On Saturday, January 21, 2012, at a Waffle House in Spartanburg, S.C., a customer with a concealed weapon permit drew his handgun and verbally challenged two robbers, at least one of whom was armed with a handgun.
According to WACH, when the armed customer ordered the robbers to wait for the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s deputies to arrive, one of the robbers pointed his gun at the customer, who then fired his own gun, killing the armed robber, identified as 19-year-old Dante Lamont Williams. The second robber, identified as Kenneth Jowan Craig, 29, was later arrested and charged with armed robbery and possession of a weapon during a violent crime.
In this case, the only person shot was the armed robber who pointed his gun at the legally armed citizen. However, despite this relatively positive outcome, this incident brings to light several very real concerns. Remember, just because you’re armed doesn’t mean you have to take action. Taking action should not be “instinct,” but rather a reasonable decision made based on the specific factors surrounding your particular incident.
Deciding to engage two armed robbers is brave, but probably not very smart. In fact, even when there seems to be only one suspect, you better assume there are more. Situational awareness is a huge factor. Even after engaging a threat, you must train yourself to scan for additional threats. If you get so focused on the bad guy you just shot, you could very well be shot by his friend while you’re admiring your work.
Another controversial issue is giving verbal commands to an armed criminal. Action vs. reaction tells us when you do so, the bad guy will get the first round off most of the time. I’ve seen this in force-on-force scenarios, and it enables a bad guy with his muzzle lowered or pointed at his own head, for instance, to point the gun at you and squeeze of a round before you can pull the trigger – even when your gun is pointed at him and you’re ready to fire. If at all possible, issue verbal commands from behind cover.
In a crowded Waffle House, issuing a verbal command to two armed robbers could potentially endanger others inside the business. A verbal command might also prompt a gunfight which otherwise might not have occurred. Would the legally armed citizen in the Waffle House have been justified in shooting the armed robber without giving a verbal warning?
Consider these possibilities now so that you will have a plan should you find yourself in a similar situation. Of course, your plan will have to be flexible and take into account the “totality of the circumstances” surrounding the incident. Do yourself a favor and think about these things ahead of time. Don’t rely on marksmanship alone — that’s the “easy” part.