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Picture this. You are loaded with a few shopping bags and just walked into the space between your car and another one. The keys are in your hand but the door isn't open. A man appears at the front of your car and starts approaching you. His hands appear empty and he's asking you "Do you know what time it is?" There's nothing obviously threatening in his dress or manner. What do you do as he's closing distance quickly. Do you close the distance,back away, verbally challenge, deck him with your tuna helper? How about if you add a new component like there are now two possible "threats," one in back as well as the one in front? Keep in mind that you have very limited space to manuver or retreat.
 

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OK. With one I would continue toward him, even closing the gap to touching distance. I am assuming from the description that I have a grocery bag in each hand and keys grasping in one of my hands at the same time. The grocery bags are both a barrier and a distraction device and my keys can double as a weapon, if need be. You can always throw the grocery bags into him or shove into him bodily with them. His natural reaction should be to protect himself and/or clear the bags out of the way before going for his own weapon(s), even if you catch him in the middle of going for one. This should give you time to engage with the keys or unarmed or go for your own gun that you should always be carrying. Of course, that's just what came to mind first.

If dealing with two guys...that would be a lot harder. I'd still use the grocery bags and the keys in the same capacity, but the situation is infinitely more complicated.
 

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First of all, why the hell am I in this situation, which could easily be avoided with some better pre-planning? One should always make a concious effort to keep the strong hand free when going about armed. Of course, I understand this is not always possible. We're all human and become complacent. (Just watch "Cops" and other similar shows and see how many officers have their flashlight in their gun hand when conducting a search or field interview). What I am advising is critiquing yourself. Give yourself a slap upside the head when your using your gun hand to carry something and your weak hand is free.
In the situation presented, there is no need to burden yourself with so much merchandise that you put yourself in a compromising position. Buy only what you need, make several trips to the car, take a friend, your wife, your girlfriend, (or both wife and girlfriend) with you to help carry, or wheel the bags to your car in a shopping cart. This last option gives you immediate use of your hands and provides an obstacle to place between yourself and a potential assailant.
Many well known instructors preach that often times avoidance is the key to survival. One local instructor (whose opinions I highly regard) sums it up by saying "If you use your mind you may never have to use your gun..." I'm by no means claiming to be perfect in all this. I've lost track of the times I've been taken by suprise on duty. It's human nature to get lazy and complacent, and living in "Condition Yellow" is probablly boarderline paranoia.
As for approaching this person; what about cover and creating a reactionary gap? There is recent case law where a patrol officer left hard cover, approached and fatally shot an emotionally disturbed person wielding a knife. The officer was found guilty of unjustifiable use of deadly force, because-according to the court- he provoked and initiated a deadly force situation by leaving the safety of hard cover! I don't have the actual case info handy, but if I find it in my mess of files I will post it.
This case is being used in bean-bag and pepperball instructor courses to emphasize how these less lethal options could have changed the outcome. And remember, in many states a civilain must show he attempted to retreat before resorting to deadly force.
Sorry for getting so long winded here, guys! Anyway, if in the proposed situation
I would at least back off and attempt to place myself on the opposite side of a car as this person, keeping the car between us as an obstacle. Many police academies are currently teaching recruits to approach on the passenger side on vehicle stops; this being one of the advantages.

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Mark Garrity on 2001-04-24 11:17 ]</font>
 
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Mark,
If I take my wife and girlfriend then I would truly be in harms way not to mention seriously trapped.............your point as to case law and the requirement to retreat first is very valid and applicable.
I was in a very similar situation with my wife and children one night at the local mall AMC 8 movie theater.
My family crossed the traffic in front of me and I was about 30 feet behind them by the time someone allowed me to cross again, when they were boxed by surprise. The lead man asked my wife "exscuse me do you have the time?" she replied no I dont" and was very suprised to see the second man standing next to my daughter, I saw it coming my wife did not and to my benefit the lead man did not recognize that I was a part of the "group" and ignored my approach from the rear. At approx. ten paces in a loud voice I said "is there a problem here mam"? My wife responded "no officer I do not think so", without looking again both individuals began walking briskly away and the lead man said "Damn we missed the movie thanks for the time" she was armed and I was not as I came straight home from the airport and rushed to make the movie. No threats were made on either side and I believe her quick response distracted them, my planning was poor and the situation was against us as she was armed but suprised and I was unarmed but aware, sometimes you can be only half right and walk away safe.
 

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I told you guys when I found the aforementioned case law I'd
post it, so here it is:

Quezaeda Vs. County of Bernalillo/ 944 F.2d 710-10th Cir.1991

Brief synopsis:
A suicidal woman armed with a firearm (I initially recalled
this as a knife) was contained by police. An officer was able to
establish open communications with her from behind cover. After a period of time, the officer felt he had developed a rapport with her, stepped from behind cover and approached.
The woman pointed her gun at the officer at which time he
fatally shot her. The district court found, and the Court of Appeals affirmed: the officer was "negligent when he placed himself in jeopardy by leaving the cover" and "forcing the confrontation".

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Mark Garrity on 2001-05-03 00:41 ]</font>
 

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Mr. Difabio, glad to hear it all worked out ok. As one respected martial artist and good friend used to tell me about tactics, "If it worked it was right". Many times we are more lucky than we are proficient; Thank God for luck! However, fortune favors the prepared. If most of us go through somewhat of an incoveniance/ discomfort to carry firearms(whether permit, off duty officer, or other), how much harder is it to carry a small bottle of pepper spray and a good folding knife. The spray can be an effective, less than lethal ranged response (although short range at that) as long as you play the wind correctly, and can take the BG's eyes away momentarily while you move to cover and issue commands. Even something as readily deadly as a knife can be used to "injure to degree" (you can use it closed i.e. the handle to stike as you would a kubaton by pressure point areas and soft tissue, or open if lethal force is justified). Having more than one option is nice in a scenerio like this , especially when that option may be less than lethal! This is all assuming that the individuals in question proved to be a threat of course.
 
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