Jody Lewis finds himself in the action as he confronts robber at gun point. Read how Jody reflects on the lessons realized from this experience.
The reason we train is because the moment you are forced to draw your weapon, two lives will certainly change forever. Today I drew my weapon on another human being for the first time and I am thankful that I was not forced to end his life. I am writing this shortly after the encounter as a way to process what happened. It may sound raw and unedited and that is fine. The following happened 2014-06-26 at approximately 11:30 AM.
Before I delve into the details, I will tell you two things about me. First, I prescribe to Jeff Coopers combat mindset and alert levels. Those levels are Unaware (White), Aware (Yellow), Alert (Orange) and Alarm (Red). I believe in being at level orange most of the time and might relax to yellow occasionally. Secondly, I have been a CWP holder and carrier for most of my adult life, which is about 15 years.
This morning I stopped at Starbucks and decided to go through the drive-thru. I had just ordered my coffee when a white male in his 20’s appeared in my drivers-side mirror. It was busy with several cars in line before and after me and I was on the phone with my wife. The perp, as I call him, was walking next to cars in the drive-thru line at a brisk pace. As soon as I saw him I locked my doors and continued to talk to my wife. I looked back in my mirror, but could not locate where he had gone. I did a 180-degree pan behind me and could not locate him. He was only two-car lengths behind me when I first saw him and he could not have gone far. As I scanned left and right and noticed a back door open on the building where this Starbucks is located along with other businesses. The perp had slipped in the open door, which turned out to be a nail salon. I didn’t know at the time it was a nail salon and I assumed he must work there. In less than 15-seconds, he suddenly came running out with a bag in hand followed by employees and customers yelling for him to stop and for someone to dial 911.
Directly in the car behind me, a man we will call Stan immediately jumped out and began chasing after the perp. Not knowing if he had just robbed the place or if he had done something worse, I decided to give chase as well. I was a good 60-feet behind Stan and the perp, but I’m fast and caught up pretty quick. It didn’t occur to me at the time, but the perp was unaware anyone was chasing him. The strip mall is located in a Safeway parking lot, so the perp ran the distance of the parking lot attempting to flee. He slowed down to a walk as he neared a dumpster and slid behind it. Stan was not far behind the perp and I was behind Stan, I choose to go right and cover the exit side of the dumpster knowing he would be flushed out by Stan.
So here I am, standing just off the corner of the dumpster waiting for the perp to exit. It felt like an eternity, but was probably only about 3 or 4-seconds until he exited. You can imagine his surprise when he saw me standing there. As soon as he saw me and in a split second, he advanced towards me with a few aggressive steps so I reached for my gun and yelled “STOP!” He stopped. He was standing there staring at me when I noticed a knife in his pocket and his hand on it. I then drew my weapon and with a very stern yell said “GET ON THE GROUND”. He took a second and looked back at Stan, then he looked back at me, and then got down on the ground.
At this time he had complied with my request, so I re-holstered my weapon and reached in my pocket for my phone only to realize in my rush to exit the vehicle my wife was still on the phone. I yelled “Call 911” to a woman who had stopped in her mini-van nearby. This agitated the perp and he said “let me go.” Stan made matters worse by yelling at the perp, saying he was going to jail and asking him what is problem was. I could see the perp was getting very agitated and he continued to plead to us, “let me go.”
I could hear the sirens in the distance and Stan was still yelling at the perp. Knowing he had a weapon, I had created some distance between Stan and the perp by moving behind a 3-foot wall that was approximately 10-feet away. I could still draw my weapon if needed and my vision was not impaired.
The perp at this point decided he wanted to leave, stood up and said “I’m leaving.” Stan said “no you’re not” and the two began to argue. At one point Stan was egging the perp to take a swing at him. I yelled at Stan, “just let him go” and “it’s not worth it.” We had recovered to stolen items and this guy seemed like he would do whatever was needed to escape. The police sirens were pretty close and the perp decided to run. Stan chased him across the street, but gave up the chase shortly after that.
As Stan began to walk back, I walked over to the lady who I had asked to dial 911. As I approached, she was sitting in the drivers seat, window down and I could here talking to dispatch. “He is getting closer.” It was then that I realized she was describing me, the guy with the gun to the dispatcher. Knowing I did not have my phone, I asked her if I could speak to the dispatcher and she ignored me continuing to describe me. I decided to walk back to my car to retrieve the phone. As I approached my car, the police had arrived, AR-15s drawn and were surrounding the scene of the reporting business where the crime occurred.
Stan is talking to the theft victim as the police start walking toward them; they see me walking and draw weapons in my direction, yelling “Do you have a gun?” I’m 30 feet away from police officers who have their weapons pointed at me as I replied “Yes, I’m a concealed weapons permit holder.” They advanced towards my position and I raised my hands. They commanded me to “Drop the bag!” Keep in mind I had recovered the victims Louis Vutton purse. I complied and dropped the bag and repeated that I was a CWP holder. At the same time the theft victim and Stan were yelling at the police that I was the good guy. Stan was yelling so much that the police had to yell back at him to calm down. Officer friendly approached me and I could tell he was at alert level red and was being very cautious. He asked what happened and I gave him the very brief story. He asked me to hop in the car so we could give chase to the perp. We and 6 other police cars drove through the apartments he fled to and he was nowhere in sight. We returned to the scene where officers took my statement and thanked me. They apologized to me for drawing down and I told them I would have done the same thing and thanked them.
All of this went down in about 15-minutes, maybe less. It was such an eye-opening experience. It happened so fast and there was little to no time to react. If I had not had professional defensive firearms training, I’m certain there would have been a different outcome.
I can already here the comments like, “I would have just taken him out!” Or, “Why didn’t you detain him?”
As I write this, it has been only 3 hours since the incident and I wanted to get it down while it was still fresh in my head. At the time I decided to give chase, this scumbag had stolen something and others were pursuing him. My life was not in danger when I decided to assist Stan and my pursuit could have easily put me in a life or death situation. For a split second, there was a moment where I felt it was going be him or me that gets hurt or maybe even killed. But my training gave me the confidence to stay level headed and make good choices. I knew that if I had to pull the trigger, I would have to defend my actions, which would be scrutinized by a jury and cost tens of thousands of dollars to defend. It is just not worth it for a scumbag who stole a purse. Now, if he had committed a serious crime, the situation would have been different.
At the end of the day, the bad guy got away, however we stopped the robbery and no one was hurt which is all I care about. Hindsight now has me pondering if faced with this type of situation again, would I chase the purse thief and risk my life. Stan had already began pursuit and it could have easily ended badly for Stan who was unarmed and would have definitely gone one-on-one with the perp who at the very least had a knife. If I had not come in to assist, Stan may be lying there bleeding to death while I get my coffee. I don’t know… What would you do?
What amazes me most is the tunnel vision that I experienced was so intense that I could not remember what the perp was wearing, only his face and the bag he was carrying. If I could go back, the only thing I would change is having my phone and getting a better description. I now know why they say if you are involved in a shooting, give a brief statement and wait for your attorney, so much is going on you need time to process what happened.
In closing, I employ you to do much more than shooting at the range. Take defensive classes that include not just using your weapon, but teach you the proper mindset that is required to carry a weapon and the de-escalation techniques and tactics to give you the advantage. I get to come home to my family today and for that I am blessed.
I want to thank trainer and instructor Stephen Pineau of M3 Strategies for teaching me the tools that gave me the advantage today and I pray to God I never have to use them again. I also want to thank my close law enforcement buddy who was there to take my call and reassure me I had handled the situation properly.