Choosing to get involved – Do you know the full story?

Following up from yesterday’s article, Choosing to Get Involved, here’s a case illustrating why choosing to get involved in someone else’s problem can be problematic.

The gun incident happened last March. [Daniel Ray] Brown and his mother were eating near Hanes Mall in Winston-Salem when he saw a white man, screaming for help, being chased by two black men.

Brown… would later tell authorities that he thought the pursuers were drug dealers, or possibly loan sharks, and that the white man was in trouble.


According to Winston-Salem police, Brown “attempted to stop the struggle by pointing a handgun.”

One of the black men, Fredrick Morgan, testified that Brown pointed his gun at the group and demanded that the scuffling trio show ID.

When the three men wouldn’t listen, Brown fired a bullet into the ground a few feet in front of Morgan.

Daniel Ray Brown sees someone being chased by two people and screaming for help. Obviously the person being chased is the victim and the two other people are assailants bent on causing harm to the person they are chasing.


That’s obvious to anyone viewing this.


It wasn’t until after Brown had made a new hole in the asphalt that he learned the truth. The white man was mentally ill and had fled from two care workers. The chase was their attempt to corral him near Hanes Mall.

Full article (h/t Hank G. Shepherd)

Getting involved in someone else’s problem resulted in Brown being arrested and convicted of assault by pointing a gun and discharging a firearm within city limits. He also lost his carry permit.

And someone could have lost their life, because a gun is deadly force. Warning shots are not sound (and generally not legal) tactics – no matter what former Vice-President Joe Biden says; and they are still considered use of deadly force.

This is one reason it’s difficult to get involved in someone else’s situation. You often will not know what you are seeing unfold in front of you. What you are seeing is likely a mere sliver of the full story, and your decisions may well put you on the wrong side of the facts. Your involvement may make the situation better, or it may make it worse. No matter what the real story is, whatever you then choose to you, you have to live with the consequences of your actions. Mr. Brown now has a lifetime to have to live with his.

I understand a desire to “do something” and to help people. We generally want to right wrongs and see justice served. But in doing so, we have to tread carefully because once we choose to get involved, we’re in it and the consequences of our involvement are ours to live with. I’m not saying to not get involved – we each have to draw our lines as to what we will and won’t do, where we will and won’t get involved. What I am saying is it’s important to understand what you see may not be what you think, so consider that when you do make your decisions.


3 thoughts on “Choosing to get involved – Do you know the full story?

  1. The thing is, we are looking at this with the benefit of hindsight and with a different frame of mind than the person at the scene.

    I’m not saying I would have intervened (likely not, especially if my wife was with me), but I also recognize it’s difficult truly imagining placing oneself in that situation. It’s also different if the person running away is a woman or a child; cultural imperatives play a role.

    We can certainly consider what we might do in a given situation, and the more we read of diverse situations the more we learn, but the instinct of many people is to “help”.

    What would you have done?

    • Indeed we have hindsight. What we have to do is use it as an opportunity not to judge the person(s) involved, but rather use it as an opportunity to learn something about ourselves. Granted yes, we don’t have all of the details so “what would I do?” is difficult to make a precise call about because there’s a lot of information we are lacking. But we can still use the opportunity to improve our own decision-making process.

      The simple reality is, a lot of people never consider and never think about this stuff head of time — so if we can do things to get them to start to think about this stuff, that’s a win.

  2. Pingback: March 2017 KR Training Newsletter – Notes from KR

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