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What Do You Do? Defensive Gun Use While Holding Your Child!

DGU holding child

One of the last places we want to be is being involved in a defensive gun use, while our child is in our arms.

With the high number of surveillance cameras in use, we get a chance to see things we would never have before, such as, this video of an off-duty Brazilian Military Police Officer engaged in a defensive gun use (DGU).

Here is how it all went down:

Rafael Souza, a Military Police Sergeant in the Brazilian Military enters a pharmacy outside of São Paulo, Brazil. He is off duty, accompanied by his wife, and is also carrying their approximately 2-year-old child in his arms.

While Souza and his family are inside the store, two hooded men enter brandishing handguns. The initial confrontation is not caught on video, but what we do see is Souza draw his handgun, and engage both armed men … while holding his child.

After he shoots one of the robbers, there is a brief lull in the action. Souza's wife crawls to her husband, using a store display for concealment. He hands his child off, and address the second threat.

Both bad guys die, and no innocent people sustain any injuries.

Souza finally is able to hand off his child to his wife. Then addresses another armed criminal.

Did Souza Make The Right Choice?

There are too many variables that go into easily answering if Souza made the right decision. But we can learn so much by studying the incident.

Legally– I am not proficient in laws regarding self-defense in Brazil. But my take is that Souza had legal justification to use his firearm.

In fact, Souza told investigators that he shot at the men because he believed they would have opened fire first after he identified himself as a police officer.

The Real Question- Should we engage in a deadly force incident while holding our child? This is where the real debate lies. Remember, Souza is responding in split-second time to gun-wielding robbers. In general, my answer is no, but the situation is going to dictate the response, and it would likely be when a bad situation gets even worse.

A while back I wrote ‘Thinking You're a Hero: The John Wayne Syndrome.' In the piece, I recommended that concealed carriers think about the types of incidents they are willing to get involved in. Especially when they have a child with them.

There is no getting around it. Being involved in a shooting while holding your child places that child in grave danger. There are techniques you can use to shield the child while you shoot, but all of them place you in disadvantage compared to not having a child in your arms.

Some Honest Analysis:

The video doesn't show, but based on Souza's statement he identified himself as a police officer. He doesn't say if this happened before or after he drew his firearm. But this decision was a key factor in shaping the incident.

I am speculating, but perhaps if Souza had not identified himself as a police officer, the shooting may not have been necessary? Maybe Souza and his family could have melted into another part of the store, where they would not have been in immediate danger. On the other hand, if the robbers' focus was not solely pharmaceuticals, but included robbing or harming the customers, the threat to Souza's family was imminent.

A factor that may have influenced Souza's decision … his environment. Think about this, in 2016 Brazil had 60,000 murders! Making it one of the most dangerous places in the world. You think the daily violence would bump a deadly-force option closer to the top of your responses to an armed threat? It would for me.

On a side note- the two armed men were 24 and 22 years old. Brazil, In addition to having a ‘national registry' of all guns, requires the owner to be 25 years old. These ‘common sense' gun restrictions haven't stopped the gaudy number of murders in Brazil. The vast majority of which are committed with illegally owned firearms. But that is a discussion for another time.

The strength of a Team:

Almost a year ago to the day I wrote ‘The Strength Of The Concealed Carry Family‘ where I discussed why it is important to train with your loved ones. In essence, I recommend having a game plan for your family. No different than a fire escape plan.

Think about what happens if you engage a bad guy with your gun. You will likely be the focus of their attack. So having your family huddle around you for protection is not ideal. To mitigate this risk, you can use a code word or a look that you give your spouse. This trigger alerts them you are going to draw your firearm. The spouse then responds by taking the child and seeking cover or getting an exit.

Maybe your family is already in a covered position of advantage.  Perhaps there are multiple attackers or the location of the attacker(s) is unknown. In these situations keeping your family nearby may be a better call. Why send your spouse and child running into the unknown when you are in a position to protect them and devise a plan?

Protecting loved ones or innocent people may be a reality in a defensive gun use. Training with your family on how to respond to different incidents is important.

In Other Words:

I told you determining if Souza acted appropriately is not easy. Souza stopped two armed men from injuring or killing any innocent people that day. He did so shooting one handed and under tremendous adversity. This act should be commended. His technical proficiency with his firearm, should not be overlooked. Again, kudos to Souza for handling business.

Is his decision to act the same one you would have made? Maybe not, but it doesn't make it the wrong decision.

Is it the same decision I would have made? Maybe not, but I wasn't there that day so I can only speculate on what I would have done in 20/20 hindsight.

Some Standard Operating Procedures:

As a father of a 4-year-old, who is often with me when I am outside the house, I have a pretty general rule. Absent exigent circumstances, acting on someone else's behalf while my child is with me is not likely to happen, unless I have determined that the risk of not using my firearm is greater than taking action. What I mean is that just because deadly force could be used, doesn't mean it is always the best response. I am no longer a police officer so my first priority is to protect my family and myself. Protection of the general public comes next.

Factors which drive my decision to take action with my child nearby are:

    • Can I get my child/family to safety before I decide to act?
    • Are me and my daughter in a position of tactical advantage?
    • Have I identified all threats?
    • Can I eliminate all threats before becoming the focus of their attack?
    • Is an active shooting is taking place, where there is no other option?

Acting in a defensive gun use while holding a small child is a tremendously difficult decision.

What I hope you take away from this article and incident is, these terrible incidents can happen and our response changes when we have loved ones with us. Also, whether inside or outside the home we must include our family/spouse in our self-defense plan.

Quick and accurate shooting is great and helped in this incident. Had Souza and his wife had a plan in place, the risk to the child might have been reduced.

How do you feel about the Souza incident? Let me know in the comments.

Plan for the worst day ever — pray it never comes. God Bless

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5 Responses to What Do You Do? Defensive Gun Use While Holding Your Child!

  1. Darkwing November 28, 2017 at 7:22 am #

    This guy is a total ass wipe, he endangered his child and his wife. Put down the child in a safe place, then shoot. This guy should have be allowed to have a weapon

  2. Scott December 5, 2017 at 6:40 pm #

    Kidnapping is also very prevalent in Brazil. This may have impacted Sousa’s decision. What if the would be robbing was in fact a botched kidnapping? Consider this, if a crime lord kidnaps the little girl of an honest and proficient officer, thy have the the ability to blackmail and extort that officer.

  3. Larry Bartlett December 11, 2017 at 2:06 pm #

    As A Police Officer; Matthews first responsibility is securing the safety of his family. Only then does he have a responsibility to the citizens of Brazil.

  4. Anita Ray October 5, 2018 at 6:47 pm #

    I am shocked that Sousa engaged in gunfire while holding his 2 year old child! It defies logic and common sense. That said, he may have acted out of immediate reactionary response, which in this case is a very bad thing to do. He’s off duty and sometimes muscle memory doesn’t make the distinction between on-duty-reaction behavior to off-duty-reaction behavior when an undeniable threat (guns drawn by two thugs) has been visually identified. Not that he “forgot” his kid was in his arms…but, yea, he kinda did. If I were the wife, no more holding the kid in public for him!

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