Handling Home Intruders

A while back, good friend Orrin M. Knutson shared his thoughts with me regarding things to think about when deciding how to handle a home intruder.

No one likes to think about this type of scenario, but you just never know when it might happen. Here’s what he had to say about it:

Please keep in mind that the use of any weapon, especially firearms, even when defending your own life and home, is serious business that could land you in civil court if not criminal court, putting your whole life and future at serious risk.

Still, as the old gunfighter credo goes, “It is better to be tried by 12 than carried by six.”

The decision to use force of any kind, especially lethal force, must be made based on the four critical elements present and must be verified by forensic evidence and investigation. Then, you must be able to articulate them in detail on the witness stand. The elements are: ability, opportunity, imminent danger and preclusion.

The first three are relatively simple to understand. The attacker must have had the ability and the opportunity to do harm, and there must be imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury to you or someone else at that moment.

However, the element that bites most people in court (including police officers) is failing to take advantage of some means to defensively preclude, or evade, the attack.

Following are some suggestions on how to prepare:

  1. Enroll yourself and the whole family in a firearms safety program. The NRA, some law enforcement agencies, groups like the Boy and Girl Scouts, VFW and others offer classes all around the nation. Talk to any gun or sporting goods store owner to find a program.
  2. Train the whole family to practice “awareness of their surroundings” at all times, everywhere they go. This includes developing a discipline about answering unexpected knocks on the door.
  3. When you wake up and fear that someone is in the house, never play cop, searching room to room alone. You have no “duty” to arrest someone as police do. Your only responsibility is to protect yourself and your family.
  4. Always make the “bad guys” come to you. You can arm yourself with whatever you feel is best for you: a Louisville Slugger, pepper spray or a gun.
  5. For the anti-gun types, we recommend keeping a large can of wasp spray on your nightstand. It is easy to use, cheap and more devastating than pepper spray. For the firearm novice, we recommend an inexpensive, single-shot, 12-gauge shotgun with an 18-inch or 20-inch barrel, loaded with low-base game shot, not 00 buck or rifle slugs.
  6. Select a specific room, preferably a bedroom with its own bathroom, and quickly move everyone into it. Generally, the master bedroom is best in most homes.
  7. Secure the children in the locked bathroom and order them to stay put in the bathtub until you say it is safe, just as you might during a tornado warning.
  8. Turn on the hall light, lock the bedroom door and turn out the lights in the room. This creates back-lighted “fatal funnel” that any predator must enter while you are concealed in darkness.
  9. Take cover behind something such as a bed, dresser or chair, where you can see the closed and locked door.
  10. You or a companion should already be dialing 911. Answer the dispatcher’s questions as simply and concisely as possible and don’t ramble in fear. Be sure to tell them where you are in the home and that you are armed. Stay on the line until officers arrive.
  11. If you have a gun, lay it down in front of you. Don’t hold it aimed at the door for a prolonged period.
  12. Once you know someone is in the hall and at the door, trying to get in, repeatedly announce loudly and clearly that you have called the police and you are armed.
  13. If the invader breaks in the door anyway, pick up the gun, cock it, take aim at center mass and squeeze the trigger. Reload immediately in case the perpetrator is not alone or you missed. Never fire warning shots.
  14. Defend in place until police arrive, no matter how long it takes for them to arrive.
  15. Never overreact to sounds in the hall and shoot through the closed door, unless someone has fired through it first. These days police and SWAT teams may use an explosive entry technique, but they will surely announce themselves before kicking in the door.
  16. If you’ve discharged your weapon for any reason (intentionally or by accident), make no voluntary statements to police, concerned family, close friends, neighbors or EMTs until you confer with an attorney.
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