A very disturbing story, hailing from Wisconsin in recent weeks, witnessed the death of a family man after he was assaulted while in public, apparently because the aggressor did not like his tattoos. What started as an unarmed assault against another able-bodied man ended in death, days later, when the victim succumbed to injuries to his head, sustained after being punched and hitting the ground. While the law delineates a difference between deadly assault and simple assault, most obviously separated by the use of a weapon or not, even unarmed assault between able-bodied men can turn deadly, a concept we should all bear in mind.
The strongest lesson to be learned from this horrific tragedy is this: avoidance is crucial, and much trouble can be avoided, but it is, ultimately, not up to you. It is up to the criminal actor. The criminal chooses when and where. The criminal may materialize in the form of a robber, a mugger, a rapist, or just as a piece of human filth who takes issue with the way you look, as in this particular incident. Are you ready to deal with it? No matter how well you mind your own business, and just try to live your life without harming others, that is not good enough for scumbags. There are people roaming the streets that will hurt you just to hurt you. This is the sad reality of our world, but pretending it is not so does not change reality.
Anywhere, Anytime, and to Me
A key pillar of mindset is to accept the fact, and tell yourself, that violence can happen anywhere, at any time, and yes, it can happen to you, personally. Most people understand that violence happens; however, most never accept the fact that it can actually happen to them as well, not only to others. It is a rather peculiar part of the human condition, an unwillingness to accept troubling realities. Many think that violent robbery and assault only happens in certain kinds of neighborhoods, certainly not in their upscale, suburban, domain. Hardly. There is no location that is accessible to mankind that is without the threat of inter-personal violence.
Circling back to the horrible incident cited above, was this victim in a bad part of town, visiting a known trouble-spot? It sounds unlikely. This man was, apparently, minding his own business when a dirtbag took issue with the way he looks. There seems no evidence of any wrongdoing on the part of the victim regarding looking for trouble. In the self-defense community we speak endlessly about avoidance, and for good reason, but we must move beyond that and accept the fact that, no matter how careful we are to avoid questionable places or activity, trouble can find us anywhere, no matter how hard we try to avoid it.
Simple Assault Can Turn Deadly
The second valuable lesson that comes from this tragic event is this: a simple assault can turn deadly. Legally, “deadly assault” and “simple assault” are treated very differently and the legal obligations of the self-defender against an assault are bound by these terms. A deadly assault is most often associated with threatening behavior by an armed individual, or an attacker who may not be armed, but vastly superior in strength, or superior in numbers. Simple assault typically applies to unarmed aggression. For defensive force to be deemed reasonable against either kind of assault, it must be proportional to the assault. For example, an assaulter that pushes you during a road rage incident is unlike to justify being shot. However, such an assault would certainly warrant OC Spray or unarmed defense. But, the world is hardly so clear cut.
Simple assault can turn deadly very quickly. What starts off as only a heated verbal exchange can go to hands-on aggression, and what remains only an unarmed, hand-to-hand conflict, can turn deadly when someone takes a hard blow, or hits the ground and sustains brain damage. This is more common than most realize. While an able-bodied man is expected to use proportional force when dealing with a simple assault, our plan should take into account the very real danger of a hands-on, albeit unarmed, attack.
Tools for Dealing with Unarmed Assault
While assault from an unarmed individual may warrant a lethal response if there is a significant disparity of force involved, most often, able-bodied men are going to face a very harsh legal aftermath if they resort to a lethal weapon when dealing with simple assault. Therefore, a dedicated toolset for simple assault is warranted, as is the toolset for dealing with deadly assault. The handgun, of course, is warranted only when dealing with a deadly threat. What, then, should the armed citizen rely on for dealing with simple assault?
First, consider getting training in basic unarmed self-defense. You don’t have to be a life-long martial artist to have the necessary skillset to protect your head from incoming blows and launch an efficient counter. Seek out some good combatives training. Certainly spending time every week in a BJJ or Mui Tai gym is ideal, but even if that is not on your list of activities, a good combatives class, with some routine practice of the skills at home, goes a long way.
Second, carry OC Spray. Yes, even if you carry a gun, carry OC Spray. This author encourages, ESPECIALLY if you carry a gun, you should carry OC Spray and know how to use it. OC can short-circuit a simple assault before contact is made, which is ideal. OC is not magic, and many people are able to fight through it, but it tends to force the eyes to close, and would you rather fight with an aggressor who has all of their faculties, or with one that can barely see? OC often provides the opportunity to escape a hostile situation, but adequate hand skills are in order, certainly, as any tool can fail.
The world is a violent place, and terrible incidents like the one explored here are not as uncommon as we wish to believe. Be prepared.