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Frightened in Massachusetts

Frightened In Massachusetts
Charles Heller

The story below was reported from Massachusetts. It shows a few flaws in tactics that could cost the person her CCW permit. One of the mistakes was strategic; most are tactical.  Read the story, then the comments below:

March 2nd, 2000     From: Linda Hamilton

On Wednesday, March 1st, at about 12 noon, I turned onto North Adams over Florida Mountain. After about 30 seconds, I noticed an 18-wheeler looming in my rear view mirror. He drove within ten feet of my Blazer, and then lunged his truck at my vehicle as if he was going to ram it. He then pulled out, as if to pass me - we were on a 2 lane road - and then pulled back in behind me. He repeated this behavior four times.

In fear for my life for over a quarter mile, there was no place to pull over, only abandoned mills and private houses, & no other people around. I am a lawfully licensed gun owner, with a concealed carry permit. I don't hunt. I carry a gun for personal protection.

I took my .38, put it in my right hand and put my hand back on the steering wheel. The truck driver immediately backed off. I pulled in at the first place there were people and a pay phone. I called the Shelburne State Police barracks, and I told them of the incident thinking, of course, that they could intercept the trucker before he hurt someone.

But when I reached the top of the mountain, two troopers from Cheshire barracks pulled me over. Apparently the truck driver had seen them there, and reported that someone had pulled a gun on him. Not only that, he had given them a description of my car.

The two female officers asked my permission to search my vehicle. I refused, but they did it anyway. They called in my I.D., and they were informed that I was a lawful gun-owner, with a permit to carry "for all lawful purposes," yet they confiscated my gun on the spot. They are going to excuse themselves, I am sure, by saying they had "probable cause." By the time they did this, they had checked my I.D., searched my vehicle, heard my explanation, and even with all that, they never called the Shelburne barracks or checked out the truck driver!

I put them on notice that they were leaving me defenseless, and that I wanted a police escort home. They refused. (Are you surprised?) They did not charge me with any crime, and still have not done so. They also called a detective from North Adams, who stated that " was against the law to have a gun in my car," which is completely untrue. This same detective later admitted to my attorney he "... really did not know much about the gun laws." No kidding.

So here we have three people who took an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution who - and I would stake my paycheck on this - have NEVER read it and do not respect it, much less intend to uphold or defend it.

Linda Hamilton

------------------------------------------------------------------------- -------

Some Constructive Comments from Charles Heller

First of all, I have no doubt that Mrs. Hamilton was indeed in fear for her life. The threat with the gun was probably justified. But remember that you cannot shoot a vehicle in self defense. You can only shoot a person in self defense. A couple points...

Everyone should have a cell phone. Everyone. If you cannot afford service,  get a used phone from a mobile phone company and keep it charged. You can dial 911 even if you don't have service. $25 to $35 should accomplish this task. Get a mobile charger for the car. Try to get one with an ear piece so you can keep both hands free. The first person in any incident who calls the police is usually referred to as the  "victim". The other person is then usually deemed the "suspect", no matter who the real good guy and bad guy are.

Mrs. Hamilton might have considered either pulling into a private driveway and laying on the horn, or snapping a sharp U-turn to get the guy off her tail. If he then follows, it makes an even stronger case for later. If he follows at that point, it may be chargeable as "stalking". Prosecutors like their new "stalker" laws, and would like an excuse to use them.

In the event something like this happens, dial 911 and tell them, as forcefully as you can, "I AM IN FEAR FOR MY LIFE!" Repeat it. Explain that you can "see" he means to kill you and is close enough to do it. Ask them to hurry, as you don't want to be forced to use deadly force. If you end up using force this sets up a justification defense, and makes it less likely that you will be charged. DON'T TELL THEM YOU HAVE A GUN, unless you think that you will contact an officer before you have a  chance to SECURE it.

Have a small safe bolted into your car. The trunk will work if there's no room in the passenger compartment. After the danger has passed, and BEFORE you get to the police, put your defensive tool, spare ammo, any large amounts of cash, and any other items of a private nature, in the safe. If they ask to see it, simply decline politely. If they threaten to get a warrant, tell them to do what they feel is right, but that you do not consent to a search. You can lock your keys in your car to keep them from searching it without your permission. If you do, make sure the sunroof is closed and that you take your license, CCW permit, insurance, registration, and cell phone out with you. Careful how you display the phone less the over-trained and stressed officers think it is a weapon. I they asked you why you did that, just tell them you were so upset you forgot the keys were on the dash. If you're female, say you set them down to grab your purse. You'll call your husband/ boyfriend/ girlfriend/baby sitter/pet lizard to bring them to you AFTER this "whole mess" is over.

Be nice. Say "sir" and "ma'am". Keep an open posture, and your hands where the police can see them. Refrain from profanity. Thank them for being there, whether you are grateful or not. This is not the time to start distributing "Waco, The Rules Of Engagement" movie, or morn for poor Rodney King. Tell what happened without embellishment and reiterate how in fear for your life you were.

Carry a small tape recorder on your person. If you can do so without endangering yourself, start the tape when the incident begins and narrate it into the tape. This tape is evidence, as it is considered "contemporaneous notes" by a court. Play the tape for the cops if they will listen. If they won't, try NOT to give up the tape. Secure the tape under seal with the date on the seal. If you think you are going to get charged with something, give the tape to your lawyer.

Most of all, besides these 3 items of preparedness (cell phone, tape recorder, and safe) decide in advance what you will do if faced with such a deadly threat. Rehearse your approach speech to the police and the 911 dispatcher. If you've practiced what you will do in training, you have much less risk of panicking  when the real thing happens.  Pray for peace, dress for war. Good luck.

Charles Heller

Charles Heller is a radio talk show host and concealed weapons instructor in Tucson, Arizona.

Permission to reprint in whole, granted with attribution.




Printer Version

These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of men and women. Thomas Paine, The Crisis, Intro. (Dec. 1776).

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