By George L. Lyon, Jr. of Arsenal Attorneys
We in the defensive firearms training community are forever urging our students to make a plan and practice the plan. But who practices drawing from a purse while soaking wet and naked?
It will soon be a year since Lynne Russell and her husband Chuck de Caro were just looking for a dog friendly place to stay for the night.
The two former CNN newspersons were traveling from the Washington, DC area to Los Angeles with their 13-year-old dog, Oliver and decided to follow the legendary Route 66. They had stopped to have dinner in Albuquerque, New Mexico with friends.
Lynne is most well known as the first female network nightly news anchor, having spent 18 years anchoring CNN’s headline news from 1983 to 2001. Few people know she is a licensed private investigator and once served as a sheriff’s deputy in Georgia.
Chuck served with the 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne) prior to a career as a special assignments correspondent for CNN. He currently is a national security consultant and veteran of the Special Forces. They both hold carry permits from their home state. Their route allowed them to carry their personal protection handguns almost their entire trip up to the California state line.
I recently had the pleasure of providing them the 18-hour District of Columbia Concealed Pistol License course, during which we discussed in detail the events occurring that night in Albuquerque.
After their dinner with friends, Lynne and Chuck had limited options for lodging in Albuquerque. Needing some place that would accept their pet, they thought Motel 6 had left the light on for them.
What they didn’t know is that this Motel 6 they chose had been the scene of hundreds of police responses over the preceding several years. It was a frequent location for prostitution, drug deals, and other crimes.
The City of Albuquerque had previously threatened to take action against the motel, prompting the establishment to install 32 surveillance cameras and to employ a security guard. On the night in question, however, the security guard was on an extended personal phone call, and no one at Motel 6 was monitoring the security cameras.
Thinking they were in for the night, Chuck and Lynne took off their carry guns and placed them on a table beside one of the beds. Chuck then headed to the bathroom to take a shower. Lynne needed to feed the dog, but had left the dog food in the car.
She went out to the car to get the dog food. There she met Tomorio Walton, who apparently was in violation of his parole from a 2010 Tennessee aggravated robbery conviction. Walton had been convicted for robbing a woman at gun point as she was walking to her apartment.
Walton asked Lynne for a cigarette as she walked to her car. “I don’t smoke,” she replied. The suspicious Walton made her Spidey sense tingle, but when she looked back at him, he had disappeared. Motel 6 video cameras show that Walton had secreted himself around a corner and as Lynne returned to her motel room, Walton grabbed her and pushed her into the room with enough force that she ended up sprawled on one of the beds.
At that instant Chuck came out of the shower naked and wet looking for a towel. He saw Walton sending his wife flying through the air backwards. As she crashed on the bed, Chuck yelled, “What the hell is going on here!” He thought she was going to be raped.
Walton quickly leveled a gun at Chuck and said “I need your money” and concocted some story that his girlfriend had been kidnapped. The couple were carrying very little cash, however. Seven long minutes of negotiation then proceeded about whether they had anything of value to give the robber. All the while, Walton was waiving a semi-automatic handgun at Lynne and Chuck. Lynne explained to me she was convinced Walton was going to kill them after he got what he wanted.
Walton did not see their guns lying on the table between the beds, so dripping wet Chuck moved in front of them to block Walton’s vision. Lynne managed to grab her purse and slip one of the guns into it. She handed it to Chuck saying, “Honey, I think there’s something in here you can give him.” Chuck replied, “Yes, there is.”
Chuck explained to me that he thought about whether he could shoot through the purse, but was concerned whether his semi-automatic handgun would malfunction so he knew he had to draw the gun from the purse to shoot. Walton by this time had grabbed Chuck’s laptop computer, headed for the door, then turned and opened fire on Chuck. Chuck drew his gun from the purse and returned fire. He advanced on Walton in a combat crouch while yelling a battle cry of the US Army Rangers. His military training from four decades earlier had automatically kicked in.
In what Chuck thinks was no longer than four seconds, both men emptied their guns. Three of Chuck’s seven .380 FMJ rounds were stopped by the laptop Walton held. The remaining four rounds struck Walton who then threw his empty gun at Chuck, ran out of the motel room and collapsed in the parking lot where he soon died. Chuck took a through and through round to the abdomen, another shot to the abdomen that is still in his body, and a hit to the leg.
As he lay rapidly bleeding on the motel room floor, he chanted repeatedly, “call 911, compress the wound, elevate my feet, give me fluids.” Miraculously, the robber’s shots missed anything vital though Chuck is still recovering a year later after multiple surgeries.
There are several takeaways from this incident. Among them:
First, a gun does you no good unless you are carrying it. Lynne was only going to be out of the room for a few minutes, but it was during those minutes when the threat developed. She left her gun on the table in the room. She recounts that one of the detectives who interviewed her after the shooting said, “What were you thinking going out of that room without your gun?”
Second, don’t assume a nationwide chain of lodging establishments are safe and don’t assume anyone is monitoring the security cameras. Lynne and Chuck have now learned that there have been serious problems with Motel 6’s around the country, not just the one where their incident occurred, and several have been shut down. They are suing Motel 6 and the company that provided the security guard who was distracted from the incident by a lengthy personal phone call.
Third, Lynne was attacked during a period of transition when her attention was focused on opening the motel room door. Moments of transition are periods where we are most vulnerable due to task fixation. It is important to heighten our awareness during those periods and be sure our environment is safe.
Fourth, mindset prevailed. Chuck had the warrior mindset that he was going to protect who he calls “the girl of my dreams” at all costs. He drew while at gunpoint himself, closed on the attacker, and won the gun fight despite taking multiple rounds.
Fifth, Chuck ended the threat with relatively weak .380 FMJ rounds fired from a small handgun. The assailant was shooting hollow points, also .380, but most of them missed Chuck and Lynne. Good shot placement took out the attacker.
Sixth, if it comes down to it, an object like a laptop computer might offer some cover to protect vital areas of the body.
Seventh, take a trauma medicine course with your travel companion and have on hand with you a minimum blow-out kit: a tourniquet, pressure bandages, and a hemostatic agent such as Quikclot™ or Celox™. Lynne only had the motel’s towels to try to stop Chuck’s bleeding.
Eighth, don’t expect the fight to be cost free. From a legal standpoint, this was a black and white self-defense shooting; however, Chuck was shot and has a long period of rehabilitation. Police took their guns for evidence. Their dog was so traumatized he had to be put down. Lynne and Chuck now fear retribution from Walton’s accomplices who appear to have gang connections. Attempted murder charges against the assailant’s cohort, have been officially dropped because the main witness has disappeared. Hence, the need for the District of Columbia carry permits.
By the way, both passed their shooting qualification and are the 75th and 76th persons to receive carry permit licenses from the District of Columbia.
George L. Lyon, Jr, Esq. is an attorney licensed in Virginia and the District of Columbia, and he practices law with Arsenal Attorneys™, a national law practice. Mr. Lyon was one of the initial plaintiffs in the US Supreme Court’s landmark Second Amendment case, District of Columbia v. Heller. He was also a plaintiff in Palmer v. District of Columbia, which last year forced DC to begin issuing carry permits to residents and nonresidents.
Mr. Lyon is one of the few firearms instructors certified by DC Metropolitan Police Department to provide the required training for DC carry permits. He can be reached at arsenalattorneys.com. This article is written for general educational purposes only. It does not offer legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. Always seek legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.