It Can Happen to Anyone, at Anytime

These are dangerous times we live in, and certain to become even more dangerous.

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We all know that simply carrying a concealed firearm for protection is not enough. The presence of a firearm on your person does not make you bulletproof, nor does it allow you to travel to and through the most dangerous areas of our nation with impunity. The presence of a concealed firearm is also no substitute for paying attention to your surroundings at all times, and being willing to quickly change your location if you suddenly find yourself feeling unsafe.

None of us is impervious to attack-not the concealed carry permit holder, not the off-duty cop. Until this point is recognized and accepted, you will not be able to reduce the risk of serious injury or death from a criminal attack. What follows is a case in point that happened just a couple of weeks ago to one of the officers at my agency who was off-duty and wearing street clothes when it happened.

Let me start out by saying that our officer, who is new to law enforcement, did an outstanding job in dealing with the threat. I know this because I reviewed his use of force report. He also was not doing anything that other people don't do during the course of their day-which is why we are able to profit from what happened. And best of all, he was not injured during the encounter because he was armed.

The officer was sitting in his pickup truck in a parking lot at a large shopping center in Lancaster (OH), in broad daylight-during late morning to be exact. He was going to go into a store to do some shopping and had paused to engage in some texting on his smart phone. He had unlocked his doors before getting engrossed in the activities on his phone.

Fortunately, he was not TOTALLY engrossed in his phone because he noticed a suspicious person wearing a backpack lurking around the back of his truck. He watched this person, now a possible suspect, walk from the back of the truck past the driver's side door. The officer, thinking the person had moved well past his vehicle, looked back at his phone again. It was then that the suspect open the door of the officer's truck and jumped in the front seat with him.

The officer was in immediate fear for his personal safety as the suspect had a menacing appearance. The officer yelled "get the hell out of my truck" and the suspect refused. In order to protect himself from this potential carjacker, the officer drew his off-duty gun-A 1911 .45 Automatic-and pointed it at the invader, identifying himself as a police officer. At first the suspect said "you ain't no F-----g cop", but apparently the officer's verbal identification and repeated commands to get out of the truck-combined with a .45 caliber staredown-caused the suspect to get out of the truck. The officer again identified himself and ordered the suspect away from his vehicle again. The suspect took off on foot.

The officer called the sheriff's office to report the incident. While he was doing so, a young woman drove up and said that the suspect he had just encountered was her boyfriend, and he had just gotten out of prison. To celebrate the event he had been partying with a variety of substances, including marijuana, crystal meth, and perhaps some opiates thrown in for good measure.

By this time sheriff's deputies had arrived and stopped the suspect near the busy highway. The officer drove over to back up the deputies due to the suspect's bizarre and threatening behavior. The suspect suddenly ran across four lanes of traffic into a wooded area. After more deputies arrived a search of the area where the suspect was last seen. The officers cornered him in the woods. At some point, he pulled a tomahawk from his back pack and brandished it at the deputies. Amazingly he was not shot. He was however, taken into custody and was indicted by the grand jury.

There are several lessons to be learned for this officer's experience. The first is a reinforcement of what has already been said-it is important to carry your licensed handgun or off-duty firearm. This incident could have ended much differently if the officer involved had not been armed. At the very least, he would likely have lost his pickup truck, and also just as likely would not have gotten it back in the same condition that it was when it was stolen. At the very worst, the officer could have been seriously injured by the armed suspect.

I just read a story about an off-duty police officer in New York State that rescued a young child, her mother and her brother from an attack by a large coyote in a park in the afternoon. The officer apparently was not armed, and physically fought the coyote, trying unsuccessfully choke it to death. Armed officers arrived and killed the coyote. The unarmed officer and children had to undergo rabies shots. That might have been avoided if the officer was armed. This incident also reinforces the next point.

Do not be lulled into complacency by your surroundings. Bad things happen in broad daylight as well as in the dark. They also happen in the middle of busy public places, and during those times are usually committed by people whose senses are influenced by drugs. In the coyote's case, it was rabies that influenced his daylight attack.

This next point I have been guilty of as well. Give the smart phone a rest when you are in public. It is so easy to lose focus of where you are and what is going on around you. It is a habit I am working to break because it can be dangerous. Look around the next time you are in line somewhere and notice how many people are occupied by their phones instead of keeping track of who is around them.

The final point is one that I have been even more diligent about since I reviewed our officer's use of force report. Now when I get in my car I lock the doors before I even begin to insert the key in the ignition. I used to wait until after I started it and got my seatbelt on. Not anymore. The door is locked right away no matter where I am parked. This buys time in the event that an uninvited guest tries to enter my car, and is even more important when my family is with me.

These are dangerous times we live in, and certain to become even more dangerous. Fortunately we can meet those challenges by being alert, taking advantage of safety systems such as door locks, and having a firearm ready at hand-and being ready to use it.