I was returning from eating sushi with a friend and preparing to parallel park in front of a building in Midtown when my day turned into an episode of 24. I heard a scream just as I hit reverse and looked to my left where I saw a very scary looking guy, maximum security prison type scary, grab my neighbor, punch him, and throw him to the sidewalk.
I was in a very nice part of town but it’s surrounded by some of the not so nice parts. Still, we don’t see much violence. This area is full of sidewalk cafes and upscale shops. This event was very much a departure from the norm but it was about to get worse.
I slammed my car into park, jumped out, and screamed something in an attempt to break things up. The attacker kept attacking, I didn’t want to get into this fight but the attacker’s partner was moving in now and it was obvious that I was going to have to do something.
My neighbor didn’t stand a chance. He was getting shoved down the sidewalk. After a few hard shoves the attacker slammed him down hard into the pavement. I decided to sprint for the attacker’s back and try to spear him and put him down when my neighbor, arms and legs bloodied, came up in a perfect shooting stance with a .380. He was amped and screaming “Don’t fucking do it..back away” and I now was in the middle of it. Literally.
I didn’t know what started this fight and I didn’t know my neighbor well enough to be comfortable with him going Jack Bauer in my presence so I had a whole lot of factors to weigh and decisions to make in those few seconds. All of this occurred in about 15-20 seconds so there wasn’t a lot of time to think. My neighbor didn’t seem like a threat so I decided to hold my ground and try to be a voice of reason or at least a witness. I told the attacker that he was going to get shot, that he should leave, that police were on their way but he wouldn’t back down. The whole thing was way more intense than I can convey in this blog post.
Now it was bad enough that my parking attempt had turned into a prime time crime drama but the fact that the attacker and his buddy weren’t running scared was quickly making the entire episode much more intense. Meanwhile, my neighbor was still in his shooting stance and telling the guy to leave. The attacker didn’t care. He stood about 10 feet away, extremely agitated, and kept talking trash. He was screaming “You won’t shoot me pussy” and acting like he was going to charge. We both kept telling him to back down or things were going to get out of hand. His partner got the message and took off but the rest of us were locked in a no-win situation.
Eventually the attacker backed across the street. My neighbor lowered his gun but the trash talking from both of them did not stop. I asked my neighbor if he was licensed (he was) and then told him not to shoot the attacker as he was leaving since that seemed like a very real possibility. I did not want his fear and anger to get him into trouble. It’s generally not a good idea to shoot bad guys in retreat. Unfortunately, we were about to discover that our bad guy was not in full retreat.
Just when it seemed like the guy was going to leave he decided to charge back across the street at full speed. I was really fearing for my safety at that point and I tried to get out of the way but he headed straight for my neighbor. The gun came back up and my neighbor retreated as far as he could. His back was pressed against the building and we were obviously both thinking that this was the point of no return. When you’re facing an unarmed attacker who will charge a man with a gun there is good reason to be scared. There was more screaming again as my neighbor started repeating over and over again “I fear for my safety – I will shoot you.” I fully expected and braced for the shot but the attacker retreated at the last possible moment. Another foot and he would have been a dead man. Most people, me included, would probably have shot him during the second charge but my neighbor gave this guy every opportunity to walk away.
The attacker didn’t retreat far though. He crossed the three lane street and grabbed a large rock. I saw this and, given the events so far, expected him to charge back and resume the fight but he threw it at us instead. I told my neighbor to look out, the gun came up again, but the rock hit a parked car where it inflicted quite a bit of damage.
Luckily that was the end of it. Well, not the end. The attacker ran off and police (an enormous amount of police actually) rolled up a couple of minutes later. One of the police officers who lives in our building was first on scene (off-duty) and he coordinated the search for the attackers. The police gave my neighbor surprisingly little trouble but there were also plenty of witnesses praising him for his restraint. Almost to a man the officers we talked to said that in the same situation they would have used deadly force. It would have been justified at almost any point but the second charge by the attacker made it a no-brainer.
I didn’t find out what provoked the attack until later. My neighbor had seen the attacker and his buddy mugging another man, yelled out of his window for them to stop, and called 911. While he was on the phone to the dispatcher they moved out of view and he walked out to the sidewalk to see if he could determine their direction of travel for the police. Unfortunately, they hadn’t moved far and they immediately attacked him instead.
Two weeks after obtaining his concealed carry license and I’d say he did quite well. He has only has minor cuts and bruises, nobody is dead, the initial victim was able to run away, and I didn’t have to get in there and scrap with these thugs in what would have been one ugly brawl. Whoever trained him did one hell of a job. I know this story won’t change any minds but sometimes guns save lives. I got to witness that firsthand this afternoon.