What follows is my, John Daub, recounting of my life-changing events of Monday January 5, 2015.
The day began like any other day. I woke up around 3:30 AM to go to the gym. Woke up, got ready, and arrived at the gym around 4:15 AM or so. I worked out, then returned home around 5:30 (my gym is close to my home, so I walk to and from the gym). All seemed normal, and after 2 weeks of holidays and semi-vacation I was looking forward to getting back into the swing of work and the normal work-life routine.
Upon returning home, I did my usual: taking off my sweats and stripping down to just my gym shorts (and underwear) so I can cool off before showering. I let the dog out back to do her morning business, and I went outside with her (it was cold in just my shorts, but it helps me cool down). Coming back into the house, my wife had just woken up and was coming into the kitchen for her morning coffee. As we typically do at this time, we chat about last night and the day ahead.
After our chat, it was time to get on with the day so I headed to the master bathroom. It was around 6:15 AM give or take. I was going to the bathroom primarily to shower but first with a pit-stop at the toilet. I sat down on the toilet and did what people do today – I had my iPhone in hand and was checking email and other things while I sat. After a few minutes of sitting, I started to hear noises outside. It was yelling, and while I could not determine what was being said, I could certainly tell it was the voice of an adult male or maybe males — I couldn’t determine a number (certainly 1, maybe more). The noise concerned me because I live in a quiet neighborhood, and there was no reason to have yelling, especially at that hour of the morning while it was still dark outside. Naturally, this highly unusual event gave me great concern.
I called out to my wife to get her attention because I figured she heard it too and perhaps had a better bead on what the noise was (and I wasn’t quite done on the toilet).
From this point on, everything unfolded quickly. In fact, it will probably take you longer to read this than was the actual duration of the event.
From my perspective, the main thing I remember is hearing my wife screaming for me. Her words were saying there was someone at the door. But the way she said it — the sheer mortal terror in her voice — was something I had never heard out of her in the almost 20 years of our marriage.
When this happened I realized I better get moving, so I gave a quick wipe, pulled up my shorts, put my phone in my pocket (I don’t recall doing this, but I must have given my later use of the phone), and quickly went to retrieve my handgun. My wife’s communication made it evident there was something extremely wrong, likely threatening.
Aside: all my brain focused on was the sound of my wife, her words, and the mortal terror in her voice. I can only assume the reason I did not hear the door crashing open was due to auditory exclusion, but I learn after the fact from my wife and my daughter the sounds at the door were extreme. My wife said the male voice on the other side of the front door was howling – at first she thought it was a coyote (quickly dismissed as that didn’t make sense)! Then the door was being aggressively rattled and shaken — this was not a polite knock at the door, this was aggressive, violent. My wife reports as she ran towards the bedroom, hearing the crash of the front door flying open. I did not see the door opening, as I was still on my way out of the bedroom.
I quickly exited the bedroom, went down the hallway (with family members fleeing past me in the opposite direction) and upon reaching the end of the hall and entering the foyer/living room, I saw what had happened.
I saw my front door was wide open, forcibly opened due to the obvious damage to the door frame.
I saw an unknown man within my home. I later measured and he was around 6-10′ inside my home.
I pointed my gun at him and repeatedly yelled “GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY HOUSE!”.
The man continued his approach towards me.
At that point, I fired my gun.
Once I saw the man change, that he turned to leave out the front door, I stopped shooting.
The man walked towards the front door, and fell down just outside the front door.
I yelled “CALL 911!” over and over. I went to the alarm panel to try to active the panic buttons but I couldn’t get things working (I recall then at that point hearing the alarm going off — did I activate it? had it been going off all this time? auditory exclusion… I’m not sure). I reached into my pocket, found my phone, and called 911 to report the incident. My wife was already on her mobile phone with 911 as well.
While waiting for the arrival of the police, I stayed as far away from the front door and the person as I could, but kept things in view. I had no idea what else might be in store (were there others? my belief was our home was being burglarized). After some time Austin Police Department arrived on scene (I do not know how long it took, but it felt like an eternity).
The After-the-Fact Knowledge
Well-after the incident, it was discovered this man was autistic and lived in a group home in the neighborhood. According to reports, the man had “become agitated” and ran away from home and would not return (apparently he had a history of such behavior, and according to his own family his behavior had become more unpredictable in the past year). Apparently he had banged on other doors in the neighborhood and other neighbors had called 911 in response to it. I don’t know how many other doors he banged on before he broke through the door of my home.
I had no idea who this man was that had forced open my door and entered my home. I had never seen him before. While I knew about the group home, they have always kept to themselves. While we might see the residents outside on occasion (e.g. a group walk around the block), we had not seen much of them in the past year. Even if we did, residents come and go, and since they keep to themselves and I’m sure due to HIPAA laws, there’s no way the neighbors can really know who exactly is living in the home.
I do not know what lead this man to behave as he did. In fact, anything and everything I know about this man and the particulars of the group home come from the media reports in the aftermath.
I understand the armchair quarterbacking that is afforded by the luxury of the after-the-fact knowledge. I was not afforded this luxury. Given what was presented to me as it was unfolding:
- aggressive howling and banging on my front door
- my door obviously forced open
- an unknown man in my home
- not obeying commands to get out even with a gun pointed at him
- his continued approach
I know any rational, reasonable person would have assessed the situation in the same way.
This whole event is unfortunate and tragic, and it is important to remember it is the luxury of after-the-fact knowledge that enables that assessment.
I was never arrested. I was never charged with anything.
On June 2, 2015, a Travis County Grand Jury no-billed me. All of the evidence – which included offense reports, pictures, autopsy reports, and ballistics reports – were presented to a grand jury and they found my actions were justified.
Addressing Some Questions and Erroneous Reporting
While the news media reports have been generally correct, there was enough inattention to facts and delivery by the reporters that have caused incorrect or unclear understanding of the situation. Due to this, along with armchair quarterbacking based upon this faulty information, I wanted to address a few things.
I do not have 3 daughters (yes, one news story reported this “fact”). I do have 3 children, but only 1 daughter.
No one in my household answered the door, opened the door, or went anywhere near the door. If your door was being aggressively, violently rattled off it’s hinges with a male voice howling on the other side of it, would you approach it? Neither would we, and we did not.
The door frame was physically broken. Here’s a picture of the door frame., and KVUE reports “Austin police confirmed the damage in the photo was how the door looked when they arrived.”
He was within my home. This was not at the door, outside the door, within the door. At the time I encountered him, he was a good 6-10′ into the foyer/living-room area.
I was not sleeping and my wife did not wake me up. As I said, I was sitting on the toilet when this began.
There was no time to call 911 and wait.
I did not “shoot first, and ask questions later”. I do not view a gun as the “only resort”, as the answer to all questions. I do not have a gun and am “itching for a chance to use it.” We have a well-lit exterior. We have a strong door. We have a dog. We have an alarm system. I gave this man opportunity to leave by repeatedly shouting a very clear command to “GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY HOUSE!”, and waiting for a response/reaction. Yes I did have my gun pointed at him while I shouted, to give emphasis to my demand he leaves my house immediately. Due to my experience as a firearms trainer, due to my knowledge of violent encounters, I know quite well that the best thing one can do is work to avoid the situation. I did everything I could to avoid using my gun. Despite all those things, an unknown man forced his way into my home. His aggression, his breaking down my door, demonstrated to me he had the ability to bring harm to myself, my wife, and/or my children. That he broke through my door and entered my home gave him the opportunity to cause us harm. The fact he continued to approach me despite my pointed gun and commands gave me reasonable belief that my life or the lives of my family were in jeopardy. Given the totality of the circumstances, any reasonable person would have come to the same conclusion I did (home invasion, burglary, someone intending to steal my things and/or cause me and/or my family members grave bodily harm).
Could I have done something else? Like tackle him? Maybe. Again, with my experience as a firearms trainer and also my experience in empty-hand martial arts, I know that getting into a direct hand-to-hand confrontation like this could be a dangerous and deadly endeavor (here’s a video with sobering examples of how empty-hand, unarmed violence can be deadly). This man’s family described him as a “gentle giant” – “giant” being the operative word. When you hear a man described as a “giant”, what comes to mind? He was a large man, and obviously strong enough and aggressive enough to break down a heavy door. Would you want to trade punches or wrestle with such a person? I wouldn’t either.
Yes I’m big and strong. That doesn’t mean I’m looking for trouble, nor does it mean I want to get into trouble. Just because one can do something (e.g. fight, get physical) not mean it’s wise and safe to do that thing. Again, I know avoidance is preferred and I prefer to avoid physical altercation because I know of the potential cost (again, see the previously linked-to video).
My key point is precisely because of my training, I know better. I don’t have fantasies about being a hero. I don’t dream of getting into fights or confrontations. My knowledge of violence comes from studying real events, not from Hollywood movies nor ignorance. Because of my knowledge, I did everything I could to avoid having problems because I know avoidance is the preferred approach.
For anyone that thinks I was “lying in wait” or “just looking for a reason to shoot someone” or am “trigger happy”, what factual knowledge enabled you to arrive at such a conclusion? Nothing could be further from the truth! It’s a shame you know nothing about me, refuse to seek truth, and form and hold opinions based upon scant information, bias, and ignorance. In fact, I’m saddened to learn there are people in this world that view others with such blind contempt, instead of the understanding and compassion they seem to always demand for themselves. But you are welcome to your opinion, and your insistence on clinging to falsehoods speaks more about you than it does me.
Looking back on the event, I do not believe this man had any evil intent. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t dangerous – and by his family’s own words, by his actions of that day, it is evident he had the capacity to inflict harm. But again, I cannot believe there was evil intent here. You and I can “what if” the situation endlessly, but it does no good because it’s impossible to truly say how things could have worked out if something were different. But one thing I do wonder is how things might have been different if the group home had done their job.
I don’t believe any person would want such a thing to happen to them, no matter the context, no matter the circumstance. It’s an unfortunate and tragic situation for all involved. My heart breaks for his family. I ask you to please pray for the repose of his soul and for peace for his family.
I would also like to give praise and thanks to the men and women of the Austin Police Department with whom I interacted. They were professional, polite, helpful, and I have nothing but good things to say about how they operated with regards to my event.
I never wanted such a thing to happen, but it did and I can’t undo it – my actions, the actions of the others involved that lead up to and enabled this situation to happen. The best I can do is try to find something positive from it. To try to find some way to make the world better from it. One hope is that it brought the problems with the group home into the public eye; perhaps the lives of others will be improved because of this event, if it means bringing better protections, better oversight, better living conditions. Time will tell. But I will not sit by and just let time pass; I fully intend to be active in making good come from this event.