Defensive gun use
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Once in a while, a defensive gun use story comes out that perfectly draws attention to the situational awareness habits we’re always trying to improve. One important safety habit is to avoid idling in a parking lot (usually with your head down, staring at your phone). Parking lots are a common setting for street robberies and attacks. Perpetrators frequently target idling motorists, especially if they seem passive and/or oblivious to their surroundings.

Around 8:00 a.m. yesterday in Lawrence, Indiana, an armed robber did exactly that, in broad daylight no less. Seeing a man sitting in his car in a strip mall parking lot, he forced his way into the vehicle, presented a gun, and demanded money.

The man kicked the car into gear and started driving toward an armored truck nearby. The suspect told him to stop, but the victim kept driving while initiating a physical struggle over the suspect’s gun. They never reached the armored truck.

Instead, they crashed into a fence. At that point, both men got out of the car, and the driver pulled his own gun. The two men exchanged gunfire and both ended up in the hospital with gunshot wounds.

The most recent word on this case is that the victim was non-critically injured, having taken a round to the shoulder. The perp sustained more serious injuries and is in critical condition.

Sometimes, it’s not possible to avoid potentially dangerous settings, and this may well have been one such case. However, it’s still a good reminder to stay vigilant in commonplace public settings in general, and keep your head on a swivel in shopping center parking lots.

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  1. As soon as I pull the door shut I lock the doors, every time, without fail. Generally it’s a lot tougher for a bad guy to mess with you when the doors are locked.

    • I think the doors on most cars nowadays lock as soon as the car starts rolling, if you pulled into the lot and the engine is still running the doors will remain locked unless you manually unlock them. So the victim here must’ve been driving a rather old model car. In which case, why would anyone try to carjack him?

      • Unfortunately, as soon as I put my car in park the doors all automatically unlock, so if I just pulled in and am doing something like checking my phone or whatever, that could leave me open to attack in a rough area.

        • you can reprogram those door locks. check the owners manual.
          or any dealership will do it. takes less than a minute.

      • “In which case, why would anyone try to carjack him?”



  2. My doors are ALWAYS locked. Ready for a quick getaway if some pos approaches. Gat ready but hidden…Wal-Mart is the worst.

    • In the past few years, my local Walmart has had 2 parking lot shootings that I am aware of. Good guys 1, bad guys 1. My wife yells at me for going there after dark. And this isn’t in a big nasty city, this is a smallish college town in PA.

      • The Walmart in the next town down the road is where the thieves go shopping after stealing a car. The get busted there all the time. The other Walmart, here in town, is where all of the homeless go “shopping.” Lots of arrests there too. Needless to say, my trips to those locations are rare and only when necessary.

        • There’s a 24hr Walmart not too far from me where some dude was attacked then raped in the bathroom in the middle of the night.

        • I stopped shopping at Wal-Mart 5 years ago due to them reigning in their return policy. Used to be an easy affair and you had 90 days! Now it’s 15 days after they ran every competitor out of town.

  3. My doors lock as soon as I hit the ignition. I’m in a 22 yo 4runner and I’m a large, ugly human being. Oddly enough people go out of their way to not interact with me. Sweetheart that I am.

  4. I had a rental recently with one of those keyless keyfobs. Anytime the fob was in range of the car, the driver door could be opened without a key. I thought that was a pretty bad idea. Trading safety for convenience.

    • For the record, the range is pretty short. And the car can tell the difference between inside the car and out, so someone outside is very unlikely to be able to open it if you’re inside with the key. I’ve tried on some of our cars, and you basically have to put the remote against the inside of the glass for someone outside to open it.

      (That inside/outside determination is really pretty amazing, if you think about it.)

    • I’ve driven GM vehicles that automatically lock the doors when the car is in Drive and unlock when the car is in Park. I will never ever buy one of these POS.

      • Most of the newer vehicles, GM included, actually have preference settings. You can have just driver door unlock, all unlock, none unlock, etc.

        mine all unlock, when I park and I preferred it that way. If I was sitting in the vehicle in park for more than 30 sec or so I would just lock them manually.

      • Not just GM. Most cars default to unlocking when you put it into park. That’s the first setting I changed on our Honda Odyssey — now they only unlock manually.

        Now those slow-closing automatic doors — those are the safety feature I hate.

  5. Sitting there idling isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Sitting there idling with doors unlocked and not paying attention. Yeah, no.

      • Not only that but, as in this case, one can just floor it and take off. Even already covered, what perp is going to dare shoot when you’re speeding straight at an armored truck? That’s suicide. They’re going to pause and think about it anyway.
        “Hmmm. When I shoot him, what will this car I’m trapped in be going towards then?
        Criminals aren’t known for brain power, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that one out.

  6. This article is somewhat preaching to the choir; it’s a good reminder I suppose, but how many TTAG readers enter condition white in transitional spaces? I doubt very many.
    Unfortunately enough, it’s non-TTAG readers who would benefit the most from this advice.

    • I would agree, except there are people here at every step of the journey. Some are high speed low drag operators, some are just beginning to develop the defensive mindset, and all can use an occasional reminder.

      I took this post as an opportunity to point out to my wife that her habit of sitting in the car checking face book and text messages for 2 minutes virtually every time she enters the vehicle is very, very bad SOP.
      It’s not even about situational awareness necessarily, it’s that sitting still with your face lit up in a transitional space makes you a target. Even if you never come out of condition white, not making an obvious target of one’s self is still the best way to avoid being a victim.

      • You’re right. I’m still a beginner who likes to read this stuff, to remind me of what should be second-nature. After a few situational awareness classes, all my friends know that I always sit with my back against the wall when we go out for breakfast.

  7. While I totally agree that situational awareness is the key if a BG manages to get into the car or, put part of themselves into the car through an open/broken window this sort of range and confined space is where a knife really shines since even someone leaning through a window is severely hampered in terms of getting away from your stabby steel spike.

    While I carry a gun I’m aware that I can’t always access it quickly even from the best placed holster. Having a knife right next to your seatbelt release keeps a close quarters weapon at hand should someone threatening enter your car and therefore the knife’s range.

    I won’t wrestle for the gun or try to yank my own. The blade is faster, easier to use, better at disabling the attacker at that range absolutely devastating in terms of incapacitation.

    • There’s some force-on-force training excercises (and videos on Youtube) that show how a knife can be used in the confines of a car, but from what I’ve seen it’s a very messy fight for both involved (chances are the attacker will have some sort of blade with him if not a firearm). In any case, I don’t think the situation happens often enough to be too much of a concern.
      A more common scenario is straight up road rage. Personally, i have one of those 16oz pepper spray bottles velcroed to the front of my seat (velcro is rated to hold up fire extinguishers so it’s not going anywhere unless i deliberately pull on the pistol grip). Stop ’em before they get too close (assuming you cant just drive away).

      • The point is that these stories involving cars often say “there was a struggle for the weapon”. Don’t struggle for his weapon. Use a knife to slash his arm so he can’t use his weapon and then stab the fuck out of him. The knife is faster than trying to get a gun out and point it at him, it hurts him if he grabs it, it can’t fail to fire or be knocked out of battery and he’s not getting away from it.

        While I understand why FoF training always assumes the worst the truth is that in 99% of cases it’s going to be a massive advantage in your favor because the BG assumes that his threat of force, physical, gun or knife is enough to paralyze you with fear and cow you into compliance. The chances they are trained to fight are virtually zero. They’re not expecting a struggle and they’re certainly not expecting your first shot to be aimed at disabling their ability to use whatever weapon they’ve brought to the party with a follow up aimed at incapacitating/killing them in one shot.

        This is exactly why we see so many DGU cases where the BG has “the drop” on the CCW carrier and still the BG is the one who ends up dead/perforated. They think they’ve already won and they’re not prepared for resistance. So, slash that forearm so that they can’t use the hand (and will rapidly bleed to death too if you cut deep with a nice sharp knife). Follow up as you see fit for the situation.

        Yeah, it makes a mess but so does blowing someone’s face off in the confines of you car which you have less chance of successfully doing anyway. If you were on the ball enough to shoot them you’d almost certainly have done it before the BG was fully in the car with you.

        • I agree with you…to an extent. I carry EDC a pair of blades and keep another, larger, fixed blade had front the drivers seat…but like you I’ll remember it is there, and I’m mentally prepared to use it suddenly, violently and relentlessly in whatever fashion will most harm my opponent. For us, a big blade is an awesome weapon in a confined space. I can’t see my mother doing it though…she carries a pistol, and she would use it, but I don’t see her seizing someone’s arm then cutting through it to the bone preparatory to sticking it in their throat.
          Different strokes for different folks so to speak.

        • That may work with guy vs. guy. There’s no way I’m going to win a knife fight. Any guy older than 12 will break my wrist. That’s why the pistol is the great equalizer, at least I can cause damage without arm wrestling. I may get shot, but without it I’m surely dead.

      • Question…Do you have any concerns about pepper spray staying in car during hot summer months or do you take it out? (concerns such as deterioration of plastic parts from heat and it empties in car)

        • I’ve had pepper spray discharge in my car due to extreme heat in the summer. Took a couple of days to air out. It also happened to a couple of others who I worked with and were issued the same brand. Don’t know if it was this particular make or batch, but didn’t hear about any further problems. Possibly others learning of our experience made sure the spray wasn’t left in the car during the summer.

        • That’s a good point Manse Jolly. Luckily where I live the summer heat isnt a concern.
          If it was, the simplest solution would be to put it in some plastic container if I knew the car was going to be sitting in the sun for a considerable time.

        • Funny you should ask. I just took a pepper spray class this morning. I learned: Don’t leave it in the car. Use your left thumb (keep right hand free to use gun etc.) Spray back and forth. They usually last 2 years. Shake it every day. Pepper spray and Bear spray are the same, but different. Bear spray shoots farther, and in a cone-like spray/fog. It has a lower %concentration. (In Canada % is even lower.) Go figger. I guess we don’t want to make the bear mad.

  8. When I’m in the parking lot waiting for the wife, the doors are locked and I have one hand on the pistol while I read.

    The perp won’t survive the attempt to get in the car.

  9. As others have pointed out, the first thing I do when I get in the car is lock the door. I go to the store at night when lines are short or non-existent and things are quiet. Crowds aren’t my thing, but this also has more risk leaving the car and coming back to the car. I maintain heightened awareness during this short period of increased risk. Keep your eyes moving, watch for people hiding, watching, get to your car quickly, if you carry as I do, I always have my gun hand free I unlock my car door remotely so I’m not fumbling around with the key at the car door with stuff I bought. I always take a cart so I’m free with my arms and also, a cart can act as a a barrier should someone approach you with bad intent. Put the car between you and them. You could even push it at them and step back creating distance and draw your weapon.
    I could be so lucky as to have someone try and and do me. They’re going to lose and lose big.

    • I hope you got a diaper on that horse. Nothing worse than to be on your cell walking across the mall parking lot and stepping in horse plop.

  10. ” Perpetrators frequently target idling motorists…” Hmmmm…says who? Frequently? Or sometimes? Assault on people just sitting in their car in a parking lot is a topic worth discussing, but. “One important safety habit is to avoid idling in a parking lot…” Not necessarily. Sitting in a car while it idles is not any more dangerous the doing the same thing in a vehicle with the motor shut off. How about we just call this keeping our heads on a swivel? How about we just do this from the time we head for the front door til we return home and are safely inside?

  11. I have taught the women in the family to always over-ride the automatic door unlocking in the cars they use. Pull in and put the car into “Park” and some cars unlock all the doors electrically. Or they do it on some other action. However, all these cars have a switch to lock all the doors. Typically on the driver’s side. Learn where it is, practice with it. Make it muscle memory to instantly re-lock all doors until actually getting out.

    Keep them windows up too in parking lots.

    My car has no electric door locks for just this reason. Also has a gun handy, always.


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