Unknown Influence From the Trayvon Martin Case

It was first part of October in the early evening. The sun was still up and the temperature was slightly cooler than normal. Thoughts were racing through my mind as my wife, our three month old baby, and I headed home from an excursion to the store to buy supplies for our vacation to the mountains. I was checking items off my mental to do list as we drove down the street towards our house. My mental checklist was interrupted by my wife saying, “Watch out for this guy, he looked at me weird…” I glanced in the rear view mirror to see what she was talking about. I could not make out anything specific except an individual who was walking out from behind the trash dumpster. We pulled into the driveway and although my wife had spawned a part of my brain to “watch out,” I went back to my mental checklist. I got out of the driver’s seat and stepped back to the passenger door to retrieve the car seat that our young baby had fallen asleep in. As I leaned into the vehicle, I looked to my right and about 10 yards away was the guy I was “watching out for.” He was just standing there looking at me when he suddenly announced in a overstated fashion, “What’s going on?” I responded with a simple nod and a quick, “Not a whole lot, just getting home.” Expecting it to just be a simple greeting from a guy walking through the neighborhood, I went about my business. In the back of my mind the situation seemed kind of odd to me, so I started scanning the surrounding area for anyone or anything that seemed out of place.

As I made my way to the rear of the vehicle, I glanced to my right so I could keep tabs on where this guy had gone. To my surprise he had advanced down the road about 30 yards, but he was just standing there looking back at me. It was as if he was waiting for me to look that direction because as soon as I did, the words rang out, “What are you looking at bro!!!?” These words were presented with the same attitude and exasperation that I heard in his initial interaction with me. I was not looking for a fight or or any type of confrontation, so I ignored the comment and went back to retrieving the groceries from the back of the Jeep. Once again, I glanced down the road and just as before he was standing there looking back at me. In a much more aggressive tone came another challenge, “I said, what the f*ck are you looking at bro!!!?” At this point two things became very apparent to me; first, ignoring this guy is not going to work, and second, he seems to be looking for trouble. I countered back with, “Hey man, I’m not looking at anything. You are the one that is standing there looking at me.” I was unsure of what the comment would accomplish, but I thought that some sort of response might satisfy his questions. I was wrong. This statement summoned an immediate and heated response! He went from annoyed to fuming mad in a split second and barked, “What the f*ck did you just say to me?” as he turned his full body towards me and advanced a few steps.

In a surreal moment everything in my brain switched. I became acutely aware of myself, the things around me, and of course this guy. A lot of thoughts flashed through my mind faster than I would have ever expected. In my mind’s eye, I flashed back to a few hours earlier in the day and watched myself press check my carry gun before holstering up.

I found myself standing there having numerous realizations all at the same time. I looked down and noticed that the car seat with my baby was to my left, which meant it was sitting in between me and this crazy guy. I realized that my wife was on the other side of the jeep headed to the front door with an armful of groceries. I felt the weight of my handgun on my right side. I rarely notice the sensation of having a gun on me, but at this moment it became an awareness that I could not ignore. After becoming so attentive of these initial items, I realized that my brain was going through a mental checklist of the tools that I had at my disposal. I thought of the knife that was clipped inside my right front pocket and the Surefire flashlight in my back left pocket. As I made my way down this mental checklist of tools and plans, my brain interrupted me and it was screaming, “BABY! BABY! BABY!!!” I once again focused on where I was, where the baby was, where this guy was, and where all three of us were in relation to each other. Without thinking I took a quick step to my left, picked up the car seat, set it behind me and took a few steps forward. In the midst of this movement, I barked an order to my wife to come get the baby. Now my focus was split between two things. First, I was focused on this guy so I could evaluate how close he was, while also noticing that he was still moving towards me. I became aware of how rough he looked, and I zeroed in on the the fact that he had both of his hands in his hoodie pockets. At the same time that I was making all of these assessments, I was keeping track of the fact that my wife had retrieved the baby and had retreated to the other side of the Jeep. I scanned my surroundings a few times to see if there were any other individuals that I needed to keep tabs on. Then the threat rang out. In an angry slur of words he growled, “If I come over there, you are not going to like what I have to say!” After the fact, it struck me as a weird comment; why would someone who has no qualms about confronting me feel the need to use a play on words? Why wouldn’t he just come out and say that if he comes over that he is going to “kick my ass?”

Quickly, I met his comment with a roaring command, “STOP!!!” “DON’T COME ANY CLOSER!!!” He seemed surprised at the aggressive tone of my voice and he stopped his forward progression. A million things were racing through my head: Does he have a gun or knife? Why are his hands in his pockets? Where are my wife and baby? What if he comes closer? What if he attacks me? As these questions raced through my head, I started to see scenarios playing out in my mind. How would I take cover? What clothing would I need to sweep out of the way if I had to draw my gun? What would I do if he injured me? Through the midst of these thoughts, I again barked an order to my wife to call the police.

The scenarios kept streaming through my head and to my surprise a single name echoed in my thoughts… Trayvon Martin!!! In a split second, facts and information flooded my brain as I thought of the headlines and articles that had depicted the long, hard legal battle that George Zimmerman had faced. Information that I did not really know, but somehow had retained, flashed through my memory about a guy who found himself in a situation where he made a decision to defend himself and then faced a long, treacherous road to prove his innocence. Could this happen to me? What would happen to my family if it did? This thought process was quickly disturbed by another snarling comment. “You should be careful who you mess with.” This single remark quickly snapped me back to the threat that I was dealing with in real time. My mind was once again focused purely on this guy and if he was going to cross the proverbial line in the sand that would force me to take action. As the situation had the possibility of escalating, my mind blocked out everything except what my reactions would be to whatever he decided to do. To make a long story short, a few more heated words were exchanged and then this individual decided that it was time to move on down the road. As he strutted away, he looked back a few times and left me with a few parting words that I was unable to hear, but I got the gist of what he was trying to say.

The evening wrapped up being very uneventful. About 20 minutes later the police arrived; they seemed fairly uninterested in the situation. This was made clear to me by both the slow response time and their nonchalant attitudes. This drove home the conviction that it is my responsibility to protect my family. The police don’t always have the ability to be there right when you need them, and most likely they will show up after the fact to take pictures and write notes.

The next day I took some time to myself to evaluate the events of the previous evening. There was something about the whole situation that kept bothering me. It was not until I broke the situation down and assessed it from some different perspectives that I got to the root of what was nagging at me in the back of my mind.

I could not help but question if the time spent thinking about the Trayvon Martin case could have put me in additional danger. Could the few seconds of brain power that was used on those thoughts have been better used in evaluating the threat, making a decision, or continuing to check my surroundings to make sure that this guy did not have a buddy coming up behind me? Though these thoughts seemed completely involuntary, I could not get out of my head that they seemed like a mental road block.

Could the woes of another man prevent me from making the right decision? Could it slow me down enough that I could lose the opportunity to make a decision? Did I now have a predisposition that I did not know about? Did all of the stories of an innocent man struggling to prove his innocence put a block in place that would hinder me from being as mentally acute as I would be if I had no knowledge of that situation? If this was the case, how deeply rooted was this disposition? Is it a good or a bad thing, and what am I going to do with it?

I spent the following days in a mental chess game playing through different scenarios, processes, and thoughts. I was trying to figure out exactly how I felt about this situation and what I wanted to do about it.

How deeply rooted was this disposition? Not having faced any other situation since that day, I am unsure if it would be a repeated issue or if my thorough analysis had laid it to rest in my mind. During this process I tried to evaluate all of the information I had taken in on the Trayvon Martin case. Thinking back over the last year, I realized that I had never intentionally sought out any particular information. I remember reading articles periodically, as well as seeing news stories or updates occasionally on the news. I never avoided reading about the case, but I also never felt as if I had been motivated in any way to seek out facts or information about what had happened. My knowledge of the case was probably similar to the average news reader and watcher. I knew the basics of the case and had read about the final outcome. This helped to put my mind at ease because I was questioning whether I had created this mental block by reading too much about this case.

One of the biggest factors that put my mind at ease during this evaluation was realizing that some news stories have affirmed decisions I have made.  When I read about the Sandy Hook Shooting, I was grateful knowing that I had made the decision to carry a gun so I would have the tools and training to protect my baby daughter if needed. When I read about the Mall Shootings in Kenya, it reminded me of all of the times I have been dragged to the mall by my wife and I am glad that I had the means to protect her if I had been forced to. There are countless news stories that I have read or seen on TV that, without knowing it, constantly affirm my decision to take the protection of myself and my family into my own hands.

Is it good or bad? My initial response was that it was very bad that I had felt like I had a mental block. But the more time I spent looking at all that went through my mind and all of the factors that were at play, I realized it was simply some unresolved thoughts that had flashed through my mind. It was information that I had downloaded into my brain that I had not processed yet. As my mind processed the possible threat I was faced with, it brought up related data and information. I guess I look at it the same as doing a Google search. Some search results are relevant and some are not, but Google connects all of the results somehow.

What am I going to do with it? After thinking through the previous items, I realized that I need to be “intentional” with the information I retain. It is inevitable that through daily life everyone is going to take on information through conversations, news articles, news stories, movies, books, emails, and so on. The point is that an individual is not always in control of the information they absorb. Some stuff is irrelevant, but certain information will impact those of us who have chosen to be prepared to protect ourselves in and out of our homes. This is where being “intentional” comes into play. I realized that the reason those thoughts about the Trayvon Martin case rushed through my mind were because they were lingering unresolved.

If I had thought through that information and data at a previous time, I feel like those thoughts would have never entered my mind during that situation. I believe that by being intentional about the data we absorb, we can greatly reduce the chances of mental roadblocks while under stress. From now on when I read a news article or watch an unfolding news story I will do a quick evaluation. “Does this pertain to the decision I have made to carry a gun for self defense and home protection?” If so, I will make the effort to evaluate the information, how it pertains to me as a protector, and whether it warrants a change in mindset, tactics, or training to serve me well in the future.

With this newfound resolve, I am comfortable with how I handled the events of that evening and how I will process relevant information moving forward. Situations like the Trayvon Martin case are opportunities for all of us to learn, adapt, and adjust as we continue to hone our skills and arm ourselves with the information, training, and tools necessary to keep us safe.

*****

This article was written by one of our employees.  We are thankful first and foremost that he was able to de-escalate this threatening situation and everyone is safe.  We are also very appreciative that he took the time to write about it and thoroughly reflect on how he handled it and what he learned from it.  For those who have taken our Combat Mindset class, you will recognize several topics we discuss in this class were utilized during the course of this incident.  Because this employee has done extensive mental and physical (range) training, he was able to remain calm while he observed and assessed the situation.  He had the tools (gun, knife, flashlight) necessary to defend himself and his family if the adversary did not back off, and he has the training to quickly and decisively act if necessary.  More importantly, he had the mindset and knowledge to attempt to de-escalate the situation first before progressing to the next level of defense. 

As we like to say, “A little preparation and mental training goes a long way!  Being one of the few who remains calm in a crisis is incredibly powerful.”  This is a prime example of that!

 

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