As concealed carriers, we have our firearm on us; knowing the odds are good, we will never have to use it. We practice and train for an incident we pray never happens. However, because of obvious logistical issues, most concealed carriers have a huge void in their skillset. That being techniques and skills to better your chances of surviving a carjacking.
I thought I would share a story that only a handful of people know. It's my personal experienced of being carjacked. Through that, I learned some things from that incident and through my experiences since.
Carjacking, Cleveland, Ohio 1997:
I grew up in Cleveland, and in 1996 I was a rebellious 20-year-old. Back then, my friends and I frequented a bar whose regulars were bikers, vets, punks, and greasers, reflecting my social circle at the time. I wasn't even old enough to drink alcohol legally at the time. However, for a variety of reasons, I was able to drink alcohol without issue.
After a few beers, I agreed to give a female friend a ride home, and we left the bar at around 2:00 AM. We walked to the F-150, parked on the street about 100 yards from the bar. We both climbed into the truck and closed the doors. Setting the keys on the center armrest, I began to take off the leather jacket I had on. That is when I heard the passenger-side door open and noticed the interior light flip on.
When I looked, I saw two young men outside the open passenger door, one of which was extending a gun toward my friend and me.
While one of them held us at gunpoint, the other started groping my friend aggressively. He first told her not to make a sound, or they would shoot her in the face. The language quickly escalated into telling her the vulgar things they would do to her once they kidnapped her.
After she rebuffed the invitation by spitting on one of them, the guy holding the pistol struck her in the face with it.
Another bad guy enters the scene:
Almost at the same time, I heard a metallic rapping on the driver's side window. When I turned to look, I saw a third male holding a gun in his outstretched hand and opening the driver's door.
While pointing the gun at my face, the third male told me to give him my money and car keys. I told him that I had no money and spent it all in the bar (which happened to be the truth).
Moving slowly, I hoped to buy some time to think and come up with a plan. People were leaving the bar, and we could see them. Screaming for them would not have gone well, I remember thinking. Indeed, they would see us and scare these guys away. It never happened because we parked on a dark part of the street.
Now I could hear the other two males tussling with my friend halfway inside the vehicle.
I felt trapped because I knew if I tried to start the truck and drive away, they would immediately shoot her.
My friend said, “don't take those.” I looked over and saw my truck keys, which had been on the center armrest, now in one of the male's hands. He said, “I got the keys, man, ” as he backed away from the truck. I saw him walk around the back of my vehicle toward my side.
The other male, who had been assaulting my friend, took a few steps away from the truck. I believe now that he was distracted and less confident once his accomplice left to head over to my side of the truck.
I believed this to be a critical point in the carjacking:
This was the point where I felt compliance would no longer work. I felt I had to act because the situation was getting more dangerous with every second that passed. Waiting and delaying were not going to save us now.
At the time, I didn't carry a gun. However, I did have a spare ignition key on a chain attached to my wallet. The guy at my door stepped back as his buddy broth the stolen keys.
I took the opportunity to put my spare key in the ignition.
My truck had a manual transmission, and I pressed in the clutch, then put the car into first gear.
In a low voice, I told my friend to close the door, and she was able to slam it shut and hold it closed. With that, one of the two males who were on my side and still keeping the door open stepped in toward me. I punched him as hard as I could in the face. He stumbled back, long enough for me to crank over the engine and release the clutch.
The truck lurched forward, and I sped toward the front of the bar where my friends were congregating. We got some ice for my friend's face from inside the bar, and I took her home.
Mistakes were made:
I mostly discounted the incident and moved on. I chalked it up as yet another crazy night. After all, I accepted the risks that came with frequenting shady areas and tussling in the rough parts of town.
Years later, I became a police officer. Yeah, it was a surprise to me and those who knew me too.
As an officer, I responded to and investigated several carjackings. And, I watched hours of surveillance videos of carjackings. Every night on patrol, I was aware of the tactical disadvantages that sitting in a vehicle creates. All of this got me thinking about my incident.
Several nights I reflected on my carjacking incident. And while I didn't handle things the same way I would have now, I made some good decisions. And, of course, some real bad ones.
After reflecting, I noticed some common factors between my incident and those I investigated as an officer.
I hope that through this article, you can better your chances of not becoming a victim of a carjacking in the first place. Also, that pick up on some strategies that overcome the tactical disadvantage being inside the vehicle.
- Avoidance- This is a no-brainer and most apparent. Avoid areas that are more prone to criminal activity.
- Vehicle positioning (parking)- When parking, park in populated and well-lit areas
- Vehicle positioning (driving)- When stopped in traffic, always leave space between your vehicle and the one in front of you. While it may not always be possible, it should be enough room to drive around the car in front of you.
- Walking to your vehicle- Observe the area when walking to your car. Pay attention to gut instincts and anything that seems out of place.
- Stopped at a light/sign- Scan the area around your vehicle. A vulnerable time for a carjacking is when the car comes to a stop. Pay attention to pedestrians near your vehicle. As well as someone exiting a vehicle stopped on the street.
- Entering your vehicle- Immediately lock the doors. Carjackers will try and get the advantage of surprise by pulling the door open. Locking it will buy you time to formulate an appropriate response.
- Suppose you carry a firearm. Practice drawing the gun while seated in the car and consider things such as seat belts and the gun's location on your body. Because these all significantly affect your ability to respond.
- Fight/Flight- Remember, you have a vehicle that may be able to remove you from danger. When given the choice of a gunfight or driving away, the latter is always the wiser choice.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that 74% of the bad guys used a weapon while committing the crime. We should also note that there were 38,000 reported in one year.
We all can implement some of these strategies into our daily routine. However, what about training with the firearm inside the vehicle?
Live-fire training specific to carjackings is specialized and expensive. Furthermore, not many instructors offer vehicle classes.
Vehicle Firearms Tactics Training Course:
We saw a need for a robust, online class on the topic. So we created Vehicle Firearms Tactics. The course covers a wide variety of considerations on using your firearm in and around a vehicle. Paired up with some of the basic strategies mentioned above, you will give yourself a much better chance of avoiding and surviving a violent incident around your car.
If you like studying these carjacking incidents, consider reading this article.
Even if you can't get to a live-fire class on the topic, you should at least work the above considerations into your dry fire routine.
As always, stay safe, and God bless.
*This has been republished from a 2018 article.