My Greatest Fear During A Defensive Gun Use


I carry a firearm where- and whenever it’s legal to do so. I’m not afraid to use it. Should I face an imminent, credible threat of grievous bodily harm or death to myself or my loved ones, it’s chocks away. Oh, I’m sure I’d be scared, adrenaline pumping like crazy. But I refuse to be a victim.

If my defensive gun use is unsuccessful, if my attacker or attackers kill me, well, that would suck. Especially for my youngest daughter. But before I shuffled off this mortal coil, I’d have the final, fleeting satisfaction of knowing I died defending myself and, perhaps, other innocent life.

Speaking of things that suck, I’m more than a little worried that I’ll shoot the wrong person.

That’s why I will never shoot someone unless they really need shooting, and I know the whole story (undercover cops are a thing). That’s why I carry a 1911 (it’s the most accurate gun I can shoot). That’s why I adjust my tactical mindset to account for diminished accuracy when I carry a snub-nosed revolver.

While not carrying a gun lowers the odds of shooting the wrong person to virtually zero, it increases the chances of a bad guy hurting or killing you and/or someone you love during an attack. You pack your gat, you take your chances. My decision to carry is based on reason, not fear.

But there is something that scares me, something that could happen during a defensive gun use. Has happened, though not to me [via]:

Pedro Maldonado, 41, had just arrived home from work when his family says a man with a gun robbed him and another man of roughly $1,000. The father of four decided to take matters into his own hands.

“My dad chased after him with his gun. Went around the building,” his son, Joel Maldonado, said.

He says the thief fired two shots at his dad, one ending up in a nearby car.

As Pedro Maldonado rounded the building, he came face-to-face with an off-duty Atlanta police officer.

After hearing gunshots and seeing Pedro Maldonado running with a gun, his son says the officer opened fire, shooting his father multiple times.

“It’s something that nobody expects for it to happen. Nobody would expect something like that to happen,” Joel Maldonado said . . .

“I think he should have at least yelled freeze or something. My dad knows English. If he would have said something, stop, freeze or something, he would have stopped,” Joel Maldonado said.

OK, I’m not likely to go chasing an armed perp. But I would find it extremely galling to be shot and killed by a cop who mistook me for an armed perp. “How did your Dad die?” “He was shot by a cop by mistake.” “Yeah right.” Or “Well that’s ironic.”

Oh, the fun the antis would have! “‘Gun rights blogger shot and killed by cops during defensive gun use.” “Good guy with a gun shot by good guy with a gun.” Yeah, no thanks.

I used to be a reserve police officer in New Mexico. When I was out of uniform, I wore my badge under my shirt, ready to pop it out in an emergency. Which would [probably] stop a cop from drilling me during a DGU, but make me a target for criminals, crazies and terrorists. Is it odd that I didn’t care?


  1. avatar BDub says:

    Seems to me the cop in that story could have killed an undercover-cop just as easily as Mr. Maldonado. Too twitchy by half.

    1. avatar ThomasR says:

      I’ve read a couple different news stories over the years where an undercover cop, in attempting to stop a human predator from committing a criminal act, was killed by uniformed police.

      1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

        Thank you.

        The problem is a mindset that says anyone with a firearm in hand must be an attacker and therefore justifies applying deadly force to them. Nothing could be further from the truth. What justifies applying deadly force is someone’s actual ATTACK on someone else. What a person has in their hands is irrelevant outside of that.

        1. avatar Yawnz says:

          The trick is figuring out who’s who.

        2. avatar FedUp says:

          But, you have to make a SPLIT SECOND DECISION!
          Taking time to figure out who you’re shooting and why just takes too much time, police train and train to teach themselves that they’ll die if they don’t shoot somebody, anybody, and shoot them fast.

          One person yelling “GUN!” frees every cop in earshot from liability for any shooting.

          Recent case in point. Domestic disturbance report on 9-1-1. Dispatcher hears the street name wrong, the name she thought she heard doesn’t exist, so she took a wild (very wild, didn’t sound close to right to me) guess and sent the cops to investigate. Cops find a dark silent home. They could say ‘no disturbance here’ and go away, or they can try to investigate. They pound on door of a sleeping innocent family at 3AM until father gets out of bed, grabs a gun and goes to investigate.
          Cops see him heading for the door, gun in hand, through a window. One cop yes GUN, both cops shoot at the house. Nobody injured. Nobody sent to jail on attempted murder charges either, sadly.

        3. avatar tdiinva (now in wisconsin) says:

          Why attempted murder? A police dispatcher sent them to the wrong house on a domestic disturbance call. They see a man with a gun. More cops are killed or wounded in DD calls than almost anything else. They see a man with a gun, what do you think they are going to do?

        4. avatar LarryinTX says:

          “They see a man with a gun, what do you think they are going to do?”

          After arriving at a dark and silent house in the middle of the night, pounding on the door and probably yelling, if they feel they have to shoot anybody there, I would think that instead, they would just go the fuck away!

          Since they did not, and fired on a law abiding citizen in the attempt to kill him, the charge is attempted murder. QED.

        5. avatar tdiinva (now in Wisconsin} says:

          Or it could be the site of a murder/suicide for all they know. And if they did just walk away you would be the first to attack them for not doing their job. This is the SOP for keyboard commandos and range cowboys.

          By the way if they did fatally shoot the home owner with a gun then the charge would be manslaughter, if they just wounded him it would be assault with a deadly weapon and in the actual case it would be illegal discharge of weapon.

  2. avatar kevin says:

    Pedro didn’t think that through. Forget the off-duty cop for a moment. Assuming the robber was armed, it would be the simplest thing in the world to just turn around and shoot Pedro as he ran up on him.

    Pedro was probably angry at just having been robbed, and the red mist took over. But the imminent threat of bodily harm passed when the bad guy turned to make his getaway. Pedro obviously should have just let the money go. It’s just money, after all. We don’t shoot people over money.

    1. avatar 2004done says:

      “He says the thief fired two shots at his dad, one ending up in a nearby car.” is no longer just about money, but you’re probably right about the red mist.

    2. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      If an armed attacker still has their firearm on their person and they are still functional within 150 yards (with a handgun or shotgun) or 600 yards (with a rifle), they still represent a deadly threat.

      Don’t believe me? Go to your favorite video service and search for long range shots with snub-nosed revolvers. There are people who can reliably hit two-liter soda bottles at 100 yards with a snubbie. Of course there are plenty of people who can hit a human sized target at 600 yards with rifle and nothing more than iron sights.

      1. avatar Vhyrus says:

        “There are people who can reliably hit two-liter soda bottles at 100 yards with a snubbie.”

        And none of them will EVER attempt to rob you. Most of the armed robbers in this country don’t even know what caliber to put in their gun.

        1. avatar Clear Thru says:

          I was witness…
          To a young ethnic man at Wally World sporting goods dept giving the clerk a live round, and ask, “What kinda boolet is dis?”.
          The clerk replies, “It’s a 9mm. Winchester.”.
          Young man, “I need sum. Gimme a box.”
          And he sold him a box with no further conversation.

          And the world keeps going round n round…

      2. avatar kevin says:

        Even more reason Pedro shouldn’t have chased after the guy. Shoot at him to stop the threat, sure. Close the distance to him, bad idea, never mind the off duty cop.

      3. avatar tdiinva (now in Wisconsin} says:

        And I doubt any of them would take even a 25 yard shot with a snubbie under pressure and with potential collateral casualties in the vicinity. There is a big difference between shooting a soda can at 100 yards and shooting at a moving target in anything other than an empty parking lot. We are talking about real life and not the fictional Leroy Jethro Gibbs. You don’t carry a snubbie or a pocket pistol for anything other than up close and personal defense or as a backup.

    3. avatar LarryinTX says:

      “We don’t shoot people over money”

      Speak for yourself.

      1. avatar James in AZ says:


        Worthless thugs are not worth a large chunk of my hard earned money.

        But I still won’t shoot them because of the legal shitstorm that will follow.

    4. avatar Scoutino says:

      We don’t shoot people over money? I guess it would depend on how much money and who owns them. Try to rob a bank and when the cops arrive tell them they shouldn’t shoot you, it’s just money after all. Funny, since banks have shitloads of money and are insured, while Pedro’s thousand dollars might be more than he can afford to lose.

  3. avatar 2004done says:

    I’m sure it won’t make anyone feel better, but the protocol will probably change from “Hear gunshots? Shoot to kill!” to “assess situation unless imminent threat perceived.” Multiple shots makes me question the officer’s mindset. In that situation, showing a badge wouldn’t have helped. Not knowing enough of what really happened makes me into a pResident (talk first, find facts later). Please VOTE Nov 8th!

  4. avatar RobinTn says:

    At the time of the shooting, Pedro WAS the perp.

  5. avatar Alex Waits says:

    My worst fear is having my gun taken by the cops if I’m forced to shoot someone.
    My CFO said I cant buy anymore until my birthday 🙁


  6. avatar JDC says:

    Mr. Farago just summed up the way I feel about the whole thing.

  7. avatar Lane Hansen says:

    Sorry, but chasing after the perp, especially after the fact, is not a defensive use of a weapon. Once the threat was gone, you call the cops and let them take over.
    There are SO many reasons for this, including what happened here, as well as other scenarios such as shooting someone who ‘looked just like the perp’ but wasn’t .

    1. avatar CueBaller says:


      Don’t chase the thief, and the thief doesn’t shoot at you… the cop doesn’t hear any shots… and doesn’t shoot you when you round a corner with a gun in your hand.

    2. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      Lane Hanson,

      Oh, bologna. If someone just stole $1,000 from me, it is my choice whether or not I pursue them to recover MY $1,000. If I don’t recover it, the chances of the police capturing the thief and getting my money back are effectively zero. Whether or not that justifies the risk of pursuit is my decision.

      And no, I would not use deadly force against someone “who looked just like the perpetrator” because someone’s appearance — whether we are talking about what they appear to have in hand or their resemblance to a suspect — is not a legally justified basis for using deadly force.

      I will say it again, we are only justified to use deadly force against an imminent threat of death or grievous bodily harm. And the only way that we can know whether someone presents an imminent threat of death or grievous bodily harm is when that person announces their intent with their words or actions. Period.

      How hard is that to understand?

      1. avatar tdiinva (now in wisconsin) says:

        Unless it’s after dark in Texas you will be going to jail after you shoot the perp. End of story. This is one of the differences between the police and “ordinary citizens.” you are not authorized to take offensive action.

      2. avatar Mark says:

        Pursuing someone for stealing 1K is the height of stupidity. Your legal costs alone after the shooting will exceed that by a hundred fold at least. Losing 1K, while awful, is not life changing. Being tied up in the legal system for years and years with potential loss of your job, certainly is. It is unfortunate, but that’s the world we live in.

      3. avatar kevin says:

        Uncommon: At least we now know the ballpark dollar value that you put on your life. Most people wouldn’t charge into a gunfight for any amount of money. But you, you’d shoot a guy or get shot for a lousy thousand bucks. Cheap date, I’d say.

        1. avatar Matt Richardson says:

          I don’t wholeheatedly agree with Uncommon, though I appreciate his perspective. A thousand dollars means more to some than others.

          All of that said, if a grand is your opinion of a cheap date I’ll be happy to give you my number.

        2. avatar Scoutino says:

          It might be lousy thousand bucks, but for some people it may represent two or three weeks of hard labor and difference between feeding a family or getting homeless. It’s easy not to care about money when you have them.
          I would not chase the robber. But I understand why someone would.

  8. avatar Docduracoat says:

    I would also like to caution everyone here that you are never justified in shooting through a door at someone

    1. avatar ThomasR says:

      Our esteemed and upstanding, (and sober, once in a while) Vice-president has advised that shooting a shotgun through the front door is perfectly fine, in order to frighten a bad guy away; though it’s illegal in the great majority of states to do so.

      1. avatar Scoutino says:

        What about storm door? Or screen door?

    2. avatar kevin says:

      Even a sliding glass door? Never say never!

    3. avatar Roymond says:

      Not so, DocD — I met someone who did a righteous shoot through a door, his front door. At the moment he shot, an axe blade had just shown through on his side next to the knob for what clearly wasn’t the first time since there were splinters showing and he’d head it hit a number of times.

      He did yell to “Leave or I’ll shoot!” but the axe struck again, so he shot.

      The worst moment, according to him, was the clatter of the axe on his porch: he didn’t know if he’d killed the guy and the axe fell, of the guy wanted him to think that, or the guy had fled and dropped the axe. It turned out to be the last. The best part, he said, was that the cops let him keep the axe once they caught the guy (months later after another break-in — so apparently he didn’t harm the guy much).

    4. avatar LarryinTX says:

      I won’t claim it’s a good idea, but it does happen. “True stories” section of October “Concealed Carry” magazine reports an event in Wilson, NC, wherein the homeowner responded to someone trying to break thru his front door, ordered the invader to stop, then fired several times through the door. Cops took perp to hospital, where he died, declined to prosecute homeowner. Never say never.

  9. avatar Ralph says:

    So a good guy got shot by mistake — but the cop got to go home safe that night, so it’s okay. Great, really. Because that’s all that counts.

    And my greatest fear about a gunfight is losing it.

    1. avatar uncle_pickle says:

      If an organization has the unofficial motto “money talks” and you need them to think twice before screwing you, it will have to hit them in the pocketbook.

      When “I’m going home tonight” is the line…well, that home is going to have to get a night-time visit.

      That is, if you want the behavior to change, you will have to exact personal consequences. Until mistakes have the capacity to impact their money, their pension, their home, their family, we’re not going to get through to such a self-centered demographic.

      Good God, have you thought how embarrassing that motto really is? It reflects a certain disdain for the sanctity of the oath they swear.

  10. avatar strych9 says:

    I understand that $1000 is a ton of money to a lot of people but what this guy did was turn the potential loss of cash into his own demise.

    As other’s said; don’t chase someone over money. It’s just money. You can make more of it. Kidnapping is a whole other situation but with money or other property it’s not worth a GSW. If the person isn’t a serious threat to your safety or the safety of others, hard as it is, let ’em go.

    If you absolutely cannot let them just get away, make sure you’re consistently yelling “Stop! Thief!” to minimize the chances that you’re mistaken for the BG.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      It’s only money until it’s your rent and it’s past due. It’s only money until it’s your car payment and now you can’t get to work. It’s only money until it’s your kids’ food, or their medicine. Then its survival.

  11. avatar Soylent Green says:

    “I wore my badge under my shirt, ready to pop it out in an emergency”

    So you’re saying I need to carry a “don’t shoot me talisman” in addition to my carry gun?

    1. avatar FedUp says:

      Either that or live some place where possession of a firearm isn’t punishable by death.
      I like to think my county deputies don’t start firing at the first sight of a gun.

  12. avatar Geoff PR says:

    RF – when were you ever a reserve police officer in New Mexico?

    Or was this a Dean W. article?

  13. avatar TheOtherDavid says:

    I’ve read about shoot/ no shoot training where LEOs shot a person with an object in hand -the badge of an off duty LEO.

    I think it’s pretty sage advice never to have any object in hand when LEOs arrive

  14. Just shoot the guy without yelling at him? THAT’S FU…if someone stole 1000bucks from me I would shoot him too.

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      Yeah, but I wouldn’t chase him through a neighborhood with a gun in my hand.

  15. avatar ActionPhysicalMan says:

    Mine is that because I forgot to flip my safety I’ll die with the grooves of my trigger impressed my finger long enough that everyone will know what happened. A cop or a bystander will shake his head and say ‘Dude you should have got a Glock.”

    1. avatar tdiinva (now in wisconsin) says:

      In your excitement you shove your Glock into the holster and your untucked shirt gets caught ib the trigger guard dischargeing your pistol into your thigh severing your femoral artery and the EMT shakes his head and says “should of got an XD.”

      1. avatar ActionPhysicalMan says:

        Yup, that sounds like what I’d fear most if I had a Glock. My shirts are crazy good at getting into my re-holstering when I am not careful.

        1. avatar tdiinva (now in wisconsin) says:

          Clearly you don’t get the trying to turn this inro a 1911 v Glick thread.

          But if you want to be serious, this is the kind of siruation where that shirttail can come out.

        2. avatar ActionPhysicalMan says:

          tdiinva – I don’t have a strong opinion about either 1911s or Glocks or even manual safeties for that matter.

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