*Every situation is different*
Every situation is different. Even the same situations are different on different days at different times. More than likely, I will not be involved in this situation again, but I could very easily be in a similar such situation in the future. This is why I reflected on this event and decided to write about it.
From my perspective, here is what happened and how I handled it.
I had gone to this particular Wal-Mart to get some locking gas caps for my BOV. The store is located in a "good" section of town, although it draws customers from both suburban and urban areas. Time was around 21:45. I was dressed in shorts, boots with slick soles (this is important later in the story) and a Rubie T-shirt. I was NOT armed.
Approaching the store, I noticed that the normal entrance had been shut down and customers were forced to enter and exit through the same door. The Garden Section was locked (this is going to have some ramifications later) but I didnít notice this until later. So entry and egress was limited to a single point.
Quickly, I went to the automotive section, found the gas caps and started to head to the checkout. For some reason, I decided to hit the pharmacy and pick up some vitamins and other meds for my stocks. I milled about a bit locating the items and then went to check out. Business was light and there was no wait at the express checkout lane FARTHEST from the exit. As I was finishing the checkout and grousing how I had overspent once again, I heard a commotion up front near the entrance/exit. Then I heard some one screaming "heís got a gun" at which point I looked around, then dropped to the floor and kinda crawled to the aisle leading away from the registers.
I hear four shots in rapid succession. Then it all broke loose. It was kind of like everything was moving in slow motion. I got up and started running and then slipped down because of the slick soles on my boots. I got up and shouted at some other customers who were not aware of what was going on to come back with me. I think I actually grabbed one lady but I am not sure because things were such a blur.
By this time, I had a group of people around me and we retreated to the garden section, thinking we would get out that way. The gate was locked and we were surrounded by a 15-foot fence with wire on top. The women around me started to panic because it looked like we were trapped. I tried to calm everyone down as I looked for an escape route. In the corned of the section, there was a huge pile of mulch and peat moss and such which we could have used to climb the fence and then jump down to get out. However, I told everyone to sit tight and we would get out if necessary. I didnít want to go out into the parking lot with that animal on the loose and myself unarmed. In the back of my mind, it the situation had not resolved itself in a few more minutes, I was considering going to sporting goods to arm myself. This would have truly been an act of desperation.
We basically hid, trying to comfort a woman who had completely lost it until the cops came into the store and announced over the intercom that it was safe to come out. We came out and I went back to my register to get my stuff - which I had left and completed the transaction. I kept the receipt as proof I had been there in case I needed it.
We were all interviewed by detectives. Unfortunately, I didnít have much to add to the evidence. Didnít really see that much and I couldnít even identify the perp. After a good while, we were all released one at a time after a final interview and I went home.
The following is a newspaper article exercpt from "The Advocate" which gives a pretty good "official account" of what happened. As of the writing of this Rubicon article, the suspects have not been apprehended.
"City police late Sunday named Shedran Williams as a suspect in the slaying of a veteran officer and the shootings of two other people at the Perkins Road Wal-Mart Saturday night.
Williams is accused of shooting police Lt. Vickie Wax, 51, with her handgun. She was attempting to apprehend a shoplifting suspect, police Cpl. Mary Ann Godawa said Sunday.
Williams is also accused of shooting a security guard and a 51-year-old customer who tried to help Wax, Godawa said.
Police are withholding the names of the security guard and customer until a suspect is arrested.
The customer was shot several times in the upper body and was in critical condition Sunday, Godawa said. The security guard was shot in the shoulder and is expected to recover.
Wax, who was working extra duty, and the security guard were questioning a man and had managed to handcuff one of his hands before a struggle began, Godawa said.
The man grabbed Wax's gun during the struggle and shot her, the security guard and the customer before fleeing.
Witnesses said panicked customers and employees ran for cover to the back of the store.
Joel Courtney, 27, said he was in the checkout line about five feet from the shooter when he heard someone yell, "Call 911, he's got a gun!"
Soon after, Courtney said he heard a gunshot and ran to the garden section of the store with other customers. As he ran, he said he heard several more shots.
"No one knew anything," he said. "All we heard was people saying, 'She's dead.'"
Police described Williams as a black man, 33 years old, about 6 feet, 1 inch tall and 210 pounds. He has the word "FEDERAL" tattooed on his right arm, as well as the words "Big Head" tattooed on his neck.
Williams is wanted on counts of first-degree murder of a police officer, illegal use of a dangerous weapon, attempted first-degree murder, disarming a police officer, armed robbery and misdemeanor theft.
Police did not have Williams' address on Sunday, Godawa said.
A reward is being offered for the arrest and indictment of Williams, who was last seen wearing a dark-colored shirt and tan shorts, police said.
Security cameras show the shooter arrived at the store in a light-colored, newer-model sport-utility vehicle with two other people. The driver remained in the SUV while the shooter and another man went into the store, the release says.
Police describe the accomplice who went into the store as a bald, black man with a medium complexion who was wearing a sleeveless, black T-shirt. He left the store when the shooting started, a police news release says.
The man and the driver of the SUV drove away, leaving the shooter behind. The shooter escaped in a 1996 white Chevrolet Corsica, which he carjacked in the parking lot, Godawa said.
Police recovered the Corsica hours later near Tecumseh and Seneca streets, Godawa said."
Lessons - After action reflections
Be warned. Some of the lessons I learned, relearned or had driven home to me are controversial and you may or may not accept them. Iím just throwing them out there for thought.
Donít park in the fire lane. Especially donít park in the fire lane and remain in the car with the engine running at high volume retail establishments. The guy who got jacked was sitting in a car with very EASY access to the exit, which at the time also served as the entrance.
Once shots break out, run in the opposite direction. I know this sounds intuitive, but many people were hanging around the shooter and the victims while I was running down the aisle. Donít lie down or linger in the area. There could have easily been more shooting.
Donít let concealed carry lull you into a false sense of security. I have a ccw permit but was not packing at the time. Once the police are involved in a situation, I think options are really limited for ccw holders. Had I been packing, it would have caused me a lot of problems with the police. I might still be in jail. Further, in this situation, there was absolutely no clear shot. Will I be armed the next time? Hopefully so. No reason not to be. All I am saying is that just having a gun does not necessarily solve problems in such situations. Further, it can actually cause problems - even if it is a legal carry.
People are crazy enough to shoot, in cold blood, uniformed police officers. I know it happens and has happened plenty of times in the past. However, such actions just seemed distant. In a very real way, an attack on a police officer is a direct attack on ourselves. In a democracy, the people give arrest authority to police officers. They act on our behalf (or at least are supposed to) in these matters. There are too many people out there who think they have nothing to loose.
We go there but for the grace of God. I could have VERY easily been caught in the crossfire had I not gone shopping for vitamins. For some reason, I spent more time shopping. Had I gone to check out immediately, I would have more than likely been involved in the shooting as a victim.
Be Alert! All the time! Itís the only way to be sure.
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