Thursday, January 24, 2008

Weapons first or last?

Home invasion target?

I find it interesting that in the martial arts community, there seems to be a divide between those who espouse and practice with firearms, and those who shun them. A recent thread on the Convocation (How would you defend yourself in your home?) highlighted that split, to some extent, with some taking the position (read it to be clear) that "empty hand" should be your first resort, and weapons, including firearms being the last. Others, including yours truly, believe that weapons should always be your first resort, not the last. My reasoning is that, if faced with an unknown threat, especially an intruder that is so bold as to invade an occupied home, you should assume a deadly threat to your family.

Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor's home invasion was an attempted burglary that left him dead of a shotgun blast to the leg. Reportedly, the intruders knew Taylor (or had done work for the family in the past, and assumed that no one was home at the time. Taylor, his fiance, and 18 month-old daughter were in the home. From an early account:

... Taylor was awakened by a noise in his living room, Sharpstein said. As the shooter or shooters approached Taylor's bedroom, he reached for a machete or other form of knife he keeps nearby in case of emergency, and two shots were fired, one striking his leg in the groin area.

Cerrato said Taylor's fiancee tried to call police from the house line, only to discover that the line had been cut. She had to use her cellphone to call 911, which delayed the response time.

As of this posting, there is a gag order on the case, so more information may not be revealed for some time. The facts , as we now know them:

  • It was approximately 1:30 AM
  • Everyone was in bed, and awakened by the intrusion
  • Four subjects gained entry by prying open a rear bathroom door, then "kicked in a rear bedroom door..."
  • Taylor, hearing a noise, responded by grabbing a weapon (a "machete or other form of knife"), and investigated
  • One of the intruders shot Taylor
  • Taylor's fiance attempted to call 911, the line was cut, and she made contact with her cell phone

What lessons can we apply to this for our own self-protection? My thoughts:

  1. The intruders gained entry without interruption or deterrent. A large dog barking, or an alarm system may have prevented entry by scaring off the intruders.
  2. The machete wasn't enough - I'd bet that many, if not most, home invaders are armed. Do you think they just carry clubs or knives? The intruders had the benefit of numbers and weapons, plus at least one or two had been in the home before. Taylor may (a slim chance) have been able to fight off more than one attacker, but they were armed, and the stakes just went up. You may not know (until it's too late) that a home invader is armed. Assume they are.
  3. You do need to identify your target, but don't hesitate. If you know where your family is (behind you), and that no one else should be in the home, take appropriate action with no delay.
  4. There should be no such thing as a "warning shot." If you shoot, and the subject is armed, you may die. Shoot to kill, no wound.
  5. Have a backup plan. What if you gun doesn't fire? Have another. Keep a weapon close at hand, loaded, and unlocked.
  6. Train your family members as to how to handle many situations, including fires, first aid, and home invasion. If possible, create a "safe room," and escape route, plus a meeting point.
  7. The cell phone being available could be a life-saver. Your phone lines may be cut, or if you use cordless phones, your power may be out. Keep a backup!

Some good tips (from Crime Doctor's Home Invasion page):

  • Install solid core doors, heavy duty locks, and window security devices
  • Lock all doors, windows, and garages at all times
  • Use four three-inch screws to secure heavy duty lock strike plates in the door frame
  • Use the door peephole BEFORE opening the door
  • Use your porch light to help you to see clearly outside
  • Never rely on a chain-latch as a barrier to partially open the door
  • Never open the door to strangers or solicitors
  • Call the police if the stranger acts suspicious
  • Alert your neighbors to suspicious solicitors
  • Hold a family meeting to discuss home security plans
  • Set the home perimeter alarm at night, if you have one

    Home invasion resources:

    The COCA thread
    Crime Information
    Defend University
    Crime Doctor
    Charlotte Self Defense



    Anonymous said...

    Although I appreciate your focus on prevention in the latter part of the post. I have to disagree with your shoot to kill advice. There are laws that govern use of force, when it is appropriate to escalate etc. Your readers should be warned that escalating force without LEGAL justification can result in charges leading to conviction. If you were to fatally injure an unarmed intruder in your home, you would find yourself being charged with far worse a crime than your aggressor.I believe there is even a major motion picture about a situation similar to this titled "Felon".

    Nathan at TDA Training said...

    I appreciate the comment. So much, in fact, that I've responded with a post. I haven't seen the picture you mention, but will try to do so at my first opportunity.

    Anonymous said...


    Given the recent wave of home invasions and break-ins that have occurred in US neighborhoods, Jordan Frankel, founder of ShatterGARD Glass Protection., a leader in the security products industry and security expert providing onsite commercial and residential security assessments, offered homeowners the following simple and affordable tips to help keep their families safe and secure:

    Alarm Systems: During a majority of break-ins, burglars gain access to the home through unlocked doors or windows. In addition, many homeowners forget to set their security system. While making sure to lock the doors and set the alarm are the foremost priority in securing any home, homeowners do have other precautions they can take.

    n Alarm systems should be connected directly to the alarm company’s central monitoring station, which can alert law enforcement if the alarm is triggered.

    n Installing a back-up cellular dialer in case a burglar cuts the power or the standard phone lines enables the system to still contact the monitoring station.

    n Alarm systems which incorporate motion sensors and/or glass break sensors can help first responders and residents know if an intruder has actually gained access to the premise.

    n Displaying the signage provided by the alarm company serves as an initial deterrent for thieves.

    n Making sure the alarm system’s central panel is located in a locked cabinet or an indoor utility room prevents would-be invaders from tampering with the system.

    Lighting: Sufficient lighting, both internal and external, can help deter thieves from even targeting a home. Burglars typically select a poorly lit home, as darkness affords additional cover from watchful neighbors or passers-by.

    n Motion detection lighting alone only activates once a thief’s movement is detected; installing low-wattage dusk-till-dawn light fixtures, which emit a soft glow around the perimeter of the home all night, insures that thieves cannot conceal themselves in the shadows. The addition of sensors that shut off the lights when the sun rises and energy saving fluorescent or sodium-type light bulbs makes this an affordable and effective light deterrent.

    n Using basic timers for interior lamps set to alternating times, gives the appearance of movement throughout the house while it is unattended.

    n Doors and Windows: With some very simple window and door locking systems, homeowners can drastically restrict the accessibility of their home. With recent advances in locking mechanisms, some additional alternatives are also available to today’s homeowner.

    n Installing window locks on all ground floor windows prevents the window from being opened far enough for someone to fit through.

    n The addition of a simple closet rod to the track of sliding glass doors provides reinforcement to the standard lock.

    n Biometric locks, which provide access by scanning a finger print, have become much more affordable lately and can prevent lost or stolen keys from being used by burglars.

    Windows – The glass in windows and doors can very often be a point of weakness as well. Security window films are affordable, and can provide an extra layer of defense from thieves attempting to smash a window to gain access to the home. While a burglar may be able to muster enough force to eventually smash the window, the repeated attempts require a lot of attention-grabbing blows. Assuring the home has proper doors made from solid wood or metal, rather than a hollow-core style, along with 3.5 inch long steel screws to fasten the hinges to the door frame, will stand up to most breach attempts.

    n The ability to see the outside of an exterior door is also very important. If an abutting window cannot provide a view of the doorstep before opening it, a peep hold can easily be installed.

    Landscaping: Believe it or not, appropriate landscaping can help deter intruders from accessing windows, while maintaining an aesthetic appeal.

    n Keeping trees and bushes trimmed back from the house and windows helps diminish the likelihood of an intruder using the shrubs as cover. Tree limbs should also be trimmed, to prevent an intruder from using a tree to access a second story entry point.

    n Planting low-growing sharp or thorny bushes such as holly, rose shrub, or barberry under windows, or adding gravel or landscape rock which makes for noisy footing, are also good ways to deter thieves from attempting to gain access to windows.

    n Secure the Garage: Garages are favorite targets for thieves, not only because they are often unoccupied, but because they often offer a direct and unlocked entry to the remainder of the home. A few simple countermeasures can help greatly deter an intruder’s ability to access the garage.

    n Always keep the garage door closed; an empty garage or a missing vehicle can alert thieves that the home is unattended.

    n Change the factory set codes on the door’s remote control often, so thieves cannot open the door with a store bought remote.

    n Adding motion and glass break sensors to all windows in the garage will also provide added warning of an attempted break-in.

    Have an Escape Plan
    If someone in the household can break away and call for help, the home invaders will have lost their advantages privacy and time. To some, running away from your family in crisis would be almost unbearable. However, the alternative might mean being tied-up or o violently incapacitated and left to watch in horror as your family is injured or worse. If you have a plan for escaping, make sure you include where to run and what to say. Sometimes a radical escape measure pays off, in life and death circumstances,

    Thugs will sometimes threaten harm to children to get adults to comply with their demands. But at the same time, children are often overlooked as potential rescuers and are usually not well guarded. If the opportunity presents itself, a trained child can dial 911, activate an alarm panic button, or escape to the neighbor’s house to summon the police.

    About ShatterGARD, Inc.: Founded by security professional Jordan Frankel in 1995, ShatterGARD, Inc. is one of the largest privately held glass protection and security product companies in the United States. ShatterGARD products are trusted to protect the men and women of the U.S. military, law enforcement community, facilities associated with the worldwide banking and telecommunications industries, and private residences. ShatterGARD customers include The US Military, American Stock Exchange, Verizon Wireless, and even former Presidents. For more information on how to protect your business or home against break-ins, home invasions, or hurricane winds, contact ShatterGARD, Inc. Toll free: 1-888-306-7998-14 website: www.ShatterGARD .com.

    Anonymous said...

    Most state laws implicitly state that burglary of an occupied dwelling is a situation where deadly force can be applied.

    Here's NY:

    A person in possession or control of, or licensed or privileged to be in, a dwelling or an occupied building, who reasonably believes that another person is committing or attempting to commit a burglary of such dwelling or building, may use deadly physical force upon such other person when he or she reasonably believes such to be necessary to prevent or terminate the commission or attempted commission of such burglary.