I'm still shaking a bit as I sit down to write this. Iâ€™ve learned from past experiences itâ€™s best to write down what you remember as soon after it happens as possible, because memory tends to fade, especially traumatic events.
A longtime buddy of mine (Trey) was with me as we were walking through the mall near my house this weekend. We were trying to get some early X-mas shopping knocked out and I was eyeballing the frozen yogurt place in the food court. It was later in the evening and they were about to roll up the sidewalk in the place so we tried to put a hustle on it.
We get a snack and I start looking around for the nearest bookstore. We start walking that direction and I spot it. About that time I spotted 4 very thuggish looking guys that looked to be in their early to mid 20â€™s. They looked like they were all fresh out of prison. Trust me. I know the look. My first thought was, â€œok, time to get off their radarâ€? and I told Trey I wanted to head into the bookstore quick. They were walking toward us, but seemed to be minding their own business.
He gave me this look like, â€œI'm not going in thereâ€? so we had a few friendly words back and forth. He got a little agitated. I guess bookstores arenâ€™t as cool as they used to be. It could have been that I was going in for the latest Harry Potter.
He sort of quickly spun around as if to stomp into the store under protest and promptly spun into one of the four guys, sending the guy reeling backwards, almost on his butt. I started thinking that was a nasty little hit he gave the guy and it might come off looking better if I come down on my buddy hard before they have a chance to, so I started giving Trey some lip about being clumsy and watching where heâ€™s going and looked over and apologized to the guys for him and physically pulled Trey into the bookstore before they could really get their bearings and start a confrontation.
We settle at the back of the store and I look around. The guys are still up there just outside the store but they seem to be minding their own business so I turn my attention back to the book. I find a copy and start thumbing through it. Trey grabs a magazine and weâ€™re both facing the back wall. After what seemed like a few seconds I got the feeling someone was standing behind me. I turned around and thereâ€™s the guy Trey crashed into standing behind him and I see of all things in his hand a bright orange training gun.
I'm just sort of in shock a bit thinking to myself, â€œwhat in the world is this guy doing and why is he carrying around a training gun?â€? About that time he reaches up behind Trey whoâ€™s oblivious and puts the gun to his head and yells BANG!
Iâ€™m thinking, â€œWhat in the world? Is this guy for real?â€?. Trey jumped about 12 feet in the air and pretty much came unglued. Trey reached back to clock the guy. I canâ€™t say that I blame him at all, but I knew his buddies were probably close and I didnâ€™t want a 4 on 2 situation. I had just enough time to reach out and hold him back from swinging at him. The dude put the little orange gun in his pocket and laughed and said something. I really donâ€™t remember what. He laughed and started to walk back up to the front of the store.
I told my buddy it just wasnâ€™t worth it and we should probably just get the heck out of there. We gave them a few minutes to clear out and headed back out of the store to make a bee line for the car. As we walked up to the front register they were all still up there and were apparently laughing about the little prank.
One of the guys kept saying (I take in a joking manner) â€œ you need to go back there and shoot that dude for real. Donâ€™t let him do that to you.â€?
About the time I heard that the guy who was talking locked eyes with me and out of 100% reflex my right hand reached up to pat my 45 to make sure it was still there. He looked down and saw my hand and you could see the panic creep across his face. He yelled. â€œoh (deleted)! Heâ€™s got a gun! Shoot that (deleted!)â€?
At about that moment time started slowing way down. I could see the panicked look on his face and went to hold my hands up in front of me and tell him to just be cool. Both him and one of his other buddies started going for their waistline and lifting up their shirts.
I remember thinking at that point, â€œoh Lord, I'm gonna have to shoot this guy.â€? And that since they were already going for theirs I didnâ€™t have much of a choice. I remember saying â€œno, itâ€™s ok!â€? and holding my left hand out and reaching under my shirt to pop the retaining strap on my holster. They were both still reaching for theirs for what seemed like forever. My eyes were glued on their hands.
I wrapped my hand around the handle of the 45 and gave it a quick tug. It didnâ€™t come free. I gave it a much harder tug and it was stuck. At that point I remember thinking, â€œoh lord, theyâ€™re gonna gun us both down and I canâ€™t even get mine out of the holster.â€?
The panicked guy seemed to be having a hard time finding his piece, but the other guy already had his in his hand and was starting to move out of my line of site toward the wall of the bookstore. He looked like he might be retreating or going for cover. The other two guys were booking it out of the line of sight.
I gave one last really HARD tug on my gun and felt it break free. I brought it up and stepped back into the weaver stance and started looking for the front sight picture. I tried to put my finger on the trigger after it was lined up and my finger wouldnâ€™t go in. I quickly changed my focus and realized that the gun had come up with the holster still on it. I remember thinking, â€œI'm a dead man, thereâ€™s no way he doesnâ€™t have his out yet.â€?
As quick as I could I flicked the retaining strap that was still closed (apparently when I flicked it earlier it didnâ€™t undo) and reached up to quickly toss off the holster without changing the alignment of the gun. When I changed focus back to the guys I saw the one panicked guy was finally getting his out and bringing it up. Time was still going in extreme slow motion.
Just for a moment I remember thinking, â€œMan, this really sucks. This could have been avoided but I canâ€™t really take a moment to back down. If I do heâ€™s going to have the upper hand. I'm pretty much committed at this point. I'm actually going to have to shoot this guy.â€? Lawyers, court and jail time flashed in my mind momentarily.
I took a quick glance behind him and didnâ€™t see anyone and squeezed off a double tap. I swear it was like those bullet scenes in the Matrix. You could see the rounds cutting through the air. The first shot was a little to the right, but the second landed a little high but square in the chest. I popped one more mid mass and turned to look at where his friend who was reaching for his waistband and running went.
I remember thinking at that point, â€œman, weâ€™re gonna have a mall shoot-out. Heâ€™s got cover and I donâ€™t. I need to get behind the counter and yell out that I'm not going to shoot him unless he â€¦â€?
About that time I snapped my eyes open in a cold sweat. I was visibly shaking. I donâ€™t think Iâ€™ve ever had a nightmare that vivid in my life.
Sorry if I shook you up. I figured it wouldnâ€™t come across with the right emotional impact if you knew it was just a dream from the beginning. I really am still shaking from that scenario though. Scared me senseless.
Lessons learned from this encounter?
Remove the retaining strap on my holster and call to find out when my NEW holster from Sparks will be shipped.
Review my plan of action on such encounters. I should have instinctually moved for cover before doing anything else. The situation could have possibly be resolved without drawing if I could have found cover to possibly negotiate or wait it out from.
I can tell you that I will probably never forget that moment, even though it only existed in my mind in the middle of an anonymous August night. Is it possible to have post traumatic stress from a nightmare?
oh yeah, and i need to work on that reflex to touch my waistband when I feel threatened. That's bad bad.