The Cornered Cat
Home invasion

By now, pretty much everyone in America has seen this disturbing video of a home invasion in New Jersey. It happened during broad daylight in a good neighborhood, where a young mom was at home with her two young children.

The video is upsetting, but not graphic. The details are mercifully blurred out so you cannot clearly see the victim or her 3-year-old daughter, who was sitting on the couch throughout the entire ordeal. Even so, watching it is not for the faint of heart.

As others have observed, a situation like this is an argument for being armed at home, even during daylight hours with the doors locked. But it happened in New Jersey, so of course she was not carrying a firearm. Not going to get into the politics of that, but let me point out that the entire reason I personally began carrying a firearm in the first place was so I would never be in such a position in front of my own small children. It hurts my heart to see such an attack against an unarmed and apparently defenseless woman, and even more to see it happen in front of a small child who will undoubtedly carry the memory with her for  a long time.

But as violent and disturbing as the video is, it does not hold a candle to the potential violence that could easily have happened here. That the woman is alive and her children unharmed is nothing short of a miracle, given the privacy of the setting and the violence of the attack. Home invasions offer criminals extreme privacy for extended periods of time, which is not a recipe for a pleasant ending to anyone’s day. Those who would avoid fighting back because “the worst he can do is kill me” have rarely researched the topic.

Along those lines, there’s an exceedingly excellent article from Tim at Gun Nuts about this. Tim writes,

When a criminal kicks in your door you do not have the luxury of assuming they’ll go away and leave you unhurt if you just give them what they want. You don’t have the luxury of waiting for 911 or the alarm company to send help. There are too many examples that prove those strategies as ineffective to have any faith in them. If you don’t have a home defense plan, get one together. If your existing home defense plan doesn’t include the ability to rapidly employ significant force, fix it.

Home defense isn’t about DVD players. It isn’t about jewelry. It’s about protecting the people you love from men like this.

There is not a single word I would disagree with in those paragraphs.

What the law will ask

Now let’s take this in a slightly different direction, and talk about making the decision to shoot a violent home invader. Here are some questions that the criminal justice system might ask after such an encounter.

1) Was the element of Ability present? Did the intruder have the power to kill or cripple this young woman?

Yes. Although this criminal was technically “unarmed,” the young mom’s life is clearly in danger. Regardless of what the intruder had or did not have in his hands — they were apparently empty throughout the savage beating on the video — he could have killed her at any time. Any one of those blows could have killed her. So could being thrown, half-conscious, down a flight of stairs. Any reasonable person could see that.

As we know, the element of Ability does not require the presence of a weapon. It can be represented by a severe imbalance of power between victim and assailant (sometimes called Disparity of Force). In this case, the intruder had a great deal of power: a large, strong, young male attacked a small female who was distracted by the presence of her children. Ability was present.

2) Was the element of Opportunity present? Did circumstances allow the assailant to attack the victim in an effective way?

Yes. As we see on the video, he was able to make physical contact with his intended victim using his bare hands.

Furthermore — as with most or all home invasions — her circumstances were particularly deadly, because there was no hope whatsoever that anyone else would see what was happening and stop it. There were no bystanders to pull him off the victim or to call for help on her behalf. She was entirely alone in an isolated area, invisible to anyone walking past the house.

3) Was the element of Jeopardy present? Would a reasonable person in her same situation have concluded that the attacker intended to cripple or kill her?

Yes. Given his violent entry (he kicked the door down) and his immediate physical attack against the woman, it would be absolutely unreasonable to come to any other conclusion. He had no scruples about beating her senseless in front of her little girl. Anyone with a lick of sense would agree that he meant to do her harm.

The immediate choice

So those are the questions the courts might ask, after the event. Are they questions you need to ask during the event? Yes and no.

Yes, you have to absolutely know that you’re on the right side of the law when you act. Knowing the law frees you to act quickly, decisively, without hesitation. It frees your mind from entangling concerns and lets you get straight to work.

No. The flip side of the “yes” above is that if you haven’t hammered these core ideas into your brain ahead of time with good training and good visualizations, you won’t have time to laboriously run through a slow, rusty mental checklist when sudden violence happens. To save your life from sudden violence, you must act immediately!

This means your best bet is to do your homework ahead of time. Learn the law. Steel yourself to watch videos like this and to think through their implications. When you have done your homework ahead of time, you won’t need to run through the questions at the time. You will simply know that it is time to act.

More choices

Now some food for thought provoked by watching this event. These aren’t the only questions you could (and should!) ask yourself. They’re just a sampling to get you started. As I’ve said elsewhere, crime videos provide excellent lessons for self defense, when we watch them in the right way.

  • Would you be willing to abandon your child in the same room as an intruder, in order to retrieve your firearm from inside a locked gun safe in another room?
    • Or would you be willing to put up with the inconvenience and discomfort of remaining armed while relaxing at home?
    • Or would you prefer the possibly-illegal risk of hiding an unsecured firearm in every room of your home?
  • Would you be willing to shoot and possibly kill a living human being in front of your 3-year-old child?
  • If you are not willing to be armed with a gun at home, or not willing to shoot an attacker in front of your child, what are you willing to do? Are you willing to spend three or more hours a week learning an effective martial art? Are you willing to learn how to use improvised weapons, such as a vase or a picture frame, to defend yourself? Are you willing to simply surrender to an attacker like this, and hope for the best? What’s your plan?
  • Would you be willing to shoot without hesitation, without giving the intruder time to react, without waiting to see what would happen if you held fire?
  • Would you be just as willing to shoot, and shoot just as quickly, if you knew your every action was caught on camera — and that all your friends and neighbors would probably see what you did?

Bottom line

These are not pleasant choices, but they are the ones such situations present to us. If we want to be prepared to save our own lives, we must unblinkingly confront such questions ahead of time. We must carefully think through what we are willing to do and we must be honest about what we are not willing to do.

Think it through. Make a plan. Be prepared to act without hesitation or doubt when the time comes. Meanwhile, live joyfully and purposefully — because life is good, and worth defending.

3 Responses to Home invasion

  1. Dann in Ohio says:

    Kathy, great thoughts for those re-thinking their plans and preparation after seeing this video… I addressed this very subject in a blog post a while back…

    “I’ve met so many gals in my NRA and Ohio CCW courses over the years that never seemed to realize that or were just in denial of how unprepared they were to deal with a violent encounter, or even just a physically stronger man, until they had a life-changing experience smack them in the face… or worse.”

    “So where am I headin’ with this whole diatribe… well I’m tired of gals who tell me they’d do anything to protect they’re kids when they don’t have a plan, training, or tools for that night when some scumbag kicks in their door during a home-invasion.”

    Either you accept and prepare you and your family for reality… even though there are no guarantees… but you increase your odds of survival… or, you submit to the will of a criminal… who may still decide to beat your three-year old child after you chose to submit to his attack…

    We’ve had a fire and intruder plan my daughter has been trained for since she was three years-old… it wasn’t to scare her, but to prepare her…

    It’s a change in mindset, it’s a chance in life-style, and its a determination that someone else is not going to determine the fate of your or your family while there is a breath left in your body…

    And men, before you think this is just a gals problem, that was one big, violent dude in the video… check you ego at the door and prepare you and your family too…

    Dann in Ohio

    The link to the post in case anyone is interested…

  2. larryarnold says:

    1. No. So if I’m out of bed, I’m carrying.
    2. If the alternative is my child at the mercy of someone who has none, absolutely.
    a. I remain unconvinced that witnessing me defend her would result in as much mental trauma to my child as witnessing me helpless.
    3. When you decide not to protect yourself you are effectively deciding not to protect your child.
    4. I would shoot without hesitation, barring a situation where I had the luxury of safely waiting for him to react.
    5. Given I intend to act within the law, video documentation of the event is desirable.
    a. Since I live in Texas, and most of my family, friends and neighbors also own guns/have CHLs, my family and I can deal with any adverse reaction.

    Of course in my case the young child I would be defending would be one of my twin grandchildren. I do not want to explain to their mother why I screwed that up.

  3. Harry Flashman says:

    I have a concealed carry permit and I use it. My wife had one for years, bu she decided it was too much trouble so she let her’s expire. I do have two good dogs outside, and I live on a mountain top way out in the woods. People can’t find my place even when they have directions, let alone by accident. Still, you can always beat the odds so I keep the doors locked, and I keep weapons within reach. My kids are long grown and out on their own, so I only have the two of us to worry about.

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