Who was it that said nothing good happens after 2am? A lot of people, actually. And they’re not wrong. Which is why the first part of the description is relevant here. “Recently, there have been some thefts at my friend Ian’s house. So I have been taking it upon myself to sit on his porch at night in an effort to catch the crooks in the act. Last night I was there until around 3am, and on my way home, I heard women crying, and men yelling at them on Main Street in Keene New Hampshire.” What happens next: the subjects demand that cameraman Chris Cantwell discontinue his documentary efforts. When he refuses, they attack. He all but shoots them. But doesn’t. I’m thinking . . .

Mr. Cantwell shouldn’t have been playing camera-equipped armed guard for his pal. I mean, what was the plan if the “real” bad guys showed up?

Maybe Cantwell was behind cover or concealment ready to call the cops when this unexpected incident occurred. Maybe he wasn’t. But he sure was out in the open when the night owl got into their spat. At 3am. Hmmm.

A remotely-monitored camera would have been the better bet for thief apprehension. I’m also thinking that Chris should have remained hidden and called the cops when he suspected an assault was going down. And beat feet when it was clear his subjects were unsupportive of his safety-oriented video recording.

That said, Cantwell had a right to record in a public space and, well, that’s what he does. And I certainly support his right to keep and bear arms. And his defensive gun use once it was clear he was under attack.

But none of that contradicts the fact that Cantwell violated all three precepts of the sage advice “avoid stupid people in stupid places doing stupid things.” To which we can add “if you go looking for trouble, you may find it.” And gun or no gun, you may find yourself at the center of it. And that can really suck.

Oh, and I wouldn’t have explained this incident to the cops without a lawyer present. Just saying’ . . . [h/t Danny]

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

  1. Yeah, mind your own business. If you’re really concerned about the situation, call the cops and let them deal with it. Upset, angry people who could be drunk or otherwise intoxicated are not reasonable people.

    • I’m conflicted, calling the cops very often makes the situation worse since so many of them use calls as opportunities to escalate and have some “fun” (meaning either physically harming someone by beating or electrocuting, or simply just arresting someone).

      This is small town New Hampshire and the cops are less likely to be aggro compared to big city cops.

      If this scenario happened in say Austin TX, things would have gone much worse. Almost certainly Chris would have been arrested to “let the courts sort it out.” (I know how Austin cops operate, they are aggressive thugs for the most part.)

      • A cop ‘electrocuting’ someone may be better than a CCW holder shooting them because he has no option between nothing and gun.

      • Keene is a college town so even though it is small, the cops can be a bit more aggressive because of their typical clientele. However, there are also plenty of free state type people in Keene as well so I think that helps quell and moderate their attitudes since they are more used to dealing with non-compliance.

        That said, I’ve never had a serious issue with the police in Keene. The biggest problem I had was them trying to write me a parking ticket at midnight on a Sunday for parking outside of posted hours….

  2. Seems to have been a domestic situation. He should have “walked away” when he realized no blows were being struck.
    Just because you have a “right” to do something, doesn’t mean you should do it! This could have ended very badly for Chris, especially if the dudes were armed!

    • “Seems to have been a domestic situation. He should have “walked away” when he realized no blows were being struck [yet]”

      There. Fixed it for you.

      I think his intentions were pretty solid. If the argument escalated to where one party started beating on another party, he would have video record. If they all went away, he deletes the video and goes about his way.

      Alas, some people with low social skills decided that in a domestic argument, he would make a lovely teacup to hurl.

  3. No way in the world would I leave the relative security of the porch for the street to check out some people making noise. That is what a cell phone and the 911 system are for.

    • Also: My guess is the female was distraught and ran at him because she was cheating on her boyfriend or husband.

      She was afraid this guy would put the video up on youtube or something and she’d be caught.

      Just a guess. Either way, it is a natural reaction for a Western man to run towards a woman crying to help but it almost never ends well.

      • She was “othering” the guy holding the camera. Internal aggression within a group can be re-directed when presented with an external threat.

    • Years ago (many) I saw a guy putting a beat-down on a girl in a McDonald’s parking lot. I hopped out of my car and steamed over there and got my ass absolutely kicked by that douche. I’m a big guy but he was an effing bad-ass of some sort.

      When it was obvious we were done he went right back at that girl.

      Domestic disputes are fire.

  4. Maybe I’m a bit off my nut here but I feel NO obligation whatsoever to allow criminals to destroy my property in order for the police to catch them(maybe) unharmed. If I had regular vandalism or theft happening at my place or that of a good friend I may feel obliged to record and confront the criminals as well.

    It strikes me as being no different than hunting for poachers on my property. If I hear or see signs of someone on my property I check it out BEFORE I call the police.

    • Spoken 100% like someone who’s never had to deal with this type of stuff. I’m not judging, just observing.

      • Incorrect. I just never specifically went “looking” for it when I lived in the city. Wrong place, wrong time. I have however confronted multiple armed hunters on my property, some with attitudes. They may not know WHO owns the property but I’m 100% sure they’re aware THEY don’t own it so I refuse to back down. By the time I confirm the presence of someone on my property it’s usually face to face. The police are stretched thin in my area and aren’t very likely to go hiking around my property because I heard a bump in the night.

      • I stand corrected. But urban and rural situations are a bit different – not least of which in a rural area (in my experience) the cops are usually nicer and willing to listen to the full situation. Plus, I’d rather deal with angry hunters or poacher any day than people (probably intoxicated) in domestic situations.

        I’ve tried to do the right thing in the past a few times and it has left me burned every single time.

        • I can’t disagree with a single point you just made. Things are MUCH different in the city versus the country. That’s why I moved away from the city as soon as I could afford to. Maybe somewhere in my mind I just knew my personality and upbringing weren’t going to tolerate the city life very well.

          This story just splits my opinions a bit. Standing up for you and yours is just the way I was raised, it’s not even a conscious decision. Getting personally involved in the domestic is where I’d have to make a tough decision. The past tells me that the specific circumstances would dictate my involvement or lack thereof.

  5. Chock this article up to “I believe in the Constitution, but…”
    Christopher did nothing wrong. If he had shot those idiots then he still would have done nothing wrong.
    This article and the comments show the level of hypocrisy among you. No doubt you will call me “absolutist” and that will quell your confusion as to what being a free person means. It ain’t all about guns.
    Rather than blame the drunks acting a fool in public, you criticize the person shining light on the disgusting behavior of people truly in the wrong. The problem in our society is the diminishing degree of shame that people should feel. When character does not compel you to behave when no one is watching, shame should when you are being watched.
    Have they no shame?! Have you no shame? Shame on you for wanting to run and hide after 2am and allowing the scum to own the night.

    • He had every right to do what he did, given the circumstances that transpired, and Robert said as much in the write up: “And his defensive gun use once it was clear he was under attack.” I believe Robert, and most of the “hypocritical comments” are merely stating that it is wise to avoid situations where you would have to use your gun. You arent a cop (unless you are), you have no reason to intervene in this domestic dispute/drunken disorderly conduct. If they’re outside your house and bothering you, call the cops. If you’re trying to walk past to get where you’re going, get where you’re going and ignore them. Its not “allowing scum to own the night”, its avoiding dangerous situations so you can get home to your loved ones at the end of the day.

    • It’s not hypocrisy.

      Being “right” is cold comfort if you have your life ruined over principal.

    • Yes. Maybe I would have done the same or maybe I wouldn’t have. But the standard is the law and if he didn’t break the law then he was good. People come along and criticize so easily, but if he didn’t break the law then he gets my support.

      • I tentatively agree with you. However, my litmus test isn’t just “legal”, it’s “right” too.

        For instance, there are a lot of stupid laws and I actually support a lot of people who break them. Unjust means whoever broke that law wasn’t doing anything wrong either – at least not by my moral compass.

        But yes – this guy didn’t break any laws and I understand why he did what he did but I don’t think it was wise. I also don’t think the guy on youtube who catches johns with prostitutes is very wise though he is not doing anything wrong either.

  6. The hypocrisy of so many that advocate for a more free society with less government intrusion who would rather shirk the burden of responsibility of being a free man and instead call on government agents for protection is appalling.

    • The irony of course being that the lack of freedom is exactly why I would not want to get involved.

      I am not risking my life for strangers out at 2am. People depend on me to be free and out of jail.

      But by all means – put your money where your mouth is and play vigilante. I just hope for your sake that your don’t become the next scapegoat/high profile witch hunt of the antis.

    • “The hypocrisy of so many that advocate for a more free society with less government intrusion who would rather shirk the burden of responsibility of being a free man and instead call on government agents for protection is appalling.”

      Bottom line, at least imho of course, those people have their own individual burden of responsibility as well. I am all for trying to do the right thing, but dealing with crazy drunk b1tches fighting with their boyfriends is at best a small blunder, at worst the meat wagon is coming. The financial/emotional cost is too high to pay in the situation.

  7. If pure self defense is your only concern, then this article’s advice is absolutely (logically) correct: stay away from people (by the way; the stupid part of it is impossible to know until it is too late, so just stay away from as many as you can). However, if you have other concerns, as, clearly, this guy does; he is a critic of police, he clearly wishes to work towards a better society, which is made clear by both his admission about the police when combined with his admission about his critique of the police, and by his sense of duty to assist when he encounters trouble in action, so he got involved in as safe a way as possible. He clearly has the right to do everything he did, and, in fact, would have been within his rights to shoot them, probably (though it always best to avoid that if possible; once again.. good job on him). Many feel that he also has the duty to step in in the defense of others as well.

    “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

    Edmund Burke

    TL;DR: If this article is meant to be purely about self-defense then it’s correct, but if we’re to be part of a society, then the article’s critique is a bit over-stated.

  8. I always look for trouble. If I didn’t, how would I see it coming? Once I find trouble, I do whatever I can to get away from it.

    Trouble has a way of finding people who aren’t looking for it.

  9. He could have been more discrete and tactful in making the recording. I don’t see anything wrong with taking video but he should have backed off while continuing to record.

    They deserved to have that hand gun pulled on them. They chased him down after he gave them numerous warnings to stay away, Of course when the police arrived the dipsticks attempt to make him into the bad guy because he has a gun. It looks like these officers were respectful and handled the situation in an acceptable manner.

    I think it is sound advice to not get into other peoples affairs, but I’m not bothered by anybody who wants to stick up for others. He didn’t advance on them or threaten them in any way and they were in a public place where they have no expectation of privacy.

    • And I have to add that when there is a question, we should just shoot the hell out of everyone with our HD video cameras, refuse to put them away, and defend ourselves if attacked. Anyone, including an LEO, who commands you to turn off a video camera already knows that his own actions are at least wrong, and probably illegal. We need a law confirming that, as in, if you have video of an LEO ordering you to turn off or hand over your video camera, your use of deadly force is justified.

  10. He should’ve kept walking. The video gives the impression, right or wrong, that he was looking for an altercation.

  11. Big props to the cops for being super professional.

    Also, I got a big laugh from these comments. He shouldn’t have been recording? He shouldn’t have provoked them? Seriously? Just the other day, everyone was having a nice big circle jerk about how brave Geller was hosting an event that everyone knew would provoke an attack. I mean, that was clearly obvious with all the super tacticool privately-hired guards.

    Bottom line is, it was a good thing he DID record so now he has evidence to support him. And it’s a good thing that Geller held the event, because it exemplified the threats we face today for speaking freely.

  12. Ex military, ex-cop, firearms instructor who was giving a class on when it is appropriate and legal to use deadly force told a story of how a man saw a woman in a parking lot he thought was being physically harmed by a man, and when the this man intervened on behalf of the woman, the woman turned on him, pulled a gun, and shot him. His point was to be careful, you never understand the dynamics/situations of the people you think are defending.

  13. To get a clearer story on why Chris does what he does, why he was doing this and how ironic it is that the police and he are on the same page for once you should look into the Free State Project and maybe listen to a few nights of Free Talk Live, which has affiliates in all states across the country. Both are a rather strong platform for real libertarianism and not the hijacked version of libertarianism a lot of people today spew.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_State_Project

  14. That’s what we call a “dumb f*ck”. He made the situation 10x worse and still managed to record himself bitching-up. Don’t borrow trouble.

  15. We will all be more safe thanks to those that confront trouble rather than ignore it.
    How different things would be had someone confronted James Holmes when he got up and propped the exit door open.

      • Preferably they would be armed but you don’t have to be armed to shut the door. Just kick the block out of the way when he left to get the guns.
        But hey, why get involved? It’s nobodies business…until it is and it is too late.

  16. Good advice but sometimes it’s hard to blame people when the typical police reaction to non drug non traffic related crime is “meh”

  17. I’m just going to call this entire situation “unnecessary”.
    We don’t live in a place that video evidence of something like this would be absolutely required. If cops were involved, then yes, videotape for sure. Cops have a gigantic entity behind them and from top to bottom they are treated like a higher class of citizen. So, video evidence of cop wrongdoing is almost required to prove anything.
    But, a little domestic violence… an eyewitness testimony would have been sufficient had anything occurred. He could have put the camera down and simply stated that he was going to hang around and make sure everything was OK. Instead, he antagonized them.

  18. Why didn’t he just shut up, crank up the telephoto lens (from concealment) and immediately call 911 if he was so concerned?

    • This is just a first impression and a bit of an educated guess but I suspect that he has a somewhat inflated sense of self righteousness and being a heroic champion of the cause, as many political/social activists do.

  19. Textbook example of “steel courage”. He was packing so of course he kept filming and knew (almost wrongly) that his gun would protect him. That could have gone really bad, really fast. And to what end? To make sure that his right to video in a public place wasn’t being infringed? Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.

  20. Articles like this serve to remind me of my stance on “getting involved”.

    I am not a cop. I didn’t sleep in a Holiday Inn Express last night and I don’t get paid to pretend to be one. I don’t have the thin blue line, the FOP, the Police Union, the Mayor, the Chief or anyone else to back my decision to get involved. I also don’t have a city wide tax base to fund a settlement with someone who decides to sue me for getting involved.

    Not my circus, not my monkeys.

  21. My permit and gun protects myself, family and friends. Others can go through the same process to protect themselves or just rely on the police.
    Also, with the right prosecutor and jury, this video could be damning by suggesting he was stalking people with the intention of creating violence and beaten to the punch. An obvious stretch, just saying.

  22. This looked like a DV – man and woman arguing outside a bar? Hard to tell, exactly, but since it didnt look physical, I would have simply called it into 911 (while filming from a distance discreetly, if I felt the need to film).

    If I wanted to go further, with the camera, I would have had that on WHILE I called it in, and waited at a discreet distance, to film, until cops got there, in order to be a good witness, give descriptions, license plate, etc.

    I’m not even sure I would have gotten into it if it had been physical- as you can see, the reason DV calls are so dangerous for cops is it can quickly turn into 2 v 1 on you, the interferer.

    I understand the right to film in public, just like I understand a pedestrian has a right of way in the cross-walk. That doesnt do you much good if you get blindsided by a truck from pushing it.

  23. I am the man who recorded this video and pulled his gun. I think Robert is providing sound advice to gun owners with this post. I don’t in any way feel disrespected, and since I am a huge fan of this site, I’m quite honored that he featured my video.

    I would point out that I’m not most gun owners. I part of a political migration to bring more liberty to the State of New Hampshire. I am a writer, political commentator, and videographer by trade. I carry a gun to work, in part because I realize things like this can happen. My colleagues here have been assaulted more than once, and I was not about to let myself become a victim.

    If your job doesn’t require you to film lunatics at 3am, then you should not do so. If you are not part of a hated political minority, then maybe you shouldn’t be sitting on porches waiting for thieves.

    But I am. So I did. And I don’t have the slightest shred of regret for any of it.

    • So, did you enjoy your ride on the crazy train? I totally get where you’re coming from; your neighborhood, bad things recently going down, damsel in distress, angry young men, etc. I also largely respect and admire what the Free State Project is doing and trying to accomplish. That said, Dude! WTF. As commenters pointed out above, steel courage and looking for trouble is an almost perfect lesson plan whose tuition can be utterly ruinous, for both you and your classmates. Your encounter could have gone tragically and fatally pear shaped in a heart beat or two. When things started getting weird you needed to back off and get some distance. Your declaration of YOUR rights didn’t help matters any either. You might want to reevaluate your tactics and be a little more circumspect in your approach to such situations. Oh, and you might want to consider investing in a good, large objective telephoto lens and a parabolic microphone.

      • Now, that’s good advice. Of course, it will be ignored by every self-inflating narcissist who happens to be visiting this site.

    • Thank you for living like a free man instead of relying on the mafia’s protection racket.

    • @Chris: I don’t get the part about the “hated political minority” ? What does that have to do with anything ? Do only people in that class need to sit on their porch with a camera in the early morning hours ? Or, are you trying to say that, because of that, you have to try to right the wrongs in your hood because the police won’t help you ?

  24. Here we have a guy who should have just STFU, It’s obvious an adrenaline rush. I know from experience important details are missed even when the rush has passed, it can take a couple of days for details to emerge. I’ll call 911 if I think someone is being assaulted, a chick crying? Nope.

  25. I don’t understand why his first impulse is to whip out a camera. Nobody likes a stranger filming them and in a situation like that I think it is natural for someone to think you are trying to take advantage of them for whatever reason; posting it on youtube for laughs or whatever. I understand the value of filming some encounters but in this case it was a bad call, they were just arguing and the guy ended up looking like a real idiot. You are not Magnum P.I., bro.

  26. Bottom line for me is he went out of his way to involve himself in a situation he had every chance to avoid. Once he failed to avoid it, he had every opportunity to disengage. By choosing to involve himself, he escalated the situation and increased the chance of someone getting shot. And someone nearly did get shot. He said he was recording to make sure the situation turned violent, but then he nearly killed the very same people he said he was trying to protect.

    Avoid stupid places where stupid people do stupid things.

  27. I guess the best way to sum up things like this situation are as follows:
    If you’re willing to put yourself in danger for others, that’s fine. Just be aware that these things can be messy and if you have a spouse and kids who are dependent on you, you might want to rethink whether it’s a good idea to risk yourself for someone else.
    No one can make that decision for you but you.

  28. From watching the first part of the video my impression is that the guy with the camera is an idiot. He says he is trying to stop someone from getting hurt. How is he going to to that with a camera ? How does recording these people stop anything from happening ? He got involved in something that was none of his business. He should have either left it alone or called the cops. He is not a Cop so it is not his job to interfere with something like this. They were not attacking him and he did not know them so why get involved ? Recording them and then arguing with them about it was dumb and prevented nothing. Could have got himself seriously injured or killed. Having a camera or a gun on you does not make you Superman. And if you think it does then you should not carry.

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