Self-Defense Tip: Don’t Chase Bad Guys

Jeremy Cook (courtesy cbc.ca)

My Facebook friend Beth Baca recently asked her followers what she should do if she had a bad guy at bay in her home. Most commentators recommended that she should perforate the perp. Wrong answer. That’s cold-blooded murder. Also wrong: holding a bad guy at gunpoint. Other than a free-range bad guy, nothing could be more foolhardy than attempting to hold a dangerous criminal at gunpoint. Just let him go. Then let the cops go find him. Equally, it’s a bad idea to go bad guy hunting. Here’s a tragic story from our neighbors to the north that illustrates the folly of being your own law enforcer/cop/detective . . .

Jeremy Cook [above], a native of Brampton, Ont., was gunned down at about 5:15 a.m. ET on Sunday. London police found his body at the rear of a strip mall near Huron Street and Highbury Avenue in the city’s north end. He had multiple gunshot wounds.

Cook had left his smartphone in a taxi and traced it electronically to an address on Highbury Avenue.

When he and a relative went to the address, he was confronted by three men in a car, Steeves told CBC News.

What happened next is still being pieced together, but police say that when Cook tried to retrieve his phone, the vehicle began to drive away, prompting him to grab on to the driver’s side door. Shots were fired and Cook died from multiple wounds.

The blame for the killing rests squarely on the shoulders of the man who pulled the trigger, and those who enabled the assassination. That said, I appears that Mr. Cook somehow figured that the person who had his phone would surrender it peacefully. That assumption was optimistic and fatally flawed. He should have left the recovery of his property to the police.

As repeated here frequently, avoid stupid people in stupid places (e.g., a car park at the crack of dawn) doing stupid things. When it comes to personal safety, criminals are the dictionary definition of “stupid people.” They are to be avoided at all costs. Seeking them out, or holding them at bay, raises the risk of reducing your body to ambient temperature.

There are plenty of people who consider it their civic duty to apprehend bad guys when the police can’t or won’t do their job. I do not begrudge them their moral code and personal bravery. But safety says leave law enforcement to people paid to perform that task. Unless, of course, you have no option.

comments

  1. avatar ColdNorth says:

    “He should have left recovery to the police”- unfortunately, in London (or Brampton) that means never getting the phone back. But even if the thieves weren’t armed, going alone was not the best choice.

    I think a large measure of blame also rests on the media in Canada, as they have done a great job of making people fear law-abiding gun owners, while at the same time hiding a lot of the violent actions by real criminals. Many Canadians are unaware of what crooks are capable of doing, or of what is done daily in their cities.

    1. avatar Robert Farago says:

      He went with a relative. Was he expecting trouble? Then he should have avoided it.

      1. avatar ColdNorth says:

        Ah, that’s what I get for reading too quickly. But like I said, thanks to a (false) perception of overall safety, he probably believed that there was no real trouble- at least, nothing beyond a stern glance and perhaps a strong word or two. The relative was more for a security blanket than actual security. The whole situation reminds me of Marc MacYoung’s advice in his piece, “High Risk Behavior and Knowing Where You Are”.

    2. avatar Kyle says:

      I hear what your saying and understand the sentiment.

      But to be clear, you are in fact saying.

      “Let criminals do whatever they want, its not your problem. Let the police, who will do nothing, do their job and go buy a new phone”

      I reject that philosophy completely.

      I recognize that this may cost me my life.

      1. avatar karlb says:

        In no way did the writer state that we should let criminals do whatever they want. He stated that it would be far smarter to try to recover the phone using another tactic. Even if Jeremy Cook went to recover his phone, he should have been smart enough to not chase after three men in a car after they refused to return the phone.

        This is far from “let criminals do what they want.”

  2. avatar MarkPA says:

    “. . . what she should do if she had a bad guy at bay in her home.”
    “. . . he and a relative went to the address . . . ”

    Apples to oranges teaser to story.

    The general guidance “Don’t chase bad guys” is sound. The circumstances where defying this axiom are exceedingly rare.

    The teaser question was in the context of a bad guy at bay in the gun-woman’s home.

    If she has realistic doubts about her ability to hold the bad guy until the police can respond then letting him go ought to be near the top of the list of options.

    She knows where she is located relative to the police force; it’s either minutes or hours away. Holding a home invader for 3 – 12 – 24 minutes is realistic; beyond that, she would have to be concerned with the difficulty of maintaining her continuous attention.

    She knows whether she is successful in contacting 911; she has either called already or she can/can’t call while holding the perp. If she has reason to believe the police will be there soon, holding him is an option. If she has no reason to hope the police might come then holding him is not an option.

    A likely unknown is the possibility of resources available to the perp if she lets him go. Does he have confederate(s) waiting outside? Are they armed? Might they be tempted to resume a second attack? Will they interpret her willingness to let the perp go as being unwilling to pull the trigger?

    Suppose she is in a relatively remote area. The perp has broken-down the door such that it can’t be remediated to serve as a barrier until the next morning. A sole defendant will have to remain awake guarding her perimeter until she has a retreat option. If the police come momentarily, she can retreat with police escort; if she will have no protection in retreating to her car and driving to safety then she is in a jam. If the land-line is cut and cell-phone service is unavailable she may not be able to do anything to summon backup.

    All the foregoing scenarios are weighed-off against her legal position should she shoot him after he as ceased the attack. Shooting him in the back while he is lying on the floor face-down, arms extended is going to make for a crime scene where she is the obvious suspect.

    Shooting a perpetrator is a last resort; however, it might be the only rational option under some relatively realistic circumstances. To mitigate the probability of this being the only rational option we should think ahead and plan to strengthen our perimeter (doors, windows, etc.) with a view to dissuading an invader’s attack. If an invader overcomes strong and high barriers the (reputable) presumption is that he is leaving the defender no alternative but to respond with the greatest force available to her.

    1. avatar mmm says:

      You shoot him. If hes in your house hes a danger to you. If you let him go hes a danger to all your neighbors. I couldn’t live with myself if I let some criminal go and he went a house down to rape and kill them. I understand not wanting to kill another human. I just dont consider criminals of that nature as human.

      1. avatar Bruce says:

        The problem legally is that if you can’t convince a court of self defense, you have committed at a minimum manslaughter, and potentially second, or even first, degree murder. If you kill someone, it is murder/manslaughter if you can’t prove legal justication, which typically means self defense. And that essentially requires a reasonable fear of imminent loss of life or great bodily injury. If you fail providing strong enough evidence of any element of self defense, life is over for you as you know it. (In 49 states, burden is on the state to disprove elements beyond a reasonable doubt, but there has to be evidence supporting that element first to disprove). To rephrase that – the state only needs to disprove one self defense element (beyond a reasonable doubt) to kill the defense, which inevitably means conviction of the alleged offense. So, if you are charged with murder, and your fear was not reasonable, or the threat not imminent, etc, you will likely end up in prison, convicted of murder.

        1. avatar derek says:

          if a person can’t prove self defense when an intruder is in their home , then we are all screwed.

        2. avatar Tominator says:

          “Most commentators recommended that she should perforate the perp. Wrong answer. That’s cold-blooded murder.”

          I live in Illinois, the southern part, and no prosecutor[Mostly Democrat] in these parts will prosecute you for shooting anyone on your property trying to steal or break in whether it’s your vehicle or home.

          EVERYONE is tired of the crime!

  3. avatar Felix says:

    He apparently didn’t consider the idea that the actual crook had long since sold the phone, that he might be confronting someone who had bought it, and that person might think he was being carjacked.

    1. avatar derek says:

      or had thought he was safe in a country with strict gun control laws.

  4. avatar NDS says:

    The simple rule is don’t draw down on someone unless you are about to shoot. If in that one second of time they begin to turn and run, good for them. Get a description and call the cops. You are not the police, you most likely to not have the ability to safely detain someone and DEFINITELY will not have a proper retention holster when confronting a home invader in your underoos.

    Shoot to stop the threat, call the cops, and secure your weapon (preferably not in the waistband of said underoos)

    1. avatar Bruce says:

      Not sure if I fully agree with the last element. The question is, until the police arrive, whether you are safer with your weapon drawn or not. Also, you should ask whether you (and your loved ones) are safer waiting for the police there, or elsewhere? There are probably times when keeping an eye on the (potentially wounded) perp is safer, and times when it isn’t, esp if he possibly had accomplices, etc.

      1. avatar NDS says:

        Okay I’m with you to some degree, I guess there are two different paths to take depending on results.

        1. Aggressor is very clearly dead, IE several shots to COM or CNS I’d still secure my gun and keep the wife and kids in their current safe spot. Also probably put on a shirt, we’ve all seen what happens to the shirtless guy on Cops. Wait for police on front porch, with every possible light on (39W LED floods out front)

        2. Aggressor has stopped the fight after being shot but is alive. Whether they are physically incapacitated or hurt their pinky, they are no longer an active threat. I would retain my gun at this point, in case aggressor decides to turn BACK into a threat. Note that I do not say hold the guy at gunpoint – if this is necessary then he is still a threat. Risk being shot by arriving police as RF has stated so many times. This would be the only situation I could think of to stay on the line with dispatch until the police arrive. Any other time I would call, give my name and description, say I need an ambulance and hang up.

    2. avatar JohnF says:

      Respectfully disagree about the “The simple rule is don’t draw down on someone unless you are about to shoot.” If there is a stranger in my house, the gun will already be out, there will be no draw. Whether I use it or not is up to the home invader. If he beats feet or freezes, the gun will stay out until I am sure scene is secure, or the cops show up, whichever happens first. If he advances on me, he will be going down.

      If I am on the street the gun comes out when I justifiably feel I am threatened with grave bodily harm by someone. If the threat is immediate, I will fire immediately. However, if I have some time/distance/cover, I may give the guy the chance to reconsider his actions. It just depends on the situation.

      I won’t draw unless I am justified to shoot, but there is some grey area between being justified and actually having to shoot immediately to save your life. I plan to use that grey area to my advantage and not let the BG use it to his advantage.

  5. avatar locke_n_load says:

    “Also wrong: holding a bad guy at gunpoint. Other than a free-range bad guy, nothing could be more foolhardy than attempting to hold a dangerous criminal at gunpoint. Just let him go. Then let the cops go find him.”

    Couldn’t disagree more with this. You see stories all time where a concealed carrier or home defender holds suspect at gunpoint till the police arrive. It would be hard to live with myself if I simply let a bad go, and then he went on to rob or kill someone else. Most people, with a barrel directed at them, will heed commands. I agree that I wouldn’t chase down a suspect once off my property, but I wouldn’t simply let someone walk out after they forced themselves in. After that hard work, they have earned some time off in a nice barred cell.

    1. avatar Hellbilly says:

      100% agreed. I personally see nothing wrong with holding someone at gun point as long as you keep a solid reactionary gap and they are complying with your commands.

      1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

        Holding a home invader at gunpoint with a handgun carries a substantial amount of risk. Remember, you could put a perfect shot in the attacker’s heart and he would be physiologically capable of attacking you for at least 10 seconds and probably more like 20 seconds.

        1. avatar Grindstone says:

          1) I study all local DGUs in my area (know your battlefield) and I have never seen a single one where a perp was shot then went on to harm the resident. In fact, 80% of the time, that one shot was all it took to stop the perp, be it by room temperature or breaking the will to continue on.
          2) It’s still less risk than by letting the perp run off. He will be out of your LOS, you will no longer know his whereabouts, if he is armed or not, and what he is doing. Having him flat on your kitchen floor is by far the safest option.

  6. avatar Hellbilly says:

    “Most commentators recommended that she should perforate the perp. Wrong answer. That’s cold-blooded murder.”

    Not in Ohio and other Castle Doctrine states. It is perfectly legal to shoot someone who breaks into your home in Ohio. Unless you’ve got the perp already tied-up or he’s running across your front lawn, a shooting is good-to-go. A person breaking into an occupied home is up to no good. Therefore they are a danger and a threat. They need to be treated as such. Not everyone lives where cops can respond within a couple of minutes. Many areas can take 30-minutes or more for police to arrive. Of course, however, such situations should never be confronted without some degree of judgement by the occupant(s) of the home.

    1. avatar Bruce says:

      Castle Doctrine isn’t that simple. Essentially, what we are talking about are modifications and presumptions to the standard rule for legally excusable use of deadly force (i.e. self-defense). One part of the Castle Doctrine is an elimination of any duty to retreat in your home. And the other presumes that someone breaking into your house is doing so for nefarious reasons. But don’t get carried away – perforating an 8 year old neighborhood kid is rarely a good idea. And a lot of states have more specific requirements, like showing that the perp was intending to commit, or had committed, some other crime than merely breakin in.

      Oh, and my understanding is that Ohio is the only state where the state merely needs to disprove a single self defense element by a preponderance of the evidence (49 states require proof beyond a reasonable doubt) to overcome the defense. This maybe why they have a strong Castle Doctrine, but also suggests that you be cautious.

  7. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    Look at it this way. A home invader/s has unequivocally demonstrated that he/she/they have no regard whatsoever for you or your family, period. At the very least they have already inflicted serious psychological trauma and will harm you financially when they steal your property. At worst they will proceed to inflict serious physical wounds, sexual assault, and/or death. This IS the context of a home invasion, period.

    Given that context:
    If a home invader does not immediately proceed to vacate your home at the very instant they realize you are home, your only reasonable conclusion is that the home invader/s will proceed to inflict serious physical wounds, sexual assault, and/or death. The same applies if the home invader/s already know that you are home before they invade. In other words, it is not rational to give a home invader/s “the benefit of the doubt” that they are kind, benevolent souls when their very act of invading your home has already demonstrated that they are not kind, benevolent souls.

    You have to decide how you want to act if a home invasion happens to you. Whatever you do, choose wisely. Make a foolish choice and it might be your last act on this Earth.

  8. avatar mk10108 says:

    “That said, It appears that Mr. Cook somehow figured that the person who had his phone would surrender it peacefully. That assumption was optimistic and fatally flawed”.

    This is the pearl in the piece. The culture of gun control equals less crime lays the foundation of a false narrative. Over time law abiding citizens come to believe they can interact with criminals because they’re suppose to be unarmed. Imagine Mr. Cooks’ realizing his error when starring at the business end of a barrel.

  9. avatar Tex300BLK says:

    Wrong headline… Should “This is what happens to a disarmed society: foolhardy youth assume the baddies play by the rules”

    Tell it like it is, I work with a lot of younger and very optimistic people who look at me strange when I tell them I keep a loaded pistol by the bed for home defense, the usual response is that they would tell the intruder to “get the fk out” or worse, would initiate a fist fight with the intruder to teach them a lesson.

  10. avatar Jonathan - Houston says:

    Password protect your phone. Don’t keep sensitive information on it, like passwords.
    Remote wipe it if easy and safe recovery is not possible. Or……don’t be a ten year old and misplace your phone in the first place.

    As for bad guy hunting, I wouldn’t recommend it, either. Even the police, with all of their advantages, tend to do that only with superior numbers and overwhelming resources.

  11. avatar AllAmerican says:

    Don’t bother defending yourself period. Don’t bother owning guns either. It’s all too risky. What would a jury think? You owned guns- guns kill, premeditated. Better to let the police handle it. They’ll be there in less than 2 minutes, just like in the movies.

    1. avatar Lucas D. says:

      Yeah, I’m quite burned out on arguments based around the hypothetical crusading D.A. who’ll lock you up for life because you put night sights on your pistol or used ammo from a neon green box. If you’re that frightened of the ramifications of shooting someone in self defense, you’d be better off not protecting yourself with a gun at all.

      1. avatar Jonathan - Houston says:

        It may be overplayed, but it’s more than merely hypothetical. Zimmerman found that out for himself when a politically-driven prosecutor went after him.

        1. avatar Geoff PR says:

          I have a George Zimmerman update for TTAG:

          Matthew Apperson charged with attempted murder

          http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/trayvon-martin-george-zimmerman/os-george-zimmerman-matthew-apperson-20150618-story.html

  12. avatar EJQ says:

    My family’s phones are insured. There’s no way i’d want a family member to risk their life over their stupid phone!

    1. avatar pod says:

      Unless the phone was left in a place like a restaurant or business, once it’s gone, it’s gone. I only mention the restaurant example because I’ve successfully retrieved phones from restaurants. I doubt the bartender is going to lay a trap and shoot me.

      But if I were to drop a phone in public and forget I did, and I tracked it. I’d lock it, wipe it, and do an insurance claim. Not worth the risk of chasing it down and getting into a fight.

      1. avatar Jonathan - Houston says:

        You might at least call it, to see whether someone’s found it and is willing to return it. Although, if password protected, they may not be able to answer it.

        I’ve found several cell phones over the years (one in a shopping cart, one in the men’s room, and one just on the ground) and waited for the owner to call. The men’s room one was an iPhone at work, which turned out to belong to my boss.

        The other two were strangers’ phones, pre-smartphone era, so they could only call and hope I was honest. It was simple enough to arrange a meeting at Starbucks. Be prepared to offer a reward. Hot chocolate worked for me.

  13. avatar Ralph says:

    At the moment of my jeopardy, I would shoot a home invader. Full stop. But once jeopardy is no longer imminent, shooting the BG would be an execution — and I’m not an executioner.

    Yes, I would “hold” a single BG at gunpoint (with him face first on the floor) if I felt that I could do so without placing myself in danger. If I felt otherwise, or if there was more than one, I would let them go, but without their pants and the contents of their pockets. The cops should have little trouble finding pantless men running around the streets of my town.

    1. avatar ropingdown says:

      Just so I can be sure to implement this strategy correctly, I must ask:

      If the guy refuses to take his pants off, should I shoot? “Yes, your Honor, I shot him the second he refused to take his pants off….”

    2. avatar JohnF says:

      Why would you want to take his pants? I sense some inappropriate fixation here.

      What are you going to say to the cops? “This is the guy you’re looking for, officer, here are his pants!” Like they are going to have a search dog sniff them and track him down?

      Or, “Officer, you’ll be looking for a guy without pants!”

      Officer: “In this neighborhood, that doesn’t narrow it down much. That would be the third one this shift!”

    3. avatar Geoff PR says:

      “The cops should have little trouble finding pantless men running around the streets of my town.”

      You mean the cops on patrol wouldn’t just chuckle and say “Must be a helluva party at Ralph’s!”

      🙂

  14. avatar Stinkeye says:

    Lots of 20/20 hindsight here. As far as Mr. Cook knew when he traced the phone to that address, it wasn’t “stolen by bad guys”. He left it in the taxi himself, remember? It could just as easily been the taxi driver’s home or the next passenger who picked it up and would have been happy to return it to him. It wasn’t super smart to go try to retrieve it, unknowns being unknown and all, but his real mistake was not walking away when the creeps wouldn’t let him have the phone back. At that point, it should have been clear to him that he wasn’t dealing with upstanding citizens.

  15. avatar Grindstone says:

    He should have left recovery to the police

    Yeah, because that happens?

    Also, I have never seen a DGU where the resident is holding the home invader at bay waiting for the police and the perp flees. How is that dangerous? You have him squarely pinned with your muzzle. Hopefully you ordered him to the ground. Its FAR more dangerous to let him to run off. Then you don’t know where he is. You don’t know what he’s doing. You don’t know what he’s arming himself with. Why would you give this “advice” RF? It’s very irresponsible.

    1. avatar Grindstone says:

      Also, WTH does a guy going to a thief’s address to find his phone have to do with a home invasion? You’re off your game today, Robert.

      1. avatar Stinkeye says:

        In addition to all that, the headline “Don’t Chase Bad Guys” doesn’t really apply in either the hypothetical home invasion or the story of the guy and his phone…

  16. avatar Matt says:

    Wait, I though London had no guns. Not even all cops carry. So how on earth were there armed thugs? The mind, it boggles

    1. avatar ColdNorth says:

      In this case it’s London, Ontario, rather than London, England. I think they still use Glocks.

  17. avatar Skyler says:

    This post is a confused mess.

    Of course you can hold someone. Why not? If they threaten you, then shoot them, but hold a gun on them until the police arrive.

    The guy with the phone’s biggest problem is that he didn’t have his own gun.

  18. avatar JJ48 says:

    If someone breaks into your home, and then you have them at gunpoint until the police arrive, isn’t that just a citizen’s arrest? Or do I misunderstand the term?

    Either way, that’s completely different from saying, “There are bad guys somewhere over there, where I am not, and to the best of my knowledge no one’s life is in immediate peril. I will go confront these bad guys alone instead of letting the authorities handle to it!”

  19. avatar pod says:

    In Florida, you are allowed to open fire on anyone who breaks into your home. However, you are not allowed to carry out an execution. If the person dies because you shot him in the initial confrontation, so be it. If you’ve shot him and he’s on the ground groaning and writhing about, you aren’t allowed to deliver the coupe de grace. And by the letter of the law here, you actually have to make an attempt to render first aid. Inside your home it’s actually pretty simple. You can legally shoot as long as it’s not an execution.

    Now, if you present your firearm and the invader makes a beeline out the door or window before you can fire, you gotta let him go. Even if you shoot and he’s still on your property in the front yard or whatever, the kill can be called into question. If he runs, let him go, stay vigilant, and call the cops.

    Detainment and playing cop doesn’t seem like a wise decision. Too many things can go wrong between the time you have the guy detained and the time the cops show up. Best to either just shoot the invader, or let him run if you miss/don’t shoot.

  20. avatar Kendahl says:

    I expect he was programmed to believe that Canadians are civilized and nonviolent. Nobody would commit murder over a cell phone. That could only happen in the United States because it’s overrun with guns. If Americans would just give them up they would be immediately transformed into peaceful Canadians. Note that I am Canadian by birth. Their attitude toward gun ownership (and self defense) is one of the reasons why I am now a naturalized US citizen.

    1. avatar pod says:

      I worked on a concert tour with a Canadian leg for about four months a few years ago. I saw plenty of violence and crime in most of the major Canadian cities. I even saw some guy get beaten and tased by the cops in Edmonton. Montréal at times felt like a powder keg waiting to explode. I was touring in a technical capacity but still I got roped into some other stuff. You haven’t lived until you have a bunch of Bloc Quebecois (?) threatening to crush your skull because you wouldn’t let them backstage.

      1. avatar Geoff PR says:

        pod the roadie?

        What group was that for?

        If you say Justin Bieber I’ll puke…

  21. avatar Ben says:

    You know, this site keeps deteriorating in decent content. First the whole “let’s all be friends/kumbaya/acceptance/no hate” crap, and then there is this whopper. No, I’m not going to let a freaking bad guy go. I don’t really care if it’s dangerous, but he is not going out of my house unless he is in cuffs. He was a risk to me, and he would be a big risk to others. Golden rule applies-I would hope my neighbor doesn’t let an intruder run away, and you better know that I won’t either.

  22. avatar Icabod says:

    The “bad guy at bay” senecio assumes a pretty peaceful burglar. The one whose family would go “turning his life around; marry mother (s) of his children, going back to school.” However, what if he killed your dog, raped your child, has a knife and the only way out is through you. About time for a ND, “Honestly officer the gun just went off.”

  23. avatar mannyp says:

    As a Canadian iam of the opinion that most people in canada have their head up their rear end when it comes to self defense. 90% of the populace believes nothing bad can happen and if it does “just call 911”. As a culture in canada it is “weird” if you give self defence even a passing thought. I bet this poor kid thought nothing bad will happen because thats what we are conditioned to believe in canada, We are taught to be friendly and reasonable. Man I hope we never get invaded. if we do we are screwed.

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