Old Habits

What are the lessons Learned?

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I spent 20 years on the force and lived my entire life in a large city. In those 20 years I never failed to carry two guns on‑duty and one off‑duty. Back then (I retired a lieutenant in 1988), the only weapons we were permitted to carry were .38s, either a S&W or Colt. I carried both my 4‑inch S&W Model 10 and a 2‑inch Chief on-duty and left the Model 10 in my locker after signing out. While off‑duty I never went anywhere without that Chief, including to the curb to deposit my garbage cans. Such is the mindset of a city cop.

So it came as no surprise to my wife that I continued to carry when we moved to a sleepy little town. We figured it was a good place to raise kids, especially during the crack‑filled years of the early 90s. Our town was so crime free that its last recorded burglary was five years before we moved there. Did that deter me from carrying? Of course not. Training and habit dictated that I’d be carrying for the rest of my life.

Fast forward a couple of years. Part of my daily ritual had me in the local YMCA for a workout. This bright summer day was no exception and I found myself pulling out of my driveway on autopilot with one thought in mind, “Get the workout in so I could spend the rest of the day in the pool with my two sons.” Just out of the driveway I realized that for the first time I could remember, I’d forgotten my trusty Chief. After 10 years of concealed carry as a civilian and never having to draw the weapon other than to unholster and lock it up every night, I felt a brief moment of panic. What to do? Should I go back in the house, retrieve the gun from the safe in the basement, or just assume that terrorists weren’t going to storm the Y and take me hostage? I chose to believe that I was perfectly safe and continued to my workout. After all, what could possibly happen on this one day when I wasn’t carrying?

As I was driving past our town’s only bank, I spotted the proverbial little old lady walking out the front door while she jammed a fistful of cash into her handbag. Right behind her was a strapping young male, about 25. He was so close he could have been her shadow. My cop instincts, which I had thought long dormant, kicked in. Something didn’t look right. I pulled to the curb, waited and watched. Sure enough, in less than a minute the young mutt pushed the woman to the ground, grabbed her purse and took off in my direction. I jumped out of my car and reached to my waistband for my revolver. Surprise! No gun.

The thief barely glanced at me as he shot past me and turned into what I knew to be a blind alley. Apparently he was from out of town because he didn’t know that. I blocked the alley with my car and and got out of the car in time to see him realize his mistake. Nowhere to go but back at me. While I didn’t have a gun, I did have an ASP; a foldout metal baton I’d kept under the seat of every car I’d owned for 30 years. The bad guy was running like a gazelle and the ASP didn’t faze him. He jumped onto the hood of my car, over the roof and off the back. He was gone again.

I jumped back into my car, got out of the alley in time to see him turn left up the only street in the town that had occupied stores on it, and take off with me in hot pursuit. He was in the middle of the street on foot still clutching the bag with me right behind him in my vehicle. My plan was simple, tap him in the butt with the car, knock him to the ground, secure him and recover the bag. Sounds easier than it actually was.

He glanced over his shoulder, saw me and peeled to the sidewalk. I raced ahead of him, turned my car sideways blocking the street and got out, ASP in hand. He looked like a trapped rat. By this time what few people were around began congregating on the street, maybe 20 onlookers or so. Did anyone think of calling the police? Of course not. They were satisfied watching the action.

A car with one lone passenger was idling in front of a beauty shop. I figured the older man behind the wheel was waiting for his wife. Now he had company; the pursesnatcher jumped in the passenger seat and yelled, “Drive!”

Great, a hostage situation. I ran up to the bad guy’s side of the car just as he was rolling up the window.
“Open the goddamn window!” I bellowed. He gave me the finger.

I smashed the window with the business end of the ASP and dragged the mutt out, headfirst. He began throwing punches as the car pulled away from the curb. I crowned him with the ASP and we both crashed to the pavement. To my surprise, the “hostage” kept right on going, and it didn’t take me long to realize that he was an accomplice. My prisoner was unconscious and I rolled him off me. By now there were at least 50 people on the street watching this thing go down and still no one had called the cops.

I woke them up. “Call the police!”

Now everyone who had a cell phone reached for it. Within seconds I heard sirens in the distance. Saved! Then I heard a terrific crash and whirled toward the sound. Bad guy number two smashed into my car broadside and flipped his vehicle, which landed on its side, driver side down. By the time I reached both vehicles, the driver had climbed out of the car, saw me and reached into his pocket.

Instinctively, I went for my gun that of course wasn’t there. I reached him in time to punch him square in the nose. He went down screaming, and I dug into his pocket. Nothing there. A bluff which might have cost him his life had I been armed.

The police arrived in short order and cuffed the two of them. I was exhausted, but the ordeal was over. I looked forward to getting home to my family and soaking my weary 57‑year‑old body in a tub and profoundly thank whomever was watching over me that day. Before we all left the scene, the sky opened up and a deluge the likes I hadn’t seen since the monsoons in Vietnam came down in torrents. I helped upright the flipped (stolen) getaway car, which promptly rolled down the street, wiping out three parked cars. The end to a perfect day.

Moral of this story? If you have a carry permit, carry the damn gun. I’ve seen too many retired police officers like myself become lazy in their old age and think the need for a concealed weapon will never again arise. You owe it to your family to be armed no matter where you live. Owning a weapon that’s perhaps too big will dissuade you from carrying it every day. So carry something smaller. While I never trusted my Chief Airweight to be able to stop anything (or anyone) substantial, I trusted my 4-inch S&W Model 10 to do the job, but it was too big to carry. I remedied that situation by having a gunsmith cut down the barrel to 2 inches. It’s substantial enough to carry a hot load, which is what I now carry.
— PP, PA