Monday, August 3, 2015

Guest Post: Surviving an Attempted Carjacking/Mugging

by Steven Taylor

Mr. Taylor is a professional investigator who visits some of the worst, most violent towns in the Rust Belt of America.

I’ve been a private detective for close to a decade. I’ve worked the Midwest and Southeast United States for years in all manner of weather and communities. The majority of my work is done in the back of a custom-outfitted SUV. It blends in, gives me comfort, and has space for my gear (assorted cameras, doodads and trade craft items).

Late October 2012
I took on a case that had me watching a small manufacturing complex to see if night security was actually showing up to do their jobs. In a previous life I’d done my share of graveyard shift security, so I was pretty sure that the file would be open and shut. 

My setup was good: I was parked in front of some houses across the road (a state trunk line) from the complex, nestled conveniently among the other vehicles.  This gave me camouflage and I could see both egress routes from the business. 

The first evening's worth of work (from 9 pm to 9 am) went without a hitch. As a matter of professional courtesy, I had notified local law enforcement of my position, a general vehicle description, and other details to keep me safe and any neighbors from prying. 

The second day started like any other: I drove in, set up, notified the police, and settled in for another long night of staring out into the darkness.  I didn’t notice the two individuals until they were on either side of my truck, one at my driver’s side window and the other at the passenger side. (My SUV has tinted windows and they are difficult to see through in the dark.)

Around 2:00 am, a bar roughly one city block behind me closed for the night.  I had observed and essentially discounted it earlier, but a short time after it closed, its customers were forced out. I believe this bar is where these two individuals came from, because their heavily slurred speech indicated that they had been tying several on. Unfortunately, I had parked my vehicle directly behind theirs, and it was similar in make and model to my own. 

The man on the driver's side of my vehicle tried the door handle.. It didn’t work. He tried his key, and that didn’t work. At that point I spoke up in a firm tone and told them to step away from the vehicle, as it was occupied and that they were at the WRONG vehicle. 

The man on the driver's side took offense to the that. His buddy yelled something intelligible and then began attempting to pull open the passenger side door. I had the misfortune of being parallel parked between their vehicle and another a short distance behind me. I told them “Back away slowly, you have the wrong car.” They did so, stumbling some 5 yards forward and to the correct vehicle. They managed to climb into the car and start it up. When they did, they floored the accelerator of their poor vehicle and departed with a squeal of tires. 

This was where I made my first smart move
I phoned police dispatch and notified them that I had drunk individuals just try to enter my car with me in it. I was relaying this information to dispatch when I heard the squeal of tires again, and the vehicle with these two individuals roared onto the side street and promptly pulled right up, nose to nose, to my own car. The driver had turned on his brights, which lit me up and the interior of my vehicle like a Christmas tree. He’d also managed to come within a remarkable 5-6 inches of my bumper. 

He revved the engine on his car and then shut it off, leaving the head lights on as he stalked out of the car. The driver walked to the passenger side door and his passenger to my driver's side door, and both individuals then tried to get their fingers inside the small rubber trim at the tops of both doors. What their actual intent was, I have no idea, but I assumed they were trying to gain entry into my vehicle. I told them to step away from the car and that they were making a mistake, which only enraged them more. The individual on my side of my SUV then started beating on its A-pillar.

As I was trying not to panic, I heard the voice of the police dispatcher pierce the chaos. Through a good bit of luck, I had simply set my phone on my console and it was on speaker phone, so the dispatcher had heard the entire encounter. At this point, I yelled that I was on the phone with the police, and the dispatcher noted that units were inbound to my location as the house I had been parked in front of called to report belligerent men trying to break into a vehicle. 

This caused the man at my driver's door to remove my side mirror with a single blow from his fist, causing it to careen off the vehicle and skitter across the pavement. The two men, unsatisfied they could not succeed, managed to wander back to their car, start it up and then reverse out of the area. They swept back onto the trunk line and started to leave the area. 

I decided I wasn’t going to let these individuals get away, so I gave chase. I notified the dispatcher that the individuals had damaged my vehicle and were now fleeing the scene. I raced after them at 80 miles per hour in my own car, down a deserted state trunk line and into the center of a ruined industrial town.

I spotted them a short distance away in a hospital parking lot and informed the dispatcher of their location (It would turn out that the dude cut his hand up pretty badly when he bashed my mirror off in a single blow). The police arrived soon after, but only cited them for malicious destruction of property. (I tried to press charges for attempted carjacking, but the prosecutor wouldn't go for it.)

Here’s what I took away from the entire scenario after I calmed down
  1. It was foolish to give chase. I’m neither a hero, nor a cop. 
  2. What could I have done if I confronted them again? I wasn't carrying, and they outnumbered me.
  3. I should have immediately left the scene after the first encounter terminated and moved to a safer location. 
  4. You can never know a bad guy's true intent.
  5. Violent situations are dynamic. From first contact to police speaking to me in person (another unit made contact with the attackers) was approximately 3 minutes.
  6. Distances matter, whether 500-1000 yards. 
  7. In each and every case since then, my Area of Operations and observational range has increased to check for possible future threats. 
  8. An unarmed individual is still a big threat.
  9. An intoxicated subject can rarely be reasoned with.
  10. I decided to start carrying a firearm (which I had been indifferent to in my decade-plus of investigative experience).

But the main lesson I took away from all this -- and much like Keith's post, I can laugh about it now -- is that the unknown is a scary motivator. 

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