Anyway you look at it, someone entering your house in the middle of the night is a home invasion… Sneaking around the outside of a house at 3 a.m., the criminal sees and hears no signs that his chosen victims are awake. With a padded covering, he uses his elbow to break a basement window. Slipping inside, he makes his way up the stairs, stopping to pick up a small piece of 2×4 along the way. Hearing the glass break and noise downstairs, you gather your family to the master bedroom. Hiding behind concealment, a family member calls 911, while you get your weapon. Now what?
The criminal crosses the hallway toward your bedroom, and you realize that he is heading right for you and your family. You instantly blind him with your flashlight and he obeys your order, “Don’t move. Drop the Weapon!”
You have stopped the potential crime and saved your family and yourself from the harm intended by the criminal—so far. Your subsequent actions will determine how safe you all remain.
If you had fatally shot the criminal, there would be no worry of impending violence, and your area of concern would shift to the legal ramifications of the shooting. However, tonight, he’s alive, scared, angry, and still very much a threat. Put yourself in the shoes of the now-detained criminal. He has just been caught ‘breaking and entering,’ and who knows what other charges could apply.
He had a weapon and was expecting to find sleeping victims. If someone breaks into a home knowing that there are people inside, you have to assume there would be no hesitation to commit acts of violence. Sum it up and you have a violent criminal, facing jail time, who is backed into a corner and looking for any way to escape at any cost—a very dangerous predicament for the good guy.
At this point, your job is to protect your family by creating and maintaining situational dominance over the criminal until the police arrive. While one article can’t cover every possible contingency, this plan will outline an effective and accepted procedure for handling a single attacker. If you face multiple criminals, the approach is the same.
Start with the ones that pose the greatest threat and keep them together, so you can keep your eyes in the same place. If the criminal does not speak English, or possibly pretends not to speak English, you will have to use exaggerated body movements to communicate. Keep your gun hand steady and be careful to keep the gun pointed at the criminal at all times so as to not give him an opportunity to attack.
The first thing you have to remember is that while this article offers a good procedure, everything does not always go according to plan. The bad guy has his own ideas of how events should unfold, and may not be cooperative. He may lull you into a sense of control and strike when he thinks that you’re not prepared or alert. He may simply refuse to obey you, or he may attack. The bad guy may also pretend to be submissive or cooperative, hoping you’ll drop your guard. Always stay alert and be ready for the unexpected.
Now, let’s get back to where we left off: your tactical flashlight blinds the criminal, and you are holding him at gunpoint. His weapon has been dropped and he is awaiting your instructions. Keep your family at a safe distance so you can focus your full attention on the threat at hand.
To maintain dominance, keep your flashlight in his eyes to keep him blinded.
Keep the room lights off; less ambient light will make it harder for him to identify objects or other people in the room. If your flashlight starts to dim due to weakening batteries, you will be forced to turn on the room lights. (This is a great reason to change your flashlight’s batteries regularly, even if you have not used it.)
Before turning on the room lights, you need to gain further situational dominance by putting the attacker in a physical position that will be the most difficult from which to attack.
Distance is your friend. There is no tactical advantage by being close, only danger. If attacked, you can shoot him just as easily at 20 feet as 5 feet. Up close, he has more advantages than you might realize.
At close range, he may be able to disarm you faster than you can pull the trigger. While that might sound hard to fathom, it has been proven true time after time. Action beats reaction. If a move is made to disarm you at close range, you must first perceive the movement, realize that it is an attempt to take your weapon, decide what your reaction will be, and only then fend off the gun grab. The longest part of that process is the perception of the movement and the determination of the threat. The attacker will be able to take the gun from your hands before your mind even perceives the danger.
Start by informing him in a very loud, deep, commanding voice: “If you make any fast movements, I will assume that you are going to attack me and I will shoot!” The next order is “Raise your hands high above your head!” Again, all of your commands need to be in a loud, deep (if possible), commanding voice. If this isn’t your everyday voice, this is another thing you should practice if you want to have it available when you need it.
If he starts to move his hands anywhere except above his head, especially to the back of his head or behind his back, order him again to move them above his head. Continued motion in a direction other than ordered is a sure sign that he is going for a hidden weapon.
If his weapon or anything else that can be used as a weapon is near his feet, order him to “Slowly, kick your weapon (or whatever object is close) to your left (or right) side!” Have it kicked in a direction that will be far from his reach but also not near you. You don’t want to pick the weapon up, as it diverts your attention from the criminal, ties up one hand, and may disturb the criminal’s fingerprints or other forensic evidence. Also, bending over will eliminate your position of dominance and give the criminal a perfect opportunity to attack.
You don’t want it at your feet; because you don’t want to trip over it, nor do you want to be looking down to avoid tripping over it when you move. Alternatively, you may order him to “Back away from the weapon!” (and away from you and your family).
Once his hands are in the proper position, the next order should be “Slowly, get on your knees!” Order him to then walk on his knees with his hands high above his head to a place that is large enough for him to lie down and that does not block you from reaching your family, the telephone and the door, and is also not near any potential weapons. From this point on, the criminal should never be allowed to stand again. If you need to move him again for any reason, he should do so on his knees or in a stomach crawl.
Get him on the floor by ordering him to “Slowly, lie down on the floor.” The final position changes are designed to greatly slow down his ability to get up and attack: “Spread your arms out to your sides, and face the palms of your hands up!” When completed, the next order should be: “Turn your head away from me, and place your face flat on the floor.”
The final order: “Cross your legs at the ankles!”
It is now time to remind him not to move: “If you make any fast movements, I will assume that you are going to attack me, and I will shoot you!”
If you have to divert your eyes or move to get the phone, have him crawl on his belly in a direction that lets you watch him constantly. Whatever you have to do, never lower your guard or your weapon, and keep your distance. Never try to cuff or tie up the suspect because that would open you to being disarmed or attacked. Remember, distance is your friend.
It is best to have a family member stay on the phone with the police throughout the entire incident to keep them apprised. If the police are still on the line, inform them of the fact that you are now holding the bad guy on the floor at gunpoint. If the call was disconnected, call the police again and tell them your current situation. It is important for the police to get an update, so they know the good guy is the person who is holding the gun. If there was not time to make a call to the police previously, do so now, while the criminal is in the most awkward physical position possible.
Any time that you call 911, give your address right away, and give it again to be sure they have it. Not all 911 systems display the address automatically. It is best to give the address first because if you get cut off for any reason, the police will at least know where you are and that you are in danger.
Next, give them your name and tell them that you are at home, holding at gunpoint a criminal who just broke into your home. At this time repeat the warning to the criminal: “If you make any fast movements, I will assume that you are going to attack me, and I will shoot you.” Do this again while on the phone with the police in order to get your warning recorded by the police’s phone recording system. If you have to shoot to defend yourself, the tape could go a long way in your defense.
Describe yourself to the police, including what you are wearing. Describe the criminal and what he is wearing. Be simple, be specific, and make a special effort to speak slowly and clearly. Remember, you will be under tremendous stress and may mumble, slur, or speak so quickly that the police could have trouble understanding. Tell them where you are in the house, and how to get there from the main door.
If a mature member of your family can meet the police at the door without having to walk near the criminal, have that person open the door for the officer(s) and give them a description of what is happening. The family member needs to inform the officer who you are and what you look like, so there is no mistake as to who the criminal is.
If you are alone or unable to open the door safely, tell the 911 operator that you “give permission for the officers to break the door in order to enter,” because you do not want to take your eyes off the criminal—even for a second.
Once the police are within earshot, advise them that you are the homeowner and the person on the floor broke into your home—with a weapon, if that is the case. Once the police arrive, they are in charge and you must follow the officers’ orders exactly and immediately, especially if they tell you to drop the gun. Picture the situation from their perspective: They come into a home and find someone on the floor at gunpoint. Who looks like the one who is threatening the life of another? Ensure the police know who the good guy is.
A caged animal is the most dangerous kind. The criminal knows he’s going to jail and may feel he has nothing to lose. You may have disarmed the attacker, but that does not render him harmless. These procedures will help you maintain control until the police arrive.
The author detailed how to handle a Home Invasion (intruder, burglar) in this article. What would you have done differently or in addition to the author’s instructions? Share your answer in the comment section.
David Kenik is the owner of Armed Response, author of the book, Armed Response, and co-author of the Armed Response Video Training Series. www.armedresponsetraining.com
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