A Brush with a Serial Killer?
Last month in this section I talked about how I stress in Between the Threat and the Bang that it may not be obvious based on looks who your attacker might be. Sometimes, however, it's quite obvious...and sometimes even your teacher has a chance to practice what she preaches...
In November I visited my mother in Southeast Oklahoma which has some of the most beautiful scenery in the country...yes, I said country. For any of you who wonder what I'm talking about think Smoky Mountains, and then think Oklahoma. Southeast Oklahoma has the western end of Talimena Drive, which is a 54 mile stretch of state highway that runs from Mena, Arkansas to Talihina, Oklahoma. In the middle of it, on top of Rich Mountain, is Queen Whilhelmena Lodge, named after a Dutch Queen. Would you believe this lodge was built in 1898? Equally hard to imagine is that people would take their carriages up to the top of that mountain to stay in the lodge. My mother and I moved to that part of the state in 1976, and I've been across it many times over the years in both car and motorcycle, but I cannot fathom going across that thing in a horse drawn carriage! If you've not been, it is well worth the drive any time of year, but most especially when fall foliage is at its peak. It's an easy drive from this part of the state to Ft. Smith, Arkansas where you could spend the night and drive to Mena the next morning and start the Talimena Drive. Coming across the other side will take you into McAlester just about dinner time where there are some fabulous Italian restaurants, and then it's a pretty easy drive back to central Oklahoma.
The middle entrance of Talimena Drive is less than 20 miles from my mother's house, and we drove right by it on this particular trip. We were headed further south to Beaver's Bend State Park for their annual folk festival and craft show. The leaves had literally changed overnight and it was a spectacular sight the entire way. At one point we stopped at scenic turn out to take pictures and that's when it happened...
The turn out was on the opposite side of the road from which we were traveling, so I crossed over and parked on the end closest to me with my car facing the opposite direction I'd been going. We had only taken a few pictures when all of a sudden a Wal-Mart semi comes around the curve in the opposite direction, meaning same side of the road as the turn out, and immediately pulls in. The route we were traveling is a north south route between Texas and Oklahoma and truckers do travel that route (many trucks have driven right off the side of the mountain over the years), so it wasn't that unusual to see a semi in the middle of the day on a weekday.
My first thought was annoyance because we were trying to take pictures and now there's this giant Wal-Mart billboard right in our view. I was already on alert when I saw him pull in, but I immediately went on a higher level of alert of when a man got out of the cab and started walking straight towards us. As he walked directly toward us I was tempted to just blatantly (rather than covertly) put my hand on my grip, not caring whether I revealed my M&P or not. I held my cool and didn’t brandish, but I did put my hand on the grip under my shirt tail.
The moment he got out of the cab he lit a cigarette and started walking toward us, looking too friendly (obviously fake) and trying to engage us in conversation by telling us he was from Houston and asking where we lived. Neither of us responded. As soon as I saw him get out of the cab I started making my way to my car. I was keeping my eyes on him, but I snuck a glance to see where my mother was...she wasn’t too far from the car and was heading back to it. I don't remember if I left the driver's door open when I got out or if I opened it when I got to it, but by this time I was at my car with my back to the opening and the open car door behind me.
I was still watching him and also looking to see where my mother was and hoping she was getting in the car when he walked over to the side of the road, still on his way toward us, scuffed his foot on the ground, looked down at absolutely nothing and said “why do people do this?” in an all too obvious attempt to get us to go over to him (getting away from the about to be safety of the car) and distract us for the side of the head punch as we looked down. I knew exactly what he was doing so I didn't budge from my position, and much to my relief my mother was now in the car, so all I had to do was sit (since my back was to the inside compartment). I had already locked my car door as is my habit before I get in, so as soon as I sat down I pulled the locked door shut and did a U-turn back onto the road, leaving Mr. Smiley standing there looking a little bit surprised.
The more I thought about it later, the more I realized how textbook his actions were. This man was looking for prey. He didn’t find it in us.
My mother needs a double knee replacement and uses a cane to walk, and as you all know I don't look scary at all...unless, of course, I turn on the self-defense aggression which I hadn't yet done because my assessment of the situation was that we could get away before he got to us. Flight is always the best option when possible and we were still in the position of being able to flee. Had that changed, had he charged at us, I would have gone straight into my gun stance as I drew my weapon and just dropped him on the spot – in this situation there was neither time nor call for issuing a "STOP!" command because as I tell you in classes, no gentleman is going to approach an isolated woman (such as in a parking lot and surely not on the side of a mountain at an isolated turn out) unless he means her harm. So if this guy had run at us, I was already prepared to shoot...as I said, I had my hand on my grip from the moment he got out of the truck.
So Mr. Smiley no doubt saw two poor helpless women in an isolated location and thought he had a perfect opportunity to do whatever he wanted. Was he just being friendly? A lonely truck driver who just wanted to chat? Who cares!!! It was inappropriate to stop a big semi with a cab and plenty of privacy to pull a woman inside and do God knows what to her and try to talk to two women alone.
Obviously when we stopped there were no cars in sight (or I wouldn't have stopped in such an isolated place) so this happened very suddenly. I remember almost in slow motion seeing the semi turn the hairpin curve, seeing the driver get a big smile on his face as if to say, "aha!" hearing the airbrakes as he hit them and being very surprised that he had enough time to stop that big rig and get it into that turn out before he passed it. This man was on a mission, and I'm happy to report that it failed.
One of the things I try to accomplish with students in classes is to teach you to think outside of the box. You see, these things don't happen all nice and neat like you see on TV. It happens with surprise, out of the blue..."he came out of nowhere" is what I hear women say over and over again. You must understand that when these things happen you have to have the ability to do several things at once. You're assessing the situation – I see a semi, I see the driver's face, I hear the airbrakes, I see him make the pull in, I see him get out of the cab and start walking straight for us. The second his body came into view I was watching both his body language and his hands, first of all I was looking to see if he had a place for a weapon. He didn't. He was wearing shorts with a button down shirt tucked into the shorts...and since his beer belly was pouring over the top of his shorts I could tell there wasn't room for a gun in his pants. His hands were in plain view, as I said he lit a cigarette as he got out of the cab so he had a cigarette in one hand and a lighter in the other. Now I'm watching his movements, which were a consistent moving toward us. He never once stopped until we got in the car and drove away. He either wasn't smart enough, or was too brazen to understand our body language which was moving away from him. Again, a man who means you no harm is going to probably at least catch on that he's scaring a woman if she starts backing away from him. There are oblivious men (I was married to one!) who wouldn't know he was scaring a woman right up until she shot him, but most men who actually don't mean a woman harm will on some level recognize this behavior and realize he's scaring her and he'll stop. OR he will recognize the behavior and realize she's not an easy target. I've heard about and experienced both situations. If a man in a parking lot, or a roadside turnout, or any other isolated place comes toward a woman and doesn't stop, I can assure you he's not just after friendly chit chat. We must resist the temptation to feel sorry for the poor guy who just wants somebody to talk to him. Trust me ladies, that's not what he's after!
I stress this in my teaching, predators use distraction techniques to lure their prey in. The famous serial killer Ted Bundy, who looked like a handsome male model in many of his photos, used to wear his arm in a sling in order to con women into helping him, and once their guard was down he had them. There's a scene in Silence of the Lambs where the serial killer is struggling to get a love seat in the back of his van in an apartment parking lot, his arm in a sling. A young woman pulls in and heads to her apartment when she sees him struggling. You can see her as she first tries to ignore him and then as he drops the couch she feels sorry for him and goes over. The couch is stuck on something inside the van so she gets up inside the van to move it and the serial killer comes in right behind her, bashing her in the head with the ready made club he has in the fake cast on his arm.
Many of us see a movie like that and we think "it's just a movie" or, "it couldn't happen to me." Why not? Are you prepared to recognize the ruse and resist the temptation? Are you prepared to do several things at once as I detailed above? And by the way, the whole time I was doing all that mentally, I was placing my hand on my grip in case I needed to shoot the guy while moving to my car in case I could still get away while also checking to see where my mother was. See, I wasn't alone so I couldn't only watch out for myself. I didn't do anything every one of you couldn't do, but it does require preparation and training. Twenty years ago I'm not so sure I would have responded the way I did. But I've had a lot more training, and I've met too many women who have been victims of attacks or near attacks, so I know what's out there now, and I know the only way I'll fight it off is by being prepared.
Are you prepared? If there's any doubt, I've designed plenty of classes specifically for women with the sole intent of keeping you from becoming a victim. None of us can afford to remain asleep, thinking it won't happen to us. If it'll happen in the middle of the wilderness on the side of a mountain with the most beautiful scenery around, it'll happen literally anywhere. And as you can see by the local news, it's happening with more and more frequency in the Oklahoma City area.
See, I don't just want to lecture to you about safety, I want you to live in safety. That means preparation, and it means skill. It's skill every woman can acquire, I see to that by the techniques and methods I teach, they are things every woman can do. It's why I do what I do.
One of my students commented that I'm making dangerous women all over Oklahoma City. To that I say, "HOORAY!" It's about time some of these scumbags who think they can attack us find themselves on the losing end. There's absolutely no reason we cannot have the upper hand...it's not about brawn, it's about brains, and ladies, we've got that for sure!
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Could This Happen to You?
OKC PD Citizen Alert
Composite Sketches of Rape Suspects
Oklahoma City Police Sex Crimes investigators want to identify two rape suspects (sketches attached). They are wanted for questioning in the August 7th rape of a woman that occurred in south Oklahoma City.
On that day, the victim went inside a convenience store at SE 66th/I35. She forgot to lock her car.
When she came back outside, the suspect was waiting for her inside of the vehicle. He forced her at gunpoint to drive to a heavily wooded area nearby.
Another vehicle, driven by the second suspect, pulled up next to them. Over the course of several hours, both men took turns raping the victim. She was eventually able to break free and call for help.
The victim was able to help with the composite sketches of the two suspects. If you recognize either of these men, or have information on the case, contact Crime Stoppers 405-235-7300. Callers to Crime Stoppers can remain anonymous, and may be eligible for a cash reward.
Sgt. Gary Knight
Police warn of holiday car burglaries
December 3, 2010
EDMOND, OK -- Tom Howell was planning to surprise his 9-year old-daughter with a new, white Christmas tree and pink lights. But he made a critical mistake; he left the gift in the SUV parked in the driveway overnight unlocked.
Howell says, "The crook checked the handles, noticed my wife's Avalanche wasn't locked. We'd bought the tree and ornaments. They took that. They then got into my car and got my garage door opener out, went inside while we were asleep in the house."
The intruders ripped off several hundred dollars worth of power tools.
The family had borrowed them to remodel their home for the holidays.
Police say crooks scour neighborhoods like the Howell's during the holidays, looking for easy targets.
According to Edmond Officer James Hamm, "This time of year the burglars live for. When people leave things in their car, the Grinch is going to come by and take your Christmas away."
Authorities suggest never leaving Christmas packages inside your vehicles, especially in plain view.
And It's also important to keep your vehicles locked to avoid being a victim this holiday season.
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Are You Prepared for an Attack?
One of the things I try to stress in Between the Threat and the Bang is that it may not be obvious based on looks who your attacker might be. This is why we must be aware enough of our surroundings to notice if someone is entering our personal space, and savvy enough to know whether or not this person poses a threat. Finally, we must be ready to take action to ward off this potential threat, or stop it all together if it proceeds to an attack. BTB prepares students for this by considering potential scenarios, and I encourage students to continue the process of preparation by the thought process, "If this happened then I would _____________." As one of the students pointed out in class Saturday, like a computer if you have not input the information into your brain when you need it it will not be there. This is the fatal misstep that causes too many women to make the wrong choice, hesitate, or freeze, which can end up costing them their lives (or worse).
The entire purpose of what I do is to prepare you to actually stop an attacker, and even better yet, ward off a potential threat before it becomes an attack. Part of this preparation is helping change mindsets where stereotypes reside. Such stereotypes might include the false conception that an attacker will be an adult (the home invader shot and killed by a Midwest City woman last week was only 15), or a man (reference Lethal Intent), or an actual attacker (Penn Square Mall security guard opens fire on fleeing shoplifters), or that the only way you can defend yourself is with a gun. Students in the Everything Else class learned several other legitimate ways to defend themselves, and none of them involved hooking a hair clip on an attacker's nose!
The trend I see amongst students is the realization as they go through drills that it isn't as easy as they first thought to know what to do, and added to that is the intimidation factor – several students commented Saturday that it was difficult even to hit a mannequin, and the mistake most of them made was being too far away from him. You see, Everything Else covers close quarters self-defense, it is the alarming point where your attacker has – or is about to have – his hands on you. It is yet another mindset shift.
In both classes on Saturday I invited students to step outside the box and begin to change their thinking...this is a crucial step in truly being able to defend yourself.
Ladies, Take Back Your Freedom!
No doubt you have noticed the increasing number of crimes in our area against women. We can no longer risk being unarmed anytime we leave the house. As students learned last month in And Everything Else, being armed is not exclusive to carrying a gun. I prefer to carry a gun because it gives me a greater advantage than any other weapon, but if I cannot carry a gun I am not defenseless. In AEE, I stressed to students that one of the greatest weapons we have is our mind...your mental attitude gives you the ability to never give up. Just because someone has a knife, or even a gun, does not mean you're through. The key is to FIGHT as if your life depended on it because, guess what, it does! An excellent example of this is the pregnant woman who was held up at knife point in the Arby's parking lot at 23rd & Blackwelder (story). She doesn't hesitate, or freeze in fear, she takes the knife away from the guy, slices him up with it, then retreats into the Arby's store and calls 911. The would be attacker then walks to the Walgreen's at 23rd & Classen, which is where he collapsed from his injuries and was arrested when police arrived. How would you like to be the big bad attacker who got his butt kicked by a pregnant woman? I say it's about time!
Attackers will stop attacking women when enough women stand up to them. Why do women allow themselves to be victimized? Unfortunately it never occurs to many women to be aware of their surroundings, or have a plan for various scenarios, and when they are attacked they are surprised and grossly unprepared. This is exactly what BTB and AEE prepare you for, seeing these kinds of threats BEFORE they happen, and/or getting out of them if you are surprised.
It's time, ladies, to take back our freedom. Freedom means you can go about your daily life without being attacked and tortured and raped and killed. In AEE I told the students, yes, you will probably get injured when you fight back..the pregnant woman got injured but it is abundantly clear that her attacker got the worst of it. She had "minor injuries" but he had to be taken away on a stretcher to the hospital. That's exactly what I'm talking about...fight as if your life depended on it, because it does...and when you fight like that, you WILL win!
PS: Some of you have voiced that you'd like me to hold a Q&A open discussion about the recent crimes in our area. This is not something I can do during class, but when the product orders recently placed come in, I will be at a location in the metro so that people can come get their orders. This would be a perfect time to have an informal, open discussion over a cup of coffee. I will send out an Email to the entire group when this occurs and anyone who wants to come, whether you have a product order or not, is welcome.
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Dealing with Service Providers
by Dara Doak, OPD Assistant Instructor
So, it’s 105 degrees today, and the A/C has gone on the fritz. You have to call someone to fix it, FAST!
Or you have a plumbing disaster… or you are having carpet installed. Calling repair personnel, and allowing service providers and installers into our homes is part of home ownership.
So how do you do this safely?
I am by no means a security professional, but have developed some habits that have worked for me. Some of my precautions serve a double-purpose: to keep from getting ripped-off and to be safe while work is in progress. Here are a few precautions I follow:
Before anyone comes to my house, I do my homework before hiring them. The goal is to make sure they will do a good job and are reputable people who can safely be allowed into my home.
Try to identify basic service providers before emergencies occur. Talk to coworkers, friends and family members and get referrals. I have relationships with service providers, like the exterminator, that go back years. Then there are those who I don’t really know at all, like the garage door repairman that came this week. I try to use locally-owned businesses as much as possible. It supports my local community, most of the time the business-owner does the work, and most are hard-working, reliable, honest people.
Call the service provider and ask a few questions. You may have to do some research to find out what is required before you call, and adjust the questions you ask, depending on the business. Everyone gets the same questions, even referred service providers. (I once decided not to hire a service provider that a neighbor highly recommended because he was surly about answering my questions.)
How long have you been in business in this area?
Good answers – in business 20 years, or my father/mother started this business and I joined a couple of years ago after I finished college (or high school).
Bad answers – Anything vague, evasive or blatant answers like, “just came to OKC when I heard about the hail storm."
Does the business owner come to every service call? If not, then who will be in charge of my work order?
How long has your staff worked for you?
Some businesses are revolving doors, but you at least want team leaders with good track records.
Do you require background checks and drug tests on ALL of your employees?
Good answer is -- YES, especially if they will be coming inside your home.
Bad answer – Background checks don’t prove anything, and drug tests can be faked (Big red flag. What else are they going to try to convince me is unimportant?)
Is your business bonded, and are all of your employees bondable?
If not bondable, they may have employees that have felony convictions or have otherwise committed fraud. Make your own decisions about that.
Are you licensed and registered (if applicable)?
If licensing is required for the industry, then the only right answer is YES.
Is your liability and workers compensation insurance coverage current? Are you willing to send me a certificate of insurance on request?
If they give you any other answer than ‘YES’, they may not have current insurance. My choice is to move on to another provider. If they are not insured, I do not want them on my property.
These questions are designed to find out what type of people they hire and how their business is run. If they are evasive or try to convince you that registration, insurance, licensing or background checks aren’t necessary, insist upon speaking to your husband, or you just get a ‘not quite right’ feeling, then say ‘thank you very much,’ hang up and move on to the next one.
A note about ‘not quite right’: This is the feeling you get that something just doesn’t add up. You can’t really identify why, but you just feel in your gut that something is ‘not quite right’. Listen to this intuition and move on to the next business on your list. You may never know what bothered you, but trust yourself and act on it. It’s not worth the risk of being ripped off, robbed, assaulted or the insult of working with someone unpleasant then paying them for it.
Unmarried ladies: do not tell anyone you are not married. Married ladies: Do not tell them your husband is out of town or otherwise unavailable. It’s none of their business. You are placing this service call, and you will be making all decisions related to this job, including who gets hired. That’s all they need to know.
When you schedule a service call ask the dispatcher:
What is the name of the technician that is coming to my house? Get first and last names.
What does the vehicle look like? (“White panel van with ABC Heating and Air on the side.”)
How will your technicians be dressed? Do they carry an ID I can ask to see? If so, what does it look like?
Please have the technician call me when s/he is on the way to my house. (Most businesses are willing to do this.)
If you know when to expect the person, and what the vehicle looks like, then it’s less likely that some random person will come to the door and confuse you into believing they are the service person you called.
If children are normally home at the time the service call will occur, plan ahead for their safety and comfort. Some children can be counted upon to play quietly in a family room or their bedrooms. Others want to be in the middle of things, which will distract you from keeping an eye on the service providers. This is a highly personal decision, but here are a few suggestions:
Have the kids play in a predetermined area that you can easily monitor while also monitoring the activities of the service provider. Ask them not to leave that area while the stranger is in the house.
Ask another adult to come play with the children while you monitor the service provider.
Arrange for the children to be cared for by a friend or family member outside the home while the service provider is in the home.
Before the service provider arrives:
Establish a ‘safety-check person’. A safety-check person is a friend, family member, or a trusted coworker with whom you can be in contact when the service call occurs.
Close doors to all rooms in the house that they do not need to be in. Put bells or other noise-makers on the inside doorknob which will alert you if the door is opened.
Put any small valuables away out of sight. (Your purse, laptop computers, jewelry, keys, paperwork with personal information like that stack of bills that came in the mail yesterday, firearms, etc.)
If they are expecting to be paid when they finish the work, make sure you have your checkbook or credit card discretely within easy reach.
Give technician’s name and estimated time of arrival to your safety-check person. If working with a service company you have never done business with, ask your safety-check person to call you at a pre-arranged time.
Arm yourself – kubotan, firearm, pepper spray, cane, whatever you feel competent to use in self defense, if required. Whatever you choose, it needs to be carried on your person. You will not have time to retrieve your gun from your purse (which should be put away out of site by now) if you are attacked by someone in your home.
Watch for the arrival of the service provider through a window if possible.
When the service provider arrives:
Normally, we feel the safest in our own homes and go to our least-alert mode (white) while at home. When a service provider is in your home, consider yourself to be in a public place. Make a conscious shift to a more alert mode (yellow) when the service provider arrives, just like you do when you leave your home. Be aware of your surroundings, pay attention to everything happening around you, and be ready to shift to a higher mode (orange) if necessary.
When working with a new service provider, I call my safety-check person when I see the service provider pull-up and park in front of my house. As I answer the door, I say to the person on the phone, ‘hang on, ABC Heating and Air is here’, and keep them on the line while introducing myself to the provider and verifying their name(s). Then I say to the person on the phone, ‘John Smith is here to fix my A/C. I’ll call you back in a few minutes,” and make sure the service provider hears me say it.
If the work is outside, there is no reason to let them into your house. When you see them pull up, pick up your keys and cell phone, and meet them outside on the driveway. Hold all of your discussions in the front yard. While work is in progress, most will not ask to use your bathroom. If they do, just tell them that the toilet is broken and you expect the plumber a little later… unless, of course he IS the plumber and the toilet IS broken.
While service providers are in your home:
Leave the front door open and try to keep yourself between it and the service staff. If someone does try to attack you, one option is to run out the door.
Keep an eye on them. No need to hover, but do not allow them to roam unescorted around the property.
Don’t offer to help them do their work.
Avoid giving them information about who lives at your house. Easier said than done if the toilet in the master bathroom is broken, but do your best. They do not need to know what you or your husband does for a living, or the names and ages of your children.
If the service call takes a long time, touch-base periodically with your safety-check person.
At the end of the service call, quickly retrieve your checkbook, or credit card and be ready to pay the service provider when they present the bill. They usually go to their vehicle to write the bill up. This is when I grab my checkbook and pen, then go outside and write the check there or keep them standing in the entry hall while I write the check.
After the service call.
Make sure all of your normal security measures are in place. All doors are relocked, etc.
Call your safety-check person and let them know that the service provider has left the premises.
Be your normally vigilant self and pay attention to people and vehicles which do not belong in the area.
Most service providers called to your home are honest, hard-working people who are earning a living and are not a threat. Treat them well, and they will do a good job and be willing to come back the next time you need them. Stay confident and vigilant, and take a few precautions in advance, and you will stay safe AND get your A/C fixed!
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Learning From Cold Case Files, Part II
I mentioned a couple newsletters ago that I like to watch shows like Forensic Files and Cold Case Files because I use them as training tools to see ways people are victimized and therefore understand ways to prevent being victimized.
Again and again and again I see stories about women being killed. But they are not just "killed." We often assume that dying is the worst thing that can happen to us. It isn't. 99.9% of all of these women are tortured before they're killed. They're raped. They're cut up. When I see the crime scene photos sometimes it's difficult to tell it's a person, except for the clothes which tell you there's a woman somewhere in the mangled mess. These women did not die quickly. They died after being tortured, raped, cut up, shot, bludgeoned, begging and pleading for their lives.
A recent Cold Case File recounts a woman who went for a jog after work at a beautiful park in Michigan. No one realized until the next day that she was missing. A team of volunteers searched the park and a family friend found her body. He said, "I was in Vietnam, I saw a lot of dead bodies, but this really did something to me." About the attack a detective said, "His attack was swift and brutal. She was dragged off the hiking trail, down a ravine, subdued and stabbed to death. She was the victim of a blitz attack." (see below for definition). The unique component in this murder was that the suspect used flex cuffs to bind his victim – these are used by police officers as backup handcuffs.
A couple weeks later a woman is pulled over by a pickup truck with red & blue lights. A man wearing a hat with a sheriff star on it gets out of the truck but doesn't approach the vehicle so she gets out. He fires a warning shot in the air and says, "Come here." She said she decided she was not getting in the vehicle so she refuses and he then starts to try to drag her to his truck. She grabs onto the front of his vehicle and he's unable to get her in the truck. About that time other cars go by and he throws her in the road and leaves.
Another victim, a bartender, gets in her car after her shift and soon realizes she has a flat tire. She pulls over and immediately someone stops to help, it's a customer from the bar. He offers to give her a ride, takes her to his house and then rapes her at gunpoint. He tells her if she talks to the police he will kill her. She's lucky and makes it out with her life.
The attacker turned out to be a fireman impersonating a police officer – the photo they showed of him looked like a clean cut, every day guy...not a scary person you'd know to avoid, especially when you think he's a police officer, or in the guise of a helpful fireman.
Sixteen years after the fact he was convicted of second degree murder (not first which it obviously was) and sentenced to life in prison. The first victim's mother says, "Justice was served." but the only thing I could think was, "True justice would have been if any one of those women who was attacked had killed him."
Blitz attack - defined as a quick, sudden, violent, typically from behind (surprise) attack intended to throw the victim off guard and subdue her quickly. This kind of attack in particular no woman will be able to overcome or overpower the man carrying out the blitz. He is on her and she is subdued before she knows what hit her, and the attacker then does as he pleases. Therefore, you MUST see a blitz attack coming and prevent it BEFORE it happens, or go on the offensive before he can carry it through.
Victim #1 was completely unaware of her surroundings and she never realized the attacker was there so he was able to carry out a blitz attack. It was too late at the point she knew he was there to do anything about it. First of all, I wouldn't go to an isolated park by myself, if I did go to a place like this I would check the parking lot when I got there to see if there were other people present, but whether or not I saw any cars I would stay on constant alert – this means looking around at all times. A lot of us have MP3 players and like to listen to music while we exercise, but this can be very dangerous because you cannot hear what's going on around you. I no longer listen to music while I'm working out outside of my home.
Victim #2 should have NEVER gotten out of her vehicle. If you are ever stopped by a police officer, he or she will approach your vehicle and legitimate law enforcement want you to stay in your car. If you are ever in doubt, call 911 and make sure the one pulling you over is actually a police officer. However, once this woman realized something was wrong she fought hard and that is why she came out of it without being raped or killed.
Victim #3 most of her mistakes are quite obvious, but perhaps most blatant to me is that of course she was stalked, her attacker slit her tire and then followed her so that he was a "Good Samaritan" there to rescue her just at her time of need. We need to be aware of this, it's not because she was at a bar (a scary place to work), it could happen while you're in the grocery store in the middle of the day, so you should make a practice of observing your car when you come up to it – check for signs something is wrong with your car, is there broken glass? Is there a van with no windows parked right beside your driver's side that wasn't there before? Do you have a flat tire? I spend time on this in BTB, telling you what to look for and what to do about it.
In another Cold Case File, a 22 year old store clerk is murdered in the middle of the night in a small Texas town. An oil man is on his way to a rig emergency and stops at the store for gas. When he doesn't see a clerk, he goes into the store just as a man walks out of the back store room. Assuming this is the store clerk, he hands the man his credit card and goes back out. He sees the man fumbling inside, and finally the man walks out toward him, hands him his credit card and says he's not able to get the pumps turned on. The oil man thinks it odd, but simply moves on. A couple hours later another customer comes in and upon not seeing a clerk, sticks his head in the back room to see the store clerk in a pool of blood.
A detective on the scene says, "The back of her head was gone, I thought it was a shotgun blast." However, it was later determined the young woman died from eight blows to the head with some kind of blunt object. Detectives were surprised that nothing was missing, and all the cash was still in the register.
The way this murderer is caught is after 14 years of being abused by her husband, a woman goes to the police and turns him in, not only for abusing her and their children, but for murder...her husband had told her that he was the one who bludgeoned the store clerk to death 15 years prior. He told her the reason he did it was because he tried to buy a pack of cigarettes from the store and was short a little money and the clerk would not give him the cigarettes. So he came back a couple hours later and beat her to death with a hammer. He tells his wife that he told his father and his father burned the handle of the hammer and threw the metal part in a lake.
We think because it hasn't happened directly to us or someone we know, that it doesn't happen here. But last week in Dibble (about 30 minutes south of Oklahoma City), a woman and her two children were found dead in a burned up house trailer – a couple days later her boyfriend (I heard on the news she only dated him FOUR DAYS) was charged with murdering them. One news report states that the ME's report concluded that the boy (8) died of multiple stab wounds to the neck, the mother (25) died of multiple stab wounds to the abdomen, and the girl (6) died of smoke inhalation and thermal injuries. We might think the little girl was spared from dying a violent death, but she saw her mother and brother being killed before she died – the fire was to cover up the murder. Another news report states that court documents show that one of the female victims had a knife in her hand. So evidently the mother tried and failed to defend herself and her children.
Then there was Aja Johnston's mother who took her 7-year old daughter with her when she went to see her violent estranged husband...this man had abused them both for years, and yet for some unknown reason she put her child back in harm's way. Sadly, we all know how that ended. The mother was violently murdered by the ex, the 7-year old was kidnapped by the ex who did God only knows what to her for more than two months before he slit her throat and took the coward's way out by drinking antifreeze and killing himself. Their bodies were found in rural Norman.
Last August in the quiet little town of Anadarko the 61-year old female pastor of a small church there was violently murdered, slashed to death inside her church in the middle of the day. I heard reports from law enforcement that it was the worst, most unimaginable crime scene they'd ever encountered. That suspect is still at large, as is the suspect(s) that shot two little girls to death in the tiny little country town of Weleetka two years ago.
I am not reminding you of these horrible crimes right here in our own area to instill fear, I am reminding you so that you will understand that this is very real, and it is very near...no matter where you are, what state you live or travel in, violent criminals are there. There is one way and one way only to avoid becoming a victim, you must have the ability to AVOID (when possible) and STOP (when you can't avoid) someone from raping, torturing, and killing you. The way you acquire this ability is through training.
How horrible to die like the woman did last week, knowing her children are being killed, but how much worse it must be to realize you have no true ability to defend yourself or your children. How many of you at that moment in time would not use a shotgun if you had one and knew how to use it to obliterate the person attacking you and your children? What stops you from learning how to use a shotgun so well, be so comfortable with it, that you actually have the ability to use it to defend yourself if you ever need to? Scumbag with knife does not trump woman with a shotgun!
Some of you know me well enough to know that my motivation for teaching is not fame or fortune (like I have to worry about that, LOL!) but truly to prepare as many women as will come to me for training to defend themselves so that this does not happen to them.
Yes, this is in our own back yard...a blitz attack is what happened to Angie (see last month's Student Story) – we must be prepared to see these attacks before they hit us, never be caught unawares, and in the event we are surprised, respond swiftly and decisively. Tools (various weapons) give us an advantage, and we as women should give ourselves every possible advantage we can. But, and this is what I thread throughout ALL of my classes, it's not just one weapon, it's not even necessarily a weapon (as you'll learn in "And Everything Else"), it is a mind-set, it is a preparedness, it is a determination to live, and a decision that you are worth it to your own self.
In closing I want to point out in the second Cold Case File above that based on his own retelling of the story, the Texas oil man walked in just as the attacker was walking out of the back room after beating the clerk to death. The attacker tries to get the gas pumps going and when he couldn't, he took the time to walk out and give the oil man his credit card. Not once does the oil man feel threatened, and yet this young man had just beaten a woman to death with a hammer. What does that tell you about men not being prey? Women are prey, men are not, we must understand this, and we must, must, MUST learn for ourselves how to truly defend ourselves. It's not the weapon...yes, some weapons give us a greater advantage, but there are many ways to defend yourself. Not one of us ever has to be a victim, and I for one would like to see the crime rate go down because there are less criminals...either because women just like you and me take them out if they dare to attack us, or because these scumbags start figuring out the next woman they attack just might kill them...either way works for me!
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How to Travel Safely
I had the opportunity while traveling for 14 days in unfamiliar areas to make some great observations and I want to touch on some of that.
Hotel Safety: I stayed in hotels quite a lot and I noticed a number of security risks. For example, maids when cleaning the rooms, even occupied rooms while occupants were gone, would leave towels in the door to prop them open while they were coming and going. A would be robber could gain very easy access to any number of rooms and be in and out before the maid even noticed. This is of particular concern to those of us who carry a gun. I knew before I left that there would be times I could not carry my gun on my person, so I went prepared. I discussed the GunVault MicroVault in my last newsletter and I had the chance to put it to the test. It came with a cable that I could have used to secure it to something fixed in the hotel room, but I chose instead to put whatever gun I wasn't carrying (I had two with me) into the MicroVault which easily fit into my backpack, so I took the backpack with me and left it in the trunk of the car. Most of the nicer hotels have safety deposit boxes you can rent at the front desk, but frankly I don't want to risk anyone having potential access to something valuable of mine, particularly a gun, so I took my own safe which I kept with me.
I was also always on alert while getting on and off the elevators. This is a vulnerable time, and hotels can be target areas for predators, so even in the nice chains it is wise to not let your guard down. There are specific tactics to getting on and off elevators safely, which is something I will cover in my Defensive Awareness class.
I used the fitness centers while staying at hotels and some of the hotels required a room key to get into the fitness area, others did not. Working out, whether at a hotel or your own home territory, is a time of vulnerability because you tend to focus on your workout, or sometimes on music or TV or something to help get you through the workout! So I took my fanny pack holster with me and wore my M&P while working out. I did listen to my iPod while working out, but I positioned myself so that I could see the door and see if anyone came in. The key is movement – keep your eyes moving, keep your body moving, keep your car moving, watch for movement...all of this keeps you a less easy target and keeps you aware of your surroundings.
Road Safety: Fortunately I did not encounter any road rage maniacs while driving, but I did find myself a few times needing to pull over because I was lost or missed a turn. This is quite unnerving because again you are in a vulnerable spot while stopped in an unfamiliar place. I found having an iPhone to be a lifesaver because instead of opening up a big paper map, I could just hit "recalculate route" on the Maps feature and simply follow the directions. Even when I needed to stop for a few moments I didn't have a big paper map blocking my view so I could stay alert to my surroundings. Many of you have GPS units in your car that work the same as the iPhone Maps feature. It's a good idea to save your destinations in the GPS ahead of time if you have that option so you can quickly pull up directions, this minimizes your time stopped at an unknown location, thus minimizing your risk.
One of the days I was there I traveled to a childhood friend's house which was two hours west of where I was staying and I drove back after dark. This was a bit uncomfortable because much to my surprise Ohio has many areas that are completely void of cell phone towers (due in part to the Amish) so no matter what cell carrier you may have, there simply isn't reception. So I was in dead zones quite a bit, but I was prepared so therefore not fearful – I was armed quite well with very easy access should I need it to any number of weapons; the car I was driving was a new rental car with new tires so barring any unforeseen accident there was little risk of breaking down; I kept the doors locked at all times and being only a two hour trip I didn't stop once I started; and yes I did keep watch on long isolated stretches of highway for cars that hovered. By this I mean a car that either sits in the left lane while you're in the right, stays a little too close behind you, or even keeps pulling in front of you. I encountered one such car that sat in the left lane a few minutes too long so I opted to slow down and let him pass. Shortly thereafter he slowed down so I decided I wasn't going to chance whether he was oblivious or up to no good and I sped up and left him in a trail of dust. Yes, it was a safety thing but I admit it was exhilarating as well!
Shopping & Stopping in Unfamiliar Places: This is a given when you're traveling out of town. As I mentioned above, I checked the state laws on carrying before I went, and I also referred frequently to my iPhone app on gun laws. But I discovered that in Ohio many places, such as restaurants and stores, have a "no guns" sign on the door...in fact the only place I knew for sure I could carry was at the karate dojo and tactical supply store. (Kentucky and Tennessee were a whole other story, I picked up some awesome pro gun t-shirts at a truck stop in Kentucky!) Now because the state recognizes my license, I could carry at all times in my car and so I did, my MicroVault was in my backpack and in one instance I gained access to my gun in about 5 seconds when I felt threatened...other times when I knew I was going to be mostly in the car (i.e. not leaving it in a parking lot for hours) I left the gun in the console for quick access. Always while driving I had my gun on my person along with two spare magazines. Being summer with lighter dress, I realized before I left that carrying a backup gun wasn't very workable so I carried my full size M&P with two spare magazines – this speaks to spending time with your personal firearm as I have my M&P, I know this gun will run because I've put thousands of rounds through it, so my most likely failure would be a magazine or ammo failure and two spare magazines would cover that. So I felt prepared. And of course, that wasn't the only weapon I had on or near my person (I'll cover that in the new class!)
On Being Prepared: The common thread through all my teaching and training is be prepared because you simply do not know when you'll need the skills you've learned. Many of you know I carry a Surefire tactical flashlight and recommend this as a part of your every day "gear." On the way home we stopped in Nashville (the midway point) to stay the night at a nice 6-story hotel near Opryland. The hotel was in a good part of town and was clean and safe so I was not on high alert there...until the power went out. We were on the 3rd floor when the blackout occurred. There was a balcony with a sliding glass door that we could open and see that the entire surrounding area was pitch black. I had my Surefire and a backup battery (which I didn't need) and so instead of panic as I heard throughout the hotel, I calmly got my flashlight and I could light up anything and everything within several hundred yards. A few minutes after the power went out, my mother and I were standing on the balcony and saw a big ladder fire truck arrive...she said, "Should we be concerned?" and I noted that the firemen were not moving quickly and were getting large tools out of the truck (rather than water hoses)...turned out someone was in the elevator when the power went out (I'm just glad it wasn't me!!). With my Surefire I could light up the entire floor outside my room, which I did to make sure all was well and to locate the stairs, and illuminate my entire room. I had already secured the room, so I made sure I knew where everything was (translation, guns were within reach) and we went to bed. About the time I was sound asleep the power came back on. I can tell you being in a blackout in a strange city in a hotel I'd never been in before made me very thankful I had my Surefire.
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Learning from Cold Case Files
I watch very little television (I don't have time!), and what I do watch consists of shows like Forensic Files, Cold Case Files, etc. I watch them as a means of training, so that I can see where a victim made mistakes that led up to them becoming a victim, and then I take that information and use it as a teaching tool. I want to share some teaching points that I picked up from a couple of recent Cold Case Files.
Case #1: A woman was found murdered in a hotel room in Tennessee. It was a very nice hotel in a nice part of town, so in other words not an obvious security risk. There was no sign of forced entry indicating she knew her attacker or he convinced her to let him in, there were signs of sexual assault, the room was trashed as if there was a burglary attempt yet nothing was stolen. When the detectives first began to investigate, they questioned the hotel staff, one of which was a maid who told them she let a man into this woman's room because he said she was his wife and he had lost his key. The maid, a Hispanic woman who spoke very little English, let him in.
Teaching Point: When I stay at a hotel, I make sure I don't stay on the first floor (no one can climb the side of the building to get in a window that way), I lock the deadbolts, and I use a door jammer, which is a pole that you can jam under the door knob that keeps the door from being opened. Locally you can purchase these at Ace Hardware, the brand is Mace and they're called Door Jammer – at Ace they're in the section that has window bolts and alarms. They cost about $20 at Ace, but I found them on Walmart.com for $11.95 – I have never seen this at Walmart so you'd have to order them but you can see what I'm talking about here. The thing is, you can not assume another person (even if you know the person, but especially a complete stranger) will have any sense at all about personal defense. The above was an actual case and that actually happened, a completely unaware staff member allowed a killer to enter a woman's room. Don't leave your personal protection in someone else's hands, we must learn to be proactive about our own personal protection.
Case #2: A young woman who worked in a jewelry store in a quiet little town in Texas was shot to death during a robbery. The first detective on the scene knew the woman personally and couldn't imagine why anyone would shoot such a nice person. He noted that she had one shot through the palm of her hand, indicating she put her hand up as if to ward off the shot (it's called a defensive wound), and the remaining shots were in her back, so obviously she was running away.
Teaching Point: No matter how nice you are, how small and quiet the town you live in is, the fact that you're a woman, if you're in the way of a criminal with a gun he'd just as soon shoot you in the back as spare your life. Frankly, it makes me angry to hear of someone getting killed all with shots in the back because she was running away – sadly, this woman clearly had no plan and in the moment of crisis thought putting her hand up would somehow help her and when it didn't, she turned and ran, giving the bad guy a perfect target. We must, must, MUST fight for our lives! The scumbags out there with guns and knives are not going to spare us because we plead for our lives or run away, they're going to mow us down and our only chance is 1) avoid the situation when at all possible, 2) get away SMARTLY which means taking cover (dive under a table or behind a door), or 3) take them down before they take you down. Does this mean you might get shot? Yes, it does. It took four shots to kill that woman. What if she had gotten the gun away from the guy on the first shot? If I'm gonna get shot in the hand, it'll be while I'm taking a gun away from somebody, and yeah, it's gonna hurt, but not as bad as he's gonna hurt for pointing a gun at me...this is another reason it's good to know the operation of many guns, not just your own (in case you have to use the gun that's just been pointed at you). And this is another reason learning self-defense tactics with things other than guns is good. Blasting someone with pepper spray could buy you some time to get a gun away from someone or get away. Those of you who have taken Between the Threat and the Bang have seen me demonstrate using a broom to hit an attacker. We've got to learn to think on our feet and above all else, NEVER give up!