Case Study: Situational Awareness

Case Study: Situational Awareness
Case Study: Situational Awareness
Case Study: Situational Awareness
Case Study: Situational Awareness

Two weeks ago, I got the following note from a fellow named Jared Bailer…


I was in your class in LV last month and learned a lot. I wanted to share with you what happened the other day and how your training kept me from what I think could have been a nasty situation.

I was headed to meet a friend at a movie at a local casino. I went into the parking garage up to the 4th level. As I made the turn into the level, I noticed a guy walking to his car, which was parked somewhat near the elevators.  So I pulled around so I could take his space. His car didn’t move and I didn’t see any backup or brake lights so I figured he wasn’t actually leaving. As I drove past the car – a dark green 4 dr sedan, older model Toyota – I noticed that there were actually 2 men in the car. I didn’t think much about it and figured that they were waiting for a friend. I drove past them and parked a little ways down.

As I left my car and began walking towards the elevators (which are in an area that is kind of concealed from the rest of the garage) the passenger got out of the car, while the driver remained behind the wheel, and fell in behind me moving towards the same elevators. So, I slowed my pace a bit and so did the guy. On entering the waiting area I went straight ahead to a garbage can pretending to throw something away, which also allowed me to turn sideways so I could see him.

He pushed the call button and when the elevator arrived he said, “After you,” and let me go in first. Now I’m starting to feel very uneasy, so I casually, almost absentmindedly, pulled out my tactical pen that I bought at your workshop and used it to push the button for my floor, in an obvious way for him to see it. I then backed up and just started tapping my pen on my hand in time to the elevator music.

The guy starts some small talk asking if I was going to the movies and I said yes, and he said, “So am I.” We exited the elevator together and continued some more small talk as we walked down the hallway towards the theatres – but when we got there I went to the right towards the ticket line and he turned left and went away from the theatres. Hmmm.

Now, like I said, maybe it wasn’t anything and then again maybe it was someone looking to get someone alone in the elevator. In any case, I think the fact that I was in condition yellow, aware of my surrounding and the potential situation, made eye contact, reveled that I was prepared to defend myself, and kept my eyes on him kept it just a casual encounter.

Thanks again.

Jared Bailer
Las Vegas

What We Can Learn from Jared’s Situation:

1. One of the biggest pre-incident indicators is when a person matches your pacing. In the note above, Jared says, “So, I slowed my pace a bit and so did the guy.” If this ever happens to you, you better move from condition yellow into condition orange and be prepared to defend yourself.

2. Criminals work in teams. Often, one criminal’s job is to rob someone in the elevator and then to quickly rush to the other criminal in the getaway car. This is why you need to practice defending yourself against multiple attackers. You should practice this with your gun, tactical pen, and other self-defense tools you use.

3. Give the potential criminal eye contact and let them know you are “onto them.” Don’t be afraid to look them straight in the eye even if it’s awkward. This will let the criminal know you won’t be an easy victim and they’ll be more likely to move on to someone else.

4. Get a tactical pen. Pulling out the intimidating-looking tactical pen was a great move by Jared. It let the criminal know Jared was likely the wrong guy to try and attack. Criminals want easy victims… they don’t want to end up in a fight or a struggle where they themselves could get hurt or could lead to their arrest.

Jared summed it up best when he said, “In any case, I think the fact that I was in condition yellow, aware of my surrounding and the potential situation, made eye contact, reveled that I was prepared to defend myself, and kept my eyes on him kept it just a casual encounter.

Remember to stay alert and never, ever think to yourself, “it will never happen to me.” Good job Jared.

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Jason Hanson is a former CIA Officer and author of The Covert Guide to Concealed Carry. He is also the creator of the Ultimate Concealed Carry Experience, which allows you to take your concealed carry training without leaving home. For full details about this training, please visit Concealed Carry Academy. You can also follow him on Google+ and Twitter.
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I would have done one thing differently, I wouldn’t have even gotten into the elevator with the guy. I’d have said something like “darn, I forgot something in my car.” At that point I would have walked back towards my car and wait for them to leave the area.

Hoss Nelson

LOL…. I was typing nearly the same thought as you were..

Agreed. Take the easy win, if you can…




Bonjour Mr. Nannypants! The french want their ugly mustaches back.


Then the prep in the elevator would have followed you (if indeed you were his target) and his ‘passenger’ would be waiting for you somewhere ahead unseen. Is that really a better situation than one-on-one in the elevator? That may have been the plan all along – flush the target back into the garage area where he could be attacked from two directions at once, taken down, robbed of his belongings AND his vehicle. If you want to beat them, you have to think like them. If I had truly felt the situation was sketchy I would gotten back into my car and moved else where, while making sure I was not followed – not ANY movie that good!


I would have gotten in the elevator with him, then fart.

Hoss Nelson

Wow! What a fool to get in the elevator in the first place. If something sets off your warning center, your first thought should NOT be to enter into a small area with no ready exit. The guy should of backed up and said ” damn, I left my wallet on the counter, sh$@!. You go ahead”. This would of been a good time to reach back and covering you gun.

Secondly, if you dont have a gun, a set of car keys in your fist with some keys fitted thru your fingers would be a better weapon. Better odds of getting a good wound to the eyes or chest and a great chance to get DNA and leaving long lasting visible mark on the attacker.

Im sorry but this guy didn’t pay attention in class or you skipped the part about NOT putting yourself in a situation instead of side stepping the problem.

Don't look now!

Most elevators have security cameras. They can also open unexpectedly on any floor, some with possibly large numbers of witnesses. The elevator is a cage you can’t escape quickly from, even a bad guy would want to run if he ran into mr Black Belt. Very bad place to commit a crime. Though some criminals are very, very stupid!

Hoss Nelson

Sorry to bust you bubble, but I am in Las Vegas also and there are not enough eyes to watch those cameras. All attention is on the casino floor, the rest are just to record you getting robbed an beaten.

There have been increasing numbers of attacks at elevator doors and rear doors to parking structure’s here in town. Usually older folks.

Cameras are good for the DA’S office as a record of crime but they cant stop someone running off with your wallet.


Absolutely correct. If I see dog poop, I do not step in it. I would back off and say, “You go ahead, I’ll take the next one.”

Marlina-Michael Richards

I would have just taken the stairs. 4 floors aint going to kill you.

Onry1 .

Well with some people it might…

James Reynolds

Going “hands on” (with or without a tactical pen) is a last resort option. Pepper spray would have been a much better alternative. Having good situational awareness and not getting into a compromising position would be the best option. Admitting that he was going to the movies says “My car will be unattended for at least the next 90+ minutes…please steal it”

Biff Sarin

Or, at least, “please smash the window and take everything out of my car”. Of course, that’s easy to say when we’re ‘Monday morning quarterbacking’. At the moment of the encounter, with a thousand things racing through your mind and possibly even your adrenaline starting to flow, it’s much harder to consider that.

Hoss Nelson

What?????? This is the whole point…. you need to be prepared to respond. Not trying to figure it out as this happens

Biff Sarin

Hoss, I couldn’t agree more. To your point, that is something that I am taking away from this article and the responding comments. In the moment, it seems like such an innocuous question, like insignificant small talk, “Are you going to the movies?”, and yet your answer speaks volumes.

Ironically, I always make sure that my luggage tags on my bags are covered for essentially the same reason. If someone want’s to find a great house to rob, they just need to hang out in the non-secured area of an airport terminal and wait until a couple, dressed for vacation, pauses nearby with an exposed luggage tag (I’m amazed at how often I still notice exposed tags in the airport). If the address is local and the couple heads through security, then the thief knows that the home has a high probability of being completely vacant for at least a couple of days. They also have the name of the owner, so if a neighbor challenges them, they can say “Sheila Jones and I work together, she asked me to stop by and check on the house while they were away.”

I guess hanging out in the parking lot of a movie theater has a similar benefit to a thief. If they watch someone walk from their car into the theater, then its a fair bet that it will be at least two hours before that person returns. Scary thought!

Tamsyn Blackwell

I don’t have an address on my luggage tags. I have my name, my cell phone number, and my email address. Problem solved.

Biff Sarin

@Tamsyn Blackwell
GOOD POINT!!! I just changed all of my luggage tags! In this day and age, that makes so much more sense than home address. The airline ‘freebie’ luggage tags haven’t been updated in decades and likewise, I had not updated my thinking either. Alternatively, a business card, with a business address, seems like a better bet as well. The truth is that the adhesive tags which the Airline attaches to checked bags now has all of your info encrypted on it already anyway.

Hoss Nelson

“Hands on” is never a first option, its a last! But you still need to be ready for it. Also note pepper spay needs practice to use correctly just as carrying a gun. Otherwise under stress your just as likely to have it blocked or taken away.

First option is the NOT to put yourself in a situation in the fist place. Second, pepper spray in a enclosed elevator is a BAD IDEA! You are going to get it almost as bad. You are trapped in a very small place were a now very mad person can get to you even blinded. Pepper spary is to be sprayed and you then run away quickly, and not caught in a enclosed space with no quick exit.


1. One of the biggest pre-incident indicators is when a person matches your pacing. In the note above, Jared says, “So, I slowed my pace a bit and so did the guy.

Not necessarily. If I am about to overtake someone else to a particular spot I’ll match my pace with that individual in politeness. The totality of circumstances must be considered.

Tamsyn Blackwell

He didn’t say in every case. He said that it’s a good indicator something may be up. And it is. I know exactly what you’re saying – but when someone matches my pace, male or female, I start paying more attention to what they’re doing, depending on where I am.


You’re picking at a non-existing nit, my friend. Jason said, “If this ever happens to you, you better move from condition yellow into condition orange and be prepared to defend yourself.”

My response was valid. One will certainly scan for additional indicators of aggression but the lack of them will not create the need to shift to orange. In my example I am aware that my proximity may cause additional scrutiny of myself so I take pains to not alarm the person I’m following.

Note Jason’s language uses an if/then. There is no room for sometimes or maybes.

Tamsyn Blackwell

I didn’t mean your response was invalid. And I’m not nitpicking. It was actually you who said “not necessarily”. If someone matches my pace, I will most assuredly be more aware of what they’re doing behind me, because it’s odd. There’s no harm in heightening situational awareness if the person involved feels it’s warranted.


I agree with a lot of what is being said here about same speed pacing, not getting in the elevator, etc. The first clue was the one he disregarded, though. After he noticed 2 men sitting in the vehicle and only one getting out, my radar would have been going crazy. At that point, I’d reverse my direction and circle away from the perp, moving my hand up to my weapon. He’s lucky that the 2nd perp didn’t catch the elevator just before the door closed and then it would have been 2 on 1 in a confined space. Sometimes my wife thinks I’m being paranoid but when it comes to our personal safety, she always listens to me. Better paranoid and healthy than the alternative. It’s worked for me for quite a while and with God’s helped it will continue to do so.


Everybody is an expert – how may of you who are positive that your actions would be the most prudent have actually been in that situation? You don’t KNOW what would have happened if he had returned, or tried to return to his car – could the ‘passenger’ be lying in wait, unseen? Could there have been more than just one ‘Passenger’? more than one car? Maybe there is no one watching on the camera, maybe there is – the prep doesn’t know either. As for all you folks “in LV” – every time I have been there, and that is a bunch in the last 40 years – the security people have always been reluctant to show me their security procedures, which camera’s are watched, which aren’t – wonder why they showed you? Right! Believe me, when attacks in adjacent areas to casino start happening, the casino’s take drastic measures to stop them: scared people don’t come with pockets full of money to a place they can’t get into with out some chance of making it inside safely. The advantage of the elevator in this case is that it at least kept him one-on-one, no one could come up behind him. The possible prep; didn’t know when door to elevator would open to admit more people from another floor of the garage, or even a security guard; the prep also wouldn’t know that not only would security have a picture of him, but also the vehicle he got out of (along with it’s tag), – Busted! And Jason is correct – no criminal wants to be caught or take unnecessary risks of injury. NV knife laws are fairly liberal, with the possible exception of pulling a knife and presenting it in a threatening manner. I doubt very seriously that a small 2 inch blade keychain knife would violate this statute, yet guarantee you that if you were to pull one out and begin cleaning your nails, within the confines of a small elevator, held in a manner conductive to slashing, would definitely keep the alleged prep on his side of the elevator. While most preps don’t know jack about tactical pens, bet your butt he’s familiar with cold steel! Life is full of danger at every turn, the only way to even partially avoid them is to barricade yourself in your home – and that is no guarantee! So always be aware of your surrounding’s, make eye contact without being challenging, and stay on your toes. Instead of being an expert on everything and criticizing some one else’s actions, try to learn from their experience. Just like in school, where the least sexually experienced kid does the most talking, so is the case with most ‘Rambo’s’ online. A wise man backs away from a confrontation in unknown circumstances – not stand his ground blindly against unknown odds. I know several dead co-workers who ‘won’ the confrontation that killed them, many who had the option of escape but were ‘tough guys’ and stood their ground – yeah, they showed ’em! It ain’t a video game, boys. Don’t be in such a hurry to test your meddle, especially with your life on the line – that’s a hell of a price to pay for being cocky and ignorant.
Good article, Jason. Thank you!

Hoss Nelson

Lets see……. 25+ years carrying concealed, I’ve had to clear leather three times. Twice in a car on the road, one attempted car jacking at a light(24yrs ago, young and dumb but I still drew for my training and had the gun drawn before I realised it) , other was at a off ramp light and once at home.

I walk into a 7-11 or sub shop i can tell you how many are in there and where another exit is automatically. Ive been doing it so long its unconsciously done.

As for security cameras, have you ever seen the footage on TV? Most is bad, especially out doors because even a excellent camera over time gets dirty and scratched up lens cover after awhile or sunlight or other light glear.


There is no denying that the quality of most CCTV leaves a lot to be desired, but in my (admittedly few) dealings with elevator videos I have found them to be of excellent quality showing surprising detail and providing excellent stills for identification purposes. The quality of cameras in enclosed parking facilities are also usually clear enough to at least ascertain the license, provided it was not too disfigured (either intentionally or though rough use). Gaming facilities, whose security budgets would make most small cities weep with envy, in particular tend to keep their equipment very well maintained. The games in the house are not the only thing that is stacked in their favor! Outside a convenience store, or Wal-Mart, not so much. Something else to consider: often the quality of the video you see on the evening news is a oft copied reproduction, which can effect the quality, as well as the fact that many times it can be beneficial to law enforcement to make it appear that the video was of poorer quality than is actually the case, so as not to tip their hand.