It is a wise person that learns from the mistakes and experiences of others.
Become a wise(r) person and learn from the experiences of Paul Lathrop.
In February 2016, Paul Lathrop was involved in what appeared to be a low-key self-defense incident. Unfortunately, the event turned into a big problem. Paul was charged, arrested, spent time in jail, but ultimately the charges were dropped (because they were false). There are some important things we can learn from Paul’s experience.
First, Paul tells his whole story in Episode 381 of the Handgun World Podcast. You need to take the time to listen to the entire thing as there’s a great deal to be learned in hearing from Paul first-hand. Seriously. Don’t just skim what I’m about to write and think it sufficient – it’s not. You need to listen to Paul’s account. Listen in the gym when you’re on the treadmill, listen during your daily commute, listen over the course of a few sessions if it’s too long. Just listen to the whole thing, I implore you.
While I was listening, of course I thought about my incident. Realize I’m filtering what I’m about to say through my own experiences. Also, know that I am not here to criticize nor chastise Paul; I know how it is to have people insert their interpretation of events and crucify you over their false or limited knowledge. What I am trying to do is the same thing I did when I shared my story and the same reason Paul gave in sharing his story: to help others learn. We want you to learn from our experiences, so hopefully you won’t have to pay what we’ve paid.
There were three key things about Paul’s incident that stood out to me.
Always Be Cool
From what I can understand, it seems that the pivot point of the incident was Paul’s driving partner giving the other guy the one-finger-salute. Other guy felt disrespected, and everything descended from there. Of course, I cannot hold Paul responsible for the actions of his driving partner, but realize Paul paid for those actions.
In almost every facet of life, the sooner you solve a problem, the better because it minimizes cost. In the context of self-defense we tout the importance of avoid, deter, deescalate – this is an attempt to solve a problem sooner and thus be less costly. We are human thus we are emotion-driven, and we all get angry. We have to work to improve our ability to manage our emotions, especially ones that can get us into trouble. Think about how all of this could have been avoided, and if avoided how much less costly things would have been for Paul.
Since the situation wasn’t avoided, it needed deterrence or deescalation. What do you think could have been done to achieve that end? Granted, we weren’t there so we can’t specifically say. But just consider such a situation and think about possible options. For example, maybe saying “I’m sorry”. Or you may even have to make up a lie, such as “I’m sorry… I had a really shitty day today, everything broke down, wife yelling at me, boss yelling at me, dropped my phone in the toilet… it’s just been a really shitty day and I shouldn’t have taken it out on you. I’m sorry.” Yeah, it’s a bit of a story, and you may not really be sorry at all! But it may just be what’s needed to keep a situation from worsening.
I believe I got the above strategy – capitulation, even false capitulation – from Greg Hamilton at Insights Training. Another thing from Greg is the “ABC of Self-Defense – Always Be Cool“. Strive to Always Be Cool, especially behind the wheel of a vehicle, and it makes a big difference in your life.
Be the first to call the police
Paul acknowledges he should have called the police.
The thing is, the first person to contact the police? They WILL be viewed as the victim, and that’s precisely what happened. The other guy got to frame the incident, and despite the fact it was a series of lies, it was enough for Paul to be arrested and to cause everything to have to be sorted out later.
I asked Massad to identify the most common mistakes armed citizens make that get them in trouble following a justified self-defense shooting. Without hesitation, he replied, “Failing to call police after the incident.”
“The citizen is in a situation that warrants drawing the gun,” he continued. “They do everything right, the suspect turns and runs, and it ends without bloodshed as most of these things do. The citizen figures that it is over, so they do not call the police, but the offender calls in and complains and the next thing you know the citizen has become the perpetrator and the original assailant becomes the victim/complainant, or at least is seen as such.”
“Who ever calls in first, by default, gets to be the victim/complainant,” he emphasized.
(from Massad Ayoob <– read this article too)
If you are in any form of self-defense incident, you need to call the police. Even if it winds up being nothing, it’s still some level of help here because bad guys don’t call the police. If you don’t call, how do you think you’ll be perceived and colored? Again, it doesn’t matter what the truth of the situation is, because right now you’re still being arrested. The truth will come out, but what cost will you pay? Again, the sooner you can solve a problem, the less costly it will be. Call the police as soon as you can safely do so.
Be a member of ACLDN
When my incident happened, I was already a member of the Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network. When Paul’s happened, he was not.
Just to get started, it cost Paul $12,500 – $10,000 to retain the lawyer, $2500 for bail (and that was apparently a reduced bail). Paul made a good point: how many of you right now can go into your bank account and write a check for $12,500? And if you can, that it won’t adversely affect your family budget? Note as well, that’s cheap, and that’s just to start. If Paul’s situation had gone another way, his legal costs would have skyrocketed.
Let’s also not forget the money in lost wages, his travel expenses (having to travel back to the locale for every hearing, etc.). Paul didn’t give a final tally, but you better believe this incident cost him a lot more than $12,500.
If he had been a member of ACLDN, he wouldn’t have had to pay that $12,500.
Membership to ACLDN is $135 for 1 year, $295 for 3 years, or $790 for 10-years. $790 seems like a lot of money, but compare it to $12,500 and it’s a drop in the bucket.
What often happens when someone talks about things like this, they try to not sound like they’re playing favorites. They’ll talk about other groups like Texas Law Shield, USCCA and so on saying “it doesn’t matter which you join, just do your research and join one”. I’ll grant there’s something to that, and I did my research and I joined ACLDN. I think they provide the best “product”. And of course, given I’ve had to directly use their services and have first-hand experience at how they run things well… I’ll just say I have renewed for 10-years, and I’d join at a “Life” membership if they had such a thing. No I don’t get paid for this, I don’t get anything from ACLDN or Marty Hayes. I’m just a member, and a very satisfied one at that.
But you know what really sells me on ACLDN? The caliber, quality, and character of the people who make up the network. Not just people like my own attorney, Gene Anthes, but Massad Ayoob and Marty Hayes himself. Listen to Paul’s story. ACLDN could not help Paul because he was not a member at the time of the incident, but Marty did everything he personally could to help Paul out. Paul also said that of all the groups out there, only Marty reached out to him.
Like I said – the character of the people who make up the network. You’re choosing people you want on your side, fighting for your life and well-being. Choose wisely.
To that I would add, choose now. Neither Paul nor I woke up in the morning and expected we’d be interacting with the police later that day. You don’t get to choose when your flag will fly. I know I had things that I put off, and had I not perhaps my day would have gone differently. It’s evident from listening to Paul that he too had things he put off, and had he not his day would have gone differently. Yes, that $135/year seems like a lot, but pull a little from your ammo fund and do it now, so you don’t risk having to pull 10x that for a lawyer.
I’m glad things worked out for Paul. I’m thankful to Paul for sharing his story, warts and all. I can empathize with a lot of what he went through, so I can appreciate what he did here. We share because we want you to learn, be it from our mistakes or just our general experience. Please take the lessons to heart. Please take action from our lessons.