Stay Armed and Ready for Evil – Lessons Learned From Two Tragedies

The recent events in Sutherland Springs, Texas and the story of Stephen Willeford’s brave response brought back some painful memories of another horrible event that cost the life of a good guy with a gun. This one happened in my own neighborhood.

November 22, 2014 was a Saturday and I was off duty, waiting in the drive-through lane at a nearby McDonald’s. The clock in my truck said it was 10:10 AM when I got the food order and I headed for home.

That’s when emergency calls came in to the local Consolidated Dispatch Agency. Flames had engulfed a home on Caracus Court, tucked near the back of a quiet cul-de-sac. Dispatch sent Tallahassee Fire Department and Leon County Sheriff’s deputies to the scene.

LCSO Deputies Colin Wulfekuhl and Chris Smith got the call and did what they were trained to do. They responded to the scene to try to help their fellow citizens.

What they didn’t know was that Curtis Wade Holley, 53, had intentionally set the house ablaze and asked a neighbor to call 911. From the 911 recordings, you can hear Holley coughing in the background as he waited for the first responders to arrive. Smith and Wulfekuhl were first on the scene, pulling up simultaneously to what they believed was a routine house fire.

That’s when Holley opened fire. Deputy Chris Smith was shot in the back of the head. Holley then took Smith’s duty weapon as Deputy Wulfekuhl sought cover and engaged Holley in what would become a 12-minute gun battle.

When Deputy Smith was shot, I was just opening the front door of my home. I lived a block away from Caracus Court and walked my dogs past that house in the evenings. At the time, all I kept at the ready in my home for self defense was a pistol on my nightstand.

Hearing gunshots ring out in my neighborhood was jarring. The echo made it hard to pinpoint where the shooting was coming from as I rushed to get my rifle ready. At the time I kept all of my long guns locked in my safe and all of my magazines were empty.

By the time I had made a rifle ready, the fight was over. Deputy Smith lay dead in the road and Curtis Holley had been shot to death by TPD officers.

Sound familiar? Sutherland Springs hero Stephen Willeford went through a similar situation.

Sutherland Springs, Texas hero Stephen Willeford

In an interview with Steven Crowder, Mr. Willeford revealed that when his daughter alerted him to the gunfire across the street, he rushed to make his own rifle ready. He too had to grab ammunition and load a magazine in order to engage the First Baptist Church shooter.

I am in no way faulting Mr. Willeford for his actions. He did what was needed with what he had at the time and for that he is a hero in every sense of the word. But with every tragedy, there are lessons to be learned.

The lesson I learned from that horrible day in November of 2014 was to always have a long gun ready to go. That’s something I’ve done continually since that fateful day. I keep a Ke-Tec SU-16 in my truck ready and secured via cable lock along with body armor and first aid equipment.

In my home, I keep my PS90 SBR at the ready in a 5.11 bag.

No one who has ever been in a gun fight has wished they had a smaller gun. The events of both Tallahassee in 2014 and Sutherland Springs last week reinforce that notion. If you’re going to keep a gun at the ready, its intended purpose is to protect lives and confront evil. Make sure it’s the biggest one you can use effectively.

Another lesson learned from these tragedies is that every system put in place by government has its points of failure that can cost lives.

With the case of Sutherland Springs, the United States Air Force failed to enter the killer’s information into NCIC/NCIS system. Human error. A failure that allowed Devin Kelley to legally purchase multiple firearms.

A similar situation occurred in Tallahassee. The Consolidated Dispatch Center had Curtis Holley in their CAD history as someone with a history of violent interactions with law enforcement and the address was red flagged. But dispatch entered the wrong address of the fire into the CAD that day. Human error.

They entered the neighbor’s address rather than the address of the residence that was on fire…Holley’s address. If the correct address had been entered for the call, the red flag notice would have been received by the units in route and Deputy Smith might still be alive today.

Both events were partially caused by administrative failures in systems that government officials blithely push as being foolproof. Gun control advocates push universal background checks, expanding a system that’s been proven not to work.

We, the People of the Gun must do what’s right. We must be ready to be our own first responders and confront evil if and when it presents a threat. We must stand resolutely steadfast and ever vigilant knowing that evil can and will appear because no system is foolproof no matter what advocates and the media may say. Our Founding Fathers included the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights for a reason, and it had nothing to do with hunting.

Stay safe, stay armed, and stay American, in heart and spirit.

Photography done by A. Valdes


  1. avatar Rick the Bear says:

    Good points (for those in a free state).

      1. avatar Joe R. says:

        ‘Cause your neighbors don’t trust you, and they hate you, and they are working tirelessly for satanic-communism.

        Just sayin’

      2. avatar nyglockowner says:

        Right. I carried all weekend in NC on my Utah non-resident license, but had to disarm before I entered MD on my way back to NY. At least we keep some loaded mags in the safe at home.

      3. avatar ironicatbest says:

        I obeyed the law until shot dead.

      4. avatar HP says:

        Huh? Can’t do what in New York?

  2. avatar ACP_arms says:

    Before the Texas church shooting I had the mags for my AR in the safe unloaded with the AR. After watching the interview with Willeford I didn’t want to end up with just a hand full of ammo for my rifle. So now I have two mags loaded and ready in the safe with the AR.

    1. avatar Falcon 12 says:

      Hornady AR wall mount AR safe. Just got one. Worth every penny.

      1. avatar ACP_arms says:

        I won’t rule something like that out, but I’m looking at getting a handgun with in a month or so, so there’s that. And getting to the safe with the AR is still faster then time it takes a sheriff deputy to show up.

  3. avatar Joe R. says:

    Everyone’s susceptible, even the police, and the incidents described above are just a small iteration of what could happen if multiple players went against the police (as THE target) at the same time (the police may be the one’s calling for help).

    CAVEAT: When I took a combat lifesaver course (shortly before deploying to Iraq) one bit of training that worked itself out in a hurry, was that people who (have been drilled on secondary-attack, and) are shot up bad, or have been blown up a little, are going to be a little disoriented and might shoot the first thing running up on them, even those who are trying to help. Or, they might shoot up people who are first attempting to neutralize the threat. And it gets even dicey-er sorting out who’s-who in the zoo if the one’s needing help aren’t really expecting help to come.

    Bottom line – IF/WHEN SHTF – you might be on your own, or your back-up might be on THEIR own, or both of you could be a worse nightmare (to each other) than the original problem.

  4. avatar strych9 says:

    Good article.

    Generally speaking I keep a percentage (~30%) of my mags loaded at any given time in case I want to hit the range in a hurry +3.

    The three stay with one of my rifles, two of the mags are in a shoulder bag similar to the one in the second to last picture. Slap a mag in the rifle, throw the bag over your shoulder and you’ve got 90 on tap plus a knife, medical in the main compartment of the bag, a spare pistol mag for my EDC plus some other odds and ends. That bag is also my “car bag” for trips outside my little town, when I decide to take a 5.56 with me, which I don’t always do.

    I don’t keep any of that stuff in my car though. Every once in awhile we have a rash of auto burglaries around here.

    1. avatar jwm says:

      My car has never been hit. But my daughters has in a well traveled area in daylight. So I don’t store a firearm on my car.

      I have emergency gear in my 4runner. I just add an appropriate gun or 2 depending on my needs. Hunting, road tripping, etc.

      1. avatar former water walker says:

        Well mine has JWM. Monday night a SOB turned the corner at high speed and bashed my drivers side as I waited at a light.Picking my son up at college. The POS sped away for a hit and run. Very heavy nightime traffic so I couldn’t chase his SUV. I carry a gun in a zippered case as I don’t have a CCL-yet. Police report too. It’s getting pretty stupid in the southern suburbs(of Chiraq). Be prepared…

        1. avatar Joe R. says:

          Will trade ya prayers.

      2. avatar strych9 says:

        I keep all that stuff in my trunk, with the exception of the stuff on the back of my driver’s seat, ever since some asshole broke into my old Rubicon and stole my entire medical bag looking for drugs.

        Morons returned the bag, sans all the drugs in it, to my neighbor’s house the next day too. I hope they liked snorting Zyrtec and aspirin.

        1. avatar strych9 says:

          My question is what people do when they ride a bike. I know there’s some other two wheel enthusiasts here.

          I don’t really see carrying a rifle as an option but I carry a pistol on my chest under my jacket and a small trauma kit under the rear seat of my bike. I’ve thought about adding a tank bag or other luggage but I feel like that just invites theft since I’m not really willing to spring for lockable luggage for my current bike.

          Curious what other people do. Options appreciated!

        2. avatar jwm says:

          My bike has quick detach saddle bags on it. They’re big enough for a useable amount of stuff.

          Not a perfect solution. But it works.

          To clarify, I’m talking about a bicycle. Not one of them motor powered thingies.

        3. avatar Joel says:

          When I used to commute via bike, I had a backpack. All my gear stayed in the backpack and it went wherever I did. I always carried extra ammo for my carry gun, and emergency first aid kit in it.

          I have a 3/4 ton suburban now. I carry a lot more gear than I did on the bike. 😉

        4. avatar strych9 says:


          I already use a backpack, which works pretty well but I’d love to expand the options and also be able to carry more than 6x5x4 when I don’t bother with the backpack. Storing a trauma kit under my rear seat means I have a pouch with trauma sheers, 1x Israeli Bandage, 1x Quik Clot, 1x chest seal, 1X TQ and that’s about it other than my insurance and registration.

          I’d love to be able to throw some more in there and just have it on the bike but like I said, sort of invites theft until you’re willing to spring for permanently mounted and lockable luggage which is, as I’m sure you’re aware, not cheap. Makes that backpack I reviewed look darn reasonable by comparison in fact.

          I’m wondering if anyone has found anything that’s sort of in between hardcore expensive luggage and the cheap stuff but also isn’t something that any asshole with a pocket knife can just cut off your bike and walk away with. Tank bags are cool and whatnot but they’re just magnetic. Someone can just grab that and walk off while I’m in the grocery store.

  5. avatar Defens says:

    I always carry, and have loaded pistols and a Mossberg 590 at strategic spots in the house, but had sort of stopped keeping an at-ready AR-15 handy.

    Last night I loaded up several mags for my trusty Bushmaster carbine, which is set up with a Redi-Mag. That puts 60 rounds on/in the gun, and a go-bag with additional AR15 mags, a 1911 and mags for it, and a shooting trauma kit (tourniquet, Israeli pressure bandages, blood clotting agent, etc.) within easy reach of the rifle. Oh, and some electronic hearing protection.

  6. avatar GS650G says:

    Eh if you got a cell phone just call 911. They’ll get someone out to help you, they’re the professionals. We’re just on the way after all.

    1. avatar Stereodude says:

      Baa, baa, baa said the sheep.

      1. avatar jwm says:

        Um, dude. I’m not a mechanic but I think your sarcasm meter is busted.

  7. avatar Chris T in KY says:

    I was thinking about a SU 16 kel Tek for my truck gun two years ago. But Kel Tek is really bad at meeting consumer demand. I use a Henry AR7 as a truck gun for now. A smaller caliber but it’s easier to conceal. I’m thinking about an AR pistol as an upgrade.

    1. avatar Rokurota says:

      Look for them used. Looks like Luis has the Charlie model, which is the most ideal, since you can fire it folded. I have the Alpha in my car in a tennis racquet bag with two mags. It’s light, piston driven, and runs great. Perfect for armed citizen use.

  8. avatar Hank says:

    I always keep a plate carrier with a combat load, anothercombat load in a small pack, a med pouch, AR, full size hand gun and full camel back ready to go at any time. I’m ready for a prolonged firefight. Events such as this simply reaffirm my set up.

  9. avatar Vic Nighthorse (fna APM) says:

    Thanks, this reminded me that with my recent change in cars I now have one that can more securely carry a rifle.

  10. avatar WI Patriot says:

    “Stay Armed and Ready for Evil”


  11. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    “We, the People of the Gun must do what’s right. We must be ready to be our own first responders and confront evil if and when it presents a threat.”

    I agree.

    Now can you tell us all how we can get our state governments to stop requiring us to keep our magazines unloaded and our rifles in cases in the trunks of our vehicles? Remember, most of cannot have loaded rifle magazines and a rifle which is readily available in the passenger compartment without running afoul of (unconstitutional) state laws.

    1. avatar Detroiter says:

      I concur- see my post below yours.

      My solution when funds are available: ar pistol and a cpl.

    2. avatar ironicatbest says:

      Why can’t you have loaded rifle in passenger compartment? …. Oh that law thing, too. Id rather be dead then break law.

  12. avatar Detroiter says:

    Great advice: unfortunately in Mi long guns have to be cased and unloaded “in the chamber and the magazine” to be in a vehicle. Even for a cpl holder.

    I asked my Leo cousin about this just last week: he confirmed that loaded magazines although not legal “shouldn’t” be a problem as long as there was an effort to separate them i.e. Locked mags in glove box rifle in trunk.

    Looks like my counter “Terrorism self defense kit” will be a little late to the party when needed

    1. avatar Stereodude says:

      Your LEO cousin doesn’t know the law. A detachable magazine can be loaded, just not in the gun. See below:


  13. avatar TRUBRIT says: is a very useful reference for all travel and storage questions. On a road trip last year I downloaded the PDFs for each state I was travelling through so I was prepared.

  14. avatar Ray from Bama says:

    AL, no problem with a loaded rifle, pistol, slingshot, etc. Haven’t had any terrorist attacks here either. Wonder why?

  15. avatar 0351 says:

    There once was a time when no self respecting man of means would be caught dead without his weapon and Armour. Human nature has not changed, though we have attempted to cover it up with the wishful thinking of legislation. I’ve felt this way since I was very young. It causes no harm to be prepared for the worst, though unlikely.

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