Escaping a riot, redux

Following yesterday’s article about ‘Lessons from the Charlotte riots‘, a few readers have asked what they should do if they find themselves caught up in a mob situation.  It’s all very well to say, “Get out of there before the trouble gets too bad”, but what if you can’t?

A couple of years ago I quoted Greg Ellifritz’s advice in such situations.  It remains good common sense, and very practical, so I’m going to refer you again to his article, ‘Mob Mentality … Escaping from Riots and Flash Mobs‘.  Here’s an excerpt.

The first piece of advice I can give you is to pay attention to your surroundings and have an escape plan everywhere you go.  When you see things starting to go bad (massing police, masked looters, people setting fires) GET OUT!  Implement your escape plan!  Don’t stick around and become a target for police batons, gangs of teen looters, or panicked crowds.  Usually the people who get hurt or killed in these events are the people who aren’t paying attention or who want to stand around and be a spectator.

. . .

Having some sort of less lethal weaponry will help.  Many of the criminals who are caught up in the spirit of the riot are not very dedicated or motivated.  A quick blast of pepper spray will usually make them look for easier targets.

If you are attacked and you don’t have any spray (or the spray doesn’t work), you must act decisively.  Don’t get caught in the middle of two or more attackers.  If possible, keep moving to the outside of the group of attackers to “stack” them, or line them up so you only have to fight one at a time.  If you do get surrounded, violently attack one of the gang and either use him as a temporary shield or blast through him to make your escape.  Don’t just blindly run away, you may be running into an area where there are more problems.  Instead of running AWAY from the criminals, run TOWARD safety.  And remember that “safety” in this case may not be the band of police in their riot gear with batons out and ready!

Even if you are attacked by unarmed rioters, you still may be justified in using deadly force to protect yourself.  Multiple attackers using their fists and feet can constitute a reasonable perception of the risk of “serious physical harm or death”.  In that case, you may be justified in using your firearm or knife to protect yourself . . . Also beware that the police may have posted snipers who could shoot you if they see you have a gun.  As bad as it may sound, police often won’t differentiate between a criminal and a legally armed citizen trying to protect himself in a situation like this.  Everyone who is in the riot is thought of as a criminal.  “Criminals” shooting guns get shot by the police.

If you are in your car and are surrounded by rioting criminals, KEEP MOVING!  Don’t stop and allow them to open your doors or break your windows to drag you out.  I wouldn’t intentionally run someone over (unless that person posed a lethal force threat to me), but I wouldn’t stop either.  Pick a route (over the curb if necessary) and slowly drive through the crowd.  Your car will likely be damaged, but you will be out of the mess soon.

Don’t get in the habit of knowing only one route in to or out of a place to which you commonly drive.  Flexibility in these situations is paramount.  Keep your situational awareness up and be prepared to alter your route if you encounter throngs of people or roadblocks.

There’s more at the link.  Recommended reading, particularly for all threatened by such situations.

Bear in mind, too, that your actions will almost certainly become the subject of ‘Monday morning quarterbacking‘ by the authorities, the news media, and pressure groups such as BLM, the ACLU, etc.  They’ll be scrutinizing every available surveillance video, news broadcast, etc., trying to find evidence against everyone except their people.

  • Did you strike a rioter with your vehicle as you attempted to avoid a mob?  That may be portrayed as a deliberate attempt to murder someone (particularly if they were of a different race to yours).
  • Did you shout back at the crowd as they threatened you?  You may be accused of racism, threatening behavior, or anything else that can be construed as negative or lawless.
  • Did you brandish a firearm, or fire one or more shots, to clear a space of rioters so you could get out?  No matter how legally justified you may think you were, there will be those who’ll seek to portray your actions as the criminal misuse of a firearm.

Remember, legal justification or otherwise will ultimately be determined in a court of law – and the side that enlists the greatest number of witnesses (who may or may not be entirely truthful) is likely to get the result it wants.  You’re going to face, in court, witnesses drawn from among rioters who want to portray your actions in the worst possible light.  Good luck with that.  You’re going to need it.

What’s more, any surveillance or other video of your actions may well be subject to editing by those with their own agenda.  They’re unlikely to be on your side, particularly if you might make a useful scapegoat to get the authorities off the hook.  “We tried to control the violence peacefully, but people like that racist driver made the situation so much worse that we lost control!  It wasn’t our fault!  It was his fault!”  That’s you they’re pointing at, right there.

Even if you win in court, you’re going to face a lifetime of ostracism at best.  It may be a lot worse than that.  George Zimmerman will probably never be able to live a normal life again, because most black people regard him as a murderer even though he was found not guilty.  Officer Darren Wilson was exonerated after Ferguson, but he’ll never be able to work in law enforcement again, and will always have to guard himself and his family against those seeking revenge.  If you think I’m wrong about either man, I have this bridge in New York City that I’d like to sell you.  Cash only, please, and in small bills.

I repeat what I’ve said before:  in a riot situation, you may not be able to win for losing.  Therefore, get out ahead of the riot if at all possible.  If you can’t, and you’re trapped in it, do the best you can . . . but realize right from the start that your options are going to be limited, and the odds of getting away clean (including the aftermath) aren’t good.  That’s the reality of your situation.  Choose your actions carefully with that in mind.

Finally, I wouldn’t necessarily try to avoid surveillance or other camera coverage.  If you try to do that, it’s pretty obvious (looking around for cameras, pointing at them, ducking away from them, trying to hide your face, etc.).  That might be considered incriminating behavior.  Camera coverage may hurt you, but it might also help to prove you did only what you had to do, and acted legally.  It’s a two-edged sword.



  1. Or do what many are doing:

    Simply avoid areas where there is a concentration of 25% or more blacks.

    Oddly, that seems to be the level at which riots happen. And the higher the percentage, the higher the potential for violence.

  2. According to the FBI, more than 5% of all homicides are committed with "hands, feet, etc"

    and more than 25% of aggravated assaults are committed with the same.

    Yup, when outnumbered, outmassed or outflanked, you can be in danger of losing life, limb, eyesight or the like. The data proves it.

  3. You mention a previous post with the words "Lessons from the Charleston riots".
    Good Sir, I must inform you that Charleston is a Holy City, while Charlotte is a nothing little burg in the wrong Carolina.

    Thank you.
    – Charlie

  4. –“Criminals” shooting guns get shot by the police.—

    "Criminals", i.e., anyone not identified as police, with a gun in their hand get shot by the police. This goes double in a riot.

    Active shooter situaiton….when the police enter, they shoot everyone with a gun in their hand. You may, if lucky, be able to drop the gun and drop flat on the floor before they land a damaging shot, if you are lucky. If you are armed and taking action in an active shooter situation, when the police enter or should have entered due to time passage, empty your hands without hesitation.

  5. Wouldn't exactly tout Zimmerman as a paragon of legal carry. The man went out looking for trouble, against the advice of police, and found it. Regardless of how that trouble then progressed, he deliberately engaged a person who was at the time committing no crime and doing nothing wrong, and that person ended up dead.

    They might not have found him guilty of murder, but he's no poster boy for self defence.

  6. m4:

    It's obvious that you get your information from the MSM, as you are parroting their deliberately inaccurate story. You're not doing our side any favors, in fact, you are helping the anti-gun forces by doing it.

  7. I agree with Will.

    It's particularly important to understand that your car offers you a lot of protection, and particularly if you keep rolling. Protestors and rioters will back away if they think there is any risk to themselves, and ending up under a moving car is definitely a risk.

  8. JKBrown,

    while it's always possible to get shot in that situation, by other bystanders, by cops, or by the criminal, COPS are trained that they can't just go in guns blazing and shoot whoever they see. At least here in Texas, they are VERY aware that there might be legally or illegally armed civilians, undercover cops, off duty cops or whoever else you can think of present.

    They train for it and drill on it.

    Your advice for dealing with their arrival is good. Weapon out of sight, hands in air and fingers spread, and work very hard to understand and COMPLY with instruction. DON'T do what you think you should do, LISTEN and do what they TELL you to do.

    Chris Hernandez has written about this, (google him, ex-cop, ex-soldier, pretty good writer.)

    I don't know what state or city you live in, but here in TX we are working the problem with a school dedicated to active shooter response research and training.

    Try to find a program with your local cops and take it. We have PIP- Positive interaction program, CPA-civilian police academy, COPS- Citizens on Patrol, and others. I've taken a 'Citizens Response to Active Shooter' class with out local LEO.

    Get involved locally (Maybe your HOA has a security committee?) and you will probably be shocked at the power they've legally accrued to themselves, but at least you will be informed.


  9. Prevention beats cure, no matter the disease.

    One thing that usually gets missed in "holy crap, it's a riot" discussions is pre-first-tier preps. Yes, be aware of exits, yes, carry some sort of defensive tool(s) as law and skill permit, etc. All good advice, follow it.

    But do not ignore prophylactic measures. Back when The Entourage included a small herd of little people, we practiced two things; Guard Standing and Exit Alert.

    Guard Standing means one adult in the party is tasked with surveillance; as primary tasks, they do not feed the kids, they don't dive into their phone, they're not reading; their primary responsibility is watching the surroundings. That duty can, and does, rotate, and it can rotate minute-by-minute. Mom can watch while Dad stands in line for the food, and switch when he brings it to the table.

    Exit Alert is a code word or short phrase known only to the adults and using it means "we're leaving RFN." When the code word is spoken by an adult all eating, strolling, perusing, etc. stops immediately, everyone stands up, grabs their stuff and leaves. No discussion, no arguing, just leaving. When kids are small there wil be the usual whining; pick them up and carry them and ignore the whining, and picking them up is the better alternative to spending two minutes fussing with getting them into their stroller – the objective is getting outside the controlled environment as rapidly as possible.

    It's very helpful to establish a rendezvous point prior to entering a structure or controlled environment so if members of the group get separated – such as having to use a different exit because things are "fast developing" – reassembly of the group can be accomplished.

    Two things: the code word or phrase needs to be something that will never be used inadvertently or in conversation, and; it's very beneficial to practice the "leaving RFN" action a few times (with a substitute word, of course). If the small people understand the concept it makes it easier, and as they get older that understanding will improve. It's also very useful to inform temporary group members about rapid exits: "Mom/Uncle Fred/Sis, we're leaving right now, let's go" will work if the practice has been explained to them. They do not need to know the code word or phrase.

  10. m4, you showed your ignorance in your first post. The 911 call, as edited by the MSM, implies misbehavior by Zimmerman. In real life, he did nothing wrong, and was ambushed by a gay-bashing thug.

    Please google "Legal Insurrection Trayvon", and read all of Andrew Branca's detailed analysis of the story and the trial (EVIDENCE!).

  11. For someone accusing another of ignorance, you're making an awful lot of assumptions.

    Funnily enough, the recording I based my understanding of the incident on is the exact one quoted by your source. Are you accusing your own source of being a MSM lackey? No, of course not. You're just automatically assuming that I'm drinking the MSM coolaid and must be a complete idiot, based on what, that my conclusions aren't toeing the party line? Wonder where I've seen those tactics before.

    Let's see. I'm walking down the street, doing nothing wrong. I see a man, staring me down and talking down a phone. I make tracks and he pursues me. Don't know about you, but that sounds like trouble to me.

    What I will give you, no thanks to your aggression though, is that it's not clear what Zimmerman does after he acknowledges that pursuit is not being requested by the call handler (on behalf of the police). I personally don't believe that he let it go, but I acknowledge that he may have immediately ended his pursuit.

    Nonetheless the facts are clear. Zimmerman pursued a suspicious and threatening character down a dark alleyway.
    Thus the following facts can be distilled:
    Zimmerman identified trouble.
    Zimmerman went looking for trouble (after losing sight of it).
    Zimmerman found, bumped into, or was engaged by trouble (resulting in a corpse).

    Trayvon is no saint, and you're probably right in thinking he went looking for the confrontation that killed him, but you don't get to tell me that Zimmerman didn't go looking for trouble. What else was he going to find out there?

    As far as I'm concerned, this is precisely what Peter keeps cautioning us about, because it's precisely the sort of thing that might be used to hang you at your murder trial after an otherwise legal use of your weapon.

    Use that superior judgement of yours to keep your superior combat skills out of it. It's all around better that way. Zimmerman made a serious error in judgement and he should serve as a lesson, not a rolemodel. Which isn't far from how Peter has used him.

  12. m4: You are clearly wrong here. The 911 call shows the dispatcher saying "We don't need you to do that," which is not nearly the same as telling someone to refrain from following someone. Words mean things.

    Even if we were to accept that Zimmerman were following Martin in violation of a police dispatcher's order, Martin still dod not have the legal right to leave his apartment, circle back, and physically attack Zimmerman.

    Read Branca's detailed analysis of the case, and you will see the case from a legal perspective. You are clearly wrong here, as incicated by the "not guilty" verdict, which many people, including yourself, cannot seem to accept.

    Whether Zimmerman is a nice guy or not is immaterial, his shooting was a lawful self defense shooting.

  13. Alas Divemedic, you seem to have missed the very point of the post immediately preceding this one.

    Just so we're on the same page here though:

    p1: Correct, that is what's heard. For legal reasons they can't actually give instructions. The part where I mentioned this in my original point is incorrect. However as a subordinate clause (grammar, just like words, means things), it can be completely removed from the sentence and have absolutely no effect on the intended meaning. Thus withdrawing that claim, you have yet to answer my point.

    p2: Main part, see 1. Second part, I acknowledged that too. There's a pretty good chance that Martin went looking for a fight, or at least a confrontation. Hell I'm pretty damn sure I put that in bold fucking text so that you wouldn't miss it. That's irrelevant to the point I'm trying to make though. Also what Martin actually did and why he was there is speculation, seeing as he was killed by the only other witness. It wouldn't exactly be in Zimmerman's interest to tell us that Martin had dropped his keys and had backtracked to retrieve them, would it? Not saying it's the case, just that it's pretty pointless to entertain a discussion on that topic.

    p3: Not interested. Not interested in the slightest. Legally speaking, Zimmerman did nothing wrong. There's a big difference between sensible, right, and legal. Don't get them confused.

    p4: Apparently so. Was it clean? No. Did he have to be there? No. Was he in danger to begin with? No. Did he put himself in danger? Yes. Did he make tactical and strategic blunders in terms of defence? Yes. Do his decisions leading up to the shooting make more sense in terms of engaging a target than protecting himself? Yes.

    Don't do stupid things, don't go to stupid places. At what point does "follow suspicious person" and "dark alleyway known to contain a suspicious person" match those instructions? Answer me that and I'll agree with you that Zimmerman did the right thing.

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