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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I just parked my car and was walking towards stores at a nice mall. Daytime. Low-risk area.

A young guy (stocky build, late 20’s) was walking towards my general direction; brisk pace, disheveled clothes, kind of aggressive mannerism.

My radar went off, “Something with this guy isn’t right.” But I had no reason to think it had anything to do with me. There was absolutely nothing to make me think there was personal conflict (e.g. clothing, race, political views on display, etc.)

So I looked away, took my eyes off him, and changed my path (avoid and deescalate.)

Next thing I know, the guy is TWO INCHES off my shoulder and literally IN MY FACE, very angry and threatening looking. He paused, didn’t touch me, and kept walking. WTF?

Looking over my shoulder, I saw “mall security” watching this guy. Later, I found out he had just been in a fight with another guy and security called police to remove him from the property. I suspect drugs, alcohol or a mental condition as contributing factors. He could have been pumped up on meth for all I knew.

I was carrying, but I was completely blindsided by an unexpected threat.

Besides keeping an eye on the guy, what could I have done better? You can’t draw or brandish on a guy just because he “might be a threat” without any confirmation!

Key points and my errors are in bold.
 

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You tried to avoid, and he changed course. At that point, I stop where I am, facing any unknown threat and tell them to stay clear in a firm, clear and fairly loud voice. If they continue approaching me, I advise them that if they continue to approach me, I have no choice but to consider that they intend to do something to ME to cause harm, and I put my hand near my gun. If they close to within 15 feet, then it's time to pull my weapon and have it at the ready. If they don't IMMEDIATELY change course, it's time to use the weapon. During this entire time, you're being VERY vocal, and identifying that the other person is attempting to approach you in a threatening manner. NO reasonable person is going to continue to advance on someone that has a drawn gun, so if they DO continue to approach, you can bet there's not anything pleasant on their agenda.
I've been in similar situations, and going to "at the ready" has always caused those approaching to change course - in a couple of instances, only to "engage" others that were NOT prepared. Note that if a ALL possible, I'm on the phone w/911 with information on the subject. If the gun comes out, DISCONNECT - in the heat of the moment, you MIGHT say something that could be used against you. Just say you needed to devote full attention to the situation - or whatever your attorney advises you to say.
 

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You cannot "brandish"; you can step aside, put a physical object between you and the threat, and move your hand to a more advantageous position. If the person advances at that point, you can reveal the firearm, keeping the weapon beneath the nominal line of sight - aggressor should get the message, and if they don't, you are in a much better position with at least a physical object spearating you.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
You tried to avoid, and he changed course. At that point, I stop where I am, facing any unknown threat and tell them to stay clear in a firm, clear and fairly loud voice. If they continue approaching me, I advise them that if they continue to approach me, I have no choice but to consider that they intend to do something to ME to cause harm, and I put my hand near my gun. If they close to within 15 feet, then it's time to pull my weapon and have it at the ready. If they don't IMMEDIATELY change course, it's time to use the weapon. During this entire time, you're being VERY vocal, and identifying that the other person is attempting to approach you in a threatening manner. NO reasonable person is going to continue to advance on someone that has a drawn gun...
Thank you! I am familiar with that strategy, but in a different context (e.g. a slower evolving situation.) Things can happen quickly.

I failed to take control of the situation.

1) Verbally
2) Warning
3) Being prepared to act
 

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A few years ago as my wife, S-I-L (a bit liberal) and I were leaving a new, trendy restaurant when we were approached by a man, with young child in tow, asking to use a phone....he said he was having car trouble. The parking area was a short walk from the restaurant, but had poor lighting and no noticeable security. I kept him separated from the ladies, and forcefully told him “No” and to go to the restaurant and use their phone.

While my wife understands why I did this, my S-I-L asked why I was so rude. I pointed out that the restaurant is located in a fairly dark, isolated area about 150 yards off a main road where fast food and gas stations were still open. He had to drive the car, he supposedly was having trouble with, away from a populated area to get to an isolated area. He had better options if he was truly having car trouble. S-I-L now understands.

The guy wasn’t especially threatening looking, but what exactly does a “threatening” person look like.

I’ve learned through the years that being rude and forceful is good in these types of situations.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I’ve learned through the years that being rude and forceful is good in these types of situations.
Just recently, I was reading advice to parents about keeping kids safe. It said to teach them that it’s OK to be rude, loud, and impolite if threatened. Such actions led to saving an 11-year old girl in Massachusetts this week. Being vocal alerted a neighbor who provided info for a successful Amber Alert and rescue.
 

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We've all been caught off guard at one time or another. What I've learned is to pat attention keep an eye on my surroundings, and if I ID someone or something as a threat I don't take my eyes off them in order to appear less threatening or challenging. The OP's mistake was taking his eyes off him. Looking away, downcast eyes, trying to appear as though you don't notice someone are all signs of weakness in response to their threatening posture. Keeping your attention on him and watching him lets you see what he's doing, judge his behavior, and know where he is in relation to you giving you opportunity to respond to a threat if need be, and it let's him know that you're on to him.
 

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It happens -- like others have said, just take a lesson learned from it and keep your SA up.

I don't want to try to come off as an expert or keyboard commando here, but my experience is that folks like this don't play by the same rule book as normal/civilized people do so it requires adjusting your mindset quickly when you sense a potential threat.

If he is 2 inches off of your shoulder, you would probably benefit from creating space with a very aggressive shove and a "BACK OFF!!" while assessing his hands. Escalate to deescalate and let them know you are not a soft target. It might work, or it might reveal their true intent which is fine too, because then you are mentally and physically ready for the next play and have taken the element of surprise and offense away from them.

When I am assessing somebody in public I always think "hands/waist/face" in that order. Look at their hands, are they empty, balled up in a fist, near the waistline or do they have a weapon? Look at the waist line. Is it printing a weapon? Last, I look at the face to try to measure intent or mental state. It takes practice to do this reflexively as we are conditioned to want to look at peoples faces first and as such may miss the source of the immediate threat. Next time you are out, try it -- you would be surprised what you see in peoples' hands.
 

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I’ve often wondered at what point do you bring a firearm into play if faced with an unarmed assailant? If the aggressor is brandishing a weapon the decision is much easier but if they’re not things get stickier.
 

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I’ve often wondered at what point do you bring a firearm into play if faced with an unarmed assailant? If the aggressor is brandishing a weapon the decision is much easier but if they’re not things get stickier.
There's no "right" answer. The location, disparity of size, mannerisms - and more - all come into play. I've had times that I'd allowed a situation to go further simply because my gut told me that there was likely no real threat intended - and other times where 20' was where a weapon came out. I might add that ANY time I draw a weapon, I call 911 as soon as it's safe to do so. If you don't, and the other guy does, it won't look good on you.
 

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Something to consider is having a range of escalation options available. Having pepper spray close at hand gives you an ability to deal with a surprise without drawing the pistol first.

Assuming the approaching person is seen and confronted loudly, told to stop and keeps approaching, presenting a hand full of pepper spray can deter a closer encounter. If that person sees the pepper spray and continues to aggressively close, undeterred, then drawing the gun and commanding the person to stop or I'll shoot. Yell for someone to call the police. Another step forward and the aggressor gets shot.
 

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We've all been caught off guard at one time or another. What I've learned is to pat attention keep an eye on my surroundings, and if I ID someone or something as a threat I don't take my eyes off them in order to appear less threatening or challenging. The OP's mistake was taking his eyes off him. Looking away, downcast eyes, trying to appear as though you don't notice someone are all signs of weakness in response to their threatening posture. Keeping your attention on him and watching him lets you see what he's doing, judge his behavior, and know where he is in relation to you giving you opportunity to respond to a threat if need be, and it let's him know that you're on to him.
100% the douche bags like low hanging fruit. Trust your gut - if it feels off it probably is.
 

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It's really hard to say what the right call was or what you could have done different.
I'm glad it was no more than a brief passing with a person that was angry.
I think the fact you identified him early was good for you. The fact you tried to avoid was okay also. I just think next time keep an eye on the person you already identified as an issue.
 

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Another thing to keep in mind, maybe not in this particular incident, but where’s there one there’s usually two. Most douche bags don’t have the balls to go it alone. When somebody is trying to draw your attention, what time is it?, you got a cigarette, ask to use your phone like the example above there’s usually another scumbag looking to blind side you.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Assuming the approaching person is seen and confronted loudly, told to stop and keeps approaching, presenting a hand full of pepper spray can deter a closer encounter. If that person sees the pepper spray and continues to aggressively close, undeterred, then drawing the gun and commanding the person to stop or I'll shoot. Yell for someone to call the police. Another step forward and the aggressor gets shot.
I really appreciate all of the responses, and look forward learning from others who have had similar experiences. There are just so many variables as to how these unique situations can play out.

As far as pepper spray, I’m not so sure about that as a sufficient deterrent. Sometimes it may work for law enforcement but they often have backup. The balance of power also comes into play. If the pepper spray doesn’t deter or work, can the defender hold their own physically against the attacker until the Police finally arrive? That will not work for all people or in all situations.

Things can happen fast, especially if the threat is of severe bodily harm ot death while presenting a large imbalance of power.
 
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