The Criminal Interview in Real Life

by Drew Beatty

After reading an excellent and informative blog post about how criminals use questions to set up an attack by Second Call Defense contributor Greg Ellifritz, I was reminded of an "interview" incident I experienced.

I had just returned home from training hunting dogs. I was dressed in camouflage, unloading training equipment from my truck when I heard a booming car stereo. As the driver entered the alley behind my house where my garage is, he turned down the volume on the stereo and drove directly up to me, rolling down the window to speak.

I had never seen him or his vehicle in the neighborhood before. My initial assessment of him was "gangster." He had the gangster lean with the seat reclined too far. He was wearing all blue athletic gear; his car reeked of cheap cigars. He had a ball cap on, and was driving a well-worn older Cadillac with the booming stereo.

"What are you going for?" he asked.

I didn't understand what he was saying. Going for? What is he talking about?

"What?" I replied.

"You know, what are you going for?" he said while making the pump shotgun motion with his hands. I realized he meant hunting. He was asking me what game I was "going for" because I was wearing camo.

Think about this: I don't know him. I've never seen him before. He isn't one of my neighbors who I'd recognize. He didn't look like a hunter to me. He looked like a thug. Also, if he were a hunter, he would know that there was no game in season at the time.

In addition to that, hunters I've encountered typically display better manners than rolling up on strangers in an alley and asking them questions without saying, "excuse me" or introducing themselves. But as we learned in an earlier blog post from Second Call Defense, criminals don't think or act like we do.

I had the "hinky" feeling. My mind was going in 10 different directions at once. The hair stood up on my neck, and my thumb instinctively traced along my beltline to double check if my pistol was where it should be. My eyes scanned for paths of egress. Is he a legitimate threat? A potential threat? High on drugs and confused? What's going on here?

My mind was sifting through choices. Should I ignore him? Should I get aggressive with him and tell him to go the hell away? If I did get aggressive with him, would it needlessly escalate the situation?

"I'm not a hunter," I said, "I just train dogs."

Satisfied with that answer, he drove off.

After he left, the anxiousness, adrenaline and concern hit me. I suspected he was interviewing me to see if I had any weapons in my house that he could come back and steal.

For the next several weeks I kept my eye out for him in case he was "casing" me specifically or the neighborhood in general. I never did see him again, and no one broke into my house.

This was a lesson for me, and one I hope you can benefit from too. I suspect that I was being interviewed for my burglary potential. The encounter happened suddenly, and was very odd.

There were things I did correctly. I trusted the "hinky" feeling I had, and acted on it. The interview process is normal for criminals, but it's way out of the ordinary for you and me. Further, I gave no specifics. I did not engage with him more than I had to. I also got lucky when I told him I wasn't a hunter and was only training dogs. Looking back I think that answer was among the best I could have given. I didn't confirm that I had weapons in my house.

I think my being in condition yellow benefited me too. I heard him before I saw him, and I had eyes on him immediately when he appeared in the alley. Though I was surprised by his stopping to talk to me — and by what he was saying — I wasn't surprised by his presence.

It is also important that I didn't escalate the situation. Part of me wanted to tell him to get out of the neighborhood and never let me see him again. Taking that approach could have caused both short and long term retaliation problems.

This happened to me out of the blue. But being both prepared and lucky helped me. I recommend you take the advice from both posts above. Have ready answers on hand if a criminal interviews you. Practice scenarios either in your imagination or with a trusted friend. You have no obligation to play the criminal's game with him. Your obligation is to the safety and security of yourself and your family.

Drew Beatty is a 50 year old husband and father, and a lifetime resident of the great state of Colorado. He is an NRA Life-Member, and a long-time firearms enthusiast, as well as a strong advocate for The Second Amendment.