Criminal Case Study – Bad Guys Have Experience

Continuing to try and learn all we can from the unfortunate experience of Justin Schneiders as discussed in his interview with Ballistic Radio, let’s look at something else this reveals about the nature of the bad guys who are most likely to put us into the position of pulling the trigger: Namely, experience.

The man who tried to murder Justin wasn’t a noob. As Justin mentioned in the interview, the guy ended up in Justin’s path because a commissary worker in the prison where the guy was serving a sentence on previous convictions set Justin and his friends up as targets. He already had a significant rap sheet. Justin, like most honest people out there, had very little experience with the criminal element. The implications of this bad guy’s experience advantage over an honest, decent man like Justin are massive. The bad guy approaches Justin and his friends and as soon as he’s close immediately whips out a gun. In his Ballistic Radio interview, Justin actually mentions that at first he thought it was a joke because some of his friends were pranksters.

In any study of warfare you repeatedly encounter the advantages that speed and violence of action carry with them. From Julius Ceasar marching against Pompey’s disarrayed forces to the Wermacht rolling through a Europe that was unprepared for the speed and brutality of the assault, military commanders have learned that a forceful, fast, concentrated attack against an unsuspecting enemy will often leave the enemy in total disarray and allow a smaller and weaker force to completely route a much larger and better supplied force. Your typical street criminal probably hasn’t spent much time studying Basque guerilla tactics against the forces of Charlamagne at Roncevaux Pass, but one need not have Patton’s schooling in ancient warfare to learn the advantages of speed and violence of action.

The Knockout Game has been bubbling up in the news lately, but contrary to what the Manhattanites on the news may think it’s not a new phenomenon. Punching some unsuspecting person’s lights out on the street for giggles has been around for a long time. Generally it doesn’t take very long for your average lifestyle criminal to realize that his chances of success are greatly increased if he can get close, act fast, and get violent before his intended victim has a chance to figure out what’s going on. He picks that up early in life and early in his working career as a criminal or by hanging out with the kind of guys who perpetrate acts of violence like the knockout game.

The worst offenders in our society, the sort of individuals the honest law abiding person is most likely to have to actually shoot, is a career criminal. Just like the man who tried to murder Justin, they have a pretty extensive rap sheet and that’s only the crimes they were actually convicted of. One of the dirty little secrets of our criminal justice system is that bad guys only get hassled by the police on a relatively small percentage of their criminal acts. In Ohio recently the Attorney General Mike DeWine commissioned a study finding, among other things, that solid charges against bad guys often never reach a courtroom for disposition. Ask any police officer who works the street about this and they can explain it pretty easily. To convict someone you need evidence, and often evidence is in short supply or it’s weak. Even if the evidence is there, getting someone to plead to a lesser charge that’s a sure bet will often appear more attractive to a prosecutor’s office than risking the uncertainties of a trial. Our criminal justice system runs primarily on confessions and plea bargains, which can see gun charges with mandatory federal sentences waived and serious crimes like aggravated assault or attempted murder negotiated down to lower convictions that don’t carry as much time. The end result is that guys like the one who tried to murder Justin get more chances to get out of jail and invariably attack someone else.

The same Ohio study found that less than 1% of Ohio’s population had been convicted of three violent felonies, but that small group of people (significantly less than 1% of the population) was responsible for more than a third of all violent crime convictions. Note those are just the convictions and don’t factor in reduced charges or crimes that were never solved due to lack of evidence, and it only accounts for the bad guys who caught three felony convictions. If we dropped it down to one previous violent felony conviction I’d wager we could account for probably two thirds of the violent crimes in Ohio if not significantly more. Other studies have found similar results, indicating that a very small percentage of criminal actors are responsible for a sizeable majority of violent crimes. Even in the United Kingdom research has shown that the sizeable majority of criminal acts are perpetrated by repeat offenders.

What does that mean to the average law abiding citizen? Simply this: If there’s a dude pointing a gun at you, it’s a fair bet that you aren’t his first victim. He has more experience with violence than you do, and as a serial transgressor against society’s rules he knows very well how to use those rules against you. You’ve been raised all your life to be polite and not judge people based on appearance. He knows this. That’s why he’s not going to approach you like a rabid junkyard dog from 50 yards away. He’s going to look normal or at least normal enough that your civilized brain which has been taught a bunch of claptrap about not judging others is going to overrule that primeval instinct in your brain that gives you a vague sense of discomfort and nervousness as he approaches. He knows you’ll probably be indecisive enough to let him get close, and once he’s close that’s when he’s going to stick the gun in your face.

In his interview with Ballistic Radio, Justin noted that the bad guy had obvious experience. He moved efficiently and effectively and kept himself in position to keep an eye on everyone at the same time. The bad guy planned the attack, sprung the trap without hesitation, and efficiently managed his victims to get them out of public view and to keep them in a position of disadvantage.

Since the bad guy is probably going to have a significant experience advantage, we’d better seek out training that helps us minimize that gap.


  1. Your point concerning a violent criminals comfort with exercising violence against an unprepared opponent is important. During my first tour in Iraq my team was engaged by an enemy combatant, and as rounds were striking around us my thought was “why is he shooting at us, we haven’t done anything to him”. Seriously; I remember it clear as day. After getting through that initial trial by fire, we collectively, and I specifically never hestitated to address a threat with overwhelming force again. You become very attuned to your surroundings. A fact that probably prevented a violent encounter years later, at home, in a parking lot with my family. We were approached by a man who’s appearance set me off well before he was close enough to inflict harm, prompting me to palm my concealed Beretta Cougar 8040. When he approached and started to make demands he was greated appropriately, and the situation was resolved quickly without violence, because I made it very obvious that I was absolutely prepared to end him. Had that been my first experience I suspect I would have hesitated. As the saying goes, knowing is half the battle, the other half involves fire superiority. Ultimately it comes down to a pre-established willingness to employ violence to protect yourself and others. You may not have time to evaluate a threats intentions, the bad guy isn’t going to provide you that luxery if they’ve set conditions, which means you have to be ready to meet violence with violence, without hestitation.

  2. Tim,

    Would a takeaway be that the “safer” the area you are in when confronted by a violent criminal the more likely that criminal is to be “professional?” In a “bad area” every kid is a wanna-be tough guy, your odds of running into an amateur in their own stomping ground is pretty high. Your “knock-out game” punk. Conversely, the guy who is going to hunt “out of his environment”, like Justin’s attacker, is doing it deliberately and with forethought and thus the tougher and more dangerous opponent.

  3. Tim, Great advice!! We should be better trained. I flew an F105D 92 times from Thailand to Downtown Hanoi,66/67 I was not trained enough.I should still be there somewhere but got lucky and made it home.I am greatfull!!

  4. I think that if studied, what you say would be true. I often hear “I live in a good neighborhood, I don’t worry about it.” I remind these people that just because a scumbag can’t afford a mortgage in a particular area does not mean they don’t do business there. The “it can’t happen to me” mentality is the best friend of the career criminal.

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