To review parts 1 and 2:

In an armed encounter with an apparently unarmed and complaint subject:

Ideally from a position of cover:

  1. Order the subject to stop movement:  DON’T MOVE.
  2. Order the subject to move his hands away from his waistline:  HANDS UP.
  3. Expose waistline and impair subject’s vision: REACH BACK AND GRAB THE COLLAR OF YOUR SHIRT, NOW PULL THE SHIRT OVER YOUR HEAD.
  4. Visually clear the subject’s entire waistline:  WHEN I TELL YOU TO MOVE, I WANT YOU. TO TURN AROUND, SLOWLY, ONE STEP AT A TIME…DO IT NOW.
  5. Direct the subject to move the subject, in a circle, 540 degrees so the subject stops facing away from you.




In numerous circumstances, the safest thing an armed person could do is let the subject escape.  The more time that’s  spent with the subject, the more things could go wrong.

This is not an option for an on duty police officer. A police officer’s objective is to take the suspect into custody.  In order to complete the goal, the officer has to expose himself/herself to risk.  They have to holster and secure their firearm, close range with the suspect, reach for and manipulate handcuffs, grab the subject’s arm, handcuff, search, and transport the subject.  Every step of this process has potential pitfalls and exposes the officer to attack.

For a citizen, allowing the subject to run away, in a specific way and under specific circumstances, may be the best option.

People who commit crimes, especially violent crimes. are usually not calm, cool, and collected.  Often times they are high, drunk, and stupid. They may also be, experienced, brutal, and acclimated to violence. Most experienced violent criminals could read your anxiety and inexperience and, given time, will figure a way to use it against you. We could counter this with realistic training with realistic resistance under stress, proper mindset, and experience.  We can also limit our exposure to the criminal by allowing him to leave.

Once a criminal encounters an armed citizen, they will have a stress response.  Their vision may tunnel, things may slow down, they will sweat, heart rate and blood pressure will elevate.  This stress response may make it hard for them to understand commands.  Our commands need to be simple and concise.

Once things slow down and the stress response begins to dissipate, the subject might start thinking of ways to get out of the situation he is in. Clearly, he does not want to be shot but he also does not want to spend time in jail. The subject matter expert for Violent Criminal Actors is William Aprill.  William and Paul Sharp co-teach an excellent class called Unthinkable which covers all aspects of criminal behavior and direct response to aggressive criminal action.

The longer you are exposed to the subject, the longer he has to start thinking of escape or attack plans.  It also exposes you to visual and physical fatigue.  The subject may attempt to engage you or your family in conversation to delay your response time which offer him advantage.

Your number one priority is your family and your safety, not the apprehension and conviction of a criminal.

With this priority in mind, we may make the decision to move the subject to our doorway or away from our area and let him run away.

As a general rule, if you are moving the subject towards you, you should have him walk backwards.

If you are moving the subject away from you, you should have him walk forwards. In other words, you are always behind the subject, not allowing him to get a visual fix on your location.

The subject should be moved one step at a time. Remember, if we followed the steps correctly, the subject’s shirt is pulled over his head and his vision is compromised.  You are his guide and if he is compliant, he will follow every command.

The decision to move the subject or pin them in place rides on numerous factors.

  1. Will you move the subject past open doorways with family members in the rooms. Children may peak out of doors and get between you and the subject. Children or adults may stand in the doorway and get grabbed by the subject and used as a shield.  Or, the subject may run into a room and break visual contact.  If this is the case the better decision would be to pin the subject in place.  Is it safe to you, your family, and innocent bystanders to move the subject?
  2. Did you observe a weapon on the subject?  If you did, letting them walk might offer them an opportunity to access the weapon.  When they leave, they may circle back with the weapon and use it as you let your guard down.
  3. Are they close to an exit?  If they are, it’s easier to move them out of the structure and out of the area.


    1. I am going to move you to the door and let you run. If you do not follow my instructions or attempt to turn around and hurt me or my family, I will shoot you.  When I tell you to, I want you to move one step at a time.
    2. Step forward one step, do it now.
    3. Step forward one step, etc.

We will do this until we walk the subject out of the immediate area or out of our residence.

Now, we do not want to just let the subject run free.  He may decide to go to a car and get a weapon, he may decide to run back towards us.  So we give the subject a goal and tell him to run to that goal.

4. See that street lamp?  When I tell you to, I want you to run towards the street lamp and keep running down the street.  The police are coming and this is your opportunity to get away.  I will be watching you the entire way, if you do anything I think is threating, I will shoot you.  Now RUN!

We do not want to let our guard down. After the subject has left the area, we still want maintain vigligence. If police are responding, secure yourself and your family and holster your firearm.  If you could leave the area, leave.

While leaving the area of conflict you should perform countersurveillance measures, ensuring no one following you. If you are meeting police to report the incident, meet them in a well lit populated area.

In the next article in this series we will describe a technique to pin the person in place.


Filed under Managing the Don't Shoot Yet, Tactical Communication


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  2. Jay

    Obviously, the goal here is a compliant bad guy. And you mention making the decision to move or pin the bad guy based on factors such as doors and accessibility along the path to family members or weapons.

    My question comes up at the point that you give instructions for the bad guy to run to the decided upon point of interest. Does the fact that the bad guy has his back to you (bad way to shoot anybody and not face massive problems) limit your options if he does deviate from the instruction to ‘run to the light pole’. Let’s say he runs to a nearby parked car to access a longgun or notify his accomplice instead of the light pole. You can’t very well shoot the bad guy in the back as he swerves away from the path. How do you keep control of the situation once you give the instruction to run, specifically if the bad guy fails to be compliant with the final command?


    • Nitro25

      You do not fire, he’s no longer an immanent threat running away. Telling him that you WILL SHOOT, is Mental Judo. He’s already somewhat processed “Getting Shot”, and “Going to Prison”, and now he free and running, if he doesn’t screw up, he won’t get shot….he’s just won the lottery. He may even think you’re going to shoot him anyway, because he’s outside, and now you’re not going to mess up your living room with his blood, which will make him run even faster. But now you’re in danger. You might have tunnel vision watching him beat feet to the street in front of your house, while his buddy you didn’t even know existed comes out of the side yard behind you. Stay in the threshold of your front door protecting your six, and constantly scan 180* for other threats.
      Oh!…Don’t shoot your neighbor that heard the yelling, and is coming over to see if you’re OK!
      When the bad guy is out of visual, retreat inside, and clear and secure the rest of the house. Or, take a defensive position, and let LEO’s clear the rest of house when they arrive.



      • “…clear and secure the rest of the house.”
        I would not do this myself. Personally, I would go back into my safe room where my family is sequestered (bedroom) an let the cops clear and secure the rest of the house when they get there. I do not need to worry about pieing the corner in the darkness of my house.


    • I disagree with the assumption that shooting someone in the back causes anyone to face massive problems. That myth was perpetrated by none other than John Wayne, one of many legal and firearms handling errors perpetrated by Hollywood productions.

      Per city prosecuting attorney, now sitting municipal court judge, if the use of deadly force is justified, where that force is applied on the threat is legally irrelevant. If you have a reasonable and honest belief that you are in imminent jeopardy, as in the already-known criminal fails to follow your instructions after you have explicitly indicated (as listed above) that you will act accordingly, it no longer matters what direction he (or she) is facing.

      You were already justified in the use of deadly force based on the presumption that the criminal was in your residence for other than legal purposes and apparently unarmed as best you can determine visually from a safe distance (noting you did not check anywhere except the beltline), but you also elected to not immediately use that deadly force as a choice for as long as the criminal was 100% compliant with your instructions. If that compliance fails and you take the action necessary to ensure no further failure to comply occurs that could further endanger your safety, you were already justified in using deadly force. If that wasn’t the case, you shouldn’t have had the gun out in the first place.


      • Good discussion guys. The basis is your ability to articulate that you believed you or others were under a legitimate threat of death or great bodily harm. The Lion is correct, once you feel the legitimate threat, where you shoot or how many times you shoot are legally irrelevant, as long as you could articulate why the person was a continuing threat. As we have all seen recently, this perception can be molded by how the media reports the event.

        Ultimately we want to put distance between us and the subject. You are just making him create the distance. Craig Douglas puts this very well “if distance were an equation what would distance equal”? the answer is TIME. The further away he goes the more time we have.

        The subject is also going to feel time pressure. He has a clock running in his mind and by this time the alarm is ringing hard. Don’t forget, the same adrenal response we have, he has. He will tunnel vision, he will opt for survival, he will feel “fight or flight”. We are just giving him the flight option. For him to actually escalate a home invasion to a homicide, after he is clear of the area is very improbable. Possible, but improbable. Because it’s possible we need to continue to guard, keep our weapon or transition to a more powerful weapon (like a long gun), and secure the house. Also, we need to prepare for the arrival of the police and insure we don’t get shot!

        Some great points nitro. The way we don’t shoot our neighbor or tunnel vision is training. This stuff has to be specifically trained and then trained under realistic stress and pressure. Your residence needs to be cleared to make damn sure there is no one inside. It’s best to leave this to responding officers. Solo clearing of a residence is possible but dangerous and very difficult.

        It’s best to have this discussion of what family members should do in this event prior to an event like this so they know exactly what to do and where to gather or if to ‘shelter in place”.


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