I was sitting inside my building yesterday when a homeless friend came to me and said there was a man with a gun who was extremely agitated at our house.
I went to see what was going on.
As I slowly walked towards the scene I watched as this man ranted and paced around aggressively in front of the door of our house. I didn’t recognize him right away. He wasn’t a person who was a regular.
As I got closer someone near the scene told me who it was. I then recognized him. He was upset about a rumor he heard.
As I got to him I noticed he didn’t have 1 gun. He had 2. One gun was in his left sweatpants pocket. And the other gun was in his right hoodie pocket.
He would occasionally touch the left hand gun from outside his pants pocket.
As he and I were talking he was getting more agitated. He wanted information of a specific location that we all knew. But given the circumstances we didn’t want to tell him because it was a location of a small camp of homeless people.
He kept getting more and more agitated. It was just me and him talking. Others were calmly milling around like it was a normal day. Drama like this isn’t an everyday thing for these people. But it’s also not uncommon.
He seemed to be getting angrier and angrier. So I put my hand on my gun which was on my back right hip under my coat. I had taken the safety off as I had walked to the scene.
He kept pacing and ranting.
He finally said, “what do you have your hand on? I’ve been shot before.”
He then took his left hand gun out of his pants pocket. I was trying to notice how old the gun was. How reliable was it going to be if he fired it?
This was the moment I had to make a very serious decision.
I said, “Look man. Just put your gun away.”
I took my hand off my gun and held my hand in the air.
He put his gun back in his pocket. I asked him to take his hand off his gun. He did.
I told him I’d help him find the answers to his questions.
He was still angry. But he got in the passenger side of the car he came in.
They drove off.
I have a couple thoughts about this situation.
First, I’ve had a gun drawn on me before. It doesn’t scare me. I believe I have a broken fear switch.
I’m not scared. I’m not excited. I don’t feel anything different at all.
You might as well be talking about the weather to me.
But I am constantly assessing the situation. Who’s around me? What could I do to take cover? How is everyone else feeling and acting? Do I need to calm them down? What’s my escape route?
Then it’s just me and the person having a conversation.
My goal is to just move on to the next step. What does this person want? How can I help them get it?
I’m not there to take this person into custody. I’m not there to take his gun. I’m just there to help move beyond this point.
I don’t know if I’m doing it right. I just am making this stuff up on the fly. I have never been trained in de-escalation.
Honestly, I think this is probably what most people do in these situations. For every encounter where someone ends up shot I bet there are 100 where it resolves this way. This kind of thing is just not that uncommon in our neighborhoods. Guns are everywhere.
I think where it goes wrong is when an agitated person meets an immovable wall like another agitated person… or a police officer.
Police are stuck in a bad spot. There is no way they can let a person like this walk away. So they have to go the other way. They can’t de-escalate like I did. They have to figure out how to control this person and take him into custody. I’d probably do it a lot like how they do it if I were in their shoes.
I don’t know exactly what my lessons are here. But maybe its more about teaching de-escalation to the community. To the people. If you don’t want the police involved then you’re going to have to handle it yourself. Maybe we offer defense training and de-escalation training regularly in our communities.
If either I or the person I was talking to got shot yesterday it would have been all bad. It would have torn our community apart.
In the last situation I was in like this I ended up buying the gun from the person. I felt like he was going to be a recurring problem. In this situation I feel like this was a one off thing. I’m not worried it’s going to happen again.
In this situation it was all just a misunderstanding. It was cleared up and all is right with the world.