It was a dark and stormy night. No, really, it was. It had been raining fairly hard all day and just after 7 PM, it was 44 degrees as my wife and I finished dinner in the dinning room at the back of the house. An unexpected doorbell ring interrupted our conversation. Our killer attack dog, the 10 pound Little Baxter was in his crate as is our custom for dinner time. A solid backup for the doorbell, he commenced barking.
As I looked out the sidelights of the front door, alarm bells began going off in my limbic system. That’s the part of your brain that senses danger. It’s that “gut feeling” that something is off. I saw a sketchy looking guy standing near the door holding a bag of unidentifiable contents.
I opened the door, but kept control of it by putting my left foot behind it and hanging on to the handle with my left hand. My right hand was near, but not on the gun that always sits right at my hip. Getting a better look at the guy, I saw a white male in his mid- to late-30s, pretty scruffy, dark hair, scraggly beard wearing a black t-shirt and jeans. Recall it was 44 degrees and raining out. He had a white kitchen trash bag that looked like it held small sample boxes of Tide detergent in it. I’m not sure if that’s what it was, but that’s what went through my mind.
He opened with, “Hey man, can I use your phone for like 2 minutes? My boss is way down there (pointing down the road) and it’s going to take forever to walk down there. I just need to call him for like 2 minutes.” I responded with, “Sorry man, I don’t think so.”
“What? I can’t use your phone for like, 2 minutes? Why not?”
At this point, all those alarm bells were clanging like gongs in the back of my mind. I said, “Because I don’t know you. I don’t know what you’re doing here, I don’t know why you’re on my porch holding a bag of crap wearing a t-shirt when it’s cold and raining out and I don’t know who your boss is or what you’re doing here in our neighborhood. You need to start walking.”
He (wisely) turned and started down the stairs saying, “Pfft, whatever, man.”
Now, you might be thinking, “Mike, you call yourself a Christian. That wasn’t a very Christ-like thing to do, turn away a guy who was in need. He’s out in the cold and wet with only a t-shirt on and just needed to make a call.”
Maybe. But then we found a knife in the yard the next morning.
All of these questions flew threw my mind in the first few seconds of my interaction with this guy:
- Why is he on my porch?
- Who wears just a t-shirt when it’s 44 degrees and raining?
- Why is he out a 7 PM on a Sunday night?
- Who is his boss and what is their business?
- Why would he and his boss be separated by half a neighborhood?
- Who doesn’t have a cell phone?
Because I’ve taken time to study and develop a defensive mindset, I’m well aware that a common practice for home invasions is to send one member of the crew up to the door asking to use the phone for whatever reason. Often they will use a woman for this. Who wants to say no to a damsel in distress? As the phone caller is distracting the homeowners, the rest of the crew comes in to cause mayhem. Sometimes they will come in the back door, thus trapping the homeowners between them. Nothing good ever comes from this.
I knew something was off about this guy, though I couldn’t pinpoint what it was. The next morning, as my wife went out to take our neighbor to work, she noticed an 8” chef’s knife sitting on the utility box in front of our house. That knife doesn’t belong to any of our neighbors, and while the blade was still in the packaging, the cardboard backing was torn away around the handle. I can’t prove it, but I’m pretty sure there was someone else outside our house last night with said knife.
Listen to the Gut
Had I not listened to those alarm bells, the night could have ended very differently. A great book on this subject is The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker. He talks a lot about the limbic system and how it’s finely attuned to picking up danger. The problem is, we’ve tried to silence that alarm system. It’s not “polite” to say no to a stranger asking for help. It’s not “the Christian thing to do” to turn away a guy in need into the rain. Even if his partner has a knife and is ready to come in and do who knows what to you and your wife.
“Oh come on, Mike. That knife is probably just a coincidence.” Maybe, maybe not. There are a lot of people in this world who deny evil exists. They want to think it’s all strawberries and rainbows all around them and no one would ever try to hurt them. Until someone does. We live in a good neighborhood. It’s not posh, but it’s good. The houses are affordable and we have a mix of white, black, asian and middle-eastern folks who mostly keep to themselves. We have a lot of young families and young professionals, along with empty-nesters like us. It’s a typical neighborhood, and other than the 4th of July, it’s pretty quiet.
However, people report strange cars being parked outside houses that speed away when someone comes out to check it out. Cars are broken into several times a year. And, we’re not that far from the sketchy neighborhoods and a fairly large encampment of homeless that live in the woods. Even in nice neighborhoods, you may not be as safe as you think.
The reason I’m writing this is that I want you to think about how you would respond should this happen to you. Multi-attacker home invasions are on the rise. That’s not fear-mongering, it’s a fact. What’s your plan to defend against it?
Develop a Defensive Mindset
The events of last evening perfectly illustrate why I’ve spent the last 4 years seriously working on my defensive mindset. I carry a gun every day, all day (unless I’m outside of the Free States of America). I’ve completed over 100 hours of professional instruction on defensive and competitive shooting. I shoot weekly and compete twice a month. I know how to run a gun. I know exactly what I would have done had the guy tried to charge into the house instead of walking away.
None of those skills came into play last night, but they did set the tone for the engagement. Just as I was able to read him—he’s sketch and I’m on high alert—he was able to read me. I’m sure he noticed how I controlled the door, how I took command of the situation verbally and left him with two options, leave or face the consequences. Criminals are opportunists. He wisely chose to leave.
Had I responded in a milquetoast manner, unsure of my words and actions, or simply stood next to a wide-open door, I have to believe he would have bowled me right over, his partner not far behind.
I’m not telling you all this so you know what a badass I am—because I’m not. I’m trying to get you to think; what would you do? Do you have the mindset to tell a stranger-danger guy to scram? And the tools to back you up if he doesn’t? We ran a similar stage at IDPA a few nights earlier. I know what my capabilities are, and it would not have gone well for him. That confidence projects to criminals who typically prefer unarmed targets. I’m pretty sure he knew he had chosen poorly and that’s why he retreated. What happens if he shows up at your house? Do you know what to do?
I carry a gun for the same reason we have fire extinguishers in the house. I don’t expect to need one, but when you do need one, you need it right now!
I’m not necessarily advocating you get a gun and learn how to use it. It’s not a bad idea, but it’s not for everyone. However, you simply must develop the mindset that you are not a victim and have a plan to back that up. You must learn to listen to that built-in alarm system we have and not tune it out because you feel bad about hurting someone’s feelings. I admit I felt a little bad about sending him out into the night. When we found the knife the next morning, I was really glad he didn’t make me shoot him.
You may feel bad when you tell the panhandler to bugger off when they get too close to you. Your kids will feel worse if mommy or daddy doesn’t come home because you didn’t want to appear rude. You can’t close your eyes and pretend evil doesn’t exist. Bad things happen to good people all the time. But we can stack the odds in our favor by being prepared with the proper mindset.
You Are On Your Own
I tell people this all the time, though it’s not original to me. In fact, I once had a police officer tell me point blank, “The police are here to take the report of your untimely demise. That’s it. We may catch the guy who did it.” Think back to last night; what if instead of walking down the stairs he charged in the house? Clint Smith once said, “You have the rest of your life to solve the problem. How long you live depends on how quickly and how well you solve the problem.” In my house in that situation, we’d have about 2 seconds. I am confident I can solve that problem in about 1.5 seconds.
Before you could even yell, “CALL 911!” the guy could have been in the house with a buddy close behind with knives out. It’s now an entirely different kind of engagement. You might have a golf club in the garage you use for the “bump in the night” scenario. Not much good here. Perhaps you even carry a gun outside the house, but when you get home, you take it off and put it away. Now, it’s in another room and a dude has a knife to your wife’s throat.
This is why I carry a gun and a spare mag all the time. I have more loaded guns staged throughout the house. The saying has become maligned but that doesn’t make it any less true; the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun (or knife) is a good guy with a gun. If the only good guys with guns you know are the police, I’m afraid your options are very limited.
If you choose not to be armed—and that’s a very personal and completely justifiable choice—you should probably not be opening the door to strangers. Get a Ring doorbell or something.
Learn to Manage Unknown People
I’ll admit I’m not an expert at this, but I’ve listened to multiple podcasts and read many articles on it. Craig Douglas calls this MUC’ing—Managing Unknown Contacts. In this case, there’s an unknown dude on my doorstep who looks sketchy. I never raised my voice, pulled my gun or threatened him in any way. I simply controlled the situation and made it abundantly clear he needed to walk away.
My body language said, “Turn around, walk away.” Now, if you have seen me in person, you know I’m not physically intimidating. I’m 5’9” in OK shape but certainly not threatening. However, because I controlled my space, I made it clear to him that he was in my domain, and I’m not ceding control.
Often, simply making observations and being aware of your surroundings is enough to keep people from bothering you. I believe it was William Aprill who interviewed criminals convicted of home invasions. Their plan was to sit in the mall and watch for people coming out with Apple bags. The thinking was, if they can afford whatever is in the Apple store, they have other stuff worth taking. They’d follow the victim home and often times walk right into the house behind them with the victim not even noticing.
However, if they locked on to someone as a potential mark, but that person looked at them and saw them sitting in the car, they drove off. They didn’t want to be seen. Simply scanning the parking lot—you don’t even need to actually see any potential criminals—might be enough to lower your chances of being targeted. But walk out with your head buried in your stupid phone? You’re like a wounded gazelle on the plains.
It’s not about being ripped, jacked or shredded. It’s about letting them know you know what’s up and you’re not letting them get away with whatever they’re considering.
Don’t Let Them Disarm Us
And by “them” I mean the almighty government. There’s a huge push right now for “common sense gun control” that keeps “guns out of the hands of people that shouldn’t have them.” “Common sense” means complete civilian disarmament and the people that “should not have them” are every single one of us peasants. If that sounds hyperbolic, you’re not listening to what the politicians are saying. They don’t want us to have guns because it hinders their grand agenda.
The problem is, criminals tend to be pretty insensitive to laws. As the saying goes, “When it’s criminal to own guns, only criminals will own guns.” You are more than welcome to choose to not own guns—I have no problem with that at all. But when you or a well-guarded politician tells me what and how many, how often and what type I can use to defend my life and my family? Well, that becomes a problem for me.
Our neighbor doesn’t like guns and kind of wishes they weren’t around. But that’s probably because all she ever hears is the negative uses of them from the media. What she’s missing is the 500,000-3,000,000 times someone like her neighbor uses a gun each year in self-defense. Last night marks the second time in my life I’ve had to keep someone out of my house who wanted in. Both times I was armed, and both times I’m glad I was. Neither time did I fire a shot.
She also recognizes that I’m a responsible gun owner who takes classes and trains regularly. Fellow gun owners, we need to do a better job of getting the word out we’re not crazy. We need to show the positive side of gun ownership. No, the media and politicians will never listen. But your neighbor might. Who knows, maybe they’ll even join our ranks. Especially if something hits close to home.
Reading over this post a few times, I realize I should acknowledge that the dude at the door simply could have needed to use a phone. That is entirely possible. It really could be a coincidence that the knife was left outside our house. It’s a hell of a coincidence, but it could be. If that’s the case, I still stand by my actions. I made a decision that I felt was in the best interests of me and my family. Second-guess me if you want, but I’d do the same thing again.
Also note that I didn’t draw down on the guy (which would likely have landed me in legal trouble), or freak our in any manner. I didn’t go outside with a carbine to “clear the area.” I’m not the police. I stayed in my house, a place of relative safety and flipped on all the outdoor lights. We remained vigilant the rest of the night, but didn’t lose sleep. I want to emphasize that I’m not scared or even particularly concerned about this event. Because I was mentally prepared, it happened. Now I move on. I’m not going to go about in fear of what might happen, I’m simply going about prepared.
So there you go. That’s our excitement for the year (hopefully…). I hope there was something in here that will cause you to consider your family’s security plan. Your plan doesn’t need to be the same as mine. But you should still have one.
Finally, lock your doors. A whole lot of bad happens simply because people don’t want to lock their doors.