Are you truly ready to use deadly force?

Many of you know I currently work in the security/EP industry and am also a process server for one of the largest process serving companies in Michigan. My job allows me to meet a host of different people from all walks of life. My job takes me to upscale, secluded neighborhoods as well as dangerous, dimly-lit, high crime areas, where I try not to be after dark.

A high percentage of the time, I am the bearer of bad news. People do not generally like to be served with civil process that demands payment or perhaps to appear in court. Some people know the summons is coming and they simply take it, say thank you, and close the door. Others are not quite so congenial.

I recently had a situation where I was to make a simple posting. Postings are writs that have been sent back to the judge and alternate service is ordered. This means I can simply walk up to the house, tape the summons to the front door, take a photo with my phone (documentable proof), and walk away. Unfortunately, I did not notice the servee sitting just inside the house with a clear view of the front door. As I stepped back to photograph the posting, he jumped up and came after me.

As I backed down the driveway, I quickly identified myself and tried to explain why I was (legally) on his property. He was shouting at me and I was able to maintain a safe distance of about 10-12 feet as we both moved in sync. After this exchange repeated several times, I stopped, put one hand up, and ordered the man to halt. What happened next was chaotic but fortunately did not take me by surprise.

The man reached behind his back and postured as though he was about to draw a gun. I immediately accessed and gripped my weapon and ordered the man to “stop and show me your hands!”

Now comes the adrenaline dump as my mind is racing with thoughts of what might happen next. Fortunately, when he saw that I actually had a gun, his hands went up and he stopped. Again, I explained who I was and why I was on his property. At this point, he began mumbling expletives, turned and walked back to his house. I got in my car and got the heck out of Dodge.

By the way, as the man turned to walk away, he did not have a gun!

A few lessons learned in this event. First, never, ever posture that you have a weapon. False posturing can get you killed. Second, I am very thankful that I have had the benefit of great instructors throughout the years who have ingrained in me the need to train, train, train. I preach to my students at every self-defense class that scenario training and visualization is as important as sending bullets down a range into a dirt berm. I have trained this scenario many times at my own range since it is a probable situation I in which I would find myself due to my line of work.

I teach my defense students to always have a back-up. This could be a firearm but most likely should be pepper spray, martial arts training, etc. Each has their own advantages and disadvantages. As a life-long practitioner of the martial arts I understand it is only effective in close-quarters. I normally carry pepper spray and decided I didn’t need it since this was an “easy” posting.

Another lesson learned is never underestimate the situation in which you find yourself. Had I not left my pepper in the car, the kind gentleman would be writhing on the ground crying like a baby. This is a mistake I will never make again.

I like the rubric I learned from Rob Pincus in one of his classes. A DCI (dynamic critical incident) has three elements: Surprising, Chaotic, and Threatening. My situation was certainly all three. Surprising in that I never expected the man to be in view of his door so late at night (my mistake). Chaotic because for a few seconds, several decisions ran through my head on what action I need to take. The moment he postured for a gun, I knew I couldn’t  run. I’m not that fast, I can’t outrun a bullet, and this is not a movie set. Lastly, I perceived his act as a true threat.

Although I am not an attorney, I have studied the Michigan Self-Defense Act in great detail. This law allows the use of deadly force if the person using deadly force honestly and reasonably believes that the perpetrator is about to cause imminent death, great bodily harm, or sexual assault against you or another. Did I honestly and reasonably believe that this man was about to cause great bodily harm or imminent death? Absolutely.

I realize that I was but a moment away from drawing my gun and defending myself. Thankfully, before my brain made that final connection to draw and fire, he brought his hands out in front of his body. So very close. And yes, I was scared.

My ability to act quickly and efficiently in this situation can only be credited to the fine instruction I have received over the years and my desire to apply that instruction to my own training. However, it goes much deeper than that. Where I carry, how I carry, and practicing accessing my gun are all key factors to survivability. As I debrief my own actions, I see that certain carry modes could have cost my life because of the time it would take to access the gun from that location. I understand the need to not only send bullets down a range, but to visualize my target as well.

Talk is cheap. Talk can cost your life. Training for specific events, training with specific equipment, training for dealing with a DCI, and training with varying levels of stress are the only things that can get you through a chaotic, life-changing event. We don’t have time to plan in the heat of the moment.

The decision and ability to use deadly force is not predicated on the single act of pulling a trigger. It begins long before the actual event.

All of us make mistakes. I made several in this DCI. I am alive and so is the nice man who now has a summons to appear posted on his door.

Stay Safe!


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