Self-Defense Tip: Don’t Go Looking for Trouble

“Victor Arenas’ family said he went outside with his gun about 4 a.m. because he thought an intruder was trying to enter his home,” azfamily.com reports. “According his brother, Arenas heard a noise in the front yard and asked who was there, but the officer did not identify himself. The family said they heard gunshots, and Arenas ran back inside and fell on the kitchen floor. Arenas’ brother began CPR.” Victor Arenas died from his wounds. The police said . . .

“We don’t know what led up to this at this point,” said Eloy Police Sgt. Brian Jerome. “I can’t comment as to whether or not the officer did or did not identify himself. I can tell you that he was in full uniform and the officer was out in a public area conducting an investigation. That’s the information that we have.”

Police say the officer was investigating a burglary call after a business alarm went off in the area.

Regardless of the police response to a home owner defending his territory, it’s not a good idea to leave your house at 4 a.m. to go looking for bad guys.

When you go-let’s-face-it-hunting for bad guys you never know what you might find. You could find a skilled assailant waiting in ambush, multiple attackers ready to swarm, a scared or trigger-happy cop, a drunken neighbor or a kid on a dare. There are lots of ways an armed search mission could go seriously, tragically, irrevocably wrong.

Legally speaking, with certain notable exceptions (e.g., Texas and Georgia), you are only cleared to shoot another human being if they pose an imminent, credible threat of death or grievous bodily harm to innocent life. While most states will allow you to “stand your ground” against such an attack, it’s much more difficult to justify a self-defense shooting where you actively seek out an intruder or intruders, leading to an imminent threat, leading to a shooting.

That said, there are inside scenarios and outside scenarios. Police, prosecutors, juries, judges, even the Supreme Court (e.g. McDonald) consider home defense a “special case.” A man’s home is his castle, and all that. Depending on the jurisdiction (rural vs. urban), “clearing” your property will lead to a simple, legally-loaded question: why didn’t you stay put and call the police?

Why not indeed? Room or area clearing is a specialized task best performed by a trained team. Preferably people armed with rifles with a flashing light in the background indicating that there are a lot more armed people where they came from. (Unlike the single deputy who responded to my early a.m. false alarm.) Your best bet: gather friendlies, tool up, assume a defensive position, call the cops and wait for help. And not necessarily in that order.

Remember to tell the 911 operator that you’re armed and describe yourself. Feel free to ignore their advice and/or drop the phone (while still connected) while waiting. Meanwhile, stay calm and stay safe. Which almost always means staying hidden. [h/t NYC2AZ]

comments

  1. avatar LarryinTX says:

    “Legally speaking, you are only cleared to shoot another human being if they pose an imminent, credible threat of death or grievous bodily harm to innocent life.”

    Watch the painting with a broad brush. In TX, you can use deadly force to protect your property. As well you should be able to. See if a LEO can kill a bank robber.

    1. avatar New Continental Army says:

      You can in GA too.

      1. avatar Robert Farago says:

        Text amended.

    2. avatar Cogline says:

      You can in Mississippi also.

      “That law gives a homeowner the right to use deadly force to protect their property from thieves.”

      http://www.wjtv.com/story/22830032/homeowner-shoots-kills-car-burglar

    3. avatar Lord Wulfgen says:

      In Washington state the law reads:

      9A.16.050
      Homicide is also justifiable when committed either:

      (1) In the lawful defense of the slayer, or his or her husband, wife, parent, child, brother, or sister, or of any other person in his or her presence or company, when there is reasonable ground to apprehend a design on the part of the person slain to commit a felony or to do some great personal injury to the slayer or to any such person, and there is imminent danger of such design being accomplished; or

      (2) In the actual resistance of an attempt to commit a felony upon the slayer, in his or her presence, or upon or in a dwelling, or other place of abode, in which he or she is.

      I suppose it is open to interpretation, but it could be read to include stopping any felony from occurring. A man in Spokane recently got no charges after shooting and killing a man who was stealing his truck in the middle of the night. I imagine it depends on what part of the state you live in, because I just might face charges for that same act here in Seattle.

    4. avatar GS650G says:

      If you’re the Miami PD you can shot all day at a suspect trapped in his car, otherwise you need to be actually under threat.

  2. avatar Gene says:

    In a suburban or urban area, I agree – don’t go looking for trouble.

    In a rural setting, things are different. Police tend to not respond quickly (both night-shift deputies are on the other side of the county), the things being barked at by the GSD’s might be raccoon, possum, fox, coyote, whatever, and Police don’t tend to handle those things at night (or even during the day). So, you’re on your own to protect your herds and flocks and figure out what kind of threat it is. The hope is it’s just a critter caught before taking down some livestock and not MS-13 getting ready for a farm raid.

    Having said that, it’d be nice to have some content which would include those of us living in the non-urbanized areas.

    1. avatar DisThunder says:

      True enough, right there. But, then again, the odds are good a shooting like this one wouldn’t happen in a more rural area, because you probably know the local Sheriffs. That means 1) they might actually let you know they’re there before you went to investigate, and 2) they might need your help, if they’re going to have to chase someone through your property.
      It seems like rural cops haven’t forgotten that most of us are good folks and willing to help them out. The urban guys on the other hand…
      I stopped behind a local cop a while back who dumped his pretty motorcycle. Some moron in a minivan cut him off and he over-corrected. Anyway, I go over to help him un-pin his leg from under the bike, and he tries to grunt me off, and that “he’s already got help on the way.” I shook my head and lifted up the bike so he could pull his leg free, and then helped him over to the curb. Another guy stopped and helped me move his bike out of the road, and I sat with him until his “help” showed up some five minutes later.
      He did manage a more appreciative thanks while we were waiting, but he mostly marveled at how long it took his armed buddy professionals to rush to his aid. I told him there’s always plenty of good guys around for back up, maybe he just needs to not wear his douchebag cop attitude when he’s on duty.

      1. avatar General Zod says:

        You have good points…except the part where you assume that “the odds are good a shooting like this one wouldn’t happen in a more rural area, because you probably know the local Sheriffs.”

        I grew up in a rural area, and the most we ever saw of local law enforcement for most of my life was when we drove by them on the road to the nearest town or saw them (infrequently) drive by on the road outside our gate. In rural areas, you’re often doing good just to be on a first-name basis with your immediate neighbors (who might live a half-mile from you or more). There’s no reason at all to assume that every person who lives out in the country is familiar with the Sheriff and his deputies, not to mention any state agencies (such as the DPS in Texas) that have local substations and also handle law enforcement duties.

      2. avatar EagleScout87 says:

        nailed it.

      3. avatar Gene says:

        “they might need your help, if they’re going to have to chase someone through your property”

        Actually, that happened. I’m working on pruning an old apple tree and a Deputy screams up my driveway sirens on, skids to a halt, throws open the door, and starts racing right at me. I’m standing there like Tip O’Neill holding a KFC chicken leg (old folks might remember that commercial). He hollers “Where’d he go?!?” and I haven’t a clue what he’s talking about and look around. Across one of my fields, I see other Deputies hopping my fence and starting to go into my chicken barns. Turns out some idiot got pulled over for a DUI and ran. I wanted the Officer’s to tack on a trespassing charge just for general principle of having caused mischief and bothering my animals.

      4. avatar Garrison Hall says:

        “I told him there’s always plenty of good guys around for back up, maybe he just needs to not wear his douchebag cop attitude when he’s on duty.”

        This is called “role distance”. It comes when police subcultures differentiate strongly between themselves and others. The best cops understand this kind of “us versus them” attitude is dysfunctional and develop social skills that allow them to perform their professional role without treating every citizen like a scum-bag perp. With police forces like Austin lowering the bar for qualifications, the likelihood of encountering an enlightened 22 year old patrol officer is pretty chancy. But, they are out there and, when we encounter them, cop credibility rises exponentially.

        1. avatar Rich Grise says:

          This Video always warms the cockles of my heart.

  3. avatar Pulatso says:

    Whatever you do, make sure your child is standing in a open doorway, backlit, as you stand in the front yard posing with your shotgun.

    1. avatar paulWTAMU says:

      what if he’s providing covering fire?

      1. avatar Yellow Devil says:

        With what, verbal encouragement?

  4. avatar KingSarc48265 says:

    Make your own ambush in the house. That way any engagement will be on your terms after they break in. Get behind cover/concealment with a good line of sight and just wait. ”Camping iz only 4 newbz” does not apply to real life.

    1. avatar JoshtheViking says:

      I’m a total unapologetic camper. If you are fighting fairly, you are not doing it right.

      1. avatar Dave says:

        Sniper rifle, active camoflague, & a good place to camp. That’s how you win a fight.

        And yes, I use Hornaday Z-Max…

  5. avatar New Continental Army says:

    “Why not indeed? Room or area clearing is a specialized task best performed by a trained team” – I call BS on this statement. Its akin to “guns are only for the police and military”. Everyday people can easily learn how to properly “clear” there own property. I have much experience in “clearing”- Its not a “science” or “art” or something you have to go through an extensive training program or school to know how to do properly. Its relatively common sense, and simple. ( Keep It Simple Stupid). And, for a fact, the “proper training methods” of Battle Drill Six taught in the US army- are hardly ever, ever followed to the letter. Allot of it is unit SOP. When you hear noises in your house you shouldn’t be so afraid as to suddenly grab your gun, drop everything and call the police. Control your fear. Its YOUR house, YOU own it. Cops or Criminals, people creeping around in or outside the house are liable to get shot. Cops themselves don’t want to be called to your house because you heard a “noise” that was probably a raccoon. Don’t get me wrong, don’t just go blundering into some shit looking for some action, but everyday people are certainly capable to protecting and “clearing” they’re own property just as they are in self defense. “Well, what if its a trained assassin, or a hardened criminal or, or,” ok yeah, So what? What if its a F****ing Alien and coming in to abduct and probe your ass? It could be anything. Don’t what if it and take charge and handle the situation.

    1. avatar DisThunder says:

      It’s not so much the training as it is the man power. Room clearing is best done with lots of eyes and ears, and when the best you can muster is your adrenaline-addled set, and maybe a sleepy spouse’s who has no idea what the hell you woke her up for, it’s not a bad idea to hold up in a spot where you can see all the entrances and corners and wait for some more hands.

      1. avatar William Burke says:

        That would be my approach, I do believe.

    2. avatar paulWTAMU says:

      If I’ve got a 4 bedroom house–with hallways and the like–how am I going to effectively keep enough eyes everywhere to be safe? I don’t have the manpower.

      1. avatar Gunr says:

        There are monitoring systems available, with, or without cameras, Harbor freight sells a couple of systems that are not expensive, although I’m not sure of the quality. It might be worth looking into.

    3. avatar Gray05 says:

      I’ve cleared my house/apt numerous times. I’m not calling the police because that lamp I leave on is off. That is a waste of their time if they would even come.

      Call somebody and let them know that something’s wrong if you don’t call back in 5 or 10 minutes.

      I would agree that it’s mostly common sense stuff.

    4. avatar Soccerchainsaw says:

      I’m with NCA (New Continental Army) on this. A citizen should be able to walk anywhere on his/her property armed without fear of being aerated by the police. This call the cops and wait for the ‘professionals’ BS is partly to blame for getting us to this militarized police, mercenary hiring society mess. If you choose to hide & wait for the police, that’s your choice but go telling all of us we should do the same. Don’t ‘should’ on me and I won’t ‘should’ on you….

  6. avatar former water walker says:

    Yep ambush in the house. Too bad the cop will skate.

  7. avatar WI Patriot says:

    If you’re creepin’ around my home/property at 4 a.m. without notifying me, more than likely you’re going to get shot…I doubt very seriously if the “LEO” identified himself/herself, it seems the order of the day is “shoot first, make up the story after”…

    1. avatar Hannibal says:

      If you think it’s reasonable to shoot anyone ‘creeping around’ property I’m sure we’ll soon see a story soon where some idiot homeowner shot a fifteen year old who was cutting though his yard.

      1. avatar WI Patriot says:

        Well, you’re so very wrong, I live in a very rural area, 9 permanent residents on 3 miles of road, my house is 600′ back off the road, if you’re back in here creepin’ around, I can guarantee you will be shot, as you have absolutely NO business here and are back here for obviously nefarious reasons…

        Now, don’t you feel an “idiot”…

      2. avatar New Continental Army says:

        Yeah, well, as someone who was shot at as a kid, I agree with WI Patriot. I was a stupid kid, about 14 or 15, and me and a friend decided it’d be cool to cut through a bunch of neighborhoods at night. This one dude on the outskirts of town lit our asses up with what we guessed was a mini14, (we grew up with guns so we had a good idea), from about 150 yards or so away. We got low and got our asses out of there. We didn’t scream, cry, call the cops, or going around talking about it. We learned our lesson about f****ing with peoples property and didn’t freak out about it. Even laughed about it a bit. But we stayed the hell away from messing with peoples land from then on.

    2. avatar Stuki says:

      Supposedly the LEO was in a “public area.”

      But even if he happened to have the corner of one foot on what is technically “your property”, you’d have an uphill battle; and for good reason, too.

      A justification for making a delineation between your house and your yard as far as “castle doctrines”, is that in order to be found inside the former, someone must have made a specific decision to cross fairly obvious boundaries. If your property is clearly fenced and marked as private, the same may well apply outside, but in most locales, most property lines are not so easy to see at night. Which is why kids can cut through them, and LEOs and others may step across the line as well, without intending harm.

      1. avatar WI Patriot says:

        What would be a “public area” when everything around is private property…???

        1. avatar William Burke says:

          The road, is all I can come up with.

      2. avatar Mark says:

        Two points, as someone who lives in Phoenix –

        #1, Phoenix cops have been known to shoot the homeowner when responding to a home invasion call.. most recently was about a year ago.. so calling the cops and hiding doesn’t prevent trigger-happiness on the part of local LEO’s.

        #2, most every *back* yard in Phoenix is surrounded by a 5-6 ft tall block wall. There’s usually a gate leading to the front yard, but mine has been padlocked for 6 years – if you’re in the back yard, you’ve jumped a wall, and the presumption of most homeowners in Phoenix is that you mean them harm. Our prosecutors are usually blue, but our juries are bright red, so even if the yard isn’t *technically* part of “the castle”, jumping the wall is a good way to get ventilated here.

        1. avatar Greg G. says:

          Amen. Especially after reading about the shooting in Maryvale the other day, I keep my gun close by. I don’t live very far from where that happened.

        2. avatar WI Patriot says:

          Hear, hear…

  8. avatar Gray05 says:

    A car or a TV isn’t worth killing or dying over. Hunker down and protect your family.

    Never go and investigate what that noise was.

    If there really is a problem and not just a weird noise, always get police on the way ASAP. I would much rather the police get into an altercation instead of me.

    1. avatar Hannibal says:

      It’s like in the movies… “don’t go in there!” Well in this case, out.

    2. avatar ChuckN says:

      About ten yours ago I was involved with tracking down an
      arsonist. The guy had worked himself up from grass/slash
      fires to houses. His MO was to go in the middle of the night
      to an abandoned/empty house or barn and use a sprayer
      to squirt gas up into the eves. He was finally caught when
      he picked a supposedly empty house (as he claimed
      anyway). The home owner found him, sprayer in hand
      with gas running down the siding. The arsonist was held at
      gunpoint until LE and FD showed up. If the home owner
      had hunkered down and called 911 instead of investigating
      he and his family could very well been burnt alive.

      In short, staying put and waiting for LE can help and may
      reduce self risk. But doing so without intel can just as easily
      result in you becoming just another statistic in a body bag.

    3. avatar Soccerchainsaw says:

      Gray,
      How can you be sure that your electronics is all the perp intends to take from you? There are other more valuable things he could take like your life, your wife’s life, your childrens’ lives, hell, even your dog’s life. These things may not be worth dying for but the perp made that choice and your safest approach would be to assume he intends to do the worst you can think of until proven wrong.

      1. avatar Rich Grise says:

        Well, I’d like to think I’d have the presence of mind to draw on him and say, “STOP!” or “GET OUT!” and let him run away if he wants to. If he wants to fight, then I’d have to be there to know what I’d do. I know the adrenaline rush from the time I was tending a little honky-tonk in South Minneapolis and some guy came in and said, “Give me all of the money out of the till.” I almost shat my whole innards. I was just engaging my mind enough to try to figure out what to do next, when everybody in the bar laughed and it turned out he was the guy I had replaced. All I had for defense was the butt end of a broken cue stick, but the guy who hired me had already instructed me to give them the money and live. But it was all a joke, ha, ha, and I know what an adrenaline dump feels like.

      2. avatar Gray05 says:

        That’s why when I hunker down and protect my family, my family is out of harms way and I’m armed.

        If they’ll take a TV and leave, that’s fine.

        If they encroach on my defensive spot, they won’t be fine.

  9. avatar Paul B says:

    I think I would set the trap. I use traps to control wild life on my property so I am sure I would not go room clearing. Even though I know to cut the pie and be low as high, etc.

    I think setting on a chair watching the door, remember the pie? do not sit directly in front of the door, would be the best course of action. If the officer wanted to ask a question you should hear a door bell or knock. If the door flies open, proceed to active action.

  10. avatar Ralph says:

    “It’s not a good idea to leave your house at 4 a.m. to go looking for bad guys if there are cops around.”

    FIFY

  11. avatar chris says:

    Hipoint makes a shotgun?

  12. avatar KCK says:

    Poster:
    I’m with Pulatso on this:
    Son, stand in this well lit doorway with Spot while I leave you unprotected and I stand in plain sight peering into the dark where the bad guys might be hiding and not visable to me.
    Wait, Oh shit, this is what Pincus told me NOT to do.

    1. avatar Another Robert says:

      Yeah, I thought it looked kind of silly myself. But it’s an advertisement, not an instructional aid. Illustrating to those potential female customers that it is their child they are protecting with that 20-gauge.

  13. avatar Magicmanmb says:

    30 years clearing houses it is a skill that takes practice to master. My biggie is what is full uniform? Most agencies use black or LAPD Blue BDU style uniforms comfortable yes. Usually the most identifiable item is a 2″x3″ badge that in exercises most other officers miss. Then compound it with E-bay or Army/Navy stores selling big patches w/POLICE, DEA, or. SHERIFF on them have perfect home invasion kit. My door gets kicked @ 0400 I have less than 10 seconds to decide. This case the homeowner should have called 911. Dispatcher would/should have told him stay inside that a search was going on & be careful, don’t answer door etc.

  14. avatar rlc2 says:

    I’m with RF on this in the ‘burbs. No upside outside.

    Grab gun, gather kids in safe room, call cops, turn on the outside floods if not already motion activated, and let the GSD clear the house.
    I already feel bad for that neighbors kid who cops in my semi-affluent socal bedroom community is 70K% of residential burglary…or hopefully not my teenagers neaking home from their first kegger.

    Anyone remember this:
    http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/09/28/connecticut-father-kills-masked-intruder-learns-it-his-son/

    1. avatar WI Patriot says:

      Yeah, what about it…???

      “Giuliano encountered a person clad in black clothing and a black ski mask with a “shiny object” in his hand.”

      I would’ve shot too…

      1. avatar William Burke says:

        “What about it?” Seriously? It was his son! Are you saying you’d walk away saying, “well, good shoot!”

  15. avatar Jeff says:

    Sounds like RF has probably never lived in the country.

    I swear, his points sound like they were made by a Democratic Underground poster.

    I don’t know my sheriff. In fact I never see them at all other than on the highway to work. You know why I don’t have to see the sheriff? You would know about every day at 4:00 when people start to get home, and you can hear pistols and rifles popping off a few shots at a target.

    The nearest cop is my neighbor, who is a state patrol trooper, and I’m fairly sure he doesn’t expect any of his neighbors to call him for a bump in the night.

    1. avatar rlc2 says:

      I dont think RF was trying to say one size fits all. If you’ve been a long-time reader I think you’d assume he is speaking to his own experience in the burb’s.

      Obviously when you move to the country where the Sheriff is miles away, you have to prepare to take on problems outside the front door, if you can’t afford to wait.

      FWIW, I’d do same if I were in your shoes. Rural crime is a big and growing problem in the southwest- read VDH here:

      http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/286354/vandalized-valley-victor-davis-hanson

  16. avatar Hannibal says:

    If your home is your castle it’s pretty dumb to sally forth unless you know exactly what you’re getting into.

    The bump in the night outside will more easily come inside once you open the door.

    1. avatar William Burke says:

      Yeah, Hannibal, that’s it exactly. Better to minimize the risks and stay inside, at least until you have some idea of who and how many you’re up against. You’re very unlikely to gain any tactical advantage by going outside.

      If you live in the deep sticks, the situation may be different, though. But you can be cut down the instant you step outside.

  17. avatar Another Robert says:

    I think the big difference in the rural areas is that a cop investigating a burglary “next door” is not going be close enough to your house to be disturbing you. And if he’s investigating something at your place, presumably he will let you know first off. OTOH, if you have chickens, cows, lambs, etc and you hear some commotion in the area where they are, it is highly likely that is an animal predator and something the owner is going to want to check out.

    1. avatar William Burke says:

      Yeah, if you’re in Colorado, might be somethin’ mutilatin’ another one of your steers. And I want to see what it is!

  18. avatar joel says:

    If you go outside to search, alone, you’re handing the advantage to the possible intruder(s) who can easily out-maneuver and pounce on you. By arming yourself and staying put you force them to come to you, and then the fight is on your terms.

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      But the coyotes may be eating your chickens at the time. We each need to address our own situation, the other guy’s might not be the same! Duh!

  19. avatar Vhyrus says:

    I have to disagree with at least some of this. You are supposed to call the cops every time you hear something suspicious outside your home? I’m pretty sure within a year you would either have your own personal extension to call or they would simply start citing you for 911 abuse. Your car is just property? Excuse me, but if your job depends on reliable transportation (which for most people it does) then your car is literally your life. Now, let’s play a little game I call ‘drop the badge’. Let’s take the scenario described above, but instead of a cop, you had a ccw holder looking for a burglar outside his home or business. How many years do you think he would go to jail for?

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      And shot his neighbor? Lord, that is harsh.

  20. avatar Schisms says:

    Sorry, gotta call BS. If a cop is snoopin’ and poopin’ around an occupied property on legitimate business, and is hailed by a voice demanding ID, his ONLY legitimate response it to voice ID as “police officer” immediately. Right now! ANY other response throws a whole nine yards of suspicion on his motives and purposes, and should force a homeowner or other legitimate occupant/responder to quite rightly instantly go to RED.

  21. avatar rlc2 says:

    This is a good topic- that leads to the reminder to know the law in your state, on stand your ground, castle doctrine, etc. You want to be sure your actions planned in advance are solidly defendable later. Here’s a good book thats been mentioned here I believe, h/t Ammoland: http://www.ammoland.com/2014/02/law-of-self-defense-qa-with-no-safe-retreat-what-actions-are-my-best-legal-defense/

    And you want to be sure your understanding is correct as to your state rules- California actually has a more agressive stand-your-ground interpretation, not specifically a law, but in the jury instructions, that allow you to pursue the attacker if you believe it necessary to protect life.

    But read this book, as an example of why you want expert opinion, and not just something from someone on the innertubz…to keep you out of jail. Michel is the west coast attorney running the Peruta case in San Diego, with NRA help. Highly regarded.

    http://www.amazon.com/California-Gun-Laws-Federal-Regulations/dp/0988460203

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      Nah. I’ll act now and worry about the law later. The law will never dictate whether I can defend myself and my family. Use sense, be careful, fine advice. Waste time studying local and state laws, what for? So your rulers can let you know when to breathe?

  22. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    Going outside in the dark to investigate a noise is extremely dangerous if an attacker is actually out there. First of all, you have no idea how many attackers there are and where they are. Second, their eyesight is most likely adjusted to the dark and your eyesight is NOT adjusted to the dark. In other words you are going out blind to face adversaries that are not blind. Third of all, your attackers know that you have to step out of a door. That means they can set up a highly effective ambush against you.

    In my opinion the best option for rural folks is to have a neighbor come over and look over your yard while you stay inside.

    Keep those factors in mind as you decide what to do when you hear a noise outside in the dark.

    1. avatar Rich Grise says:

      I kind of wonder why nobody’s mentioned motion-sensitive floodlights.

      1. avatar Mark says:

        Seen a couple of videos with the burglars unscrewing the bulbs on flood lights for just that reason…

        http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/local/Confused-Burglar-Targets-Home-Cops–138694359.html

  23. avatar Gunr says:

    It would make good sense to have a few flood lights attached to the upper part of your house, around the perimeter. If you hear a suspicious noise outside, it is easy enough to turn on a light or two, to flood your yard. Sure beats being shot, especially by a cop.

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