Complacency Kills. It can happen to any of us.
Paul Carlson and I had a good conversation.
This is episode 441 of the SSA Podcast and I am so pleased that you have joined us.
Today’s guest, Claude Werner and I discuss personal protection and the firearms training industry through the lens of data. Claude is a self proclaimed “Quant” meaning that he has a strong focus on collecting, analyzing and applying data to solve problems. His focus on the application of data to personal protection helps to bring quality solutions to people that they may not find from other sources. I really think you are going to enjoy this episode of the SSA Podcast!
Topics we spoke about:
- Making decisions based on data instead of emotions
- Evaluating a defensive gun use based on financial criteria
- The defense of others and how third party defense can be significantly more difficult to avoid negative outcomes
- Dynamics of home invasions that may surprise you
- Negative outcomes and why Claude focuses on mitigating those negative outcomes
- How competence can increase your ability to deal with a defensive gun use more efficiently
That question came up on a Facebook group I’m a member of recently. In response, I referenced my Armed Citizen database. The question was asked about my methodology, which is a fair question. I’ll address it my forthcoming eBook about the Armed Citizen but I want to first post the Introduction, which addresses the journey I have made about the Armed Citizen and my analyses thereof.
This book is the result of the overlap of several very widely different topics and experiences. As is often the case, as more information comes to light over time, perceptions can change.
During my time in the Army, I held several different intelligence (S2) positions. These largely involved information collection and analysis duties, not ‘spyguy’ stuff. The purpose of Intelligence in the military and government is always to facilitate decision-making. Having to provide and defend a cogent analysis of not only the information collected but the conclusions I drew from it was a formative experience for me. Information collection was only the beginning. From there, it had to be processed and turned into a usable product that decisions could be based on.
As I wound down my military career and entered the civilian world, I got into the commercial real estate business. As a Research Director for several different real estate firms, my S2 training and manuals were very useful to me. At the same time, the transition from mini-computer (Wang) to PCs in the business world was beginning. My boss was an extremely astute businessman and recognized the value of databasing information early on. Being able to construct my own databases allowed me to do several projects that were particularly influential in the way I looked at information.
One of the projects was to database the contacts that the brokers in our office used to develop business. Our firm’s business model was territorial with each broker having an assigned property type and area. To see how well this worked, my boss had me collect each broker’s contacts by Zip Code and create a map of where the contacts were in relation to the broker’s chosen territory. This process was very similar to the Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (now Battlespace) products I had prepared in the Army. The results were surprising to everyone involved. In almost no case were the majority of the broker’s contacts in his or her territory. Some were nearby, which was understandable, but in many cases, they were widely scattered and even far away. The brokers themselves couldn’t believe it until I showed them the actual maps.
What this showed me was how inaccurate conclusions based on data that isn’t properly disaggregated can be. Their information was written down in their Rolodexes with every contact date annotated. That system told them very well what the level of their contact activity was. What it didn’t provide was much information about how well they were following their business plan. Aggregating the data and then disaggregating it by location instead of contact name and date told a much different story.
Another database I had to create was of proposed and completed deals. Creating this database gave me a much better insight into the numerous factors that make up a transaction. Proposed rental rate, length of term, size of the space, etc. were all captured when the brokers proposed a transaction. Eventually we would enter whether the deal closed or died. That database gave our company a firm understanding of what the market was actually doing across the city and in the various submarkets. Instead of speculation about what actual rental rates and terms were, we had a very clear picture.
Training I took impacted my thoughts also. I took Massad Ayoob’s Lethal Force Institute I in 1991. Having a measured and structured component to training was an eye-opening experience. Similarly, when I started training with John Farnam of Defense Training International, I got a lot of good information, both formal and informal. John was kind enough to give me a copy of W. French Anderson’s book about the FBI Miami Massacre. The book provided a superlative example of an in depth analysis of an armed conflict.
The next leg of my experiences developed when I started shooting IDPA in 1998 and then started an IDPA club. A number of Match Directors and I were discussing how to develop stages every month for our matches. Stage development is a constant pressure for any Match Director to keep the matches fresh and interesting. Someone suggested that The Armed Citizen column of NRA’s American Rifleman magazine might be a good place to start. I had been tearing the columns out of the magazine for years but never paid close attention to them. So I dug them out and looked through them in greater detail. My response to the other MDs was that almost all of the incidents were less than five shots and a lot were only one or two. Many of them had no shooting in them at all. The general consensus was the round count wasn’t high enough and the situations weren’t complicated enough to make interesting scenario stages.
My conclusion was different though, so I started designing what I called Armed Citizen Scenarios for my matches. There were several ways to adapt the incidents into stages. One way was to put multiple strings into a stage. For instance, if a Citizen was wounded in the arm in an attack, I would have one string shot with both hands and a second string shot with the Dominant Hand Only. Or, when only one shot was fired at one criminal in the actual incident, I would specify a failure drill (two shots to the body and one to the head) on all the targets.
The Armed Citizen topic interested me enough to create a database all 482 of the incidents from the column for the period 1997-2001. The incidents were remarkably devoid of ‘ninjas coming from the ceiling’ and ‘face eating meth-heads.’ As I had done with the deal database, I broke out as many different characteristics (at home, in a business, number of shots fired, etc.) as I could. With the database populated, I ran a series of pivot tables and produced a short study of what the characteristics and outcomes of the incidents were. Although there were methodological issues with it, fifteen years later, it remains the only study of its type I am aware of. Like a vampire that won’t die, it continues to be widely referenced and reproduced on the Internet.
One of the criticisms of my 1997-2001 study was that the NRA ‘cherry-picks’ the incidents to portray the actions of Armed Citizens in the most favorable light. Although the nature of what the Citizens might have done wrong was never really specified, I accept that as a valid critique. Only Positive Outcomes are reported in the Armed Citizen.
Flash forward more than a decade to the 2014 Rangemaster Tactical Conference, where I am an annual presenter. My colleague Craig Douglas threw down a challenge to me. “You should do a presentation on ‘Bad Shootings’ next year.” It was a virgin topic and gave me an opportunity to counteract the ‘cherry-picking’ aspect of the Armed Citizen. I accepted the challenge and casually started gathering information.
Be careful of what you wish for. The broad array of what I came to call Negative Outcomes really surprised me. The categories I broke them out into are:
- Chasing after the end of a confrontation
- Downrange failures (shot an innocent while shooting at a threat)
- Intervention (Proverbs 26:17)
- Lost/stolen guns
- Mistaken identity shootings
- Negligent discharges, including self-inflicted gunshot wounds and Unintentional shootings
- Police Involvement, e.g., getting needlessly arrested
- Poor judgement
- Unauthorized access (generally by small children)
- Unjustifiable shootings, including warning shots
The categories are far from being the lurid list of ‘gunfights lost’ that those who objected to the 1997-2001 study probably expected. Rather than being tactical failures, most are simply the result of poor gunhandling, lack of familiarity with the law, or out and out carelessness and negligence. My list of such incidents is shockingly long. The only really noticeable category of tactical failures was what my colleague Tom Givens calls ‘forfeits,’ i.e., not having your gun when you need it.
- There is a process to data collection and analysis.
- Information that isn’t written down and then analyzed in written form is prone to error. The human mind has a remarkable capacity for memory but that capacity can be disorderly and easily misinterpreted.
- Defensive Gun Uses by Armed Citizens tend to be uncomplicated affairs.
- Defensive Gun Uses have discrete characteristics that can be broken out for broad analysis.
- Negative Outcomes rarely consist of ‘gunfights lost’ but more often are negligence related Unintentional Shootings and Unjustifiable Use of Weapons. The exception to that rule being not having a gun when it’s needed.
I’m shocked because I thought the case was a question of manslaughter. Hung jury, possibly guilty of manslaughter, but more likely ‘not guilty.’ It just seemed to me that the relative sizes of the two people made it clear that my client was in a jam that he couldn’t get out of except to use a firearm.
So said the defense attorney for Merrill “Mike” Kimball after his client was found guilty of murder for fatally shooting 63-year-old Leon Kelley in 2013. Obviously, things did not come to pass the way he thought they would. Regardless of the outcome of an appeal, being convicted of murder is a Negative Outcome.
Cast of characters for the drama:
- Stan Brown – 95 year old owner of Brown’s Bee Farm
- Karen Thurlow-Kimball – shooter’s wife. Managed the farm and sold the honey
- Merrill “Mike” Kimball – shooter (5 feet 11 inches tall, 170 pounds)
- Damon Carroll – Thurlow-Kimball’s son
- Daniel Lilley – Kimball’s attorney
- Leon Kelley – victim (6 feet 4 inches tall, 285 pounds)
- Kathleen Kelley – victim’s wife, Stan Brown’s daughter, and witness
- Craig Rawnsley – Kathleen Kelley’s son (6 feet 2 inches tall, 205 pounds)
- Robin Rawnsley-Dutil – victim Kelley’s stepdaughter and witness
- Daryl Rawnsley – deputy chief of the Cumberland Fire Department
- Libby Adams – Brown’s daughter-in-law, bookkeeper for the bee business
- Matthew Crockett – Assistant Attorney General
- John Alsop – Assistant Attorney General
Events preceding the day of the shooting.
- Thurlow-Kimball begins working for Brown at the farm in 2009, when Brown’s son died.
- Thurlow-Kimball becomes manager of the bee farm.
- Brown eventually includes Thurlow-Kimball in his will, leaving the bee business and a part of his property to her. The family deeply resents this.
Oct. 6, 2013
- Around 1 p.m., Craig Rawnsley calls Thurlow-Kimball and accuses her of wrongdoing. He tells her “things were going to change at his grandfather’s farm.”
- At the time of the phone call, Merrill Kimball had just gotten off his boat and gone to a friend’s house to watch a Patriots game. He drank two rum and cokes while he was there.
- Thurlow-Kimball immediately calls Brown’s daughter-in-law, Libby Adams. Adams tells her the Kelley family plans to change the locks on the bee farm sales shop.
- The shop contains about two dozen jars of honey, totaling about 700 pounds. The honey, which contractually belongs to Thurlow-Kimball, has a value between $4,000 and $7,000.
- Rawnsley-Dutil calls her mother and Kelley, her stepfather, at their home 40 miles away, and asks them to come to the farm. The senior Kelleys then drive to the Bee Farm and arrive before the Kimballs.
- Thurlow-Kimball enlists her husband and son to help her get the honey out of the shop. They drive to the shop in two vehicles.
- Around 3 p.m., Kimball and his family arrive to load the honey jars.
- Rawnsley-Dutil and her brother follow the vehicles up the driveway on foot. Kelley drives up in his 3½-ton truck with the license plate ‘AWFUL.’
- Kelley family confronts Kimball family.
- Craig Rawnsley blocks the shop door and accuses the Kimball family of trespassing.
- Kimball asks who Kelley was. The two men had never met before that day.
- Kathleen Kelley calls the police.
- Thurlow-Kimball refused to leave the property, insisting on waiting for a police officer to arrive.
- Kelley put his hand on Kimball’s shoulders, spins him around, and follows as Kimball backs down the driveway. Kimball later states that Kelley shoved him five or six times total.
- Kimball retreats roughly 35 feet being followed by Kelley until he is in the driveway nearly to the treeline. The driveway extends to his right and left, at this point.
- Kimball, who is licensed to carry a concealed weapon, draws his Ruger LCP .380, and fires three shots into Kelley’s torso at a range of 4 -10 feet.
- Kelley falls down after being shot and clutches his abdomen.
- Robin Rawnsley-Dutil immediately takes a photograph of the scene and then begins recording a video.
- Kathleen Kelley remains on the 911 call after her husband is shot.
- Rawnsley calls his brother, Daryl Rawnsley, deputy chief of the Cumberland Fire Department, for medical assistance.
- Kelley is transported by ambulance to a hospital and dies shortly thereafter.
- The state police sergeant who was the first officer to arrive at the scene said he could “smell the odor of liquor” on Kimball. Kimball did not seem impaired, other than failing to immediately respond when when the sergeant commanded him to put his hands up and get on the ground.
- Kimball maintains the shooting was done in self-defense. “The man attacked me. The man pushed me back. I was in fear for my life. I nearly fell down, and he kept coming.” Kimball’s words were captured on a police cruiser’s onboard camera.
- Kimball is questioned but not arrested.
- A video re-enactment is recorded by Kimball at Brown’s Bee Farm on November 4.
- Kimball is indicted on the charge of murder.
- He posts bail and remains free.
April 2015 (not necessarily in chronological order)
- Kimball rejects a plea offer to manslaughter before the start of the trial.
- The trial commences on April 6, 2015.
- The prosecution contends that Kimball could have continued to retreat by turning left or right down the driveway rather than shooting.
- Maine is one of 16 states whose self-defense laws require retreat for as long as safely possible before using deadly force.
- The prosecution alleges that Kimball took a concealed pistol and an extra clip [sic] of ammunition to Brown’s Bee Farm because he expected trouble from the Kelley family.
- Kelley family members admit in court that Thurlow-Kimball was not trespassing and that they had no right to tell her to leave.
- Members of the Kelley family make several contradictory statements about the events leading up to the shooting.
- Rawnsley-Dutil states that Kelley put his hand on Kimball’s shoulders shortly before the shooting, spun him around and followed Kimball as he backed down the driveway. She admits Kelley may have shoved Kimball additional times.
- Craig Rawnsley admits he put his hand on Carroll’s shoulder to stop him from moving and states “Damon (Carroll), he is not as big as me.”
- Assistant Attorney General Alsop describes the shooting as: “Bam. Bam. Bam. There was no pause. Merrill Kimball fired three rapid shots right in the middle of Leon Kelley.”
- The video re-enactment recorded by Kimball is played for the jury.
- The state’s chief medical examiner testifies that the first shot had most likely felled Kelley. He also stated that “All three of these were potentially fatal.”
- The cellphone photo taken after the shooting is shown to the jury.
- Craig Rawnsley testifies that Kelley wouldn’t have “escalated the situation” if he had known Kimball was armed.
- Defense Attorney Lilley says “They brought him [Kelley] along because he was mean and he was a badass. They brought him along because he was big.”
- “The issue for me in this case is there were three shots fired and whether he was acting in self-defense in all three shots or less,” said Justice Roland Cole.
- The jury deliberates for six hours over two days. They have the options of finding him guilty of murder, manslaughter or acquittal.
- The jury finds Kimball guilty of murder on April 15, 2015.
- The possible sentence is 25 years to life in prison.
- Kimball is taken into custody.
- Kimball’s lawyer indicates the intent to appeal, which cannot be filed until after Kimball is sentenced. Sentencing will be scheduled in the next six weeks.
The above account is based on the trial reporting of Scott Dolan, Staff Writer for the Portland Press Herald newspaper.
I’ll look at the implications of this over the next few days.
I withhold comment on the viability of the wings, but the Jose Canseco “shoot your finger off’ hold used in the photos is unforgivable for someone who is supposed to be a firearms semi-professional. People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.
Oh, but that’s OK because “it’s not loaded.”
No, it’s not OK. That’s how we get into sloppy habits that bite us in the ass.
Maybe I’m becoming obsessed with ‘negative outcomes,’ but I see a lot of bad gunhandling by people who should know better. Don’t get into habits that can come back to haunt you under a different set of circumstances.