I hadn’t planned on having a real life example of Know the Rules in relation to Decision Making but sometimes life gives us opportunities. In this case, it didn’t concern legal rules but social rules.
Out on my walk this morning, I had an interesting encounter with a future criminal, perhaps several potential criminals. It brought to mind something that I mentioned in my guest lecture at The Complete Combatant last weekend. Know the Rules, including the rules of the criminal interview.
The setting was a typical suburban area with sidewalks on both sides of a two lane arterial street. Three middle school aged boys were walking toward me on the sidewalk. There’s nothing unusual about that, although the time was a little late to be going to school. They were twenty to thirty yards away from me. When I first saw them, they had just passed the traffic signal on the corner I was walking toward.
As soon as I saw them, I identified them as Green shoes, Red shoes, and Brown shoes. This is a habit I got from Jimmy Cirillo, as he mentions in his book Guns, Bullets, and Gunfights. I don’t even know if it has any general value but it’s fun to me. A variation of the technique worked very well for me during one stage of an IDPA Championship that had a multiple moving target array.
As they walked along the sidewalk, they stepped aside in the bank driveway and had a pow-wow. Right away, I knew something was up. Secretive pre-contact activity is a clue. Then they got back on the sidewalk and started walking again.
I made an immediate decision. Although I had both a pistol and pepper spray on me, this was unlikely to shape up as a situation where those would be the appropriate tools. “If he pulls a weapon, I’m going to grab it from him or grab his hand and twist his arm to give him a radial fracture.” In any criminal encounter that I can’t avoid, my primary objective has evolved into “I’m going to fuck you up. Win, lose, or draw, you’re going to have to go to the Emergency Room.” Then those difficult and uncomfortable questions by the police begin.
As we closed, Mr. Green shoes, the largest, made the approach. Mr. Red shoes and Mr. Brown shoes looked younger and were noticeably smaller. Green shoes was clearly the Alpha in the group.
His initial approach was so tentative I couldn’t hear what he said. That set the tone for the interview. Clearly, he wasn’t practiced at his craft, so I could have a little fun with the situation.
“Excuse me?” was my response. This was in a decisive firm voice. Something criminals are looking for is indecision. If you don’t display it, they frequently don’t know what to do. As I said it, I started to rub the palms of my hands together. This isn’t an unusual gesture but it pulls the hands up into a low fence position.
“Do you have any money? I’m going to …..”
Before he could even finish, I cut him off. “No, I don’t” and put my left hand up to accentuate the point. The hand up would have allowed me to block or divert a weapon if he had produced one. Then, I immediately started back on my way and left them in the dust. Once again, decisiveness is key. I.e., ‘this interview is over.’ I kept an eye on the shadows to make sure they didn’t follow, which they didn’t. One of the reasons I like this walk route is that the sun is at my back and throws the shadows where I can see them.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Mr. Green shoes will graduate to full-fledged robbery, either strong arm or armed, fairly soon. Probably in less than a year, he’ll go for it. He was just getting accustomed to his skills, much in the way boys play catch before they start actually playing baseball. Since I didn’t interact with Red shoes or Brown shoes, I have no opinion about their future plans.
When I walk, I don’t walk around in la-la land listening to music, talking on my cell phone, or being task fixated watching my dog take a dump. My head is up and my eyes are on the horizon. Consequently, I saw them at a distance and had time to adjust my Awareness and mental DefCon appropriately. This is also a good approach to driving, rather than being visually fixated on the rear bumper of the car in front of you.
Having my hands in a low fence position would have allowed me to respond much more quickly than if they were at my sides. I prefer a low fence in general because I live in a mostly normal world. The high fence is actually a superior defensive posture but it’s weird looking and off-putting if you usually deal with benign people.
Being decisive is important to controlling the situation. If you can maintain control of the situation, you can often walk away without conflict.
Items for improvement
I let Red shoes and Brown shoes get behind me while I interacted with Green shoes. They were both small and I have no doubt I could have easily nailed either of them. But if they had weapons, the situation could have become much different. I need to practice getting into a position where I can see them all.
Taking a short ‘breather’ a few steps after breaking contact would have allowed me to maintain surveillance on them and be sure they had continued on. Or turning off route and going into the bank parking lot. If their moving off had been a feint, watching them or eluding them would have precluded them from bum rushing me from behind.
For whatever reason, the eggs I made when I returned home tasted even better than usual.