The United States is the world’s most motorized nation, and we Americans spend much of our time in our cars. History shows that we may have to use deadly force to defend ourselves, and others, in that environment.
Case One: In June of 2013, an off-duty African-American law enforcement officer from New Jersey named Joe Walker was driving in Maryland with his wife and children when he accidentally crossed into another lane. This angered a couple of Caucasian men in a vehicle in that lane, who then maneuvered as if to run the Walker family vehicle off the road. Walker pulled safely to the roadside. The other men stopped and approached him aggressively, angrily snarling racial slurs at the off-duty officer.
Fearing for his family’s lives, Walker identified himself as a law enforcement officer, drawing his badge with one hand and his off-duty gun with the other. When one of the men came at him, Walker stopped him with three shots. The wounds proved fatal.
Charged with murder, Walker was tried in the summer of 2014 and acquitted on all counts. The jury had realized that the defendant’s actions were justifiable: Walker was facing a disparity of force, and if the assailant and his friend gained control of Walker’s gun, then the officer’s wife and kids would be in a particularly deadly situation.
In April of 2015 in Smyrna, Georgia, a “carjacking” took place that we’ll call Case Two. The scene was a car wash. The woman who owned the vehicle tried desperately to stop the man, finally leaping onto the hood of her car as he drove it away. The cruel thief responded by accelerating the vehicle.
A Smyrna city employee who happened to be at the car wash on his own time also happened to be licensed to carry a concealed handgun. Realizing that the woman was now in danger of being thrown from the hood of the speeding car and killed or horribly crippled, he drew his semi-automatic pistol from under his polo shirt and stopped the deadly carjacker the only way he could: He shot him.
Wounded in the shoulder and upper torso, the carjacker slowed, stopped and tumbled out of the car. The armed citizen held him at gunpoint until police arrived. The wounded thug was arrested, the female victim escaped serious injury and, far from being in trouble, the armed Good Samaritan was publicly hailed as a hero for saving the woman.
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Case Three was recorded in Tucson, Arizona, some years ago. A madman murdered his father and stole his slain dad’s car. By the next day, perhaps fearing the body had been discovered and police might be looking for the vehicle, he decided he needed new wheels and carjacked a woman on the street.
Passing by in an unmarked unit, Dr. Richard Carmona, a police surgeon, saw what was happening. He drew his department-issued sidearm and identified himself. The gunman opened fire, and the physician returned fire. When it was over, the doc had a crease in the scalp from a 9mm bullet, the woman had been safely rescued and the murderer lay dead in the street. Dr. Richard Carmona would later serve a term as surgeon general of the United States.
Case Four takes us back to the year 1959. A thief apparently bent on robbery and grand theft auto picked the wrong victim when he jumped into a parked car in New York City and pulled a gun on the occupant. That occupant was off-duty NYPD Officer Mario Biaggi, who promptly drew his .38 and emptied it into the malefactor. Biaggi was wounded in the shootout but healed uneventfully; the armed robber was killed.
Ironically, Biaggi went on to become a celebrated politician notorious for his anti-gun views, until he was convicted of corruption charges and sent to prison in disgrace that lasted until his death in 2015. It was hard to understand how a man whose life was saved by a concealed defensive handgun would want to deny other good people the right to the same self-protection.
Professional drivers often spend more time at the wheel than they do in their own living rooms or beds. It is not surprising to find them in that work environment when they need guns to defend themselves and others.
In April of 2015, Case Five unfolded at Logan Square on North Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago. A criminal with a gun wildly opened fire into a crowd. One of the horrified witnesses was an Uber driver who had taken advantage of the fact that the state of Illinois had finally established “shall issue” concealed-carry permitting. The 47-year-old Good Guy drew his handgun and returned fire with six shots. Several of his bullets struck the gunman, seriously wounding him and ending the terrible danger. Authorities soon announced that the defensive-minded Uber driver would not be charged with anything. It was generally recognized that his quick, decisive action had probably prevented a mass murder.
Shortly thereafter, Uber announced that its vehicles would be “gun-free zones” and Uber drivers would not be allowed to be armed. It is hard to imagine a more stark example of a 180-degree spinout from reason and common sense in regards to self-defense.
Speaking of lives saved by “shall issue” carry laws, long before the Uber incident, Case Six took place in Miami. Florida had just passed “shall issue” in the late 1980s when Mark Yuhr became the first person whose life was saved by the legislation. A taxi driver, he picked up a fare who turned out to be a Cuban criminal who had come to the U.S. via the infamous Mariel boatlift. Soon, the “Marielito” pulled a stolen 9mm pistol on Yuhr and demanded all his money. Stopped at the roadside, Yuhr willingly turned over the cash, but the gunman became angry that it wasn’t enough and viciously ordered him out of the car.
As he stepped out, Yuhr, certain that he was about to be executed, went for his own cocked-and-locked 1911. Moments later, the would-be murderer was dead, hit by all seven of Yuhr’s 185-grain bullets before he could trigger a single shot from his stolen gun.
Yuhr was let go by the taxi company after the shooting, but he went on to a successful career in private security. As with all the above cases except Walker, who was acquitted at trial, Yuhr suffered no legal repercussions. Clearly, self-defense in and around one’s vehicles is a scenario that warrants thoughtful preparation beforehand.