Disclaimer: This feature Monday morning quarterbacks a defensive gun use (DGU). The advice offered here is presented with the full understanding that the fog of war is as thick as New Mexico Junior College student Annastasia [sic] Wood (who believes that gun-free zones are magically gun-free). As always, it’s the result that counts. But when it comes to protecting life and property with a firearm, there are good ideas (with a high likelihood of a positive outcome) and there are bad ideas (with a low probability of a successful conclusion). In other words, YMMV. So, “the incident happened in the 8000 block of E. South Riverway Avenue in Spokane Valley, Washington . . .
The homeowners told police they’d been burglarized several times in the last few days so they were prepared.
Investigators said when the homeowner realized someone was in his garage he emptied a can of bear spray inside. The suspects inside the garage broke out a window to get out.
A 17-year-old, armed with a machete, was confronted and ordered to drop the machete. Police said when he advanced the homeowner fired his shotgun as a warning. The teen swiftly dropped the machete and a backpack he was carrying and laid down on the ground.
When police arrived the suspect was in the driveway, his hands zip-tied.
Ta-da! So what’s wrong with this picture . . .
1. The homeowners imprisoned, assaulted the perps
While we can’t/don’t trust news reports, it seems pretty clear that the homeowner made it impossible for the bad guys to leave his garage. And then doused them with bear spray. Clever, perhaps. Effective, sure. Legally dubious? Definitely. Strategically unsound? Absolutely.
Once again, the only gunfight (a fight with a gun) that you’re guaranteed to win is the gunfight you don’t have. Why not get as good a description of the bad guys as possible and let them go? Is their capture – by you – worth dying for? If they overwhelm you and there are loved ones in the house, well, that wouldn’t be good. Especially if the perps were severely pissed off about being bear sprayed.
2. The homeowner fired a “warning shot”
From a legal standpoint, warning shots are a Catch-22. You can only aim and/or fire a gun at another human being if you or other innocent life are in imminent danger of death or grievous bodily harm – and imminence is imminent. In other words, you are in the process of being assaulted. If you didn’t shoot directly at the perp, were you really being attacked? If you were, why didn’t you shoot at the attacker(s)?
That said, no jury in the world is going to punish you for firing a warning shot against a machete-wielding burglar with a rap sheet. But it’s something to think about. In fact, I’m sure your “warning shot” was actually a “missed shot.” You might also want to consider the simple fact that you’re responsible for every bullet or pellet you fire. If your “missed shot” hits an innocent party, even if you were defending yourself against an attack, you’re f*cked. Legally speaking.
Strategically, why wouldn’t you shoot the guy advancing with a machete? In the aftermath of a warning shot, while the shotgun’s shock and awe has clouded your judgement, slowing your reaction times, Mr. Machete could easily get a second wind, close the distance between you and him, and use his edged weapon to pierce your internal organs and/or slice you to ribbons. No thanks.
3. The homeowner zip-tied the perp
The bad guy follows your instructions, drops his machete and prones himself on the pavement. Awesome! Now you’re going to give him some verbal commands, approach him unarmed (‘though our homeowner probably had someone “covering” the bad guy), put your hands on a criminal (who knows he’s headed for jail) and tie him up? With his friends unaccounted for, perhaps lingering in the background? Better you than me boyo.
In that situation, with the police on their way, best cover the bad guy with your firearm and tell him what might occur should he decide to move. Kick his weapon away, if it is safe to do so. But then you have to worry about what you look like to arriving police, and what they might do. Let the bad guy go? Well, it is an option.