Monday, September 9, 2019

Wannabe Kidnappers Routed
Written by Robert A. Waters

On November 8, 2017, the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office released the following statement: “Four teens armed with a knife, guns and a roll of tape planned to kidnap and rob members of a Baker family last night, but their plot didn’t go as planned and now all four are in custody.  Inside their SUV deputies also found latex gloves, facial masks and dark clothing.”

The town of Baker, with a population of around 7,000, sits near the edge of Florida’s Panhandle.  Located between the Blackwater River and the Yellow River, the area offers a natural environment for those who favor country-style living.  Terry Brackney resided near Baker with his 17-year-old daughter, Amber.  The 51-year-old father owned a funeral home and clothing store in Crestview, ten miles away.

At 10:30 P.M. on November 7, Amber drove home from her job at a local restaurant.  As she pulled up to the gated entrance to her home, her headlights shone on four 55-gallon drum barrels that blocked the road.  Immediately suspicious, Amber used her cell phone to inform her father.

Terry told her to drive around the barrels and Amber did just that.

When she arrived home, she briefly discussed the incident with her father, then went to bed.

The sheriff’s statement described what happened next: “A short time later [Terry] heard his dogs barking and saw his motion-activated flood lights come on.  After spotting some individuals trying to force their way into his garage, he fired three shots and the intruders fled into the woods.  He later learned they had unscrewed some of his security lights.”

Terry quickly called 9-1-1 and alerted the sheriff’s office.

While interviewing nearby homeowners, detectives got a break.  A neighbor had seen a suspicious vehicle near her house.  She described it as a white 2016 Jeep Liberty.  Deputies spotted the SUV on Highway 4 and made a felony traffic stop.

They arrested Keilon Johnson, 19, Austin French, 17, Tyree Johnson, 16, and Kamauri Horn, 15.  While none of the suspects had been struck by Terry’s gunfire, they were so terrified that they all quickly confessed to a sinister plot.

Keilon Johnson, the oldest suspect, set the plan in motion.  All the teens attended Crestview High School with Amber and knew her.  Keilon had studied her movements and knew she returned home from work every night at the same time. 

Keilon convinced his cohorts that her father was wealthy and kept lots of money in the home.  They came up with a plan to rob the house.  When she came home after work, the gang planned to “make Amber Brackney exit [her] vehicle at the barricade where she would be taken by force, made to enter the gate code to enter the curtilage and coerce Terry Brackney to exit the residence.  Terry would then be subdued by chemicals and/or force and the defendants would then enter the home and commit the robbery.”

What went without saying is that, even wearing masks, there was a good chance the conspirators would be recognized.  In fact, Amber had once been close friends with at least one of the suspects and could easily identify his voice and mannerisms.  Because of that, had their plan succeeded, there was a good possibility the suspects would have murdered Terry and Amber to keep them quiet.

As the attempted robbery played itself out that night, Ervin Johnson drove the getaway vehicle and communicated with Kielon Johnson by cell phone.  Once Amber foiled their plan by driving around the barricade, Kielon called Ervin and told him they were going “straight for the house.”  Austin French was armed with a knife, while Keilon and Kamurai Horn had pistols.

As they began to unscrew the lights, their plan went awry.  The dogs began barking and Terry came out of the house with his semiautomatic handgun.  When he opened fire, the suspects panicked and fled into the dense woods surrounding the house.  While making their escape, they dropped one of the firearms, the knife, and other identifying items.

The conspirators, each charged as adults, pleaded guilty to attempted armed kidnapping and attempted home invasion.  Horn received 15 years in prison.  Ervin Johnson was sentenced to seven years, followed by fifteen years of probation.  Keilon Johnson has not yet been sentenced but faces up to 45 years in prison, while Austin French is also looking at a possible 45 years.

Terry and Amber Brackney appeared on ABC’s “Good Morning America” to discuss the crime and its aftermath.

“I’ve searched and I’ve prayed for peace of mind over this situation and to get my sense of security back in my home,” Terry said.  “Had these individuals made it inside our house…today would have probably been our funerals.”

“I’m really grateful for my dad,” Amber said.  “I really don’t have a mom in my life, so my dad is my hero…I saw these kids every day walking down the hallway [in my school].  I never expected them to try to kidnap me and harm me and do such a thing to my family.”

Since I started my blog in 2008, I’ve written hundreds of stories about Americans who used guns to defend their own lives, or the lives of others.  (Check out my latest book, co-written with Sim Waters, entitled Guns andSelf-Defense: 23 Inspirational True Crime Stories of Survival with Firearms.) 

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

The Hurricane that Sank Spain
by Robert A. Waters

On the white-hot afternoon of July 24, 1715, a Spanish flotilla of eleven ships sailed out of Havana.  A small French warship, the Grifon, tagged along.  General Juan Esteban de Ubilla commanded six of the Spanish vessels while General Don Antonio de Echeverz y Zubiza was in charge of the remaining ships.  Bound for Spain, the fleet carried nearly a thousand crew members and passengers, as well as a staggering 14 million pesos worth of treasure.  Much of the plunder, taken from Mexico and South America, consisted of gold and silver coinage and bars.

General Ubilla was furious that it had taken two months longer than usual to transport the vast treasure from the mines to the ships.  He knew the chances of encountering a hurricane had increased dramatically.  For 50 years, Spanish treasure galleons had made the passage across the Atlantic, and dozens had been lost to the dreaded storms.

Spain’s life’s-blood depended on the success of these ships.  According to Robert F. Burgess and Carl J. Clausen in their book, Florida’s Golden Galleons, “Spain’s economy was almost totally dependent on these treasure shipments from the New World.  Since she manufactured nothing that was needed by other countries, the wealth received from her New World colonies merely passed through her economy into the economies of other European nations…”  (In 1712, the country had finally ended the costly 13-year War of the Spanish Succession, another of the endless conflicts Spain fought that kept its treasury drained.)

The treasure ships, six in all and crucial to the financial stability of the nation, were stuffed with produce, meat, and all manner of cargo, as well as the treasure chests.  The rest were warships, tasked with beating off pirates or privateers.  Cannons lined their decks, making the ships an overloaded yet dangerous foe. 

After passing Punto Ycaco, an island near the outer edge of Cuba, the majestic armada headed north.  They would hug the Florida coast until they reached San Augustin when they would turn east.  With flags flying in the breeze, none of those aboard knew a hurricane was headed straight toward them.

On July 29, sailors began to notice that the sea in the distance looked like lead.  A gray, milky haze obscured the sun as the fleet, one by one, sailed between the Florida coastline and the Bahama islands.  General Ubilla and General Echerverz, already nervous, had become alarmed at the signs of bad weather.

Burgess and Clausen described the following day: “On Tuesday, July 20, dawn broke on an oppressively hot, humid day.  People’s hands felt clammy; their clothes stuck to their bodies.  The fleet had made little progress during the night.  Winds were erratic, often changing directions, sometimes ceasing to blow at all.”  Swells increased, causing the ships to roll and pitch.  By noon, everyone on board sensed what was coming.

Soon the afternoon sky had turned so black sailors lit lanterns so they could see.  Winds more than 100 miles per hour lashed the fleet.  As the ships were tossed about, children cried and strong men prayed.  The flotilla, so magnificent when it had left Cuba, became uncontrollable.  Cargo shifted dangerously on the ships as the pitching and rolling increased.  A survivor later said that “the sea came like arrows.”  Torrents of rain, shrieking winds, and waves higher than the ships themselves pummeled the fleet.

Near midnight, the fury of the storm increased.  Ships plunged down into the dark depths, then struggled up again.  Over and over and over.  Trunks, cargo, cattle, horses, even the big guns on the warships, ricocheted across the decks.  Back and forth they went.  The ships moaned as if dying, then let out ear-splitting booms as if the cannons had been fired.

Stuck between the Florida coast and the Bahamas, the fleet could not escape.  The boats wallowed, becoming waterlogged and weary.  Sailors, having worked in life-or-death desperation for twenty-four hours, were exhausted.  The unending storm, which seemed determined to punish the ships, only increased in its fury.

Finally, the once-proud flotilla could take no more.

The first to go was the Capitana, a 471-ton ship.  Its bottom was sheared off when it struck a reef.  The ship sank almost immediately.  General Ubilla, along with 200 sailors, drowned.  One by one, the other ships followed.  Sailors and passengers died as each ship plunged into the seas.  General Echeverz’s flagship, the Nuestra Senora del Carmen, dumped enough cargo to lighten its load and limp onto the Florida shore.  The general and most of his men survived.

Only the French ship that had been forced by the Spanish into becoming part of the flotilla (Ubilla and Echeverz didn’t want the captain of the Grifon to warn others that a flotilla loaded with treasure was coming across the sea) escaped because it had pulled far enough away from the Spanish fleet to miss the storm.

Much of the wrecked flotilla came to rest a few hundred yards off the shore of what is now Cape Canaveral.   More than seven hundred souls perished in the storm, and all the Spanish treasure was lost.  Dazed survivors launched longboats to San Augustin to inform officials of the disaster.  In time, the survivors were rescued and some of the treasure salvaged.

The following letter describing the hurricane was written by a survivor: "The sun disappeared and the wind increased in velocity coming from the east and the east northeast.  The seas became very giant in size, the wind continued blowing us toward shore, pushing us into the shallow water.  It soon happened that we were unable to use any sail at all...and we were at the mercy of the wind and water, always driven closer to shore.  Having lost all our masts, all of the ships were wrecked..."

The wreck of the 1715 flotilla was a disaster for the Spanish government.  During that year, Austria expropriated the Netherlands from Spain, which had little money left to finance another war.  As the British and other European nations became stronger, Spain’s influence and power dwindled.

Storms continued to wreak havoc on the Spanish.  In 1733, a flotilla of 21 treasure ships was decimated by a hurricane near Key West.        

In the 1950s and 1960s, treasure hunters located the 1715 flotilla and recovered treasure worth millions of dollars.
NOTE: Much of the information in this story came from Florida’s Golden Galleons: The Search for the 1715 Spanish Treasure Fleet by Robert F. Burgess and Carl J. Clausen.  If you have any interest in the subject, I highly recommend this book.   


Wednesday, August 21, 2019


The Man Without a Heart
by Robert A. Waters

The Blackwater River flows through the wilds of Alabama into Florida’s Panhandle.  Its ink-black water meanders along, lapping sugar-white sand beaches while centuries-old cypress trees line the banks.

On May 1, 1956, three young boys played along the water’s edge.  They were David Earl Wilson, 7, his younger brother Douglas Cecil, 4, and a friend, seven-year-old Michael McCauley.  The Wilson family’s mobile house trailer sat back on a hill, looking down over the shirtless boys as they yelled and romped.

The playmates parted as their neighbor, thirty-three-year-old Dallas E. Withers, approached a motorboat tethered to a nearby tree.  While climbing in, the unemployed electrician turned to the boys and asked, “You want to go for a short ride?”

The excited youngsters hesitated briefly, then crowded into the boat.  But McCauley, fearful that his father would be angry, jumped out and waded back to shore.

A sudden roar of the engine alerted Mary Alice Wilson, the brothers’ mother.  She sprinted from the house down to the river’s bank, screaming for her neighbor to return with her boys.  Withers never looked back.  The distraught woman watched in horror as the boat motored into the fog and disappeared around a bend.

Since she didn’t have a telephone, Mrs. Wilson rushed to a neighbor’s home and called the Bay County Sheriff’s Department.

Sheriff M. J. “Doc” Daffin and his lead investigator, Floyd D. Saxon, raced to the residence at 414 Second Court in Millville.  The unincorporated community sat on a spit of land between Watson Bayou and St. Andrews Bay in Panama City.  After Mrs. Wilson and Michael McCauley breathlessly described the events of the afternoon, Daffin quickly organized teams of deputies to search the shoreline.

News of the abduction spread quickly.  With a population of around 50,000 residents, Bay County was home to several military installations, including Tyndall Air Force Base.  In addition to law enforcement officials, local fishermen and servicemen soon joined the hunt for the missing brothers.

*******

Three hours after casting off with the youngsters, Withers docked his boat at Polecat Bayou, fifteen miles from the Wilson home.

He was alone.

Waiting deputies arrested him on the spot.

Lawmen transported Withers to an undisclosed jail for his own safety.  Weather-hard, with dark eyes, the suspect said little.  When asked where the boys were, he feigned surprise and denied taking them.

Darkness fell, and the long night passed with no word from the missing brothers.  The next morning, Mrs. Wilson, sobbing, released a tape-recorded statement: “Please, Mr. Withers,” she said, “Tell me where you left my sons.  I want them back dead or alive.”  The Fort Pierce News Tribune reported that “the boys’ father, Willard E. Wilson, was taken to a veteran’s hospital in Birmingham for treatment of shock.”

The Wilson family had lived in Panama City for only three weeks.  Originally from Mississippi, Willard worked as a civilian employee at Tyndall Air Force Base.

Shortly after noon, searchers in a military helicopter spotted four-year-old Douglas.

Floating face-down in the murky waters, his remains were located about 300 yards from the mouth of Cook’s Bayou.  Lawmen grimly pulled Douglas from the river and transported him to Smith Funeral Home in Panama City.  Soon the coroner arrived.  After conducting an autopsy, he announced the cause of death was drowning.

Though searchers combed the river all day, David was not found.

On the second day, after hearing Mrs. Wilson’s taped appeal and learning that Douglas had been found, Withers confessed to killing the boys.  Sheriff Daffin told reporters that in his first confession, Withers claimed that while making a sharp turn around a bend, David fell out of the boat.  Withers stated that after David drowned, he panicked and tossed Douglas into the water.

The next day Withers admitted his sordid reason for the abduction and murders.  He informed investigators that he had molested young boys for years, but had never been caught.  When he saw the children playing on the bank outside their home, he immediately felt drawn to the older Wilson boy.

Withers stated that after finding an isolated spot, he forced David to commit “indecent acts.”  He described how he flung the child into the dark water and watched him flounder until he slowly sank out of sight.  The boy had cried out just before disappearing.  Detectives noted that Withers was matter-of-fact when describing what happened.  In order to cover his crime, the killer said he also tossed four-year-old Douglas into the river.  Like David, the youngster quickly drowned.

Investigators believed Withers had stopped at a sand-bank to molest David, though for some reason he never admitted it.  Tracks on one of the sandbars in the river contained footprints of a man and two young children.  After the assault, Withers likely forced the brothers back into the boat and tossed them out.

For the next three days, hundreds of searchers scoured the river and its banks for the older boy.  During this time, women of the community grouped together in local churches to make sandwiches and iced tea for the men.  Finally, four days after having been snatched from the shoreline in broad daylight, two local fishermen radioed that they had located the remains of a young boy.

David’s body had floated up only a few feet from where his brother had been found.

**********



Dallas Withers had spent time in a reform school before joining the U. S. Army in 1943.

Trained as a machine gunner, Withers was assigned to Company D, 304th Infantry Regiment, 76th Infantry Division.  As he spoke to investigators, the suspect made a shocking claim.  He stated that in 1945, during a night bombardment near Oberinheim, Germany, while supporting a squad of riflemen from the rear, he lowered his machine gun and turned it on his fellow GIs.

He informed detectives that he and another soldier were having “sexual relations,” and he was afraid of being found out.  Withers said casualties from the enemy bombardment were so horrific that no one realized some soldiers had been shot from behind.

Sheriff Daffin reported that Withers passed a lie detector test about the episode.  However, Detective Saxon told reporters that he didn’t believe the suspect’s claims.  (The army never fully investigated the incident, evidently writing the “confession” off as an attention-seeking ploy—or perhaps they were unwilling to open up a can of worms that could destroy many lives.)

Sheriff Daffin told reporters that Withers “showed absolutely no remorse or emotion in answering my questions.  He is a man without a heart.”

At ten o’clock on the morning of May 7, hundreds of mourners attended funeral services for Douglas and David Wilson.  A local newspaper reported that after the services in Panama City, “the two were taken to Louisville, Miss., by a [Smith Funeral Home] hearse for services at the Middleton Methodist Church there.”

***********



The trial of Dallas E. Withers, scheduled for January 7, 1959, promised to be a sensation.  It did not disappoint.


The Panama City courtroom was packed to capacity with 250 spectators.  Willard and Mary Alice Wilson sat behind prosecutors while Withers’ aged mother took a seat behind her son and the defense team.  (His wife and seven children were nowhere to be seen.)

Thomas Beasley, a former state representative from DeFuniak Springs, represented Withers.  (He was known for having tried 30 death penalty cases in which not one of his defendants was sent to the chair.)  But in this case, the attorney had little to work with.  Withers had confessed twice.  In addition, witnesses had seen him leave with the children.  Finally, physical evidence found in his boat proved the brothers had been there.

At first, Beasley made a half-hearted attempt to show that Withers was insane.  But the defendant’s obvious planning and confessions shot down that argument.

Beasley then claimed that Withers had been “drunk and unaccountable” for his actions.  But while he had been drinking, witnesses testified that he was not drunk.  (An appeals court later wrote that “there was ample competent substantial evidence to support the jury’s conclusion that Withers was not so intoxicated at the time of the commission of the crime as to be incapable of premeditation.”)

Finally, in desperation, the defense argued that Withers had suffered a work-related accident that may have damaged his brain and made him impulsive.  This could have caused him to “snap” and perform an act he couldn’t control.

Prosecutor J. Frank Adams told jurors that the crime Withers committed was the worst ever recorded in Bay County.  He stated that it was obvious from his confession that Withers knew right from wrong.

Four hours after receiving instructions, jurors returned with their verdict.

Guilty.

Circuit Judge E. Clay Lewis, Jr. immediately sentenced Dallas E. Withers to death in the electric chair.

Mary Alice Wilson agreed with the verdict.  “He had a trial,” she said.  “My boys did not.”

On February 2, 1959, nearly three years after the heinous murders of two innocent boys, Withers walked solemnly to Florida’s Old Sparky.  Reporters said he remained calm to the very end.

Monday, August 5, 2019

The Other Side of Gun Control

Survivor of brutal home invasion speaks about gun control

Foster Coker III, his wife, Pam, and their seven-year-old grandson survived a shock attack inside their home.  The Jacksonville, Florida family were innocent victims targeted by a gang of felons that called themselves the “Cutthroat Committee.”  Both Foster and Pam suffered permanent injuries in the assault and their grandson was forced to live with the trauma.  There is one reason the family is still alive and that is because they were able to get their guns and finally dispatch the assailant.

After the home invasion, Foster wrote his thoughts about gun control.  Here is the article:

“On August 15, 2014, my wife, Pamela Howell Coker, my grandson, and I were targeted in a ruthless home invasion.  Four people took part in the planning and execution of the cowardly crime, including three convicted felons.

“They came up with their plan while driving ar0und the night before in a stolen car.  There is a law against driving around in a stolen car, but they ignored it.

“During this planning session, certain drugs were consumed.  There is a law against using these drugs, but they ignored it.

“When it came time to invade our home, they jumped the privacy fence into our back yard.  There is a law against trespassing, but they ignored it.

“One of the criminals proceeded to kick in our back door and enter our home.  There is a law against doing this, but he ignored it.

“This criminal was armed with a stolen handgun.  There is a law against possessing stolen property, but he ignored it.

“The criminal, as mentioned, was already a convicted felon.  There is a law against convicted criminals possessing firearms, but he ignored it.

“Once inside, the criminal attacked my wife, knocking her down on a hardwood floor and causing severe injuries.  There is a law against physically attacking people, but he ignored it.

“When I came to my wife’s defense, the criminal repeatedly pistol-whipped me.  There is a law against assaulting someone with a deadly weapon, but he ignored it.

“Because of our Second Amendment rights, my wife and I were able to arm ourselves.  This resulted in an exchange of gunfire with the criminal.  His bullet grazed my head and came within an inch or two of killing me.  There is a law against trying to murder someone, but he ignored it.

“So don’t tell me how some new gun law is going to make anyone safer.  Laws affect only one part of the population…law-abiding citizens.  Criminals, by their very definition, ignore any and all laws as they see fit.

“Limiting the kinds of weapons or ammunition the general public can implement in the defense of their own lives from criminal trash like the ones we had to deal with only helps make the criminals’ tasks easier.”



Reprinted with permission of Foster Coker III.  For a detailed description of this case, read the chapter, “Demise of the Cutthroat Committee” in Guns and Self-Defense: 23 Inspirational True Crime Stories of Survival with Firearms.    

Saturday, August 3, 2019

New Review of Guns and Self-Defense

Guns and Self-Defense: A Study of Real-Life Personal Protection


Guns and Self-Defense: 23 Inspirational True Crime Stories of Survival with Firearms is a new book by Robert A. Waters and Sim Waters. The authors describe 23 cases involving ordinary citizens who used their defensive firearms to survive criminal attacks. As the authors point out, these self-defense success stories are rarely covered by the national media because they don’t fit the media’s bias.

Besides reading 23 stories in which the bad guys lose, defensive shooters can pick up some pointers by carefully studying each story. One of the learning points that immediately caught my attention was the number of home invasion cases where the victims had to run to other parts of the house to retrieve their firearm. Several of these folks sustained serious injuries before they could arm themselves and fight back. It makes a good case for keeping the firearm on your person while at home or possibly having a gun stashed in every room. Because the home invasion is usually quite dynamic and very violent, the citizen may not have time to wander off into another room and collect that defensive firearm.

On the other hand, there are several cases of citizens being alert enough to suspect trouble and take appropriate action while there was still time. These examples make it clear that, whether we are in our homes, place of business or out on the street, being alert is a key factor in surviving a criminal attack.

I also found it interesting to read about one of the attacks being survived by proper deployment of a .410-bore revolver. These guns have become fairly popular, and I have been curious about their use in defeating a criminal attack.

Another obvious fact is that the attack can occur anywhere, at home, at work or on the street. One victim had pulled into her own driveway, getting home after work, when confronted. Because she was alert to suspicious activity around her, she prevailed and survived.

Robert A. Waters is the author of five books that cover citizen’s use of defensive firearms to defeat criminals. This is the first book, however, that includes his son, Sim Waters, as co-author. Guns and Self-Defense can be ordered from Amazon or
www.robertwaters.netI have found that Waters’ books are interesting reading as well as being a good study guide for the armed citizen. I will be using some of these incidents as training illustrations in a team-tactics class that I am sponsoring at Gunsite Academy in spring 2020.


Reprinted by permission of the author.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Review of Nittany Nightmare: The Sex Murders of 1938-1940 and the Panic at Penn State


Book Review by Robert A. Waters 

By Derek J. Sherwood 

On December 13, 1938, nineteen-year-old Margaret Martin received a phone call from a stranger.  He said he needed a stenographer for an insurance company he was starting and offered her the job.  Margaret, a recent graduate from Wilkes-Barre Business College, agreed to meet him in downtown Kingston, Pennsylvania.  Jobs were tough to come by in the Depression, so she seemed downright giddy as she left home.  But within hours, Margaret was dead, having been kidnapped, tortured, raped, and murdered.  The Pennsylvania Motor Patrol took charge of the investigation but never developed any real leads.  The crime is still unsolved.

On March 28, 1940, seventeen-year-old Rachel Taylor disembarked from a Greyhound bus to return to her dorm at Pennsylvania State College (now Pennsylvania State University).  It was a cold, raw night with drizzling rain and few people about.   Rachel never made her destination.  Her body was found the next morning, battered to death.  Again, the Pennsylvania Motor Police investigated.

Both cases received extensive coverage by local and state media even though college administrators, fearful of a drop in enrollment, did their best to hush up the Taylor murder.  The parents of both girls, eager for justice to be served, continued hounding police for years.  In the end, however, neither case was solved.

Nittany Nightmare describes the futile search for the killer (or killers) of Martin and Taylor.  Over the next few years, additional rapes and murders plagued the area  and taxed the capacity of detectives.  Most would remain unsolved.  Police suspected one killer may have committed all the crimes.

Set among the backdrop of Penn State football, state politics, and a then-backward law enforcement agency that later became the renowned Pennsylvania State Police, Sherwood’s tale includes many strange characters and weird circumstances.  It is at once a local history of Happy Valley and its surroundings, a compendium of the growth of Penn State football into the dynamic team it became, and a grouping of strange true crime mysteries.  Some readers may wonder how these disparate entities became entwined in one volume, but believe me, it works.

Before the term serial killer was coined, before DNA, before surveillance video and modern crime-solving techniques, investigators struggled to identify the man they suspected was a lone phantom killer.

Nittany Nightmare is my kind of book.  Buy it and read it—I think you’ll enjoy it, too.  

Sherwood is author of the popular book, Who Killed Betsy?: Uncovering Penn State’s Most Notorious Unsolved Crime.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Book Review - Guns and Self-Defense: 23 Inspirational True Crime Stories of Survival with Firearms

Book review by Dr. Michael S. Brown

Sitting in a place of honor on my bookshelf is a copy of The Best Defense, written by Robert Waters in 1998. This classic describes fourteen cases where ordinary citizens used guns to save their lives from violent attackers. I’ve kept it around as a reminder to stay vigilant and to occasionally loan to friends who don’t think guns are ever used for self-defense.

Waters’ new book is Guns and Self-Defense, which he co-wrote with his son Sim Waters, who has a degree in criminology. This time, he chronicles twenty-three dramatic tales of armed self-defense.
Like the now nearly extinct crime reporters of the newspaper era, he combines information from police reports and court records with victim interviews to tell the entire story in an engaging short form. He always lists the types of guns involved, how many shots were fired, how many scored hits and even where misses ended up.
Unlike the mainstream media I often ridicule, Waters is not a prisoner of the 24-hour news cycle. The information he collects, sometimes several years after the fact, has had plenty of time to crystallize into an accurate record that includes trial results, prison terms and the lasting effects on victims.
Waters does not have to add the drama. The stories are so intense that he can stick to a matter-of-fact style and you will still find yourself obsessively flipping the pages.
Only one of these twenty-three incidents made it to the national media, it was one of two in the book that involved armed citizens coming to the aid of police officers who were being beaten to death by a crazed criminal.
Looking at the other twenty-one stories, it’s easy to see patterns that might be of use to the average citizen contemplating self-defense or to those involved in the gun control debate.

  1.  Almost all of these attacks on unsuspecting people involved substance abuse in some way.  Either the attackers were flying high on drugs like alcohol, cocaine and meth, or they were trying to get money to buy drugs.
  2. Criminals can be extremely vicious and care nothing about the damage they inflict on others.  Many of the victims suffered life-altering injuries as well as lasting emotional trauma.
  3. Violent criminals, much like predators in the animal world, prefer easy prey.  Most of these victims were women, elderly or physically handicapped people at home.  The few who were not tended to work in convenience stores or high value targets like stores dealing in jewels and precious metals.
  4. All guns involved were handguns, except for a shotgun wielded by a woman home alone.
  5. Many of the handguns used for effective defense were cheap weapons that are accessible to low wage earners and have sometimes been targets of gun control efforts.
  6. Since most of the assailants were drug-enhanced and were only shot with handguns, they often had to be shot more than once.  So if you have time, reach for a long gun.
  7. Few of the defenders had much training, if any. Yet they all survived, and did not shoot any innocent bystanders.
  8. None of the guns used for defense were locked up. Due to the speed, shock and ferocity of the attacks, the victims would have been unable to deal with locks.
  9. Violent predators often work together in armed gangs that may require defenders to fire many shots to end the attack.
  10. All but one of the attackers had a long criminal history marked by repeated prison terms with early release.  Some were on parole or on bail awaiting trial at the time.
  11. The underlying explanation for these violent assaults is that society does not deal effectively with the three main causes:  drugs, gangs and mental illness.
  12. Criminals choose the time and place of their attack both to achieve surprise and avoid law enforcement, so prudent citizens must be prepared to defend themselves anytime, anywhere.

Anyone who is interested in keeping a gun for protection would do well to read this book while keeping some things in mind.
The commonly accepted theory is that most criminals will flee at the sight of a gun, but Waters understandably selected only incidents in which victims actually shot their attackers and lived through the experience. While this doesn’t give a statistically accurate picture, it serves as an excellent reminder that you had better be mentally prepared in advance to shoot to save yourself and your loved ones. Just displaying a gun is not always enough.
Another thought is that criminals who actually need to be shot are likely the most unhinged and violent examples of the species and will probably need to be shot more than once.  Some of the most dangerous hunt in packs. Owning a gun with a large magazine seems like a common sense choice and owning more than one if you can afford it is probably a good idea.
It almost goes without saying that you should make a household emergency plan, practice with your firearm(s) and seek training as possible.
After reading Guns and Self-Defense, the wise reader will likely wonder why compelling and inspiring stories like this so rarely make it into the national news stream. I believe they are suppressed because they belie the standard media narrative that ordinary people have no need for defensive firearms.
Why else would such riveting, life-and-death dramas be ignored? Almost any of them could be easily turned into a profitable made-for-TV movie or at least a 60 Minutes segment if our media were not so biased and agenda-driven.
After reading this book, I discovered another in this series published just a few months earlier titled: Guns Save Lives that includes 22 events.  If you follow defensive gun use news on the internet, you know there is an inexhaustible supply of such stories. 

Dr. Michael S. Brown is a pragmatic Libertarian environmentalist who has been studying the gun debate for three decades and considers it a fascinating way to learn about human nature and politics.
This article originally appeared at drgo.us and is reprinted here with permission. 

Monday, July 15, 2019


Catch-22 at the Food Mart
by Robert A. Waters

It’s a crapshoot, a dilemma for many store clerks.  Should I arm myself even though my employer insists his store must be a gun-free zone?

That decision can mean life or death.

The New York Times once wrote that convenience store clerks have the second most dangerous job in America (behind cab drivers).  Every day proves the Times right.

Last month in Houston, Se Young Lee complied with three masked robbers who targeted the ExxonMobil gas station and convenience store where he worked.  Lee opened the cash register so they could take the money, then held his hands in the air.  They murdered him anyway.

Trisha Stull, clerk at a Sunhouse food mart in Conway, Texas, handed over the day’s receipts to three robbers.  As they left the store, one robber turned and shot her dead.  Just three weeks before, the gang had murdered another compliant store clerk, Bala Parachuri.

In Kelso, Washington, Kayla Chapman died during a late-night robbery at Holt’s Quik Chek.  Even though she gave cash and cigarettes to the robbers, it didn’t stop them from gunning her down.

The following case might have ended the same way.

While working the graveyard shift in a Portland, Orgeon Plaid Pantry [convenience store], Kristopher Follis made a decision that cost him his job.  A robber, his face covered, entered and pulled a hatchet from his pocket.  After the assailant demanded money, Follis, a concealed carry permit holder, retrieved his handgun.  Holding the firearm in the air, Follis demanded that the robber get on his knees and wait for police.  The thief laid his weapon on the counter, apologized, then fled.

Although no shots were fired, Follis was quickly terminated.

Most chain convenience stores have policies against keeping firearms on the premises.  The Oregonian newspaper reported that Plaid Pantry CEO Jonathan Polonsky said in a statement that ‘in the event a robbery does occur, the focus shifts entirely to non-resistance, cooperation, and violence avoidance for the safety of our employees and customers.’”

In other words, the CEO wants his frontline employees to take a chance they won’t be assaulted or murdered.  As stated above, it’s a crapshoot, with clerks being caught in the crosshairs of company policy or common sense.

Follis told reporters he hated losing his job.  But he added, “I would rather get fired over something like that than possibly be in the hospital dying.”

Thousands of compliant clerks have been murdered by ruthless killers.  Here are two examples from my blog:

Linda Raulerson, a Lake City, Florida clerk at Joy American Foods, handed over the cash register tray to an armed robber, then was shot to death.  Video surveillance showed that she complied and offered no resistance.  Her killer has never been caught.

Lee Ann Larmon, working the graveyard shift at the Presto convenience store in Hernando County, Florida, was kidnapped, raped, tortured, and murdered by two losers, Todd Mendyk and Phillip Frantz.


Robert A. Waters and Sim Waters are authors of Guns and Self-Defense: 23 Inspirational True Crime Stories of Survival with Firearms.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Dial 9-1-1 and Wait...
by Robert A. Waters

It's  2:20 A. M., on April 22, 2019. A 38-year-old homeowner dials the King County, Washington emergency services. The resident, never identified by cops, has called to report that someone broke out a window and entered his home. He tells the dispatcher he’s hiding in his upstairs bedroom closet with a handgun. During much of the conversation, the terrified homeowner speaks in a near-whisper. In the background, loud crashing noises can be heard as the intruder overturns furniture and empties drawers.

The call lasts for 12 minutes. During that time, the dispatcher continually assures the resident that officers will be there soon. At the four-minute mark, as officers are “still on their way,” a barrage of gunfire is heard. The following is a partial transcript of the call.

Dispatcher: 9-1-1. What are you reporting?

Homeowner: (Labored breathing.) My house is getting robbed…(Inaudible.)

Dispatcher: What address are you at?

Homeowner: (Gives address, later redacted.)

Dispatcher: Do you see someone inside?

Homeowner: Yeah, he’s inside right now.

(Crashing sounds.)

Dispatcher: Okay, where are you?

Homeowner: In the bedroom.

Dispatcher: Are you armed?

Homeowner: Yeah, I have a gun.

Dispatcher: You’re at the house. Correct?

Homeowner: Yeah.

(Continued crashing sounds.)

Dispatcher: Okay, is that crashing I hear behind you—is that them?

Homeowner: What’s that?

Dispatcher: Is that crashing I hear behind you? Is that them?

Homeowner: Yeah. (Inaudible.)

(More crashing.)

Dispatcher: Okay. And you’re upstairs?

Homeowner: Please hurry!

Dispatcher: Do you have any further description on…(inaudible), correct?

Homeowner: I don’t.

Dispatcher: What color is your house?

Homeowner: It’s green.

Dispatcher: How many stories?

Homeowner: Two.

(The homeowner seems to be getting more nervous as the crashing sounds move closer. His breathing seems shallower, and his voice is close to a whisper.)

Dispatcher: Okay. How many vehicles should be in front?

Homeowner: I don’t know. I…

Dispatcher: Okay. What’s the color of your vehicle?

Homeowner: It’s a red truck.

Dispatcher: Okay. You have any other vehicles there, right?

Homeowner: Hyundai. Silver Hyundai.

Dispatcher: Okay. You’re sure there’s no other vehicles there, right?

Homeowner: (Inaudible.) Silver Hyundai.

Dispatcher: Bear with me. Got officers on the way. Okay? Do you live with anyone else?

Homeowner: No. I’m by myself.

(Crashing sounds are getting much closer.)

Dispatcher: Are you able…Do they know you’re there?

Homeowner: (Whispering. Unintelligible.)

Dispatcher: Okay. Stay quiet, okay? Keep yourself safe.

(All is silent for more than 30 seconds, except for the dispatcher typing and the crashing sounds. Officers still have not arrived after nearly three minutes. The homeowner seems reluctant to speak as he senses the intruder getting closer.)

Dispatcher: (Inaudible…) Stay with me.

Homeowner: (Whispering.  Inaudible.)

Dispatcher: He just broke out a window? (Pause.) Okay. We’ve got officers on the way, okay? Can you tell how many people are there?

Homeowner: Two.

Dispatcher: Okay. Can you still hear them?

(Long pause.)

Dispatcher: Is your door locked?

(Silence.)

(Four minutes into the call, cops have not arrived.)

(Suddenly, five loud, echoing gunshots ring out. These are followed by a moment of silence, then three more shots.)

Dispatcher: Oh my God!

(A man is moaning.)

Dispatcher: Can you hear me?

(For nearly two minutes the homeowner is silent. There are moans. The dispatcher continues to try to contact the resident.)

Dispatcher: Can you hear me?

Homeowner: Where are you?

Dispatcher: Okay. We’ve got officers coming… What’s going on? What happened? Hello… If you can hear me, I need you to talk to me. I need to know what’s going on.

Homeowner: He came after me. I had to shoot him. I’m hiding in my closet in the bedroom. Please hurry, I’m all alone…

The call lasts for another seven minutes as the dispatcher and the homeowner sort out what happened.  Later in the call, the resident is instructed on what to do when law enforcement officers arrive. The homeowner is told to unload his gun and put it in a safe place. He is told that when he hears police to go out the “west” (front) door and let the officers see his hands. The resident agrees.

The suspect, identified as Joseph L. Anderson, died at the scene of multiple gunshot wounds. No other suspects were found.

The homeowner was not charged with any crime.

You can listen to the entire call at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k25xA4c85F4&t=347s


If you wish to read more exciting and inspiring self-defense stories, buy my latest book, co-written with my son, Sim Waters. Guns and Self-Defense: 23 Inspiring True Crime Stories of Survival with Firearms is available at Amazon.com. We used police reports, interviews with victims, court documents, media sources and other public records to accurately describe 23 chilling stories of armed self-defense.


Saturday, June 22, 2019

The Untold Story of Guns
by Robert A. Waters

Some stories can be judged as too gruesome to show on prime-time television—for instance, the horrifying scenes of desperate people jumping from the Twin Towers on September 11.  Or the ISIS beheadings a few years ago.  Most American networks chose not to show those disturbing scenes.

In other cases, the media will choose not to report stories that go against the grain of a certain political narrative.  Self-defense stories are a prime example.  Major media outlets rarely report these cases, choosing instead to sensationalize mass shootings and the supposed malfeasance of gun-owners.  (Mass shootings should be covered, but so should defensive stories.)  Without a balanced approach to the news, citizens may not have the information required to make rational decisions.

If there are any honest reporters still out there, here’s a suggestion.

According to the FBI, there were 1.3 million home invasions in 2018.  Because homeowners are generally inside their residences when these crimes occur, there is a high potential for violence.  So, how about an investigative report on defensive actions that some residents take during home invasions?

In the new book, Guns and Self-Defense: 23 Inspirational True Stories of Survival with Firearms, the authors describe events that took place on a freezing night in Highland, Illinois.  Debi Keeney and Donna Carlyle lived in a housing community for the elderly.  The sisters, both disabled, kept a tiny .22-caliber revolver near the couch where they would watch television late into the night.  When a violent ex-con broke into their home to rob the sisters, he literally threw Debi across the room, severely injuring her.  He began to choke Donna, allowing Debi time to grab her “derringer,” as she liked to call the gun.  After firing a warning shot that the assailant ignored, Debi shot Joshua Jewel.  Without that gun, the sisters would likely have been murdered.  (Both suffered life-threatening injuries during the savage attack.)

Paralyzed for life from the shooting, Jewel was sentenced to a long prison term.  In her impact statement to the court, Debi said, “Just thinking about [that night] makes my hands shake and my eyes fill with tears, and I begin to relive seeing my sister choked to death, and believing if I didn’t shoot, this man would kill her.  Then came the horrible decision of having to use my gun to protect my sister.  He forced me to make that decision, and it forever changed me.”

Like all of the stories in Guns and Self-Defense, there’s much more, including the “story within in the story.”

Wouldn’t that be a great human-interest story?  If you were a reporter, wouldn’t you find that story compelling?  The authors recount more than a half-dozen home invasion stories, each more violent than the next.  The one consistent theme to all these cases is that the intended victims survived only because he or she had “protection,” a firearm.

In addition to home invasions, our intrepid reporter might also research invalids who defended themselves from attack, domestic violence cases in which victims fought back and won, store robberies that went bad for the assailant, and cases in which victims who had concealed carry permits survived.  And there are more, including stories of cops whose lives were saved by armed strangers.

In the mainstream press, self-defense stories have long gone untold.  It’s time for that to change.


Robert A. Waters is the author of six books, including his latest, Guns and Self-Defense: 23 Inspirational True Crime Stories of Survival with Firearms, written with co-author Sim Waters.