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Monday, September 19, 2011

Active Shooter - Carson City IHOP

So this was the latest event -

Seven people were shot inside of a Carson City, Nevada, IHOP.  Four died on scene.  The gunman, Eduardo Sencion, as often happens, died of the self-inflicted wound to the head. Same story, different characters and location.  What was telling about this one is a statement made by a witness to the event.

"The owner of the BBQ across the street had a clear shot of him walking into the IHOP after he killed the lady motorcycle rider but didn’t take it, citing "it was a pistol against an AK, what was I going to do?""

Now, I will bet this article is going to be super controversial.  But in the vast majority of these events, the bad guy will either kill himself when he is done, or is eventually captured by the victims who could not take it anymore and charge the gunman while he is distracted in some manner. But until either one of those things happen, the killing continues.

There are arguments about inaction due to uncertainty, and fear of getting into aftermath trouble with the authorities.  I would submit that the image of a man shooting people with a rifle is fairly conclusive and informative about what is going on. There are also arguments about getting involved.  The usual story goes something like “I carry my CCW to defend me only”. 

While it is hard to argue with that point of view, not everyone shares it.  If your daughter or wife had been in that IHOP, and I was across the street with a handful of my instructor staff, would you have wanted us to intervene and kill the gunman before he killed your family, or would you prefer we share your isolationist view of CCW?  That is a fair question, and I suspect we know the answer. 

Certainly prudence is called for in our times when the clarity of events is not there.  But when the clarity smacks you in the face like a fired case from a Kalashnikov, it is time to be a man, and not debate whether involvement is prudent.  Not everyone can be a man when that is what events call for, but the world would be a better place if they could.  The time to decide that is today my friends, not when you hear the first shot.

I'm looked at the scene on Google (3883 S. Carson, Carson City, NV) and the BBQ place is indeed just about 100 yards distant across a parking lot.  100 yards…not 100 miles.  Close enough to see Eduardo Sencion shoot a female in front of the store as clear as day. This is not some vague parking lot fight between two men whose fight is none of our business.  This is a true active shooter event and people will begin to die right now!


Witness – Non Combatant.  This may be for two reasons.  One might simply not be capable of doing anything.  Consider the elderly veteran in a wheelchair.  Every fiber in his body wants to get across that street and kill the gunman, but he cannot physically make it happen.  Nor is his hand steady enough nor his eyesight keen enough to make the shot.  His only recourse is to call for help.  His desire is admirable and his tactics understandable.

The other reason is less admirable or understandable. That is when someone who should be capable of stopping the killing takes the lizard-like option of running back inside while the killer goes on unimpeded…and then tries to think, while dialing those fateful numbers “9 – 1 – 1”, that hopefully nobody’s wife and daughter is getting killed.  There will be all manner of viable, logical, and reasonable reasons why that course of action was taken of course.  Put a custom high dollar M4 with the best ammo and optics that money can buy at the fingertips of these guys and it will be as if that was a big hockey stick for all the good it will do.  You can self elect for that, but that is hardly anything to brag about.

The next option.  Combatant. This is the group that has the heart of the elderly veteran we spoke of earlier, but has the physical ability to make it happen.  A combatant in this event could have done one of a number of things but they all involve and end with killing the bad guy. 

1).  Take the shot from across the street.  “One hundred yards!  Gabe…you must be crazy”.  Well…I have been told that before, but nonetheless, taking the shot from across the street is quite a realistic and viable option.  You won’t be able to do that with a five shot snubby or a pocket pistol, but with a suitably arranged full sized pistol it is not hard at all.

This is substantially easier to do if you have good ammunition (not just what was on sale at the local Wal-Mart), a good trigger (forget those NY triggers please), and good sights that can be indexed quickly on small or distant targets. I have seen shots like this taken with iron sights by young men with good eyes.  Suarez International Staffers Ryan Acuff and Jon Payne have done this with their service Glocks at 300 yards in class (yes…in front of students), so 100 yards would be easy for them.  But taking this shot will be considerably easier with a red dot mounted on the handgun. That is a fact that cannot be argued.

2). Arguments against the long shot involve an obstructed line of fire.  If intervening vehicle or pedestrian traffic precludes the long shot what can one do?  Either don’t take the shot and go call for help (hopefully nobody’s wife and daughter is getting killed), or close the gap for the shot.

100 yards.  A man in good physical condition can cover that in about 12-15 seconds.  Then take the shot. What’s that?  You can’t run 100 yards?  Well…that is a problem isn’t it. Once within distance, the shot will be considerably easier.  This is not the time for some politically-correct challenge to drop the gun, or some other silly liability-averse tactic.  Bring the pistol up, sight picture on the bad guy’s face, or even better, the back of his head, and then press carefully…as many times as needed. It will not be difficult to do once you see what he has been up to inside the restaurant while you crossed the street.  

There will be those who have already decided that the death of your entire family is of no consequence to them since it has nothing to do with them.  They will no doubt decry my words as insenstitive, careless, perhaps even unamerican.  Whatever. I have a higher calling than the approval of lesser men, and so do you.  Consider your family in that IHOP when Sension walks in with his rifle.  What would you want me to do?  Is it not proper for you to expect the same from yourself.

Choose today to be the combatant.  Prepare yourself physically, mentally and with the correct equipment. This will not be the last one.

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Comments 75

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I don't think this article is controversial at all. The parameters are stated plain and simple and are facts. There are armed men out there who will wait and watch (because it doesn't involve them or theirs), and there are unarmed folks who will fight back. It's their intestinal fortitude, mental preparation, call it what you will, not their armed state that dictates their response.

I choose to attack the attacker. As a policeman, it was my duty as well as moral responsibility. Now that I'm retired, it's still my moral responsibility because it's the right thing to do. As long as I'm physically able, I'll carry, train, and mentally prepare.

Pistol vs. AK? It'll work.

As you say Gabe, "I have a higher calling than the approval of lesser men,". We all know in our hearts what the right thing to do is. If/when the time comes,
it's just a matter of having four things;
The balls.
The equipment.
The training.
The heart.

I have suffered from asthma all my life and therefore can not effectively close the distance to engage the active shooter. I do however practice iron sight center of mass hits at 100m with my carry guns. With a Commander/G19/HK USPc or Sig220/228 it is not hard. I recognized my physical shortcomings early on and adapted my tactics to work around it. I cannot fathom a decision to not engage.

Hell Yeah!! take the shot is the only option or live like a coward.

Without obstruction, I would have wen to the Roll-ovr Prone. Rock Solid, harder for Mr AK TO see, harder still for him to hit. I used to shoot three or for inch groups at 100 yards, with my 7 1/2 Inch Ruger Blackhawk in .30 Carbine.

I imagine that I could put a rapid-fire swarm into his shoulderblade area from 100, with my 5906.

It would be "O so fine" if I had my Old S&W 29 with the 8 3/8 Inch Barrel--but I haven't carried him for 25 years. With the Big .44 Magnum, I'd have felt real good trying a headshot at 100 yards--but only a true enthusiast would be carrying a Gun like that in the Summer.

Be all that as it may. Assume that a rapid fire burst of 147 Grain Hollow Points missed, failed to stop, or didn't penetrate Armor.....

How likely is he to want to turn and run up on me?

Reload. Try a few more torso shots as he ran up, while keeping my Second 5906 fully loaded, for spittinng range, head shots only.....


It seems to be in my makup to go towards trouble,(much to my wifes consternation)if I think that I can make a difference. I'm not going to be stupid about it, ie my .45 Colt against an M1A1 tank. I would get to a place where I could make a head shot, and do it.

At 60 years old, I doubt that it would be a 100yd shot, because the Mk 1 series 1 eyes are not what they used to be. I damn sure would do something though.

Yes, I said Colt ;)

Agreed...engage...cowardly not to.

I am closer to 70 than 60 years old and not in good shape. But, saying that, if I had my Airweight in my pocket, not at 100 yards, but with my Sig 226 or 220 would have to taken a chance at it. If several shots missed, I think that coward would have hunkered down and stopped what he was doing. And, if he started running toward me, I think I would have enough time to get concealment or cover and wait for the bastard to show up. Well, I just don't think I could have just watched while I had "just a chance" to change things. Maybe just made it a little harder for him, think that would have my responsibility.

I couldn't agree more! 99% of these guys shoot themselves at the first sign of serious resistance. Even if you only distract him with a long range shot, he may decide its time to shoot himself. I am not in great physical shape, but even I can close 100 yards and still take some shots. If there are intervening objects, all the better. I can approach unseen, and maybe even get a chance to catch my breath a little before engaging.

I do carry my gun to defend myself. But I will not sit and watch as someone kills people when I know I can stop him

What kind of Spirit of 1776 talk is that, to not take action when "action" is in your face? If you are in a position to do something, to stand up and show there is a reason to carry for the protection of society as well as one's own hide, one must be ready to do so even if it is contrary to one's willingness. Very much an "Israeli" approach to random acts of terror, which I applaud.

Would I do what the author suggests, I don't know, I've never been in that situation and couldn't say for sure.

I have some questions though.

How do you know the intent of the shooter? Do you know he/she will continue shooting once in the IHOP?

What was the background of the shot from the BBQ store owner? Was it the IHOP where, at 100 yards, a stray bullet could kill someone inside?

Running, even at full speed, to close the gap of the shot still takes time. The active shooter has no regard for the shots that miss his target (you) and can get them off more quickly than you.

In my CCW class I was told that I only have a legal right to shoot if I or someone I'm with is in eminent danger. Fleeing should be first. I would certainly hope that a jury wouldn't convict the BBQ owner for shooting the active shooter but that is a possibility. Even if you weren't convicted there's a cost, financial and emotional, to your family.

Without knowing the exact circumstances of the situation I am not ready to speak about what the BBQ owner did and whether it was right or wrong. I just think there are some points that aren't addressed in the article.

One caveat about protecting others: My family comes first. If you're in trouble and my daughter's in trouble, you know which way Daddy's going. If you want more protection than that, I'll be happy to schedule your CHL class.


One data point that I think was important was missing from the article...what was the backstop, the structure behind the shooter? Was it something solid, or a store filled with innocents? Unfortunately, if its a glass front store filled with people, taking a 100 yard pistol shot probably means one or more of your rounds are going into an area filled with people you can't see...and even a good guy shooter with the best intentions is responsible for each shot he fires...

Its a serious complication on the situation...and closing the distance on a guy with an AK so you can see what the backstop is...that's very tough.

Dear Ben,
Obviously the poor lady got shot in the head....Do you think that covers immanent danger? I do. oh yes by the way, while covering the 100yds it really is OK to shoot and run.
You go hide behind a car (bullets go through those pretty easily), I'll take my chances and do the right thing. Shoot the bastard.

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The Suarez International Blog is a "warrior lifestyle" publication dedicated to the modern excellence-seeking martial enthusiast. Every article and video will feature the most up to date weapons, tactics, technology, and training methods available today. Not limited to merely "guns", we include articles on international adventure travel, extreme physical training, and living well in the modern world.