I recently received an email from a student that was involved in a defensive incident. He gave his permission for me to share it with others with some minor edits to protect his privacy.
This afternoon I went to the UPS Store west of the Capitol in Austin to drop off some packages. It’s on a one-way street and parallel parking is the only option. I parallel park, put my truck in park, and lean over my console to the front passenger floorboard to get my packages.
When I shifted my truck into Park, the doors automatically unlock. This has never been an issue…until this afternoon. As I’m leaned over getting the packages, I hear my back passenger door open.
I look behind me and it’s a homeless vagrant. He is already completely in my vehicle. I tell him to get out now. He refuses. I tell him again, and he kind of does this half lunge toward me and tries to hit me. I keep pepper spray in my cup-holder/console area so it’s immediately accessible. I’m able to grab it, and I sprayed him. He starts yelling in pain and anger and falls back out of the still open door on to the pavement. I drive off and shut my door at the traffic light. I then circle back around to see that he’s stumbling around on the sidewalk.
It was very unnerving. I am thankful I did not have to use my sidearm. I carry pepper spray in my vehicle at all times. I witnessed a road rage incident a few years ago between two parties about twenty feet in front of my vehicle while stopped dead in traffic. A driver got out of his vehicle and put his gun in another driver’s face. That is what made me finally realize the importance of concealed carry and appropriate use and training on firearms. Road rage incidents and carjackings are more common than they used to be.
I am very fortunate. Very, very fortunate. He caught me by complete surprise. If he had had a knife, or had been more addled out of his mind, this story might have a very different ending. I might well be dead. So might he.
I am going to have my truck reprogrammed so it doesn’t automatically unlock when I shift to Park. It’s a safety hazard, especially with a newborn infant (who thankfully wasn’t with me today). I also should have been more aware of my surroundings.
A lot of people scoff at the idea that they need to train or have both OC and a gun available for quick access. What happened to me today is a reminder why it is important. The police, especially in Austin, would have been of no help. Had I shot this guy, our district attorney likely would have tried to indict me.
Being prepared, protecting your family and yourself, and the steps that get you there can be hard, time-consuming, not cheap, and sometimes boring. Today was an important reminder of why we prioritize it.
This incident is a great example of the importance of having pepper spray with you, particularly in urban areas. The threat of deadly force used as force (drawing the gun) might have deterred the attacker, but that would have been a purely psychological stop, where the pepper spray caused immediate physical reaction. (He used Sabre Red, which is one of the two brands we recommend, along with POM). The student was also carrying on-body (not in a car holster or a glove box or console), which gave him options. If the attacker had a gun, it would have been safer for the student to exit the vehicle, draw and (maybe) engage than to try to stay in the vehicle attempting to access a gun that wasn’t worn on-body. And had the attacker entered via the front passenger door, a car holster or glove box carry method would have put the gun as (or more) accessible to the intruder than to the student. The same would have been true for the cup holder carried pepper spray. As the student wrote, he was fortunate that the intruder used the back seat doors instead.
The only way the student would have seen the intruder sooner would have been to be looking at the passenger side rear view mirror at the right time, and that’s just not something people do unless the vehicle is in motion (or about to be). It’s very likely that the intruder chose the back passenger side door because of its location in the driver’s blind spot, an indicator that this person has committed this type of attack in the past. As the student observed, the best preventative measure would be to change the programming to keep the doors locked until the driver manually unlocks them. This is inconvenient (most security measures are), but would have prevented the intruder from getting in.
As of Sept 2021, Austin PD no longer responds to “attempted theft of property”, “burglary of vehicle”, or “suspicious person”. The full list of crimes reclassified as “non emergency” is here. Even if he had called 911, even a 3 minute response time would have been an eternity compared to his immediate response. In another recent student involved incident, where a homeless person came out of the Barton Creek Greenbelt and pounded on the student’s front door, demanding to be let in, when Austin PD was called, the trespasser was not taken into custody or even cited for the offense, even though the homeowner told the police he wanted to press charges. In that incident, the student drew his gun (on his own property) but kept it in a muzzle averted position until police arrived, holstering when the arriving officer directed him to. (The ability to holster quickly when directed to by responding officers is one of many reasons why we prefer solid kydex holsters over hybrids with leather backers that tend to flop over, covering the holster opening.)
The student in this most recent incident chose not to contact the police afterward, out of a (likely correct) assessment that at best, it would accomplish nothing, and at worst it would lead to more trouble for him than the car intruder.
Please share this story with your friends and family that don’t currently carry pepper spray, either because they think “I won’t need it” or because “I have a gun”. In this case having the right tool at the right time (and the willingness to use it) was the key to success.