse had less than 10 bucks in it. No one even offered me a beer.
      4. Gilbert Johnson was his name, and if you look him up on Michigan’s offender tracking information system, he’s been in and out 3 or 4 times since.
      5. I should’ve waved goodbye while watching him run off.
      6. I’d do it again in a heartbeat if the risk factors were the same.

      JS

  2. “I just started wrestling with him. We went to the ground and got him in a Brazilian Jujitsu choke hold and just beat him with his own gun”

    That part makes me giggle.

    • Me too. He did lose the initiative in the first moments of the ground game, though, so he might not want to get too cocky about his success.

      • Yeah, he’s no “Macho Man” Randy Savage (RIP), but he managed to regain advantage.

        Lucky for him the perp was reluctant to shoot. But rushing the guy with the gun, especially at bad-breath range, is not a bad tactic at all, if you’re of a certain mindset, and willing to take a risk to save your hide.

  3. “What would you do if you were confronted with masked man pointing a gun in your face?”

    As a subject of the Civil Disarmament Republic of New Jersey (CDRNJ for short), I would have (obviously) been saved by la policía, no?

    I mean, I’m sure someone would have already called them and gotten that most reassuring of responses: “You ain’t got no problem, comrade. I’m on the motherf*cker. Go back in there and chill them victims out and wait for The Fuzz, who should be coming directly.”

    • “What would you do if you were confronted with masked man pointing a gun in your face?”

      According to the civilian disarmament shills, I’m supposed to piss my jockey shorts and throw up.

      Given the state of my prostate, I can manage the pee-pee part, but I’m still working on the long distance Linda Blair maneuver.

  4. I’m from there. I’m very surprised the robber wasn’t shot by a clerk or customer within seconds of pulling his gun. A shame really.

  5. Martial arts training tells one that when an attacker pulls a “distance weapon” (eg, a gun) on you when you’re close, your job is to get inside the weapon and attack. You don’t back up; that’s just giving away the advantage you had of being so close. By backing away, you’re completely tilting the odds towards the attacker with the gun. Instead, get in, control the weapon away from you, then proceed to make the holder of the gun very sorry for putting it into your face. Most gun-wielding thugs don’t expect this.

    Which is what our hero of the day did here. Classic martial arts thinking. The gun has an advantage only when the victim is outside of direct action range. Pulling a gun and stuffing it into someone’s face is what we used to call a “gimme” in my style of martial arts, as in “Oh, you’re going to gimme your gun… OK, I’ll take that…”

    • Exactly. Criminals with guns not only don’t expect you to move forward and engage when they confront you, in many cases it causes a moment of WTF that you can exploit to seize the initiative.

      Also, the closer you are, the less risk you’ll be shot in a timer or switch location. I’ll close with an opponent if it means risking a grazing shot to my arm or shoulder instead of taking one to head/center-mass at distance.

  6. anyone notice the hoodie? I know that when I bought my first gun I wanted to go out a commit a crime. The gun made me want to do it. Now, anytime I put on a hoodie I want to go knock off a gas station. It I ever pair up the gun and the hoodie… look out liquor stores!

  7. I lost respect for the crook when they said 60 rounds, because that means he’s not down-loading his mags by a round or two to facilitate tac reloads. And that makes baby Odin cry.

    • Maybe he had one chambered, full mag in the rifle (that’s 31) and reload mag downloaded by 1 (29) = 60 rounds.

      Or maybe…
      He stole the AR from NY and was carrying 10 pmags pinned to the SAFE(c) 7 round limit, each downloaded to 6.

  8. Being in an enclosed space, closing is probably the better option. But since most shooters can’t aim, distance is still probably the better option over open ground. Idk. What are soldiers taught?

    • If the gun is “inches” from your face, you’d better be able to turn and cover a lot of ground fast if you’re thinking of getting to “I’m so far he’ll miss me” distances.

      Getting to “I’m too close to shoot me” distance is much faster/easier. Of course, you now have to fight.

      Follow Up question: Should all true 2A supporters also have at least some hand to hand training?

      • The proper question is “Should all physically capable people have at least some hand-to-hand training?”.

        And the answer is yes.

      • “Follow Up question: Should all true 2A supporters also have at least some hand to hand training?” Absolutement, at least some sort of weapons retention training. Most of the training i do is mma: ground and stand up. I’m not claiming fighter status, but i like stand up better

      • It looks to me like Our Hero didn’t waste any time mulling over his options; that’s proper mindset, at least in a case like this. It’s less than 3 seconds before he charges Mister Hoodie. You can do quite a bit of thinking in that amount of time when it’s Crunch City, but it looks to me as if he just went to his mindset and took it from there.

        Really nice work. I can’t tell you what I would have done in that situation; i HOPE I would do the same. But fact is, I’m not sure. Hopefully seeing this will help if I’m ever in such a situation.

      • Yes.

        And get some training in the use of knives. Most anyone can carry a good folder now (as TTAG/TTAK amply shows) and with the right blade at bad-breath distances, you can make the prospective shooter very, very sorry that they brought a gun to a knife fight.

        • I was slightly shocked to find that I was the only student who raised his hand when Chris Costa asked “who here has training with blades” at last month’s carbine class. I think he may have been even more surprised that I was the one who raised a hand.

  9. I’m not going to MMQB this individual and my main computer is slow so my take on the video might be off. It doesn’t look to me as if the criminal was mentally prepared to shoot. The low ready at the beginning, the steps back and to the right while bringing the weapon up, flat footed stance. He didn’t seem to me as being committed to shooting. His handling of the sidearm lead me to believe that he’s done some target shooting of some sort; ie he’s shot handguns before. He kept the sidearm at low ready (pointed in a safe-ish direction) until he prepared to shoot. I wonder if his finger was off of the trigger at low ready too. If the criminal was mentally prepared to shoot, it seems to me that Mr. McGowan would’ve stood a better than not chance of being shot since the criminal put that distance between them before raising the sidearm up from low ready. Thankfully, the thug didn’t heed Tuco’s advice.

    Again, I’m not second guessing Mr. McGown’s actions. He did well… bravo, sir!

    • I’m not going to MMQB this individual…
      [proceeds to thoroughly MMQB video]

      Heh. (Not that I disagree with your conclusions in the slightest, BTW.)

      • lol… I was quite cognizant of that possible perception so I was extremely careful NOT to MMQB Mr. McGowan’s actions. Nowhere did I criticize or otherwise say that he should have done X,Y, or Z. I didn’t say he made any mistakes what-so-ever. I merely pointed out what I perceived was the potential mindset of the criminal and possibly some indication that this wasn’t the first time he held a handgun. I also pointed out that by the criminal creating that distance, it perhaps increased the likelihood of Mr. McGowan taking a bullet. Again, I didn’t in any way criticize Mr. McGowan’s actions or make suggestions to how things could have been ‘better’ handled.

        I chuckled at your comment and got a smile as I anticipated someone thinking I was second guessing Mr. McGowan. But, if there is some MMQBing in my post then I’d like to know what it is as it would mean that I’m completely not seeing it and would want to avoid such in the future. (BTW: I don’t have a problem with your post. I really want to know if I did MMQB and can’t see it for myself.)

        • I was kidding, but I think you know that. Your analysis was 100% focused on the perp, not the good guy.

        • I have a knack for missing that which is obvious to everyone else in the room. I started to think it might have been one of those times. It’s all good, AlphaGeek.

    • Spot on, at least in regards to the would-be mugger’s willingness to shoot. He did an awful lot of backing away before the good guy closed the distance. The good guy is lucky this yahoo wasn’t prepared to back up his threat.

      • Does it appear to you that the criminal had used a handgun before; like target shooting or similar? This kind of concerned me as I’m used to seeing these thugs handle sidearms like untrained buffoons. If I have to go up against an armed man, give me the untrained any day over a man who knows even a little of what he’s doing!

  10. This is precisely why I took a year of Krav Maga. I completely agree that you always close on a gun and make as much distance as possible on a knife ( grab a chair or in the case of a convenience store a display rack, anything to create distance ).
    The things I like most about Krav Maga is it relies on your natural flinch instincts, every defensive movement also involves a offensive movement ( you block and strike at the same time ), and you are trained to go for vital areas ( groin kicks/knees, eye gouges, and throat strikes ). Not to mention that you specifically learn effective disarming techniques. Let me tell you there is no bigger f**k you that shooting someone with their own gun.

    • Hey Jeff,

      Taking away a criminal’s firearm is fantastic. If you decide to deploy the criminal’s firearm against him/her after taking it away, just keep in mind that criminals’ firearms fail to fire something like 40% to 60% of the time. The high failure rate is due to broken firearms, using the wrong ammunition, and even dud ammunition.

      Again, I am not saying that taking the criminal’s gun away is bad. Just don’t depend on the criminal’s gun firing to end the fight … because there is a good chance that the gun won’t go bang when you pull the trigger.

  11. Robert, the Caipirinha Cocktail is nothing short of wonderful. Possibly my all time favorite ahead of the Hemingway Daiquiri. Take a nice, fat, juicy, thin-skinned lime and cut it up into little wedges (say, six slices to the lime, and six wedges to the slice). Put those into a generous Manhattan glass and put in a heaping teaspoon of cane sugar on top of the lime bits. Using a wooden muddle (oak or maple), muddle the two well, the point being to get all of the juice, and especially the skin oils, all out and freely mixing. Then fill the glass and its muddled contents with small ice cubes (not crushed ice). Top the glass off with Cachaca, two, four or six ounces, depending on the mood, circumstance, level of buzz desired. I prefer Pitu cachaca, but any variety will do, especially those from Minas Gerais. Give the whole lot a solid shake or two, then kick back and enjoy. If you want to go the whole route, have a nice steak gaucho, papas fritas, frijoles negros and a salata verde in vinaigrette, with Brazilian pico de gallo on the side. Sublime, memorable and enriching.

  12. I haven’t read any comments yet so perhaps I am just repeating what someone else said … the only reason the victim did not get injured is because the criminal never intended to actually shoot him. That is a gamble that I would never take.

    • It was my take that the apparent reluctance of the criminal to shoot improved the odds in favor of Mr. McGowan. However, I would suggest closing the distance in such a situation; which he did. That, IMHO, is what really improved his odds of not getting shot. Instead of leaving the option of shoot or not and the possibility that the criminal would hit his target as Mr. McGowan fled; he forced the decisions into his own domain.

      Please check the comment I made about five main comments up from this one. Did it appear to you that the criminal had handled a handgun before; like target shooting and such?

      • John,

        I read your comment after I posted mine. I actually watched the video yesterday so I don’t remember that much detail. What I do remember is that there was quite a bit of space between the two — on the order of 6 feet initially. If there was enough space in the store to move, the victim could have doubled that distance almost immediately. Furthermore, there isn’t a street thug in the world that can hit a person who is moving quickly to the side who is already 12 feet away. (The street thug will aim at the person and miss because they fail to lead the victim.)

        Having said all that, I will have to review the video to see if there was enough room to move that far that fast. I will also review to see if the criminal looked like he had any previous experience/training.

        • We used to train to quickly close the gap for those distances when cover wasn’t immediately available. I’ve always been able to get in closer than the muzzle before the faux-shooter could pull the trigger while standing in similar, flat footed stances. I understand what you’re saying though. It’s a tough call when one is in the moment. Doing as I’ve trained in the past, I would probably advance. Hopefully, I would advance *before* the criminal can think and retreat those few feet… while the criminal has the sidearm at low ready is really a good opportunity if one recognizes it in time.

      • John,

        I don’t know if I would call that “low ready”. He was holding with both hands but pointing straight down. In my mind “low ready” means holding the pistol at about stomach or belt level with your elbows bent and the handgun pointing toward the target. Perhaps my terminology is wrong.

        Whatever the terminology, holding the handgun near your stomach/belt with your elbows bent and the handgun pointing forward is the best position to retain control of the handgun and be able to shoot when you are extremely close to someone. The criminal was not doing that. Furthermore, at one point it looks like he actually wraps his weak hand thumb around behind the back of the handgun … something that a person with any training at all would never do.

        My conclusion: the criminal had no training, almost no practice, and no intention of actually shooting the victim.

        • Sorry, my terminology may be out-dated. What I perceived was the guy standing there like many used to on the firing line… both hands on sidearm, arms extended, and firearm aimed at the ground. I didn’t mean a self-defense “low ready”. Indeed, perhaps mine is a misuse of the term in today’s terms (or any day’s terms, lol). But, I wasn’t talking about self-defense training. Rather, I was referencing basic gun handling, like a target shooter. Even when he backed up and presented the firearm, he seemed flat footed and in an amateur, casual plinking stance rather than a good fighting stance. All of these, contrasted to the one handed, completely unfamiliar shooter stuff I’ve seen before.

          If I was going to demand someone comply, my stance certainly wouldn’t have been like the criminal in the video. His very body language didn’t, at first, convey determination, IMHO.

  13. What John did was insane. SLOWLY ambling towards the gun pointing perp could have been a death wish granted. What did he really have in that wallet that was SO important?

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