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No Safe Areas II

August 18, 2008

The Orange County Register brings us this story about an unprovoked attack in California:

Off-duty Costa Mesa police officer was jumped from behind and beaten by a crowd of men outside a Mexican restaurant in Old Town Temecula before pulling his gun and opening fire Saturday, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said Tuesday.

The officer killed one of his attackers and injured another. The beating left the officer with at least six staples in the back of his head.

The officer, whose name has not been released, had been eating with a group of family and friends at the Bank of Mexican Food restaurant in the heart of Old Town Temecula on Saturday evening, when he felt ill and stepped outside for some fresh air, said Riverside County sheriff’s spokesman Jerry Franchville.

The officer was sitting outside the restaurant about 7:15 p.m. when he was suddenly hit from behind with a heavy object, possibly a chair, Franchville said. The blow knocked the officer to the ground, temporarily dazing him.

Bleeding from the head and blood running into his eyes, the officer realized he was being attacked by four or five men, Franchville said. The officer identified himself as a police officer and begged for the men to stop beating him.

Several witnesses not connected to the officer or his attackers heard the officer identify himself as a police officer, and some even saw him flash his badge, Franchville said.

Despite the officer’s cries for the attack to stop, the beating continued, Franchville said. The officer pulled out his gun and fired five times, hitting Shaun Adam Vilan twice in the chest and arm, and 22-year-old Taylor Willis twice in the thigh.

Vilan, who was on parole for assault with a deadly weapon, later died at a local hospital. Willis remained hospitalized Tuesday evening.

The attack was unprovoked, Franchville said.

Fortunately for this law-abiding citizen, he was allowed to carry off-duty because of his job as a police officer. Unfortunately for most law-abiding citizens in California, they are denied the same access to life-saving tools by their local politicians.

The deceased attacker had a long history of similar criminal activities, and yet he was allowed to roam our streets looking for new victims.

“None of the victims did any provoking – Vilan and his cohorts did all the provoking. All the victims were outnumbered. All the encounters featured ‘low blows,’ i.e., unfair fighting by Vilan and his cohorts,” wrote Manuel A. Ramirez, presiding justice of the California Court of Appeal, 4rth Appellate District, in the October 2001 opinion rejecting Vilan’s appeal that evidence admitted in his two trials was improperly admitted.

The lessons from this event mirror some of the lessons from my own experience:

  1. There is no such thing as a magical Safe Area. Granted, there are high and low risk areas, but even low risk areas are only safe until an attacker makes them unsafe.
  2. Some criminals are not interested in your wallet or your possessions. They cannot be reasoned or bargained with. They want you. They want to harm you in any way they can for reasons that law-abiding citizens can only guess at.
  3. An attack will continue until the victim starts fighting back, or the attackers run out of desire to inflict more harm.
  4. An attack may come at any time, whether you are prepared for it or not.
  5. Being young, tall, or male does not make you safe. 
  6. Unarmed self defense is not sufficient when one unarmed victim is attacked by multiple attackers armed with various weapons. 
  7. If fleeing is no longer an option, having a handgun and the skill to use it may be the only things that will save your life.
  8. It is GREAT to be alive and in good health. Your life and your continuing good health are priceless, and are worth defending.

Hat tip to Peter for linking to this story.

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