21st Century Stranger Danger and the Law Abiding Citizen

Being prepared for any situation

Posted by on

On Tuesday January 2, 2018, 70 year old off-duty San Bernadino County California Sheriff's Deputy Larry Falce, was driving on a freeway, when he braked to avoid two dogs who had run onto the road. As he stopped, his vehicle was slammed in the rear by a car whose driver had been following too closely behind his. Both cars pulled off the roadway, ostensibly to exchange information in a scene which happens thousands of time in the U.S. every day. Assured Clear Distance Ahead (ACDA) crashes, like the one here, are the most common non-injury traffic accident reported. Note that a traffic citation for this type of crash is a minor misdemeanor summons if law enforcement officers take a report. If involved parties simply exchange information, then no cite is issued. In other words in the vast majority of situations it's relatively a whole lot of nothing.

The related news article does not say if Deputy Falce was off-duty in uniform-either leaving or heading to work-or just in civilian clothing when he contacted the driver at fault, 30 year old Alonzo Leron Smith. Most likely Deputy Falce's first words to Smith would have been "Are you ok?".

What Deputy Falce in all likelihood did not know was that Smith was a dangerous lifetime career criminal, who had committed enough crimes that he should already have been spending his life in prison. But thanks to California's criminal justice system, Smith was free to roam the streets at will.

According to witnesses and security cameras, the two spoke only briefly. Suddenly and for no reason, Smith punched Deputy Falce in the face, knocking him to the ground where he fell unconscious, striking his head on the pavement. He never regained consciousness and died at the scene. Deputy Falce had served the citizens of California for 36 years as a law enforcement officer. Prior to that, he served the citizens of this nation as a soldier in the U.S. Army.

This minor traffic crash should have been a scene where the Deputy Falce and Smith exchanged information or waited for police to take a report. Everyone should have gone on their merry way. Instead it became a murder scene.

Stranger Danger was a program designed to teach young children to be extremely wary of people they didn't know. Unfortunately these days, the concept of Stranger Danger is for everyone-young and old, cop and civilian.

You, as a concealed carry permit holder or home defender, have an advantage over the unarmed civilian-assuming that you actually have your handgun available when it is needed. But that handgun or other self-defense device is of no value if you don't have a mindset that prepares you to use it when needed. This means being ready in every encounter you have with a stranger.

A human being is the most dangerous and unpredictable animal on the planet. We know that Great White Sharks are always dangerous and will avoid them because we know that if we get close enough to them they will eat us. Pretty straightforward right? Not so with another human being. We don't know with certainty (although we might be able to guess based on clues) if they are a threat or not, particularly because they can be deceptive-which is a foundational tenet of Stranger Danger. That's what makes humans so dangerous.

When it comes to interacting with other human beings-strangers-there are no longer any routine situations. Today on the radio I heard about a man who had arranged to meet a party at a public place who wanted to purchase the old cell phone that he had advertised for sale on the internet. The only problem was that the party he met and an accomplice wanted to rob him of the cell phone at gunpoint rather than paying for it. The "buyer" was prepared, but in this case so was the seller.

During the transaction, the buyer pulled his gun. However the seller also pulled his gun, and fired, wounding the buyer-turned-robber, who fled with his accomplice and the seller's phone. The robber was captured at a nearby hospital when he sought treatment for his gunshot wound. The seller was unharmed and will not be charged. This particular seller had incorporated Stranger Danger into his meeting plan.

These days one has to be ready for the worst. Routine contacts with strangers are no longer routine in this age of heroin, flacka and drugs that make users eat the face off another human being like some demonic animal. This means carrying your defensive tools with you-pepper spray, Taser, firearm-and having them where they can be immediately accessed, and having the willingness to use them.

Admittedly, Deputy Falce may have not had much of a chance being "sucker punched" by his attacker. Who wants to bet that his killer had been a practitioner of "the knockout game." But there are plenty of other documented cases like the aforementioned cell phone sale case where having a weapon readily at hand, and being willing to use it, made all the difference.

Recently while working at my police department, I was assisted county deputies in a single car crash involving a person who was under the influence of narcotics. The driver had hit a tree and had to be transported to a Local Hospital via Life Flight. A good samaritan who arrived before us, saw the crash and took some blankets out of her car and put them over the driver, who was unconscious and partially trapped in the car. She held the drivers hand and prayed for her until deputies, EMS and fire got there. What a beautiful act of charity! However, after telling the good samaritan how kind she was, I had to caution her to be VERY careful about whom she steps in to help in the future. We can't be sure that just because someone is in an auto accident or similar situation that they will behave like we expect an accident victim to behave. The influence of alcohol, drugs, mental illness, or criminal record and attitude can change them from a victim into an attacker. Thankfully, this good samaritan didn't suffer harm as payment for her kind efforts.

Being armed when dealing with strangers certainly helps increase your safety. However, a handgun or other defensive device is not a force field. If it were, police officers would never get hurt or killed. While working patrol, I carry a rifle in the cruiser, a handgun in my holster, a backup handgun hidden on my person, pepper spray, Taser, wooden baton, and wear body armor with an armor plate. I carry a walkie talkie to call for more help if needed. In spite of all this protection I am still at risk from deadly or less than deadly threats. I have to be prepared to use the appropriate devices-just having them on my person isn't enough. I also have to be skilled with them as well.

Now that you know more about 21st Century Stranger Danger, be very selective involving yourself in situations with people you don't know and trust. Finally, in any planned or unplanned contact, be ready to defend yourself. Sadly, these are the times we live in.