Wilson Combat Bill Wilson Carry on the rocks (courtesy The Truth About Guns)

I travel quite a bit for TTAG, and as a result I have spent a good number of nights in hotels. Thanks to budget restrictions, those hotels haven’t always been the nicest, and as a result I have come up with a personalized rating system for how nice and safe a hotel feels: do I keep the safety on or off for my nightstand gun. A story out of my home base of San Antonio shows that even when you’re staying in a “safety on” hotel, it pays to always be ready . . .

Let me set the scene for you: it’s the middle of the day, and one of the other guests is acting unruly in the hallway. You get momentarily pulled into the kerfuffle, but decide that rather than escalating the situation the better idea is to head back to your room and let the authorities handle the unruly guest. No dice: the man follows you back to your hotel room and starts banging on your door. You open the door to tell him to go away, and he charges at you.

What do you do? Well, in this case . . .

They said a confrontation between the two led to the shooting. Witnesses said the man who was shot, believed to be in his 20s, was acting unruly in the hallway.

“The individual who was shot was apparently breaking some lights in the ceiling. When the other guest walked by him, there was some type of at least verbal altercation. This is all preliminary,” said McManus.

Police said that’s when the shooter, reportedly in his 40s, left for his room.

Investigators said the victim was banging on the man’s door and when he opened it, the victim charged at him.

The shooter told police he fired once, hitting the victim in the chest and killing him.

In this case, the concealed carry holder did way more than Texas law demands. The Lone Star State is a “stand your ground” kind of place, and yet the concealed carry holder in this situation retreated from the scene and back to his own hotel room. The soon-to-be-deceased then re-escalated the situation by following the man and banging on his door. There will be some questions about why the man chose to open the door instead of calling the police, but legally speaking he seems to be in the clear.

We still don’t have all the details, but it looks like this will probably be a clean-cut case of self defense. And another reason why I never leave home without my Wilson Combat.

104 Responses to Defensive Gun Use of the Day: Why I Carry In Hotels Edition

  1. Ahh the media, “Shooter” and “Victim”

    How about “Victim” and “Deceased”

    You know, since the one they describe as the ‘Victim’ followed the other Hotel guest back to his room, and harrased and attempted to attack him.

    Love the media…..

    Anyways, good post Nick.

    • When discussing shootings, I like to use terms like “instigator” and “aggressor.” Especially since it’s often the case that those labels apply to the person who was shot, not the shooter.

    • I prefer to keep it simple with “good guy” and “bad guy”. Those terms worked when I was 8 years old playing role games with the neighbor kids,and they work just as well now.

    • Yeah, could be worse. The dead aggressor WAS the shooting victim, even if it was justified. Sadly par for the course. At least they didn’t call the justified CC-holder the gunman. More than can be said about the Atlanta Journal Constitution…

  2. Or he may have retreated to his room because that’s where he left his piece. Or he didn’t feel threatened by the “verbal altercation”.Just sayin’…

  3. Why open your door to a person you know is acting irrationally/aggressively? Call the cops and take up a defensive position for if they manage to make it through the door…

    • I was thinking the same thing. Hope he doesn’t run into trouble with the “deceased-instigator-aggressor-non room temperature -bad guy’s” trial attorney.

    • While that may be, barging through the door of someone else’s hotel room after vandalizing the hotel was the lethal mistake. Somehow I don’t think society will suffer too much by losing another dirtbag.

      Come to think of it, I’ve never been shot by CCW holder. Perhaps thats because I’ve never trashed a hotel, intentionally damaged the property of another, got into an argument, and then chased the guy I was arguing, and then pounded on the door, and then tried to barge through the door to do Lord knows what.

  4. Armed or not, if a violent asshole is banging on the door, I’m not opening it. If he busts through a locked door, I’ll have no problem shooting him then. But clearly, you’re not going to reason with this idiot, so why open the door?

    • Because it’s the polite thing to do, and here in Texas, we at least try to be polite. Besides, what if the man was just wanting to apologize?

    • exactly. While this ‘victim’ may not be charged criminally (maybe he should), a civil case will easily be made (given the facts presented here) that had the guy not opened the door, my room temperature client would still be alive. Good luck with that. Safe in the room? Call hotel security, advise them you are in a defensive position awaiting assistance. If he breaks through, good shoot. Otherwise, sorry, I’m not with the shooter on this one.

      • “I’m not with the shooter on this one.”

        Are you with the unruly and belligerent room temperature guy?
        Not to sound horribly insensitive, but the phrase, “He was begging for a bullet.” comes to mind. If you go begging for a bullet, don’t be too surprised if someone finally obliges you. Who knows what manner of mayhem or even murder were averted by this idiot getting shot?

        Opening the door wouldn’t have been my first choice, but why should I have to worry about leaving my hotel room or walking down the hallway? Hmm, a man in his 20’s? Curiously vague description of the dead guy, don’t you think?

        • I didn’t think we had to pick a side when two idiots meet.

          And yes, if you decide to open the door to a drunk (possibly crazy) guy banging on your hotel room, you’re an idiot.

          …or you wanted to try out your gun.

      • “…that had the guy not opened the door, my room temperature client would still be alive.”

        Ah, yes: the he didn’t hafta get outta tha truck argument.

        Equally as specious in this case (based on facts on hand) as it was in Florida.

  5. The only thing the fellow did wrong was to bother opening the door before modifying the deceased’s behavior in a meaningful way.

  6. I understand you point in using the safety as a measuring point for danger. However, it seems to me that you should always have the safety on or off so you have the same habits and don’t have to think when in a crisis.

    • Train with safety on this way if the safety is off, it’s a superfluous movement but the outcome is the desired one. This is, of course, for systems that have an external safety that is reasonably placed unlike that abomination on those Chinese police revolvers.

    • Basic rules of force protection in your hotel room: When you are in the room keep the dead bolt turned and the security bar or chain engaged. Never open the door unless you can positively identify the person on the other side of the door In this case a positive ID would mean you don’t open the door. If someone shows up with a package or letter tell them to leave it at the front desk and you will pick up later. And if you are not traveling for the government make sure you are carrying.

      This guy screwed the pooch. I would hold him liable out of gross stupidity if nothing else. He opened the the door to a known violent person. What did he expect to happen when he opened the door? This is definitely a place where you don’t get noticed, run away and only as a last resort, i.e., if the bad guy tries to break down the door, go to guns. Our hero must have had super operator training.

      I don’t stay in crappy hotels. I have enough money and a retired DoD identification card. I still get the government rate.

      • Was in a similar situation in Houston a few years ago. Stayed in a hotel close to the jobsite, and some clown knocked on the door at night. Opened it up (no peephole) to find a large black man in his 20’s demanding money. Knocked him on his a$$ and closed the door.

        Same hotel, 2 weeks later: knock on the door at 1 a.m. Roommate opened the door, I took a tactical/defensive position behind far bed, .45 ACP, night sights, safety off finger ready and close:

        Person at door was a large black female Houston cop at the wrong room number. Touchy situation; peacefully solved. Lesson(s) learned on both sides.

        I also have a DoD Retired I.D., and funds for just about any room I care to rent. That’s why I bought an RV.

      • I’ve traveled extensively over the last couple of years, and I find more than not the “Government” rate is not cheaper than their regular rate. I have a feeling part of it has to do with the hotels capitalizing on the idea that if you are traveling on orders, you will get reimbursed so are less stringent for deals.

      • Gummint rate is still pretty pricey in a lot of markets. Places I’ve been to, the gummint rate hotels are the top hotels in the market. Lots of perfectly serviceable places at lower rates. That being said, you can’t pick your fellow customers.

  7. Based on the advice of that man-about-town,soldier of fortune and general bon vivant Vice President Joe Biden several things were down wrong:

    1. You didn’t use a double barrel shotgun.
    2. You should have shot through the door.
    3. Somebody finish the list

    I gotta stop. I slay myself.

    • I believe Mr. Biden’s advice would have been to take your double barreled shotgun out to the balcony and fire two blasts into the air. Joe never said shoot through the door.

        • By golly, I forgot old Uncle Joe said that, but you are absolutely correct! Blast away!

      • Hey Uncle Joe, it may surprise you but most Americans don’t have a balcony at the front of their houses. While I would love to live in a Southern Colonial style home with butlers and maids to take care of my needs, my yearly income is prohibitive of such notions.

        Now to more serious matters, I would have no problem carrying at a Hotel or Inn, my best reason for doing so was when I was staying at a Hampton Inn and a murdered persons corpse was discovered the last day of my stay in a room down the hall from mine. Unfortunately at the time Missouri did not allow concealed carry.

  8. Man, that Wilson Combat sure is one bad ass cool lookin’ piece…
    and I’m not even a “.45 guy”.

      • Everything WC that I see really catches my eye. Their AR is just a work of art. Man, now I see another big spend coming down the road some day… Ugh, why couldn’t I just collect stamps. Is that the commander he has pictured there?

        • Compact, so yes. Years ago, 1911s like the CQB compact had a 1″ guarantee. It’s now 1.5″. I’d hope it’d be 1″ for that price, though.

        • Thanks. Yeah, think the price tag might put that one a little out my reach…

  9. My room is my castle for the night. I am ALWAYS armed, and the hotel room is my bedroom. While my budget allows me to stay in somewhat better accommodations, like no Days Inn or Motel 6s, I still don’t stay in the best of the best but my heater is on the stand next to the bed. If someone kicks in the door, they are leaving in a body bag.
    I have stayed in some real shit holes though and I always feel much more secure knowing I have my .40 Sig next to me.

  10. We had 3 gangbangers killed over Memorial Day weekend @ a local hotel in a better city area. The thing is the scum that was doing his initiation killings
    posted his intent on facebook with police aware. Yet it was blamed on Atlantic Beach Bikefest.
    The next week same hotel 70 arrests for drunken exchange students from Ireland. It was just kids being kids. Somehow the Chamber of Commerce is able to keep it quiet. All properties on the Grand Strand are safety off. Vacationing in Myrtle Beach area, remember that when booking our crime per capita is equal too Newark, Chicago or LA.

  11. the attacker who was shot was “breaking some lights in the ceiling”. classy guy. He earned his darwin award, clearly he was going to get one sooner or later.

    • “the attacker who was shot was “breaking some lights in the ceiling”. classy guy. He earned his darwin award, clearly he was going to get one sooner or later.”

      You’re really diminishing the Darwin Award when you apply it to run-of-the-mill acts. It needs to have an element of notability to qualify. Something like going skydiving with a homemade parachute.

  12. Why go down the hall at all. If you see trouble walk the other way and call the cops. If the guy is banging on your door call the cops. You have other options here. Shooting is the LAST resort. If you can avoid a confrontation and it all ends with every one living to see another day that’s a win, win situation.

    • Kinda what I was thinking too. That makes opening the door his second mistake. Good thing he was in Texas.

  13. Deciding if and when to pull the trigger against somebody who is not armed will be a difficult one, I think…

  14. My only extra advice for traveling would be to carry a Glock or comparable. I would hate to be out the cost of the Wilson Combat if it were confiscated by confused LEO’s.

    • If for some reason your weapon is taken into evidence ask the cop to scratch his initials & case or log # under the slide & inside the frame. If he’s cool, a gun guy or it is obviously expensive he/she might do it if policy allows. Did it for a guy just prior to retiring on a ed brown. He was not prosecuted & very happy had not destroyed his pistols finish/value. Dropped off a gift certificate for TGI Fridays for me. Gave it back to him told him to give it to a local charity auction. Thanked him but I never even took a free coffee on the job.

      • Won’t really help much, unfortunately, if it is stored in a wet basement evidence room where it rusts away over months or years. Record and keep safe the make, model, sn, etc if, for no other purpose, insurance or theft purposes.

        • All ours are stored in boxes that are basically shrink wrapped & stored in a humidistat vault. Luckily all my chiefs have been gun guys had a guy turn in s found taurus 85 after 30 days it was transferred to him after he
          paid for a news ad & ffl. Funny side is it was rusted to a dangerous point he paid $125 to get a pistol that I Red Tagged as unsafe. He paid a gunsmith $600 to get it operational. $725 for a $400 nib pistol

      • When my close to virginal Hi-Power that was stolen and later recovered in a burglary was returned to me (!)8 years later, the cops hadn’t bothered to scratch anything inside the slide. They put the date and two sets of initials right next to the serial number. . .
        Of course, the dbag that had it had already worn most of the bluing off carrying it.

        • I had a number of guns stolen. I’ve gotten them back from Michigan, Ohio, and Mississippi and none have been marked by leo agencies.

        • Some courts will accept the s/n as evidence some will not. Usually it’s scatched in with a nail or knife. If it’s your gun being put in evidence from a DGU ask if it’s rare or high priced some cops will especially if they think it is going to be a justifiable shoot. We just got permission to use barcoded evidence. Coming soon electronic tickets for all depts. the pilot study just finished. They just got rid of the melt law a few years ago, even though polymer framed guns have been in use for 20 years they were technically illegal in SC since they would melt at less than 800degrees. Yes the south is slow to change democrats got us CCW, republicans refuse open carry & it took 10 years to allow restaurant carry.

  15. I read “Thanks to budget restrictions, those hotels haven’t always been the nicest…” Then I read how your nightstand gun is a $3k Wilson Combat. I guess we find money for the things important to us.

    • I think Nick thinks his life is well worth 3 grand.

      If memory serves, he got the Wilson from this website’s owner as a token of gratitude.

      • Not staying in dirtbag places will save your life faster than any gun even if you never realize it…

        • Sometimes you can’t choose your battles, battles choose you. Even outside mother Russia.

  16. Alcohol suppresses your ability to think strait. I have found, after spending much time with drunk shipmates in various bars around the world, that folks who show a violent nature when drunk, will often show the same tendencies when sober.
    You probably have heard somebody say “Oh, he’s the nicest person you would ever want to meet when he’s sober, but after a few drinks, he gets really mean”
    I don’t believe this. A lot of people that are mean when their drunk, know that they must “tow the line” so to speak, when their sober, or they may end up in the slammer! But after a couple of six packs, they loose their ability to “maintain ones self”, and out comes their true nature.

    • “Alcohol suppresses your ability to think strait. I have found, after spending much time with drunk shipmates in various bars around the world, that folks who show a violent nature when drunk, will often show the same tendencies when sober.”

      Concur 10,000 percent. Best advice I ever got in serious girlfriend selection was to get her drunk and then pick a fight with her. Alcohol strips away the “act” most people put on to some degree and reveals their core character.

      I happen to be a very unpleasant drunk, why I ditched drinking.

        • Meh. I’ve been told I can be unpleasant drunk or sober. Depends on who you ask.

        • “So are you saying you are at your core, unpleasant?”

          Ever heard the expression “Instant A@@hole, just add alcohol.” ?

          It’s a sign of maturity to know one’s self.

      • At least you had the smarts to recognize that you had a problem. That says a lot for you. I had to quit drinking for other reasons.

  17. I travel for work a fair amount. As a matter of fact, I just checked into a hotel for work, and I’m typing from a Marriott. I carry with me. I have been known to have two pistols and 500 rounds of ammo with me when staying for an extended period of time. (Never know when you’ll get a chance to visit a local range).

    I was in a nice hotel in a nice part of town, and one night I had just turned off the light to go to sleep. It was midnightish, and shortly afterward some woman began banging on my door with a lame excuse about her phone not working. I can guess she might have seen my light on and just go out. Nope, not opening it up for a woman so I could be rushed by her companion and have to shoot him.

    I don’t doubt that some would think, “I’m on the road, it’s late evening, and a woman is knocking on my door. I could get lucky!”

  18. I’m not saying the DGU here is good or bad, but I’m definitely saying it’s not as clear cut legally as the article suggests.

    Never mind SYG or castle doctrine. All those do is remove the duty to retreat. You shoot, you still need legal justification in its own right.

    In Texas, verbal provocation alone is not sufficient to justify a claim of self defense, let alone to justify lethal force or the threat thereof. So I’m not convinced that the shooter was justified there. Moreover, a self defense claim is invalid if you consented to the fight. I’m not sure who said what in that hallway, so the claim may not be valid on that point, too.

    However, under Texas law, if you consented to the fight, or even if you INITIATED the fight, you always have the right to withdraw from the fight. You’re still legally liable for whatever you’ve done up to that point, but once you withdraw, that resets the clock. If the other guy pursues and resumes the fight which you started but have withdrawn from, then that’s a fresh encounter and now he’s the assailant. So I’m not sure whether the movement from the hall to the room was the natural progression of the same encounter, or counts as a withdrawal and reset, in which self defense would be valid.

    Finally, even if self defense per se is justified, that’s not to say that lethal force itself is justified, as that has its own and higher standard hinging on the severity and immediacy of the threat posed to you. A shouting match and door banging do not rise to the legal threshold and I’m nowhere near convinced that opening the door doesn’t constitute consent to resume or restart the encounter.

    All in all, investigate this thoroughly and present it to the Grand Jury for indictment. If the GJ no bills (refuses to indict), well, so be it. They will have seen the preliminary evidence and I haven’t. If they indict, then go to court and present your defense; but I would not at all based on the information here consider this an open and shut case for either the shooter or the State.

    Awareness, avoidance and de-escalation, people. They’re more important and useful than grip, stance and sight alignment.

    • You didn’t discuss the part where the DG charged through the door, thus converting a verbal altercation into a physical one in which the DG was the attacker.

    • +1 . exactly . He would have to break the door down to get me to respond. I would have let him bang all he wanted while I waited for police to come. or hotel security . whatever. I support the right to defend yourself if you have to. and one he was attacked, it was have to, but I will take any way out that I can to avoid it.

  19. Nick,

    Do you carry when you’re staying in a 30.06-posted hotel? I ask that because it seems that most (if not all) Hilton-owned chains are posted here in Texas, which unfortunately covers quite a few hotels (Homewood Suites, Embassy Suites, etc.). I know “concealed means concealed”, but it might become an issue after a DGU.

    • Bryan1980,

      30.06 signs don’t apply to you having a gun in your domicile which is what a motel room becomes when you stay there. If you carry it in and out in a bag or case then you aren’t “concealed carrying” the weapon. Legally you could carry a gun openly from your room to your car though I’m sure that would not sit well with the hotel if they found out.

  20. The thing this guy did wrong was open the door. Never open the door, not for anyone, ever, it’s a trap.

  21. I used to spend lots of weeks on the road between business and family travel Some years back my wife, son and I pulled into a Day’s Inn in Indianapolis. My only excuse is that it was dark and I didn’t see the razor wire on the fence around the parking lot. Not a good sign as it turned out. Anyway we went to sleep and at about 2:00 am I heard somebody banging on my room door and hollering that they wanted in. Wife, son and I rolled out of our beds and I assumed the posture of lying across the bed with my Smith Model 60 pointed at the door. I said very loudly that I had a pistol and anybody who came through the door would be dead. After a couple of minutes the hollering stopped.

    The next morning we found a couple of police cars and crime tape around a room on the other side of the building. I guess somebody else had similar sentiments to mine. I’ve never stayed at a Day’s Inn since and I pay lots of attention to Tripadvisor when I make reservations these days.

  22. I carry in hotels wherever it’s legal for me to do so. When I can’t, I always have something else around that’s very lethal.

    If a hotel is “posted,” I carry anyway as long as I have a license or right to carry under state law. I’d rather take a misdemeanor hit than get killed. YMMV.

    • I picked up my SOG Pentagon because we weren’t always put up in the best hotels on TDY (hell, some of the base hotels were sketchy enough). I wasn’t about to keep a gun in the base armory at home, and traveling with one wasn’t allowed, but that dagger wasn’t hard to slip into whatever luggage I was using. It’s still my minimum hotel security. Probably going to switch to something less collectible and single edged, though.

  23. Way to go Nick, only you would rate hotels/motels this way, stayed in one in Cincinnati one time that made you want two guns with the safety off.

  24. You go to jail. You had retreated and reached a place of perceived safety. You then escalated the situation by opening the door and confronting the individual.

    Stupid, stupid, stupid.

    • “Stupid, stupid, stupid” Thanks for your accurate self assessment of your comment.

      Opening the door of your domicile (Texas considers a hotel/motel room your domicile, however temporary) is not considered escalation. By your logic opening the door when the police knock would be escalation. That would be a neat hat trick by PD. Likewise it would make a handy defense to all bad guys “but your honor while I was trying to commit simply robbery, he opened the door and escalated the situation. That’s why I had to assaul him! Nice try

      You must not be from Texas, right? Plenty of idiots banging on doors have been shot through the door with no charges to the homeowner/shooter.

      Cue the anecdotal story of law in 3…2…1

  25. If it were me, unless the guy confronted me on the first go around, I wouldn’t have said anything. Let him break out lights until the cops get there. Then, in the second run in, I wouldn’t have opened the door. I think the DGU was right in defending himself. The assailant charging him is enough to convince me. Still, even though he’s right, the DGU is going to have to deal with the mental issues of knowing he killed someone, and defending the inevitable lawsuit that will come from the deceased’s family; after all, the deceased was the salt of the earth, he always had a smile for you and would do anything to help anyone… at least to his family. This is why I’m a great believer in the theory that the only way to win a gunfight is to avoid it.

  26. Sadly I work in environments that do not allow for carrying a firearm on property that does not allow them. I’ve been nearly stripped topless crawling through cable rack before and if that revealed a gun, I would likely end up in jail. This means I don’t bring a gun when I travel for work either.

    However I do keep a decent quality and size knife with me when I travel, especially after I was woken up by an rather kid disagreement between a hooker and pimp once and imagining what would have happened had I witnessed the exact wrong moment of such a dispute. It’s not a gun, but it’s still better than a stunned look.

  27. Yeah–Hotels in and of themselves here should be moot…? Universal carry should rule the day so to speak. That said, I feel quite unsafe in any hotel as it’s (typically) completely unknown foreign territory which means I am vulnerable more so then home, a store or restaurant I frequent etc…

  28. “You open the door to tell him to go away, and he charges at you.”

    You open the door why? BECAUSE YOU ARE BRAIN DEAD.

  29. I would have picked up the phone, after I press checked pistol and flipped safety off. Locked doors buy you time. Conversation is not an option with a fool. Not opening the door would have saved his life, and the defender paperwork. However, if you are occupying a room legally, and leave the door open and someone charges in with perceived intent, BANG BANG. The “Law” is lazy, usually a “blanket” law, rather than a case by case. Much easier to charge and convict under a blanket law.

  30. IMO, this is a horrible example of a DGU. This scenario is EXACTLY why we have police: there is trouble banging on your door but it isn’t inside yet.

    Never open your door to a person looking for trouble. Outsource the task of dealing with it to the police. Let THEM clean up the mess, deal with potential lawsuits, and face the potential of injury.

    If the troublemaker breaks down the door, then you truly had no choice but to shoot, and the chance of any civil suit is probably greatly diminished. If you OPEN THE DOOR YOURSELF, you might not be charged criminally and yet still find yourself spending you retirement savings to defend a lawsuit.

  31. The below from San Antonio Express News, 7/15/14:

    The man fatally shot Saturday at the Grand Hyatt downtown was having “mental issues” and threatened to kill someone, according to the San Antonio Police Department.

    Witnesses and family members told police that Moises Torres, 34, had been “suffering from some un-diagnosed mental issues recently,” according to preliminary information released Monday.

    Torres went to the sixth floor of the hotel at 1 p.m. and started breaking lights in the hallway, according to police. He started to bang on a door, and when a witness opened it, Torres said he was “looking for someone to kill,” police said.

    The witness slammed the door, so Torres banged on another one, police said.

    John Neal, 43, was inside that room, but did not open the door right away, according to police. Neal waited until he thought Torres had left before opening the door and calling security, police said.

    Torres then charged at Neal and another woman, according to police. Neal drew a pistol and fired one shot at Torres, stopping him in the doorway.

    Emergency medical technicians treated Torres, but he died at the scene.

    Neal had a concealed handgun license, police said.

    No charges were filed.

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