Hard lines

Last week an interesting story with some important lessons on self defense received significant media coverage:

“When a woman in Charleston, West Virginia, opened her front door to greet a stranger she had arranged to meet through an escort ad she had placed with Backpage.com, she knew instantly she was in mortal danger. The man said just three words – “Live or die” – then held a gun to her stomach…’I was telling him to please just let me breathe, but he wouldn’t,’ she said. ‘He said, ‘I’m going to call the shots and you’re going to be quiet.’ As he was dragging her through the kitchen, she grabbed a rake and prepared to hit him with it. To stop her, he put his gun down, and she pounced. ‘I grabbed the gun and just shot it behind me,’ she said. ‘It hit him.”

When police arrived on the scene they looked in this man’s trunk and found “an array of handcuffs, two axes, a machete, a bullet-proof vest and – the most disturbing items – a shovel and a bottle of bleach.” The man’s exact intentions are unknown, but it’s a pretty safe bet that a guy who pulls a gun on a woman and says “Live or die” didn’t have all that stuff in his trunk for a scavenger hunt. Like Harry Calahan said:

The criminal assailant wanted to establish control with sub-lethal violence and threats of lethal violence to gain compliance from his victim. Instead, his intended victim fought back enough to cause him to make a mistake and then capitalized on that mistake…killing the bastard deader than disco.

In the writeup on the sections of The Unthinkable taught by Greg Ellifritz I covered his presentations on escaping restraints, but I did not mention his brief coverage of what I will call “hard lines” on being restrained in the first place. Simply put, Greg stated that he would not allow himself to be put on his knees, restrained, or moved to another location absent some truly extraordinary circumstances. If someone attempted to do these things, Greg would fight.

His “hard lines” are the result of knowing that the chances of surviving the event diminish significantly if he allows the criminal attacker to establish that kind of control. A criminal who wants to restrain you and/or move you to another location likely has every intention of killing you. There is absolutely no reason to cooperate with this intention. 

Fighting is not a risk free endeavor by any means, but the risks that go along with fighting are vastly preferable to the risks inherent in letting a violent felon establish control over you. If you pay enough attention to the news you will see plenty of evidence to back this up:

“Ronald Cassler was working at the Kangaroo station Thursday night when a robber in a black ski mask with a black revolver entered. Montrell T. Smith, 22, of Ransom Drive, allegedly entered the store and demanded Cassler, Millard Johnson, who is another Kangaroo employee, and a customer to lie on the floor. Johnson and customer complied. Cassler was walking around the counter to do so when Smith allegedly grabbed his shoulder and pointed the gun at Cassler’s head. ‘The suspect then pulled the trigger twice but the gun failed to go off,’ MPD Sgt. Joel Davis reported.”

If you have decided that you are willing to use violence to defend your life or the lives of loved ones, it is crucial that you develop similar hard lines of your own. Doing so is not just bravado. It means you are creating what William Aprill calls a “mental parking spot” for the possibility of that situation, facing up to the reality of that situation, and introducing a mindset of resisting it with all the violence you can possibly bring to bear. Embedding the hard line into your thinking changes that situation from one where you wonder exactly how the violent felon is going to execute you to the guy pulling out restraints being a cue to tear him to pieces.

You may not always win…but if somebody means to kill you then resolve that by god they are going to have to work damned hard to do it. Most predators are not looking for a fight and will be scared off when someone resists. Some will not. Either way, your odds are much better if you respond to a violent criminal assault with an immediate, unflinching violent counter assault. Do not let evil men establish control over you. Fight.


  1. Lots of sick puppies out there, here’s to taking them out one at a time; may the good people prevail. Thanks for the story, one worth sharing with those we love and those who think you should comply; good luck to them if they end up in a situation like described.

  2. Words I grew up with from my mother: “Never let anyone take you, even if they have a gun. Run or fight. There are worse things than dying.” My mom is generally a big softy, but that was good advice that I have passed in to my daughters.

  3. “The criminal assailant wanted to establish control with sub-lethal violence and threats of lethal violence to gain compliance from his victim.”

    What about when a police officer demands that you surrender your video camera?

    Is that a “hard line”, or do you comply?

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