Incident Debrief – Trespasser in the Home

I just received a call from a good friend of mine (let’s call him Stan) wanting to debrief on an incident that occurred at his home in South Denver a couple nights ago. Here is the brief and our assessment of what went right and what other steps my friend can take.

Situation

Stan had not been feeling well so he drank a Theraflu before he and his wife headed to bed. Not long after his wife woke him telling him someone was beating vigorously on the back door. A somewhat groggy Stan got up to respond. They are a family of 2 adults and 2 children.

Response

Recognizing something must be amiss, Stan retrieved his weapon from the bedside table and descended the stairs. Unfortunately he had trouble locating his flashlight requiring him to dash out and grab one from the car. Once he had done so he moved to the back door where the knocking was persisting and he found a completely naked woman on his back deck. Now comes the tricky part.

Stan is a good guy and he wanted to help the woman who appeared to be in distress as well confused and somewhat incoherent however he also wanted to be cautious and aware of the situation. Stan made a quick sweep of the backyard and ensured the woman was alone and that this was not a ruse to gain entry to the home. He then provided her a blanket, keeping her outside while he called 911. The 911 operator advised him to secure his weapon and wait for the police response. Stan declined to disarm himself, instead keeping his weapon in hand and remaining vigilant as he was still not sure how the situation would develop. When he was notified the police are at the residence, he secured his weapon, put his hands over his head and repeatedly told then he was the homeowner and the good guy.

The police took the woman, who is exhibiting clear signs of mental and physical distress, into custody. They took Stan’s statement and the incident ended.

Debrief

There is no precognition that tells us when an incident might occur and the fact that Stan had taken a Theraflu that slowed his cognitive processes is part of life. There are a couple things we discussed that would help should a situation like this occur in the future.

  1. Train the family. It’s great to be the defender of your family and home but as this incident pointed out your skills and facilities may be impaired and it’s good to have backup(s).
  2. Keep your tools close at hand. Stan had to search for a flashlight and going forward he will be acquiring one to keep in his bed stand. We recommend all your response tools be close by with the location ingrained in hour memory (e.g. top drawer of bedside table).
  3. Train with the tools you have (weapons, OC spray, flashlight, car alarm fob). For example, the fact that you have a flashlight close does not mean you know how to effectively use it in a critical incident. Get familiar with and train with all of your tools such that you can effectively operate them in the dark, under stress.
  4. Train for your plan. Do you have actually have the skills and training to clear your house or back yard should it be necessary? As we have discussed this is incredibly dangerous and not for the faint of heart and should only be undertaken if necessary.
  5. Have a plan. Who does what? Who calls 911, who ensures the kids are OK, what is the family rally point or will you actually move through the house looking for the threat? This is a serious conversation and there are many pros and cons worthy of a serious conversation and plan.
  6. What to do and what posture to be in when the police arrive. Stan took the correct steps for this situation understanding the woman did not appear to be a threat. What would he have had to do differently should the trespasser been a 6’5” agitated man making threatening statements? Would he have chosen to put away his weapon and incur the risk, albeit brief, between then and the time the police are in the home? In this situation Stan happens to be a 6’5” hockey player who can acquit himself well in a physical altercation but we don’t all have those physical advantages.

 

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