“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13
That scripture came to my mind as I thought about the tragedy in Nevada when two soulless people murdered two police officers and a good Samaritan who marched to the sound of the guns and paid the ultimate price by placing himself in harm’s way in the defense of others. Without seeking to second guess the dead and without full information, I would like to make a few comments.
I’m assuming that everyone is aware now of the shooting in Las Vegas. A man and woman entered a restaurant and shot dead two police officers, Alyn Beck and Igor Soldo, who both had wives and children. They then went to a nearby Walmart where news accounts based on police sources say a citizen– Joseph Robert Wilcox, who had a concealed carry permit– chose to confront the man with his handgun. Some accounts say the man had fired a shot into the ceiling and was screaming for people to leave.
The evil ones clearly used good tactics in both encounters. They worked as a team. Witnesses told police that one scouted the restaurant witnesses and then both returned, walked past the officers, drew weapons, and turned and murdered them. When they went to the Walmart, they separated. The woman was then able to engage the citizen from behind.
We can always debate the wisdom of getting involved. Many people I know argue it is unwise to do so. That may be true, but I wonder how one would reflect back knowing that they might have averted a greater tragedy. For what little it might be worth, I think Mr. Wilcox was a hero for taking the chance. He may very well have slowed down the bad guys and allowed others to escape while police officers arrived to contain them.
In any case, out of any tragedy, there are things to learn. A first point I wonder about is that Mr. Wilcox is said to have confronted the man. I would like to know how. Perhaps if the videos are released, we will see what transpired. We have been told he was not able to get a shot off before being taken down himself by the woman. Did he move to a protected position? Did he choose to verbally challenge the bad guy or was he attempting to shoot him as quickly as he could score a hit? A lot of emphasis is placed on verbal challenges in some shooting schools, but I sometimes wonder if that impedes shooting efficiency. Ecclesiastes tells us there is a time for every purpose and in the case of a man entering a store firing a gun and screaming at people, it is probably a time to shoot and not a time to talk.
Lately, we have heard so much about lone gunmen that it could be reasonable to jump to the conclusion that the man marching into the Walmart was the only threat. Mr. Wilcox may have fixated on the obvious danger. We don’t know if he scanned the area for other threats before engaging. Many defensive shooting classes stress the dangers of not engaging alone without someone to cover your rear, but that’s not always possible. They also tell us of the frequent use of “tail gunners” by teams of bad guys. This is someone who does not reveal themselves unless necessary. A standard part of most drills now is assessment of both the target and surroundings, which involves looking backwards and around as quickly and often as possible during an encounter.
Mr. Wilcox was with a companion who he sent to safety. This was commendable and important as the companion was apparently unarmed. It might be good to have a discussion with those you travel and shop with about what to do should you find yourselves in such circumstances. I’ve told my family to move away from me for a start and carefully move to safety.
We don’t know how much or what sort of training Mr. Wilcox had. I’ve been fortunate to have had some good classes, but this doesn’t mean I would have remembered or applied any of it, so don’t take my comments as saying I would have done any better. A bottom line, however, is training does help us think about these things. I wish I had the citation, but I once read that people who think about the what-ifs often do better than those who don’t. The article I read interviewed survivors of disasters, and many of them had set plans into the back of their minds about what they would do if anything went wrong. Those plans often helped them.
Many of us have chosen to be armed, and we do need to think of these matters. A book I treasure for its clarity and brevity is Lt. Colonel Jeff Cooper’s Principles of Personal Defense. In it, he writes about the need for rapid and decisive action. Lt. General George S. Patton also spoke to this, saying in a brief paraphrase, that a good plan executed now is better than a perfect one executed tomorrow. It is often said that mindset is the most important weapon. Mindset includes not only the willingness to fight for what it right but the ability to do so with cunning.
I don’t know what I would have done in Las Vegas. I hope I would have had the courage to act, and I hope I would have done so with skill, but I do know my first priority would have been for my family’s safety.
I’ve will keep the families of officers Beck and Soldo and Mr. Wilcox in my thoughts and prayers. I am happy that their murderers are no longer able to harm others. – Scott Frank Eire, SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor