Monday, April 21, 2014

Carjack Intermezzo

I've long held this fascination with how fast the human brain can process information, especially how fast it can process, threat assess, come to a conclusion and initiate the appropriate response.

Having spent my entire adult life observing people with intent, whether running a surveillance or standing quietly on a protection assignment, you learn to read how the point of a toe can give you direction an aggressor is about to take. The opening of a mouth before taking a step can display personal doubt about a course of action.

On the short journey home last night from my in-laws, The Wife and I were talking about the general stuff of life. The Mouse was asleep in the back and we were just cruising down the second to last stretch of road home. We topped a hill and began a descent towards a stop light a hundred or so yards ahead. Late on Easter night, traffic was almost non-existent and, placed us as first car at the light.

In my time on this blue marble we call earth I have seen what I call one truly classical ambush. It was traveling through India, in Maharashtra I think, with some Clients. Driving down a long stretch of rural road we came to the first intersection that mattered when a Land Rover sped past us, angled in and blocked our driver. It was, despite the threat, beautifully executed. Of course I'm still here so...

The second most truly classical ambush began as we headed for that light last night.

You will have to understand that as you read this (and I write this) there are several long moments from start to finish. Yet as it occurred, it at the most was ten seconds long, with the large and heavy portions lasting about 1 second.

As we approached the light, maybe ten yards out I noticed a young man off the passenger side door, on the corner and two lane widths from me. Back lighting him some sixty yards away perhaps, was a small convenience store that he appeared to be walking from. Yet as the car slowed to a stop his hands were empty.

"No purchase. Interesting" my brain told me.

He stands at the curb. The Car stops.

"White pants, blue polo, black ball cap (flat brim), hipster styled web belt like my old canteen belt with the holes.....shirt partial tuck..noted."

Then it got interesting.

He took a step.

"Left hand goes to belt as if to ensure support, left foot takes step of curb and angles toward passenger side door, followed by a quick step from the right foot, then full fast step. Right hand now goes to center point of waist band where shirt is untucked...felony carry...... (old Jeff Cooper slang) = Gun."

My index finger straightens off the steering wheel to proceed to gun. "If it goes this way, get muzzle to glass".

Finger fully flexed. Memory reminds me that we just came from ****** ******* Illinois.

".357 is locked in rear of vehicle. Drive."

I touch the accelerator and the Family SUV makes a smooth lurch forward. He stops in the intersection. I stop only to make sure I don't get hit going through the intersection. He's now confused and now not so sure of himself.

Grin to self.

Accelerator pressed for controlled departure. The Wife, with her hand on dash because of the stop-start-stop-now-go-while-amid-sentence looks at me confused. "That kid is going to try and car jack us" as we go on through the red light.

We crest a second hill. "There are his friends" I say as we pass a Mitsubishi two door pulled off on to the side of the road. Lights on. Engine running. Chase car.

Wolves travel in packs.

As we sat at the next light, with The Wife on the phone talking with police dispatch, I did what you really do after the fact.

Think about how you damn near screwed up.

Had I not lurched the vehicle in order to check the intersection, which caused a hitch in his giddy up, I would have gotten us into a low speed broadsided accident. That same side where my daughter's car seat is, and where she slept peacefully in it.

The moral of it all.

You can possess the latest in tactical gear, have the best polymer-striker fired-damn-the-1911-pistol on the market, with a bug out bag in the back. But, if you can not....and listen to me because this is the important part.

If you can not, assess and make a straight line decision about what you should, should not, and can not do in the blink of an's all for naught.

Tactical mag changes are a useful thing. The ability to react to a situation in it's very initial stage is paramount, and may keep you from ever having to execute a mag drop to begin with.

Stay savy my friends.


Taylor Harbin said...

Glad to see you made it safely, and I'm not the only one who carries a revolver.

On a serious note, I had an experience a few days ago where I found myself scanning the entire area and people of interest every few seconds, waiting for something to happen.

Thankfully, it didn't, but it made me reevaluate some things.

And Illinois sucks.

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

FYI You can carry your gun in your car now in IL assuming it's legal for you to own one in your home state. I keep a copy of the IL law in my car just in case I'm ever questioned.

-Fellow MO resident that lives a little to close to IL to avoid it entirely as well.

HTEngineer said...


This is by far my favorite blog. I just wish there were more posts, but I understand you have a life or some such. Thank you for sharing your experiences. In terms of practical information, this is great, as opposed to: "9, 40, or 45" over and over. I'd prefer not to have to use the things I carry. I was hoping you could explain the "chase car" concept.

Anonymous said...

In DC and NYC a common tactic is a staged rear-end collision at a traffic light, sometimes abetted by a squeegie man on the island. I avoid driving in such places when possible and have found that cab rides are better than trying to navigate an unfamliar area in a ehicle with out of state tags. I was wondering if you had any comments or observations. I can't carry in DC or NYC or Maryland. So they don't get my business and I take no clients there.

Matthew said...


The chase car concept is really just criminal logistics. They have to get to a location they are going car jack and let's not forget once they deliver it whomever takes possession of it, they have to get home.

Car jacking, as opposed to car theft holds one generally unique advantage in that the car is not damaged from entry....and they have the keys.

And Chad, I had thought that was the case but being Easter simply didn't bother to try and look it up. THANK YOU for the link!

yachtsecurity said...

Nice post. I have re-posted it on my blog.


Wraith said...

Thanks for a reminder that we all need to hear once in a while.

(And this is why I refuse to go anywhere near places like IL. The Second Amendment IS my "carry permit," and any place that doesn't understand that isn't part of America.)

DaddyBear said...

Glad you guys are OK. Just goes to show that there are no safe neighborhoods, and dirtbags always have friends nearby.

Although I've always wondered what my reaction would be to said dirtbag shooting himself while trying to draw from a holsterless belly carry. Probably to render first aid while calling the authorities, but chuckling all the time.

HTEngineer said...

Matt, thanks for the explanation! I guess that's kind of a "duh" thing now once you mention it, but I never thought about the logistics of being a criminal.

Most of the time when I travel its on business, and I work for the state, so I can't carry. Fun times. Makes all of the non firearms skills and mindset advice very relevant and incredibly useful.

KM said...

The opening of a mouth before taking a step can display personal doubt about a course of action.

Or they have bad sinuses... ;)

Glad the $h!thead didn't get his way.

Donnie Gwinn said...

Heh. For awhile there, all you foreigners could carry (at least in your cars) while residents couldn't, in Illinois.

But surely what you ended up doing after you realized the gun was too far away was actually a better solution than trying to gunfight some kid who's standing on his two feet, from inside your car where you're strapped in and your wife and child are in there with you. Probably would have ended up doing that even if you'd put your hand on your gun, yes? The only exception would be if your vehicle was trapped by traffic or attackers, I would think.

It was great to see you in Indy, but too brief. We should figure out a place and time to meet up more often than NRAAM.

Paul said...


Thank God I live in Texas.

I can travel to any state around me and my CHL is good. Yes bad guys have guns here, but so do the good guys.

But, as you showed, the gun is only there for when you screw up.

And you can see why I hate it when I see people texting all the time on the street and not, you know, paying attention.

dustydog said...

Years back, a teacher got car jacked on her way to her school, which was the bad high school in town. After that, local young adult males started standing in the street, harassing the (different race) teachers: making them stop to avoid accidents, throwing trash at the cars, banging on hoods, trying the doors to see if they were locked, generally scaring the teachers.

The teachers complained to the police chief, whose response was essentially: you should quit and get a job somewhere else, but until you do - don't slow down in that situation. Hit whoever you have to, but don't stop or slow down. Some teachers were shocked and refused, but he managed the peer-pressure angle until everyone agreed to drive fast.

Two or three broken legs later, with local law enforcement and ambulances refusing to respond, and the game stopped.

molonlabe28 said...

I am glad you navigated your family safely out of danger.

Someone pulled a similar stunt with me 15 years ago and I almost redlined my Miata in first gear while the perp, who had stepped in front of my car to force the instinctive stoppage on my part, grabbed for the passenger's side door.

I didn't yet have a carry permit at that time, but I quickly remedied that problem.

I, too, go to Illinois visiting family and I dutifully put my carry weapon in the back of the car.

I was born in the God-foresaken state, so I visit family from time to time.

I feel very vulnerable without a gun at the ready, so I get really afraid when I cross the bridge from St. Louis into Illinois.

Anonymous said...

I read you post a day or two before a recent trip to New Orleans. As myself and some friends were leaving Jazz Fest on Sunday the crowds started to thin out as we approached the car. As everyone was getting in I noticed a man walking his bike towards the intersection. Putting on my seat belt I looked up and noticed him stop in front of my car and start looking of to his right, then to me and then back to his right while slowly "getting out of the way". I immediately thought about your article. When I had everyone secure I put my foot to the gas pedal and got the f out of the area and back to a more visible spot.
My situational awareness caught the guy, but I don't feel like I would have seen the situation, real or just perceived, for what it could have been, was it not for the timeliness of your article. Thank you, and keep the great articles coming.
Geoff in DE

Anonymous said...

"I, too, go to Illinois visiting family and I dutifully put my carry weapon in the back of the car."

As was mentioned, that isn't required. Unloaded and cased is all that's required. The magazine can be in your hand, or in the case, so long as it isn't loaded at the moment. The whole mess can be in your lap for that matter. A console may qualify as a case now also. I recall reading of a court case where that was determined to qualify as a case for the legal definition.

Anonymous said...

Excuse my question but you stated

"Had I not lurched the vehicle in order to check the intersection, which caused a hitch in his giddy up, I would have gotten us into a low speed broadsided accident. That same side where my daughter's car seat is, and where she slept peacefully in it"

I'm confused - you said earlier on that you "jumped" the car forward to check that there erren't any cars coming and then put "the pedal to the metal" and got out of it ...

How would you have been T boned?

I appreciate the article and your acute observation of the scenario but the way that you explain things slightly contradicts things ..

Phil B

Anonymous said...

You guys realize that if you have an out of state permit you can legally carry a loaded firearm ON your person in your car, right?

Matthew said...

Phil B,

I can understand the confusion and I'll attempt to explain it.

The moment I decided to leave, which meant driving through a red light, I pressed on the gas. As our car started moving I realized in that same split second that I had not checked for any vehicles coming through the intersection and hit the brakes. This in turn caused the car to "lurch" forward.

There was infact a car starting to come through the intersection at that moment but when I began to drive and then suddenly stopped (the lurch) that vehicle stopped before going any further. No doubt wondering what the hell I was doing.

It also mad the guy walking to our vehicle stop for a moment (at that point he was then just a few feet from the passenger side door).

Once I saw that there was in fact a vehicle coming through the intersection, but had stopped due to my initially almost running through the intersection I drove on through.

Hopefully that will answer your question.

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

Glad To See That You Are Well And Safe. It's Been A Couple Of Years.

Anonymous said...

Really interesting case study. I live in Canada, so these types of "unarmed/situational awareness" posts are pretty relevant to me. The Dark Arts for the Good Guys skill set spends a lot of time rattling around in my skull, let me tell ya...

Just wondering, Matt, what do you recommend for good reading on the subjects you deal with? Any books or blogs that have a similar mindset?

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