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I was Carjacked, Here’s What I Learned

Sitting in a vehicle places you at a tactical disadvantage against an attacker.

As concealed carriers we have our firearm on us, knowing the odds are we will never have to use it. We practice and train for an incident we pray never happens. But because of obvious logistical issues, the vast majority of concealed carriers have a huge void in their skillset. That being techniques and skills to better your chances of surviving a carjacking. With ConcealedCarry.com's Vehicle Firearm Tactics course soon to be released, I thought it would be appropriate to share my personal story of when I was carjacked. A story that only a handful of people know.

Cleveland, Ohio 1997:

I grew up in Cleveland, and in 1997 I was a rebellious 21-year-old. At the time my friends and I frequented a bar whose regulars were bikers, vets, punks, and greasers, reflecting my social circle at the time. I agreed to give a female friend a ride home and we left the bar at around 2:00 AM. We walked to my F-150 which was parked on the street about 100 yards from the bar, climbed into the truck, and closed the doors. I set the keys on the center armrest and was ready to take off the jacket I had on when I heard the passenger-side door open and the interior light went on. When I looked I saw two young men one of which was extending a gun toward my friend and me.

While one bad guy held us at gunpoint, the other started to grope my friend. First telling 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 were going to do to her after 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. Almost at the same time, I heard a metallic rapping on the driver's side window. When I turned to look, my door was being opened by another male holding a gun in his outstretched hand.

We have a false sense of security and protection when we are in our vehicles.

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). I tried to remain calm, and move slowly thinking that the people I could now see coming out of the bar would notice what was happening. Unfortunately, they didn't, and now I could hear the other two males tussling with my friend halfway inside the vehicle.

My friend said “don't take those” and 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” and backed away from the truck. I saw him start to walk around the back of my truck toward my side and the other male who had been assaulting my friend had stepped away from the truck, distracted by the fact that his accomplice was walking around to the other side.

I knew this was the tipping point. I felt I had to act because the situation was getting more dangerous with every second that now passed. Waiting and delaying was not going to save us now. At the time, I carried a spare ignition key on a chain that was attached to my wallet. The bad guy, who had been demanding my money, stepped away just for a second as his friend was walking over with my keys. I took the opportunity to put my spare key in the ignition.

Being that it was a manual transmission, I pressed in the clutch and 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 holding 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. I never contacted the police, thinking at the time, “what really are they going to do?”

The most recent statistics related to carjackings show that the majority of attackers used a weapon during the crime.

My Lessons Learned:

I mostly discounted the incident and moved on. After all, I accepted the risks that came with frequenting shady areas and tussling in the rough parts of town. When I became a police officer I responded to, and investigated crimes. I watched hours of surveillance videos showing carjackings. Every night on patrol, I felt the tactical disadvantages that sitting in a vehicle creates. All of this got me thinking about my incident.

I compiled some basic things that can better your chances of not becoming a victim of a carjacking, and lessen the tactical disadvantage that comes with being trapped inside the vehicle.

  • Avoidance- This is a no-brainer, and most obvious. 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 vehicle in front of you.
  • Walking to your vehicle- Observe the area when walking to your vehicle. Pay attention to gut instincts and anything that seems out of place.
  • Stopped at a light/sign- Scan the area around your vehicle. Obviously, a vulnerable time for a carjacking is when the vehicle comes to a stop. Pay attention to pedestrians near your vehicle, or someone exiting a vehicle that may also be 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.
  • If you carry a firearm- Practice drawing the gun while seated in the car. Considerations like seat belts and the location of the gun on your body all shape 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 later is always the smarter choice.

There are some simple tips that can give you a better chance of coming out on top during a carjacking.

In Closing:

The Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that 74% of the bad guys used a weapon while committing the crime. With 38,000 of these crimes being reported a year, it is something we should all be aware of. The problem is live-fire training specific to carjackings is specialized and expensive.  Even if you can't get to a live-fire class on the topic, you should at least work the above considerations into your routine.

As always stay safe, and God bless.

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14 Responses to I was Carjacked, Here’s What I Learned

  1. Hanz February 17, 2018 at 8:43 am #

    great food for thought thanks for sharing the experience.

  2. Jarrod February 19, 2018 at 2:00 pm #

    Just have a quick “what if” question for you based on your experience Matthew, if I may. I am very new to concealed carry laws, so this is regarding use of appropriate force in your situation. Given that the BG’s had superior numbers and weapons (suggesting opportunity and ability) and had also sexually assaulted your friend (and threatened further assault/kidnapping), would you have been justified in use of lethal force if you had a firearm, particularly in a state such as mine (Nebraska) with Duty to Retreat?

    • Jacob Paulsen February 19, 2018 at 2:19 pm #

      Jarrod, I’ll let Matthew chime in as well, but the answer is probably. We never know if something would or wouldn’t be legal until after the incident takes place and is judges by a DA and potentially a jury. That said in most states if there is a reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury then one would be justified in using deadly force.

      • Jarrod February 19, 2018 at 3:41 pm #

        That was more or less where my mind went as well, but being quite new, I chose to defer to guys like yourselves who have been around the scene for considerably longer. That being said, thank you to all of you guys (you Jacob, Riley and Matthew) for doing what you do! The podcast is phenomenal, filled with great stuff every time out and I am always either recommending or at very least referencing your work to fellow concealed carriers. Keep doing what you’re doing, and know that you are REALLY appreciated!

        • Matthew Maruster February 19, 2018 at 4:55 pm #

          Jarrod, first, thank you for all the kind words. Everyone who is part of Concealed Carry is truly someone who’s heart is into helping as many people be more prepared and responsible gun owners and carriers. I am so grateful for people like yourself who give us a purpose to do this. I can’t say thank you enough.

          As far as the question about the carjacking incident, Jacob was on point. When it comes to pulling the trigger, it boils down to your individual assessment of the facts at that precise moment.Those factors are ALL excellent reasons that bolster the reasonableness of you believing you were in fear of death or serious bodily injury. In fact, the exact reasons I felt like I had to do something besides just hope someone would come out and scare them away. There is also a reasonableness standard with the duty to retreat. There is no black and white criteria that spells out when you must and when you cant. So run the same test that you did when you articulated the facts that lead you to justify the use of force. In my case, I felt that if I tried starting the truck, they would shoot us, or pull my friend from the car and continue the assault. I also feard that if I started the truck they might shoot me, jump in the truck and take the truck and my friend. Would people find this reasonable? I don’t know but it is my honest perception of the event at that time. Nothing when it comes to a jury is 100% but I think that it would be hard-pressed to say it is not reasonable. Additionally, I think it would be hard-pressed to show that I absolutely had the ability to retreat, yet I chose not to.

          While I can’t answer your question 100% I can tell you that your reasoning is sound and reasonable. Stay safe and God bless.

  3. Richard February 25, 2018 at 12:43 pm #

    I live I. A high crime city when that happened to me when I got out I pulled the keys and dropped to the floor board and got out as he bent over the console I pulled my MP SHIELD AND STrUCK HIM IN THE HEAD WITH IT AND TOOK HIS 9 mm Taurus and pulled his wallet no ID so he had a wad of money in there so I took it and threw his bleeding all over my car,ass out on the side walk .. the stupid also had the safety in InThe weapon . I’m a welder so I destroyed the weapon .. I know your going to say I did wrong .. but I’m not law enforcement and they are the Calvary too late ..

  4. Bozo February 25, 2018 at 12:49 pm #

    Three things.
    1. Lock your doors when you get in your car. And know what is going on around you.
    2. Have a S & W 9mm with you at all times.
    3. Do not count on 5-0. They come a day late & a buck short. They can’t be every place.
    If you must use your gun. NEVER. NEVER talk to the police until you have a lawyer with you.
    Just give your name. And ask for a lawyer. Then shut up. Until you have one with you.
    Know your rights & use them. Also. Know when you can defend yourself. And use force in your state.

  5. James February 25, 2018 at 1:31 pm #

    In that situation I wouldn’t hesitate to use my vehicle and/or gun in self defense. Even in California, there would be no question of appropriateness in doing so. Except maybe in LA which I don’t frequent, or SF which I avoid.

    • Mark February 25, 2018 at 3:33 pm #

      I think lethal force threat or use would be reasonable. More and more states are applying castle laws to vehicles. Wisconsin did so right after getting carry. States need to define vehicle defense rules.

  6. Ed Kirkley February 25, 2018 at 1:38 pm #

    It was a very good article, thank you for sharing! I’m a retired former Police Officer. I carry 100% of the time. Your article was spot on and the replies were very well thought out. I have a bit of advice to share that my Best Friend, a Harris County Texas Sheriff’s Detective Friend shared that worked for him. He is right handed and carried his 45 in a normal concealed holster “when he was out of the car.” He also had a very good, very small cross draw holster that he switched to prior to entering his vehicle. I have used his method for years and have had to use it once. I didn’t have to fire, my draw alone stopped them cold thank God! It may not work for everyone. It does take a bit of getting used to swapping from strong to weak side but it is well worth the time! Thank all of you Instructors, Law Enforcement Professionals, Security Officer’s and CCW permit holders. All of you are doing what’s needed to turn the tide of the huge crime wave that’s threatening our country. Again thank you all!!

  7. Susie February 25, 2018 at 2:56 pm #

    I carry two things one is my Bersa 380 and the other is 150 pound south African mastiff and they are bread for protection and he’s black and he is very very scary looking and has been highly trained and he would think nothing of shredding someone who want to hurt me ,
    they’d have to kill him first and then I would unleash the fury of a magazine or two or three until I was put into the ground

  8. Mikial February 25, 2018 at 4:21 pm #

    Before you walk out to your vehicle, look around and see what is going on.

    As you walk to your vehicle, look around and be alert, and have your key in your hand.

    Once you are in your vehicle, lock your doors and then immediately drive away. Don’t sit there while to take your jacket off, look at your phone, choose a song to play, or anything else. Move.

    Finally, don;t put yourself in stupid places where you will be at risk.

    Any questions?

  9. Aint So February 25, 2018 at 6:31 pm #

    No question it is better to run if possible and live to fight another day but even when I am armed it gives me pause that a good friend of mine was killed resisting a carjacker many years ago. He was shot through the drivers side window after locking the thug out. Unfortunately the murderer was never caught. There was certainly a risk of this in the story presented above but keeping a cool head certainly made the odds a lot more favorable.

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