An Unexpected Craigslist Encounter

07 October 2015, Battle Creek, Michigan

The Battle Creek Examiner and NBC8 are reporting that two men were shot during a Craigslist transaction in Battle Creek’s Urbandale suburb.

Robert Vanderwiel, 72, and his son Jon, 42, from Grand Rapids went out to look at a car listed on the popular online classified service and found that they had been directed to a fake address, where they were promptly attacked by three men, ages 23, 20, and 19.

As our antagonists found out, though, there is not always safety in superior numbers. Jon, ever the gallant, politely informed his attackers that he was armed and then began firing with his revolver and striking two of his attackers and causing all three of them to flee.

After their exerting altercation, our Good Guys With A Gun felt it safest to repair to the local McDonalds to enjoy a Big Mac and some fries during their 9-1-1 call. Their attackers, hoping perhaps to get their would-be victims arrested, called 9-1-1 only a minute or so later complaining of a gunshot wound.

Police now have two of the three attackers in custody, along with a person of interest, and the Vanderweils are still shopping for a new car and presumed fed.

So, what can we learn from this incident? It turns out, several things; which will be addressed in the order they appear in the story.

1. Craigslist. While there are many wonderful and varied transaction that may take place from a Craigslist ad, as a student of the art and science of self-defense, one thing that you should always bear in mind is the fact that you’re heading out somewhere to meet a complete stranger to buy that fourth-hand futon or one-string guitar.

2. Age and Strength of Numbers. Rob was 72. While that’s not entirely decrepit in many instances, we are not informed as to how fit he was. Regardless, barring him being the next Jack LaLanne, he and his son may have been effectively outnumbered 3-1, as an unarmed 72 year-old is not necessarily going to represent much of a threat to 20 year-olds in their prime.

3. Strangers. Craigslist strangers are no different from any other strangers on the street: 99.99999999% of the 300 million strangers out there are great people. The problem is that you can’t really tell them from the .00000001% who are just out to commit some crimes. (Percentages exaggerated for comic effect)

4. Readiness and Warning. Jon was prepared. Jon was also, apparently, far enough ahead of the curve or far enough away from the initial attack that he not only had time to draw his revolver before his assailants came at him, but he had enough time to be a gentleman and warn them. Very Marquess of Queensberry.

As a Texas-based organization, we are not sure, but everything we’ve turned up indicates that Michigan does not require you warn your attackers before defending yourself. But still, well done for fairness.

5. Retreat: Retreat is always an option. Bother before a Defensive Gun Use (DGU) and after. The decision is yours and yours alone, but some factors to consider before leaving the scene are:

Is the scene secure? Are you likely to be re-assailed by your attackers or their friends? If another assault is likely, leaving may be the best idea. Call the cops from a safer location.

Are you required or inclined to render aid? If the scene is secure, then perhaps first aid is a good idea. You, as Your Own First Responder, are not aiming to kill anyone when you have a DGU. You just want them to stop whatever behavior is forcing you to shoot.

Can you hear sirens? If so, perhaps leaving may be seen as running. You don’t want to look like you’re fleeing the scene of the crime. If they’re close, holster your gun and keep your hands visible unless you’re wrist deep in your putative assailant, trying to keep him alive. It’s your call.

6. Who called 9-1-1? While it’s great that you’ve called 9-1-1 and given them a full description of you and your attakers, how do the responding officers know you’re the good guy? Are the first officers on the scene responding to YOUR 9-1-1 call, or did someone else call and just tell them that “OMG! This dude just shot this other dude!”

In preparation for that, if at all possible, DO NOT BE STANDING OVER A BODY/GUNSHOT “VICTIM” WITH A GUN IN YOUR HAND! If the officers rolling up to you only have a report of a shooting going on, they’re not coming in thinking that you’re the good guy. It is up to you to ensure that they are disabused of this notion quickly and calmly…unless you like the idea of possibly being shot, thrown to the pavement, cuffed, and chucked in the back of a squad car.

Yes, you called 9-1-1, too, but that car is still rolling in. THESE guys just think you’re a deranged killer.

Which brings us to:

7. Reporting Bias in 9-1-1 Calls: In this event, our protagonists elected to move to a safer location before calling 9-1-1. This can cut both ways as being SECOND on the 9-1-1 timeline is a bad thing in a confusing situation.

It’s great that they got out of a potentially hostile situation to flee to the dubious safety of a McDonald’s. But that cost them time, which almost cost them the crucial advantage of being first on the 9-1-1 Call.

While it’s not an absolute rule, the first person to call 9-1-1 is generally believed to be the aggrieved party, with anyone else calling later being a lying scumbag trying to get out of a ride downtown.

Don’t let this stop you from evacuating to a safe area (with fries and a shake) but remember that the clock is ticking? Why?

Because criminals have learned to get revenge on the person who stopped/shot them by calling the police and claiming to be the victim. If this happens you can expect at least a pair of silver bracelets, if not a free ride to a very bad hotel, until your lawyer and the police figure out that you were the victim.

This may take a while. Be sure your lawyer or other responsible party has any meds you may need.

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