“According to Houston police, the owner of the shop in the 8500 block of Westcott near Camay returned to his shop, which is currently still under construction, around 9:45 p.m. and found a man inside trying to steal some items,” chron.com reports. “The two began scuffling, and the business owner, who was armed, pulled out his firearm and shot the man. The burglar was taken to LBJ Hospital in critical condition, where he died. His identity has not yet been released.” Result! And yet it’s an important cautionary tale, one that reminds me of a force-on-force exercise I designed for Simunitions Training . . .
The scenario (as described to the participant): you’re coming home from work. That’s it. That’s all I told them. The instructions to the bad guy: lay on the floor in the middle of the room. Don’t move or respond in any way. At some point, slowly lift up your gun and shoot the returning homeowner.
To a man, the home owners came into the room and started yelling commands at the moribund invader. All of them drew their gun. Some were alert enough to do so while moving to cover. Some did so with their head on a swivel, looking for other threats. Two home owners managed to shoot the bad guy before getting shot. Three did not. All of them failed.
The gun guru in the video above says the biggest mistake you can make for room clearing is to go in too quickly. Wrong. The biggest mistake you can make is to go in somewhere where you’re going to be shot or killed.
When the home owner(s) entered their house and saw a stranger lying on the floor they should have backed-up, closed the door, moved away from the building and called the police. But even in a simulation, the participants thought of the room as “their” home. They considered it their job to enter the space and clear the house. Imagine how the Houston business owner above felt seeing someone stealing from his business. Hence the confrontation, altercation and termination.
Is anything you own worth your life? Again, the only gunfight you’re guaranteed to win is the one you don’t have. Staying on point, the entrance to a room is a “fatal funnel.” The door frame perfectly frames the person entering, who has nowhere to move laterally. In other words, a doorway creates an easy shot for a bad guy. That’s one of the reasons the police and military perform room-clearing operations in teams, and consider it one of the most difficult and dangerous jobs.
Bottom line: gun or no gun, don’t go where angels fear to tread. If you hear something “unusual” going on downstairs late at night, don’t feel obliged to go room-by-room to “investigate.” And if you do, don’t go any deeper in a room than you have to. That’s critical too. Fatal funnel or no, you can observe a room from a doorway or entrance. The further you get from your point of escape – the way you came in – the harder it is to escape if you need to.
Of course, there are exceptions to this rule . . .
I changed the scenario. You’re coming home from work. You hear your daughter screaming in the back bedroom. [NB: none of the five participants in this scenario had run the first exercise; they were all surprised by the “dead” guy in the middle of the room.] Most did the room clearing thing, trying to “slice the pie” as they moved towards the bedroom – even as they tried to keep an eye on the man lying in the middle of the room. Some shouted to their daughter. Some didn’t. Three got shot when the bad guy woke up. One got shot by the bad guy in the back room.
The correct response? Same as before. Close the door and call the cops.
I know that sounds odd but there’s no sense rushing into a deadly situation and getting yourself killed, especially if you haven’t called for backup. That won’t rescue anyone. Get intel. How bad is the screaming? How many bad guys? Where are they? Keep in mind that you know the layout of your house and, perhaps, the number and location of any hostages. The cops don’t. That information is extremely valuable; you don’t want it dying with you.
That said, if you gotta do what an armed defender’s gotta do just don’t over-penetrate the room. Any room. That said, the fifth participant in the screaming daughter scenario ran into his house, shot the guy lying on the floor, twice, ran to the bedroom, threw open the door and shot the second bad guy, taking a hit to the leg. She was safe. You pays your money . . .