In yesterday’s blog post article I wrote about stopping to read a road map at 12:10 a.m. in the small town of Mott, North Dakota, and a derelict person coming up to my vehicle. Mott, population 800, is in the middle of nowhere, with no businesses open past 10:00 p.m., and no one driving around or out on the street at midnight.
Earlier in the day I had taken my .32 caliber Beretta pistol out of my pants pocket and placed it inside the center console of my truck. When I stopped in Mott at 12:10 a.m. to do a Google search on my phone for a street map that showed how to keep driving west on Highway 21, I planned on getting out of my truck to urinate before I continued driving.
I had not seen any vehicles or people for the past 30 minutes while driving, or anyone when I stopped at the crossroads of Highway 8 and Highway 21 in Mott. I didn’t think that there was anyone around, because I didn’t see anyone. As I was looking down at my phone screen and typing, I glanced up briefly and saw a strangely behaving person about 75 feet away walking towards my vehicle. I was startled, and I immediately took my truck out of park, and drove away, even though I didn’t know where I was going.
Like I wrote in my previous blog post article, I was unnerved. I watched this person in my truck side mirror while I was driving away, and they were stumbling around like they were drunk, high on drugs, or had something mentally or physically wrong with them, or a combination of these things.
It’s possible that this person was just drunk and walking home from a bar that had closed. I don’t know. Some people reading this, not having been there, might want to tell me that maybe this person’s car broke down, maybe they needed help, did I ever stop to think about that? Yes, I thought about all kinds of possibilities about what this person could have been doing. There was nothing good about this situation.
For more than the past several years, I have been reminding myself to not stop for hitchhikers, to be more careful about stopping to help people, and to pay more attention when I get out of my vehicle when I am far away from home.
Many times while driving on an interstate highway in very rural North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, or Arizona, I will see someone walking on the side of the highway out in the middle of nowhere and I consider stopping to give them a ride. As I slow down and pass them, most of the time when I look at these people closely they are walking with an abnormal gait and they are very disheveled, like they are a mentally-ill homeless person, which they probably are.
In the past I had worked for a couple of years with developmentally disabled, brain injured, and mentally-ill adults. I have been attacked, and my co-workers have been attacked by some of these people, and had to deal with these people when they are in crisis. It can be very dangerous and trying dealing with developmentally disabled and mentally-ill adults. I have to think and remind myself, do I want to stop and get into an altercation with someone on the side of the road that I can already see is showing signs that there is something wrong with them?
Most of the time, if I see a person walking on the side of an interstate out in the middle of nowhere, I call 911 to report that there is a person walking at this mile marker on this interstate that appears to need help, because they are many miles from anywhere. I don’t want anyone to die from dehydration or hypothermia, but I don’t want to stop and get into an altercation with someone because I am not able to help them or do what they want, such as give them money, or drive them to so-and-so’s house.
A similar thing is stopping to help people who appear to be having car problems. The last four times that I have stopped to help people with car problems, all in North Dakota, I have regretted it tremendously, because these people had a lot more wrong with them than car problems. These people that I stopped to help were bad, trashy, drug-addict, low-life, criminal people from Seattle or Coeur D’ Alene.
So I keep having to remind myself to think twice before I stop to offer a ride to hitchhikers, or stop to help people who are having car problems, AND to not get out of my vehicle without my pistol on my person, and my phone in my pocket. Because, what if I get out of my vehicle to help these people, and they run and jump in my vehicle and take off with it, or hit me on the head, or shoot me, and leave me laying there. Now, instead of me stopping to help someone stranded out in the middle of nowhere, out in the cold, now I’m stranded out in the middle of nowhere, in the cold, freezing, with no phone because I left it in my vehicle that just got stolen from me.
As I was driving away from the derelict person who had approached my vehicle in Mott while I wasn’t paying attention to what was going on surrounding me, I was angry and upset about this situation. I don’t know what this person’s intentions were. I don’t know what they were going to do.
I looked at my passenger doors and they were all locked, luckily, they could have just as easily been unlocked. What would I have done if this person had opened my truck door suddenly, or gotten into my truck suddenly? I would have certainly assumed the worst, and reacted as if my life was in danger. However, if this person did this, they may have just been drunk and not had bad intentions.
If I had gotten out of my truck to urinate, and this derelict person had snuck up on me, surprised me, bumped into me, grabbed me, pushed me, I would have assumed the worst, I would have reacted as if my life was in danger, but if they were drunk, in their mind they might have thought that they were just playing around, not intending to harm me.
This could have turned out very badly for me, and for the person who approached my vehicle. I wasn’t being very alert. It might have been a better idea for me to have taken the interstate, instead of the rural, dark, not clearly marked highways.
Something else that is very troubling, is that in the moment of being surprised and frightened by someone opening my truck door, climbing into my truck, or grabbing hold of me outside of my truck, and me reacting with the belief that I am being attacked, after the fact, Law Enforcement is not going to see it like I believed what was happening in that moment.
I would be asked, did this person have a weapon, did this person have a gun, did this person have a knife? Did this person say that they had a gun or a knife? Did this person say anything threatening to you? What made you believe that your life was in danger?
In some states, the act of car-jacking is considered to warrant the use of deadly force to defend oneself. However, in many states, including North Dakota, just because someone attacks you, this in itself does not justify the use of deadly force to defend yourself. There has to be the ability and likelihood that your life was in peril, that the attacker had the ability to, and was going to take your life.
Though in my surprise and fright, in the moment that someone suddenly got in my vehicle or grabbed hold of me I would have believed in my mind that my life was in danger, if it later turned out that this person had no weapon, was merely drunk, likely had no murderous intent, I could have been criminally prosecuted for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon or manslaughter. But had I not been surprised by a drunk derelict person at 12:10 a.m. I wouldn’t be in this situation in the first place.