Yesterday, I was taken to task for suggesting that a gun owner in a Wendy’s robbed by three armed men should have laid low and done what the Brits call sweet FA (i.e. nothing). A commentator asked if the vic were an undercover cop, should he “cower” under a table? To which I replied yes. Until and unless he was forced to confront the robbers. Today, a reader sent a link to a story with an almost identical scenario: three armed robbers in a fast food restaurant. In this case, one of the victims had a gun and used it. His experience highlights some of the legal and strategic thinking that should determine if and when an armed civilian should draw a weapon on armed antagonists . . .
According to Sgt. Jarrard Farlay of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police department, three men walked in the front door of the Pizza Hut located at 5422 East Independence Boulevard in east Charlotte just past 11 pm Monday.
The suspects produced guns, and forced two employees toward the back of the restaurant, and into the store’s cooler.
At some point, and for an unknown reason, the gunmen severely beat one of the workers. That’s when, police said, a dishwasher for the Pizza Hut pulled his own gun and shot at least two of the men.
Two of the robbery suspects were pronounced dead on scene by Medic. The third suspect managed to get away.
The basic philosophy: if you’re in imminent danger of death, you need to start shooting, no matter what the odds. Imminent. As in about to happen. In the Wendy’s incident, the patrons were in danger of death. But not imminent danger. Although the robbers had guns, they didn’t display behavior indicating a high likelihood that they were going to start shooting. As far as we know.
In the end, they didn’t shoot anyone; they left the scene of the crime without discharging their weapons. So, no shots fired, no one killed. Happy ending. OK, an injudicious gentleman named Keliseious Reese followed the robbers out of the burger joint and triggered a firefight. But there was no gunplay inside the Wendy’s.
Obviously, “imminence” is a subjective determination. Truth be told, if there had been an undercover cop in the Wendy’s who opened fire on the robbers, no one (including me) would have debated his or her decision. But the default setting in a crime: keep your powder dry. Don’t draw your weapon unless you must act to save life and limb.
Quick digression: let’s say you were a patron at the Wendy’s with a concealed weapon. The robbers shoot someone. Shoot or don’t shoot? You should still consider the option of not drawing your weapon and shooting. You are under no legal obligation to protect someone else’s life. Taking on three armed robbers is a daunting prospect; the resulting gunfight could take more innocent life than if you didn’t shoot.
There’s a key difference between the Wendy’s and Pizza Hut robberies. In the Pizza Hut crime, the robbers began herding two staff members into the back room. At that point, you have to assume they’re about to kill someone. Maybe everyone. It’s happened before. And you (the concealed carry guy or gal) can’t afford to take that risk. Time to get to whatever cover you can and let loose the dogs of war.
That said, this report leaves out some critical info. It appears that the dishwasher was not one of the two employees headed for the back room. Where was he? Did the robbers know he was there? While there are a number of factors which determine whether or not the dishwasher should have shot, in general, he made the right choice. And the thing of it is, with a gun, he had a choice.