Lessons from Las Vegas

If you’ve been paying attention in the last week, you’ve doubtless heard about a pretty horrific event in Las Vegas. Two worthless dregs of society walked into a CiCi’s Pizza place where a couple of police officers were having lunch and ambushed the officers, shooting one in the back of the head while he got a soda and killing the other before he could get his sidearm into the fight. The national media has made these jackasses famous, cooperating nicely with their desired end result. The two officers who were murdered in cold blood, Igor Soldo and Alyn Beck become footnotes in the story as the media tries to grind a political axe by pinning a couple of violent nutcases on political movements that don’t meet with Madison Avenue approval. Such is the curse of our modern age: All we get is spin. All spin, all the time. News isn’t really news in the sense we traditionally think of it. It’s not objective recounting of facts, it’s all a “narrative”. A story. Stories designed to promote a particular political orthodoxy above all others.

…but we don’t do that sort of nonsense here. I couldn’t care less why those two losers decided to murder some cops and then a bunch of other people. It’s irrelevant. The fact is that human beings have never lacked inspiration for violence and that a certain percentage of the population is going to behave like this no matter what laws are in place. Murder will always be with us.

So what can we learn from this incident?

Firstly, everybody needs to cool out on the situational awareness front. As soon as the details of this thing started to flow people showed up on the web talking about it as a failure of situational awareness. I have news for you, folks: No human being on earth has perfect situational awareness at all times. Everybody can be ambushed. We know next to nothing about how these two jokers walked into that restaurant or how they conducted themselves while in the restaurant. Good situational awareness is always an asset, but it’s not the same thing as being able to read minds or sense a disturbance in the force. It’s about looking for stuff that doesn’t fit or cues that violence is probable or even imminent. Sometimes bad guys are sophisticated enough to blend in and not give off any bad guy cues until it’s too late. Most who end up injured by criminal violence do indeed miss signs of the impending conflict, but that doesn’t mean everyone who ends up hurt (or worse) got it wrong.

That leads us to the third victim of this repellent act…Joseph Wilcox. After the two losers murdered Igor and Alyn, they went into a Wal-Mart where the male fired a shot in the air and started giving the customers orders. One of them, Joseph Wilcox, had a CCW permit and was carrying at the time. He told the friend he was with that he was going to try and stop the guy.

Mr. Wilcox, God bless him, had an option. Try to blend in with the rest of the crowd and maybe escape, or close distance on a dude with a rifle and attempt to engage him to prevent harm to innocent people. Mr. Wilcox chose to go after the bad guy. Most of the time you don’t get a choice on matters of violence. Generally those who use a firearm justly are under a direct assault and their options are to either fight or die. That’s a relatively simple problem. It’s much more complicated when you’re presented with a situation like the one Mr. Wilcox faced that day. Making the decision to go after the bad guy willingly lays everything on the line. I’m not one of the umpteen online “sheepdog!” dudes who is going to argue it’s your basic moral duty to risk your life and your family’s future anytime some nitwit decides to shoot people. I don’t presume to have the moral authority to tell other people what they should be willing to risk death for. I don’t think Mr. Wilcox had any moral duty to deal with the bad guy and stop this violent rampage. He gets all the credit in the world for making the hard choice and risking everything to try and defend strangers from a psychopath.

Sadly Mr. Wilcox died in the effort. While focused on the male subject with the rifle, he didn’t notice the female accomplice behind him who shot him in the back, fatally wounding him. Details are still sketchy, and some reports make it seem like Mr. Wilcox might have tried to verbally confront the male subject. If that’s true, it was an understandable mistake.

See, good people like Mr. Wilcox often do not have considerable experience with criminal violence or with the sorts of personalities who would execute the first couple of uniformed police officers they came across because of some imaginary political grievance. As I’ve written before, bad guys do not hesitate. These two losers made their decisions long ago. They were playing for blood and weren’t going to surrender. In the first Terminator movie Kyle Reese, in his effort to protect Sarah Conner, says:

Listen, and understand! That Terminator is out there! It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.

That’s a pretty good description of the sort of person who decides they’re going to murder their way out of the world in a blaze of media glory. The only answer to their sort of problem is the judicious application of violence. You are under no moral or legal obligation to verbally warn somebody who is on a murder spree that you will use deadly force to stop them. If, God forbid, you’re ever faced with such a person let your bullets do the talking. They had their chance. They made their decision. What happens to them is on them, not you. The stats tell us they are likely to die either by their own hand or at the hand of the police. The only question is when they’re going to expire and how much damage they will get to do until then. Pulling the trigger on someone like that is just saving innocent life. So just do it.

Don’t hesitate. If you have surprise on your side, then let the first indicator of your presence be the impact of bullets in the active shooter’s anatomy. Expect there to be at least one more bad guy than what you see.

The bad guys settle on their course of action long before the moment comes. The good guys need to settle on their course of action long before the moment where it’s necessary if they are to have any hope of a happy outcome. Train yourself. Think through the problem. Know the sort of person you are dealing with now and make peace with what must be done if you find yourself in the path of such an individual. It’s a heck of a lot better to figure all of that out now than to try and accomplish all that in the moment. Having your mind right before the fight starts guides your decision making in the moment and gives you a better shot at a happy outcome. Experienced instructors don’t talk about mindset for nothing. It matters, and it matters in ways that can make all the difference in a critical incident.

I’d like to hope there will never be another incident like this…but many thousands of years of human history says otherwise. I’ll be content to hope that the next Mr. Wilcox gets to go home in one piece.

 

9 thoughts on “Lessons from Las Vegas”

  1. “Details are still sketchy, and some reports make it seem like Mr. Wilcox might have tried to verbally confront the male subject. If that’s true, it was an understandable mistake. Mr. Wilcox often do not have considerable experience with criminal violence or with the sorts of personalities who would execute the first couple of uniformed police officers. . .he only answer to their sort of problem is the judicious application of violence. You are under no moral or legal obligation to verbally warn somebody who is on a murder spree that you will use deadly force to stop them. If, God forbid, you’re ever faced with such a person let your bullets do the talking.”

    Did Wilcox know that the two criminals in Wal-Mart had recently killed two police officers and were on a murder spree? Probably not.

    Would he have been justified in shooting the first gunman on the spot? 1) morally, “yes” * and 2) without knowing the specifics of Nevada law, I would still guess “yes”.

    He was obviously wrong in judging the gunman as somebody who could be reasoned with, but it was not an unreasonable assumption given what he knew at the time. Lot’s of incidents are ended without the use of force. The 11 o’clock news is full of them.

    Even if Wilcox had “let his bullets do the talking” and shot the first gunman, the second assailant — “he didn’t notice the female accomplice behind him” — still could (and probably would) have shot him from behind.

    * That’s something these open-carry-idiots might want to think about.

    1. Thanx anonymous, I was thinking the same with regard to what Wilcox new at that time.

      In addition, with regard to this quote:
      “Don’t hesitate. If you have surprise on your side, then let the first indicator of your presence be the impact of bullets in the active shooter’s anatomy.”

      Well, if you have surprise on your side, I would imagine you are not actually directly threatened and I would question whether you have the right to shoot. As often mentioned, you don’t know who someone is that has a firearm. You could be in a store walk upon a plainclothes officer with a gun drawn, that might be searching for a perp in the store and you had no awareness of the situation going down. WalMart, Target, The Home Depot, Costco, these are big places with often times lots of noise. There could easily be a criminal being sought in the store on one end and you could walk into the situation from the other end.

      1. The man walked in the Walmart, pulled out a rifle, and started shooting and giving orders. Nobody was confused as to his intentions, and Mr. Wilcox didn’t seem confused about what he was dealing with when he told his friend he was going to go confront the bad guy. Yes, there are some situations that can be ambiguous…but those in the immediate proximity of an active shooter when he first manifests seem to have absolutely no trouble identifying them as somebody bent on killing people. Once you’ve made that identification, the time for chatting with somebody is OVER.

      2. The principle in play here is “action beats reaction”. I remember a mall shooting where a concealed carrier confronted the shooter, commanding him to drop his weapon. The bad guy simply turned and fired before the good guy could react and pull his trigger. Good guy wound up in a wheelchair, and the cops brought down Senor Psycho.

        And yes, everyone should keep in mind that there could be more than one shooter. But that’s not always easy to do. As written in the article, some bad guys do not give off a “bad guy vibe” until they start shooting.

  2. Well said. And I have more respect for your posts each time you do not inject politics into the discussion. Rational and logical thought seems to have gone by the wayside so most can tell us their opinions based on their chosen political or religious affliction. Kudos to you!

  3. Could say something here about awareness or tunnel vision, but we just don’t know enough yet.

    What seems apparent is these two cut their ‘revolution’ mercifully short, and having taken fire from first a cop and then an armed citizen, there’s a real possibility the confrontations gave them enough doubt in the viability of their rampage to check out early.

  4. Which is why one should always sit with your back to the wall and face the entrance. I do.

    1. LOL! You are correct. I do this everywhere we go. I also look for alternatives should the need to exit quickly comes up. Through the kitchen, emergency doors (that’s what there for folks), busted out front glass.

  5. Sorry to hear that Wilcox was killed. He is a hero in my view. In the heat of the moment Wilcox stepped up.
    Prepare for the worst & hope for the best outcome. Active shooters won’t stop with a verbal warning, shoot until they are not a threat.

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