A hunter, walking in the woods near his home in Manning, Oregon, in October of 2013, had a close encounter with the fabled Bigfoot... and actually had a conversation with it before being attacked by the creature.
Jeff McDonald, the hunter, at first wasn't fearful because he carried a deer rifle and the Sasquatch was unarmed, and didn't look like the big hairy ape-like movie/TV characters he'd seen. This one looked like a naked man. It even had a name, Linus Norgren, and spoke English and claimed to be from a family of Sasquatches.
As they walked and talked McDonald tried to steer Norgren to a road, thinking to help the naked man back to civilization and a nice warm loony bin. Late Fall hunting season in the western Oregon woods can be quite chilly and wet. This particular Sassy had other ideas and hit McDonald in the head with a rock.
When McDonald awoke he was on his back, with both arms dislocated. Norgren was atop him growling and squeezing his neck, gouging at his eyes and trying to shove a fist down his throat. They wrestled this way until Norgren suddenly fell asleep and the hunter got the crazy narcoleptic off him retrieved his rifle and called police. He held Mr. birthday suit at bay for the ninety minutes it took Sheriff Deputies and State Troopers to find them.
Linus Norgren was recently convicted of attempted murder and second degree assault and sentenced to ten years in prison. His defense was that, because of his mental state, he feared the hunter and was acting in self defense. Jurors didn't buy that one.
Here's a story from Texas. See if you can tell me how this one relates to the Oregon story.
A man, Michael J. Fobbs Jr., was arrested for murdering another man at the San Antonio Amtrak Station in July of 2014. Fobbs, 21, attracted the attention of fellow travelers when he entered and left the indoor waiting area numerous times and for looking "angry" and agitated. On his third trip outside he approached a fifty-six year-old man sitting by himself on a bench and began punching him in the face. Witnesses say he paused to say, "I feel like killing someone." Then he resumed the beating.
Afterward he calmly cleaned up in the station men's room and swapped a clean shirt from his luggage for the bloodied one. San Antonio Police took him into custody without incident. The white victim weighed approximately one hundred and fifty pounds. Mr. Fobbs is black, six foot three and weighs in at about three hundred pounds. The attack was characterized as "unprovoked."
Do you see any similarities?
Both attacks were by unarmed men. There has been a lot of news lately of police shootings of unarmed men. The lack of a weapon is played like a trump card. It is offered as proof that police over react and that deadly force used against an "unarmed" person is never justified. But...
According to the FBI nobody is totally weaponless. Even someone unclothed and empty-handed still has hands and feet. These are termed Personal Weapons in the homicide tables (hands, fists, feet, elbows, knees, forehead, teeth, etc.) and are used to murder more people than are blunt objects, rifles, shotguns, poisons, explosives, fire or drowning.
The hunter was loathe to shoot Norgren, and instead opted to charm the man-bear-pig with friendly chit-chat. I'm thinking that Mr. McDonald was overly confident in his non-threatening demeanor and should have kept his distance from a stranger and obvious nut. He is extremely lucky that while he was unconscious and helpless, Norgren didn't shoot him with his own gun, or crush his head with the rock.
Joseph Keith Richard, the beating victim at the Amtrak station, was also attacked by an unarmed man and one that was twice his size and half his age. He was not so lucky.
So just because a predator is unarmed doesn't mean he can't harm you. And just because his hand is empty at the moment doesn't mean he can't suddenly fill it with a rock or something else handy, that is not usually considered to be a weapon, like a beer mug or a bike lock or a phone book.
Suppose hunter Jeff kept his rifle pointed at an obvious threat, while he called for official help. But let us also suppose that bigfooted Linus kept creeping closer and closer even after being warned to stay away. Should Jeff shoot? Would you shoot?
You will then have to explain why you shot an unarmed man. And all those people who hear of it on the evening news, who have never been in a serious fight will be second-guessing you. So will the police and the District Attorney. They know you were in fear for your life--you told them--but they will also want to know if your fear was reasonable. "What exactly did citizen Norgren do to make you so fearful?" they will ask. "Did he verbally threaten to kill you? Did he attack?"
There is no attack if you shoot pre-emptively. Mr. McDonald didn't shoot and was clobbered and almost murdered, so we know that nature boy was dangerous, and, in hindsight, that not shooting him was not a good option. But how do you explain to the authorities a feeling that you were about to be bushwhacked?
To your mind you just saved your life. To other minds you're trigger-happy.
If you allow a stalker to get close enough to lunge before firing you may have waited too long. He is now a moving target and harder to hit. And even if hit he might get his hands on you before he succumbs--if he succumbs-- to his wound(s).
One advantage Mr. McDonald would have had, legal wise, if he had fired pre-attack is that there were no other witnesses, so he gets to tell the story. He tells police he was attacked and if he is canny enough to find a hefty throw-down rock and drop it near the corpse, he can claim it was an armed attack.
The moral to this particular story: never go hunting, traipsing, hiking, trail-biking alone. If you get hurt away from civilization you have someone to go for help. Also two are less likely to get mugged and mauled than one. Also you have a witness. I doubt Norgren would have tried to tangle with two hunters, and if he had, the two would have been better able to subdue him without shooting him.
The same applied to Mr. J. K. Richard of Marble Falls, Texas. He was targeted because he was sitting alone outside away from the herd; a straggler. Predators love stragglers. They also love the infirm, aged, lame, slow, small, weak and inattentive. Joseph had a few of those strikes against him but had he been inside among others, Michael Fobbs, Jr. would have chosen a different victim.
This brings up one of the dangers of being in a public place: you just can't control who approaches you. Strangers are everywhere and can stand right next to you on subways and buses and in theater lines and there is really nothing you can do about it. 99.9999999999 percent of the time this is not a problem, except for catching a flu virus from one of them.
Is it even worth thinking about? What are the odds of being hammered to a bloody pulp by a complete stranger? It is like dreaming of what you will do with all your lottery winnings, but in a bad Shirley Jackson way. But this is my blog so I want you to think about it.
So imagine you are Mr. Richard.
It is eleven in the evening and you are outside the San Antonio Amtrak Station with a few other stragglers and thinking about finally traveling home and sleeping in your own bed. Maybe you notice the large and aggravated young man who comes out and goes back in a few times but think little about it. You don't become alarmed enough to re-join the herd and don't sense any danger until Biggie Newton glares at you and plows your way.
You now have less than a minute to live unless you jump up and run away and scream for help. How many of you would do that just because a big black smoldering boulder is rolling your way? Fear of embarrassing yourself and maybe a PC dread of offending black people, will keep you rooted to your bench. All the while subconscious signals in your brain are screaming like a smoke detector: Run! Run! Run!
But you refuse to believe that someone you have never met might want to hurt you. Maybe you even smile at the glowering juggernaut: "See," you communicate silently with your friendly demeanor, "I'm not your enemy. I'm actually quite harmless."
Unknown to you, harmlessness is what Fobbs is looking for. He is not looking for a fair fight. That is why he elected you, the skinny-old-white-guy-sure-thing. Your only hope now is to somehow defend yourself.
For most of us, this does not mean years of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu training. It means packing a handgun. So let's give you a firearm. You still have to be alert to the approaching danger because you cannot wait for Fobbs to throw the first punch. The first punch from such a behemoth might just scramble your senses or break your neck.
But you also cannot just pull out your Smith & Wesson and blast away because you have a bad feeling about someone. How's it going to look to witnesses on the platform? Maybe the scowling black man was just going to ask for the time, or a cigarette and this crazy white cracker emptied six into his chest. Dangedest thing I ever saw. Call Jesse. Call Al.
The victim now is Mike Fobbs and Joseph Richard lives but is the one led away in handcuffs, and will have to explain at trial why he thought a perfect stranger would want to harm him and why he was so fearful of this particular unarmed gentle giant.
So take five minutes to mull this over. You are still in the place of Mr. Richard on the bench on the platform, but you don't know the future. You don't know that you are about to be beaten to death. You just know you are wary of the approaching man. You don't know why but you don't want him within striking distance. What would you do?
Please note that it is against the law to brandish a firearm. So it would not be wise to pull your pistol and point it at citizen Fobbs and order him to not come any closer. Even if you don't fire your gun you will still eventually have to explain to the judge why you pulled it and the only good reason is that you were in fear of your life. You have the same problem as two paragraphs ago, only you haven't killed anyone.
Time's up. What did you come up with? Don't cheat. I want you to write down your answer first and then I will give you mine.
Instead you unholster your pistol and hold it close to your chest; not pointing it, but ready for action and you let Fobbs see it. If you were a viper you would be coiled and rattling right now. Then you cover the weapon with your shirt or a newspaper, so it is a little secret just between the two of you. No one else on the platform is aware of the drama unfolding.
Many an attack has been forestalled by such a display. Would it have diverted Fobbs? Or would Fobbs have still attempted the murder oblivious to his own safety? Was he that far gone?
I say no. Fobbs would have backed off. He wanted a sure thing. This was a game in which he did not wish to have any of his skin. Maybe he lumbers off to find a less poisonous snake to step on. The question is what are you going to do? For all you know Fobbs is fetching a pistol from his luggage and is coming back for another turn around the dance floor.
Or maybe you misjudged him and he really did want to bum a cigarette and is right now telling a 911 operator about this wild white guy waving his gun around the station. Either way discretion bids you get out of Dodge and warn security on the way about this big menacing black dude. Don't bother to cash in your ticket and if your bag is already checked, leave it. Find another way home or check into a hotel.
In summation: Don't go into the woods alone, and even in public well-lighted places stay with the herd. And just in case the first two fail, pack a gun.
Oh yeah... don't be too quick to judge someone who shoots an unarmed man.