Recently, one of my “worst fears” (I have a few) were realized. A potential emergency was erupting outside. Two individuals, who were probably both mentally ill and under the influence of narcotics, were wandering around the complex screaming at each other and third persons that might or might not have actually existed. It was mildly annoying right up until they started walking up the lawn for my neighbors’ and I.
It appeared to me that they were going to walk up to my door, as they appeared lost and agitated trying to find whoever they were looking for. No one wants to be the person whose home is mistaken for a drug dealer or friend or relative of someone who is not playing with a full deck. Playing real-life “Dave’s not here man,” with a pissed off nutcase or junkie who wants inside now is not fun, especially if all you’re holding is a bath towel.
Had things gone pear-shaped, I would have had less than 30 seconds before NRS 200.120 might have applied. Being buck naked and shower fresh, I had to jump into clothing, grab my gun, and call 911. I’m not this guy (NSFW). My neighbor, who hadn’t been in the shower, came out and ran off the couple, who continued to wander the area, but a little quieter this time. Frankly, I don’t get paid to deal with that stuff anymore.
I really don’t like having to call 911. Being ex-law enforcement, I obviously have no compunction about informing the police about a situation, even if my call record at headquarters makes me look like the neighborhood busybody. Part of me wonders if I’ve gotten soft; the “let the cops deal with it” response seems to be a recurring theme among ex- or retired law enforcement. Within five minutes of my call, the police had arrived and corralled the free-range weirdos.
Back in 1964, New Yorker Kitty Genovese was murdered outside an apartment complex while 36-38 neighbors did nothing about it after hearing her screams, or so the story goes. The details are a little more complex; it was a cold winter morning when windows would be closed, most were asleep at 2 AM, and all but two of the witnesses saw/heard enough to know what was going on. Most mistook it as a domestic violence incident, not something to call the police over back then. Police did not respond as they viewed it as unimportant.
The rest didn’t want to get involved, or didn’t care, depending on the version of the story. Taking the apocryphal story at face value, it does tell us something about our human nature, which is that often people don’t get involved, assuming that others are calling the police, are better able to deal with the situation, or feel it’s none of their business. Some are just afraid. Why the responses in psychological testing are real, the Genovese story was badly exaggerated.
The real story tells us more about how important critical information of the nature of the incident is. In the real Genovese story, only one man yelled at the attacker, which scared him off for a few minutes, before he returned again to deliver the fatal wounds. This “good Samaritan” thought it was domestic violence as well and let it alone when the man left. Only two people called police who failed to respond, deeming it domestic violence (not a priority in the enlightened early ‘60s).
That cold early morning in 1964, no one really knew that Kitty was being stabbed to death. No one had a full picture of the actual events. What I learned in chatting with my next door neighbors is that this schizo-fest had been going on for twenty minutes. They caught bits and pieces as the wild weirdos roamed around our development. My neighbors only saw part of what was going on, assuming it was non-violent domestic or the morons were just lost and irritated (as it turned out to be). When they approached our homes was when my neighbor went out to deal with the situation. Our interpretations of the situation differed because of different observations.
In my experience, seeing what was likely mental illness and drugs, the last thing I wanted was to yell and become a target myself. Not for a confrontation, not for an attempted burglary, not for later retaliation. Even if I would be in my legal rights to shoot, should it come to it, I’d rather not. Let the guys with vests, Tasers, pepper spray, batons, and lots of lawyers and insurance deal with it. I’ve seen people shout back at unmedicated schizophrenics in crisis or couples in domestic arguments and I’ve seen the do-gooder become the target for violence or mistake the aggressor for the victim.
Each course of action is a personal choice, but both require awareness and knowledge. No two person’s experiences will be the same, both in the moment of crisis and their life experience, or they approach to dealing with situations, but being unprepared is always dangerous. What if my neighbor hadn’t been monitoring these people and known they were unlikely to pose a threat to him? What if he was not mentally and physically prepared for a confrontation as he is and the situation escalated? What if I charged out and decided to “preempt” a burglary? Information matters.
Most disturbingly, no one else I’m aware of got involved, which is where the bystander effect comes into play. I was the only one to call 911. There have to be at least a dozen families or people home just on the street side of me where I first saw these fine, toothless and upstanding members of our community. Again, only two of us did anything. Perhaps it is a little like the truth of the Genovese story; no one knew fully what was going on or perceived danger except us two. Perhaps the loud hum of air conditioning and the noise of TV, etc. made the situation invisible to the other neighbors behind their closed blinds and curtains.
Imagine if they had come to my door and I had been a bit longer in the shower. Next thing I know, there’s pounding at the door and I’m naked and wet. Situational awareness is vitally important at home. Home should be the one place where you can be in Code White, but being totally obvious to the outside world is a bad thing. Imagine if I ignored what was going on and they came to the door? That 30 seconds just dropped to zero. That’s why people home carry.
Home carry is a personal choice, just like a person’s choice to intervene. By nature, I’m a reserved person. I’d rather not get involved if I don’t have to. My neighbor is more outgoing and more aggressive, not minding getting down if necessary. Everyone is different. Had they simply been loud, I probably would have said something too, if they didn’t move on. He also had a different perspective, which is vitally important. He saw idiots yelling at each other and being loud; I saw a potentially violent situation.
Not everyone is going to be a tall, strong man confident of ourselves in times of conflict like my neighbor and I. The police aren’t always going to have a slow night and literally just minutes away. You may not have the full picture and you may not have any warning. All you can do is be prepared to defend your home at a second’s notice. One thing is for sure; when you ignore trouble outside out of fear of dealing with it or calling the police, that's when you neighborhood starts to turn into a craphole.