It never ceases to amaze me how an act as simple as answering the phone can act as the catalyst for a chain of events that would change someone’s life forever. We wander through life believing that we are immune to the effects of fate, not realizing that we are indeed part of a grand scheme, that everything we do has a cause and an effect. We are lulled into a false sense of security. Occasionally, we do something that blasts through the mundane security of our lives and thrusts us into the center of a maelstrom, changing us forever.
Something like answering the phone.
It was 1984. I was 22 years old. I had just been discharged from the Army ten months before and was working as a delivery driver for a local pizzeria.
Like the majority of people who serve in the military, I had never heard a shot fired in anger, or served in a combat zone. Being filled with the zeal that most young men possess, combined with three years spent as a US Army Paratrooper, I was frustrated. I knew that I didn’t want to re-enlist in the military, but I had no clear-cut plan for the future. In fact, I had no clear-cut plan for the next day.
I suppose that if I had to define the philosophy that I subscribed to at the time, I would have to classify it as a combination of chivalry and the code of the old west. I would not tolerate the abuse of women and I would remain loyal to the end to anyone who called me friend. Not only was I ready to go to the limit for my friends, I was eager for the chance to do so.
Unfortunately, sometimes you get exactly what you wish for.
I received a phone call from a friend who stated that she had been babysitting when her ex-boyfriend showed up and, in front of the children, had roughed her up. Though he had left, she didn’t want to be alone and asked if I could stay with her. She assured me that the police were aware of the situation and that she didn’t expect me to confront the individual; she just wanted the comfort of another person around. I had no romantic interest; indeed, I was seeing someone else. She had no desire to see anyone at all after breaking off with this man.
I told her that I would be there within the hour.
I had delivered pizza in some of the less savory neighborhoods in the city of Detroit. Even though we were instructed to carry no more than $20 on our person, delivery drivers from our store and others were robbed with frightening regularity. It was for this reason that I kept a pistol in my car. Ever mindful of the law, I kept it unloaded and in the trunk. I only carried it when a customer required change for an unusually large denomination or requested that I go to the back door. At that time, it never occurred to me to refuse a to go to a delivery that was considered “dangerous.”
I had acquired the pistol in one of the numerous sporting goods stores adjacent to my Army base in Georgia. I bought it because it was a commercial version of the M1911A1 pistol that was standard military issue at the time.
Because my friend said that this individual was violent, I decided to load the pistol and take it with me to the house. I certainly was not going to ‘hunt him down’ but as I had no idea as to just how violent he might become, I considered the gun to be prudent.
When I arrived at the house, I didn’t mention that I was armed. A quick survey of her injuries, while not as bad as I had envisioned, was still quite shocking. The man had apparently grabbed her by the hair and smacked her, then grabbed her by the arm and shook her, all the while shouting obscenities at her.
I explained that while I was not going to confront this person, I would not allow her to be further injured by him either. She thanked me for showing up and informed me that the children had been taken to a hockey game by their grandparents and would probably return in a couple of hours. Since their parents wouldn’t be home until late, she insisted that she had to be there when the children returned. I saw nothing wrong with this and agreed to stay until I was sure she was safe. I asked for a pop and she went to get it.
It was while she was in the kitchen that I heard someone out on the front porch. I didn’t have to look to know who it was. She made a quick call to 911, and we waited while he stomped around on the porch, yelling threats and obscenities. She told him that the police were on the way. He beat a hasty retreat. The police arrived after he left. A quick search of the area revealed nothing and they, in turn, left.
The phone rang.
He informed her that he was now at her house and was talking on her phone. She lived with an elderly grandfather whom the ex-boyfriend had threatened to hurt. She agreed to talk with him if he left the house immediately.
The grandfather got on the line to ask her what was going on. During their conversation, the ex-boyfriend appeared on the porch and demanded that she come out. She told her grandfather goodnight and made another call to the police. She refused to go on the porch. He was long gone by the time the police arrived.
By this time I was in conflict. I certainly didn’t want to get in the middle of their problems, but I also wasn’t going to abandon her to this person’s rage.
I decided that as long as he remained outside, and she remained inside, I would do nothing. If she stepped out the door to talk to him, thus placing herself in harm’s way, she was on her own. If he broke into the house, I would deal with that. Otherwise, this would be nothing more than a visit between friends.
We worked out a plan where, if he returned or called that she would agree to meet him the following day, to talk out this situation. She felt that this would be a good compromise. As if on cue, the phone rang again. He stated that he had no intention of harming her; he just wanted to talk. She asked him to meet her at a local restaurant the next morning.
Sitting several feet away, I could hear him shouting obscenities as if he were in the room with us. He stated that he knew that she had someone with her and that she was a whore. I took the phone from her and I told him that I was only there visiting and that this was unnecessary. He began verbally abusing me and I gave the phone back to her, not trusting myself to reply in a civilized manner.
She talked with him for a few minutes, crying all the while, and told him that she wanted nothing further to do with him. She hung up. Almost immediately the phone rang again. This time when she picked it up, she didn’t even get it to her ear, I heard him yelling,” That’s it you $%#@! I’ve got a gun, and me and my friends are coming over there to kill you and that *&%$#* you’re with!”
I would like to say that the idea leaving never entered my head, but I would be lying. While I knew that I could no more leave her there than I could fly, I suddenly began to doubt the wisdom of having answered the phone at all. My internal conflict was cut short by the sound of breaking glass.
What happened in the following seconds has done more to change me than anything that has happened before or since. I turned around to see the ex-boyfriend coming through the now broken front window. His progress was impeded since it was leaded glass and he had to bend the lead trim back to enter. I grabbed the woman and shoved her towards the bedroom, tossing the phone after her and yelling for her to call 911. The pistol seemed to leap into my hand as I ducked behind a wall, ever aware that he had a gun.
Whatever lessons I had absorbed in the Army now came to the fore. Realizing that if he got all the way into the house, it could get messy, I assumed the “ready position” both arms extended, muzzle pointed down and in front, finger off the trigger, and went forward towards him. I yelled for him to get back as I pointed the pistol at the center of his mass.
Upon seeing me, he reached under his jacket. Not wanting to give him the chance to use his gun, I fired twice, hitting him in the chest. He folded up and fell out the window. By this time, I was going on pure adrenaline. He had stated that he had friends coming with him and I went out the front door to meet them before they could get inside.
I ran down the steps, checking every direction for his friends. Probably only seconds passed, but it seemed much longer as the realization hit me that there was no one there. I went back up on the porch and looked at him lying inert. It was hard to see him as a person. To me he had only been a threat that needed to be eliminated. I went to him and, while holding the pistol , I searched him to relieve him of his weapons. Various instructors had told me that dead enemies often come back to life while you’re not looking and kill you.
I searched and searched and searched, becoming more and more frantic with each passing second because I COULDN”T FIND HIS WEAPON. It had to be there. He had reached for it. That was why I shot him. When I realized that he had been unarmed, I remember being filled with anger at him.
I walked back into the house, suddenly exhausted. I had killed a man.
The hours afterwards are a blur. I was taken downtown; allowed to make a phone call and put in a six by eight-foot cell that reeked of urine. During the course of the next several hours, I talked to my lawyer twice, the police once, and myself all night long.
At one point I attempted to pray to God, but I stopped mid sentence. I hadn’t prayed for years. I certainly hadn’t led a virtuous life plus I had just killed a man. How could I ask God to help me now? I had never felt so alone and lost in my entire life. All I can say is that God must have been listening anyway. Sixteen hours later, I was free as far as the court was concerned. Justifiable Homicide it was labeled. How could they know that I couldn’t justify it to myself?
My friends and family were all very supportive in the following days. Still, I felt that I was unclean. I felt that wherever I went, people would know that I was a murderer. To make matters worse, I later found out that, on the night of the shooting, my friend was already pregnant with his child.
For years I fought an internal battle. I waged a chemical war upon myself with drugs and alcohol to anesthetize the pain of guilt.
I withdrew, never allowing myself to become involved in a relationship that I couldn’t abandon without looking back. I wouldn’t allow even my family to get too close.
It is almost eleven years after the fact. I don’t think a single day has passed that I have not thought about that man or the child that I robbed of a father.
But recently, something has changed; I became acquainted with a man named Jesus Christ.
Through Him I have learned that I can go to school, I can love and be loved, and I can even be forgiven. I also keep an answering machine on my phone.
If life were like the movies, I suppose that I would have walked away from this incident feeling good about myself, and the woman I defended would be forever grateful to me. But, life isn’t a movie.
Two and a half years after the shooting, I was served with papers on behalf of the family of the deceased. I was being sued for negligent homicide.
As a result of the suit, I had to track down the woman again and ask her to testify on my behalf. When I finally found her, I learned a few things that had transpired since that night; first, she had gone on to have the baby. With no job, no money, and no family to support her, she decided that she would sue me for killing the father of her child. She consulted a lawyer, a friend of hers who, according to her said, “You called this guy to help you and now you want to sue him? There are some cases even lawyers won’t touch.” I guess that there are some honorable people left in the world, after all.
Later, the parents of the man I killed had approached her because they were trying to get the criminal case against me re-opened, and needed her to testify. She made them agree to sign an affidavit affirming their son’s paternity, which would enable her to collect Social Security for the child, in exchange for her testimony
. When she testified, the DA told the parents that there was no criminal case, and the matter was dropped. That left the civil courts.
To say that I was unprepared for the financial challenge of being sued is an understatement. I was working for $5.15 an hour at a factory, making engine manifolds,
I was living in Detroit’s inner city in a rented house, and I was driving a ten-year-old car. Coming up with $5000 for a lawyer wiped me out financially. When the case was settled, I was found liable for $3000.
My warning to all those that carry a firearm is this;
1. Make damned sure that you absolutely fear for your life or the life of your loved ones before you ever clear leather. The clearer it is that you were the victim, the faster that the criminal case will conclude in your favor.
2. Have a lawyer’s number handy. The time that you are involved in a shooting is not the time to find a lawyer. Look for someone that believes in the Second Amendment, or at least is not against citizens defending themselves.
3. Have someone who can be your advocate on the outside while you’re in jail waiting for the wheels of justice to grind. Everyone involved in the incident is going to be questioned by police. You will need someone that you can call who will contact your lawyer and your family to let them know what happened, and your job to let them know you won’t be in that day and probably the next.
4. Join an organization like OFF that will fight for your rights, and advise you on the latest developments regarding Concealed Carry. Your best weapon in defending yourself is your brain. Make sure that it is amply filled with reliable information.
The author of this article has chosen to remain anonymous.He is employed in a firearms related business and lives happily with his wife and children in the midwest.