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I was mugged and shot, but I also wasn't.
December 12, 2013 4:58 PM   Subscribe

"Am I safe? Is what I have, my memory of the event and your scribbled notes, enough to get this guy? Should I tweet about this?" C. D. Hermelin is mugged in broad daylight in Manhattan’s Financial District.
posted by paleyellowwithorange (85 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
I used to be one of those suit-wearing people in a major city's financial district. If I heard someone yell "This man has a fucking gun! This man stole my fucking wallet!" the absolute last thing I would do would be to chase, go near or otherwise interfere with the man with the gun and demonstrated willingness to use it.
posted by citizenoftheworld at 5:11 PM on December 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


The whole thing seems really weird and unbelievable to me. I work in the same neighborhood, and it's crawling with cops, all the time. I think this is a very talented writer.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:15 PM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Bystander Effect is the thing the writer alludes to being the phenomena where no one in a crowded place offers to help because they assume someone else will.
posted by mathowie at 5:16 PM on December 12, 2013


Uh you don't even need to invoke the bystander effect. I'm sure as hell not going to go chasing after someone with a gun, to save your wallet.

On the other hand the last time I was in NY I watched a purse snatcher (who did not have a gun) get chased down and caught by a bunch of people.
posted by danny the boy at 5:17 PM on December 12, 2013 [15 favorites]


....I don't think this happened.
posted by The Whelk at 5:20 PM on December 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


demonstrated willingness to use it.

Except that in this case the robber only demonstrated that he wasn't holding a gun at all, but a BB pistol. It does seem weird. Guns make a loud bang when they are fired. BB guns go pop.I would think an unarmed mugger, pretending to have a real gun, wouldn't give himself away like this - especially once he had a wallet.
posted by three blind mice at 5:21 PM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


As per action film guidelines, the sergeant who was due to retire would get swept up in a crazy adventure while rolling his eyes and quipping "I'm getting too old for this shit!"
posted by dr_dank at 5:24 PM on December 12, 2013 [11 favorites]


"Get that guy! HE DEFINITELY ONLY HAS A BB GUN!"

Kind of surprised the cops dusted for prints - when we got burgled last year (nothing really taken, thankfully) they didn't bother, basically shook their heads indulgently at us having watched too many TV shows then left us a crime report to fill in so they could put it somewhere where they could ignore it.
posted by Artw at 5:26 PM on December 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Kind of surprised the cops dusted for prints

I wouldn't hold out much hope for the Creedence.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:29 PM on December 12, 2013 [23 favorites]


Why didn't he take a picture of the guy with his phone?
posted by CCBC at 5:40 PM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


They file a report so that when they occasionally find a stash of stolen goods, they know who to give it to. But no, they're not going to start a dragnet for your flat screen, which should have been insured anyway. Pawn shops also have to keep photo records of goods they purchase, so it's even more likely that one-of-kind items will be recovered.
posted by Brocktoon at 5:40 PM on December 12, 2013


> ....I don't think this happened

Why not? I don't have a strong feeling either way; I'm wondering what gives you more certainty.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:43 PM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm kind of incredulous that anyone could mistake being shot with a BB gun for being shot, but hey people act weird when panicked.
posted by Artw at 5:45 PM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also I've been shot many times with BB guns and 0 times with an actual gun, so...
posted by Artw at 5:49 PM on December 12, 2013


I'm kind of incredulous that anyone could mistake being shot with a BB gun for being shot, but hey people act weird when panicked.

I would imagine if you haven't been shot with a real gun (which, to be clear, I haven't) it's probably a pretty easy mistake to make.

Why didn't he take a picture of the guy with his phone?

Again, I think that's a lot easier to armchair quarterback than it is to think of in the moment.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:51 PM on December 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


Except that in this case the robber only demonstrated that he wasn't holding a gun at all, but a BB pistol.

"But"? Shoot your eye out, Ralphie.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:53 PM on December 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


I got shot with an air-rifle once, that actually left a nasty welt which eventually scarred. Possibly he got with an air pistol firing a lead pellet rather than an airsoft style BB gun? On the other hand, those tend to look less like "real" guns.
posted by Artw at 6:03 PM on December 12, 2013


How does the barrel of a gun stick out of a sweatshirt pocket? Double-ended pocket? The gun's just sitting there in the pocket, pointing up at the sky? Secret internal gun-hole? "Is that a gun in your pocket?" "Oh lol whoops, awkies!"
posted by turbid dahlia at 6:18 PM on December 12, 2013


Why are the paragraphs numbered? Are these Bible verses or something?

As to whether it happened... I would hope a made-up story would have been more interesting.
posted by mmoncur at 6:20 PM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Except that in this case the robber only demonstrated that he wasn't holding a gun at all, but a BB pistol.

True but as a bystander, I don't think I'd take the risk of assuming that the guy yelling "gun" is mistaken.

It does seem weird. Guns make a loud bang when they are fired. BB guns go pop.I would think an unarmed mugger, pretending to have a real gun, wouldn't give himself away like this - especially once he had a wallet.

Absolutely! It doesn't make sense. Maybe he felt like he had to follow through with his "Shut up. I will shoot you" threat. Maybe he realised he was losing control of the situation and was just trying to get away at that point. Maybe he was angry with Hermelin for not giving up his phone.

Or maybe the mugger was a redditor and just wanted to shoot Hermelin with a BB gun.
posted by citizenoftheworld at 6:23 PM on December 12, 2013


Given the level of security around the New York Stock Exchange, I tend to believe that reports of "shots fired near Wall Street," BB-gun or otherwise, would have prompted a full area-wide lock-down. This is an area that's still regularly patrolled by police in body armor carrying assault rifles. I'm not saying it didn't happen, but it definitely sounds funny to this guy who used to work down there.
posted by Guernsey Halleck at 6:24 PM on December 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


30. Months later, they still haven’t caught the guy. Or if they have, no one told me. I found an article about the incident that got nearly every detail wrong, which makes me wonder if the one new detail—that a knife and BB gun were found discarded in the area—is true.

That's the detail that lets you know it's true.
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:29 PM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


He kept his wallet and his phone, and he went to a concert afterwards. Regardless of whether his story is totally true, he was fine afterwards, so he is trying to make a dramatic story out of a not-particularly-dramatic event. Maybe he's from Iowa
posted by goo at 6:35 PM on December 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


And kids, that's how I met your mother.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:38 PM on December 12, 2013 [15 favorites]


Maybe he's from Iowa

In Iowa the mugger would have been blind.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:40 PM on December 12, 2013


How does the barrel of a gun stick out of a sweatshirt pocket? Double-ended pocket?

That's what I assumed, yes. Hooded sweatshirts without a zipper typically have a single double-ended center pocket.
posted by The World Famous at 6:51 PM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Like a gun-muff.
posted by Artw at 6:52 PM on December 12, 2013 [13 favorites]


I have a lot of trouble believing this story.

When the writer first starts talking to the mugger and the mugger blocks him from walking past, the mugger is then somehow standing in front of the writer yet also poking him with the barrel of a BB gun that's inside his sweatshirt pocket yet also has his finger on the trigger of the BB gun? And then the mugger has his side to the writer (which just seems like such a weird position to mug someone in to me, because it's like the mugger is trying to stay open onstage or something and wants everyone to see what's going on) with the gun tilting down (which would mean that the mugger's trigger arm/hand is up at a weirdly high angle, right?) yet the writer's still got his front to the gun barrel (why isn't the writer just running away at this point? why is he just standing facing the mugger's side?), so when the gun fires the BB hits the writer in the front of his thigh...And the mugger fires the BB gun while it's still in his pocket (with the wallet?) lying across his own belly...And how'd he get the wallet in there anyway, while keeping his finger on the trigger -- by slipping the wallet past the barrel?

I can kind of imagine how that would physically work, but it seems like the mugger would have to, I don't know, inch into position somehow and carry out the mugging while standing and moving crab-style, and then would have to fire the BB gun in shock, which doesn't seem like a normal instinct considering the gun is in his pocket I guess across his own stomach. Why would he be using a BB gun anyway? He's randomly walking around with a BB gun? Or he's out to rob people, so he decides that a BB gun is the best choice of weapon? Even if he's just going to use something that he found lying around his apartment (or whatever), wouldn't he use something smaller, like a dirty syringe or a knife, so that he could pull the weapon out of his pocket and menace the writer while blocking what's going on to the rest of the bystanders with his body? This all just seems so logistically awkward.

Then the mugger just stands there watching while the writer calls 911 on the phone two inches away from him? Wouldn't he just take the phone out of the writer's hand while the writer is unlocking it or whatever to dial 911? The mugger just stands there waiting patiently for the writer to dial, because he's calm, I guess, but at that moment he's also deciding to shoot the guy (with his not!gun?)? So then the mugger has also got his arm weirdly raised and is standing off to the side of the writer, so that he can shoot him awkwardly in the thigh with an obviously not real gun? And the writer is so calm while he's fiddling with his phone and stuff and has a what he thinks is a gun trained on him that, instead of paying attention to just the gun or even the mugger, he's watching the construction guys and carrying on a conversation with the dispatcher? The writer says the time seemed to slow down while he was handing over the wallet, but it seems like time is doing weird things during this moment.

And when the writer starts screaming that someone has a gun, why is nobody ducking for cover or getting out of the way? That causes zero panic, that there's some lunatic with a gun supposedly running around ? If I were walking down the street and someone started screaming about a gun, I not only wouldn't think that was an invitation to chase down the gunman, I would think that was a warning to get inside! I also would assume that the guy doing the *chasing* was the gunman, not the guy being chased. What dispatcher is going to tell someone to chase after a mugger, especially after the person calling her already been shot? And why chase down the mugger at that point anyway, considering that the writer has his wallet and phone back by then? The mugger didn't even successfully mug him, what's the writer going to do if he catches the failed!mugger, slap him for shooting him with a BB?

And then, I'm not even going to go on too much about the cops because I think the story starts to get really pretty fanciful at that point. How would the writer even know it's the Sergeant's last day? Why would the cops tell him that "this never happens here," or apologize for being "late," or bring him down to the station (I have reported stolen cars without going to the station. The only time I've ever heard of someone going to the station instead of giving their report on the spot is if something very major happened, like there was a death, or if the person going to the station is the one in trouble).

The coda about the article in the paper about a "discarded" BB gun and knife -- in what paper, the New York Times? And why would it even be "discarded" -- nobody just picked it up and took it home or threw it out, they just left it there and the police found it when they scoured the area?
posted by rue72 at 6:53 PM on December 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yeah...if somebody armed only with a BB gun takes your stuff, you bear some portion of the responsibility.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 7:09 PM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


IIRC armed robbery is usually considered armed robbery even with a fake weapon.
posted by Artw at 7:20 PM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


The "article" referenced in the story

Not familiar with the TriBeCa Tribune, but according to the news story it happened in May.

Definitely inconsistencies in the article and the FPP. It would seem he gave up the phone and a bystander called police... By the article anyway . But the author did say they got the details wrong, so...
posted by Debaser626 at 7:34 PM on December 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


Nice one, Debaser626!
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 7:37 PM on December 12, 2013


My ex was shot with a paintball gun. She was on the freeway with her window open and a neighboring driver shot her, with, I believe, red paint. She thought she'd been shot with a gun. It was one of the major experiences of her life. Yes, we live in California.
posted by latkes at 7:53 PM on December 12, 2013


Once someone tried to mug me in Downtown SF. He had a hand in his pocket and pointed his pocket at me, gun-style. I laughed and said, "I only have bus money and I am not giving it to you." Which was true. Then he said, "Do you want to die over a dollar?" While he pointed his pocket at me. I just kept talking to him, and people started to walk up the sidewalk toward us - not to intervene - but because they happened to be walking that way. He saw them getting closer and just crossed the street and left.

I wouldn't advise my course of action, it was just my instinct. I was so broke.
posted by latkes at 7:58 PM on December 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yeah...if somebody armed only with a BB gun takes your stuff, you bear some portion of the responsibility.

I don't think we should be blaming the victim for not resisting an assailant who appears to have a gun. Someone desperate enough to mug and shoot you with a BB gun could also be carrying a knife.
posted by justkevin at 7:58 PM on December 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


Yeah...if somebody armed only with a BB gun takes your stuff, you bear some portion of the responsibility.

He never gave up his phone, and he got his wallet back just by yelling at the dude. So the guy took his stuff, but then he gave it back. Which portion of that is the mugee's responsibility?

Why are the paragraphs numbered? Are these Bible verses or something?

1. Everything on the web.

2. Is now.

3. A listicle.
posted by mr_roboto at 8:08 PM on December 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


I was in a bike accident once. I got run off the road by a car driven by somebody who wasn't paying attention. From this, I know two things: First, five minutes later I could not accurately tell you what color the car was, or for all I remember now it could have been a truck. I think it was a car. Part of me wants to say it was maroon. Even just saying that makes me feel more sure it was a maroon car which now makes me quite sure I have no idea what I'm talking about.

Second, I walked all the way the rest of the way to work and worked the rest of the day and didn't go to the doctor until the following day to find out I'd broken my hand in several very awkward places. Getting quite hurt really doesn't hurt as much as you think it would when you're already crazypants on adrenaline, and so I'm not sure if I was in the middle of that if I'd be able to tell the difference between really being shot and being shot with a BB gun, either. So I think it's very likely it didn't quite happen as written, but I wouldn't lay any blame on the author for it.
posted by Sequence at 8:09 PM on December 12, 2013 [12 favorites]


I feel like you are completely overthinking this, rue72. As easy as you find it to disbelieve this story, I find it just as easy to believe it (and visualize how it would've happened).

Re: what Sequence said, though, yeah, I got in a traumatic car accident four years ago, and while I remembered all the details very well immediately afterward (and typed them up as soon as I got home—my reporter training kicking in), I had this weird experience a week or so ago that made me ponder my memories from that time.

I was in a story-idea meeting at work, and I said, hey, we've never written about X thing, maybe we should cover that. And a writer piped up and said, "Well, there was that whole feature I wrote about it." And everyone laughed. I said, "Oh...yeah." In fact, I had only the vaguest glimmer of a memory of the story, which was strange, because I usually remember the details of every story I edit very well.

That was disquieting, so I investigated. Turns out, that story went through during the month I got in that car accident. While it may have actually been edited initially by someone other than me (that was a time of transition in my life in more ways than one), I almost certainly would've seen it and made updates to it. So now I'm wondering what else I forgot!
posted by limeonaire at 8:22 PM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: I didn’t read the whole thing. Just the headline.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 8:27 PM on December 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


I am amazed that meth addicts rob someone without careful planning.
posted by benzenedream at 8:41 PM on December 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think it's kind of silly to say that the author made this all up. I mean, maybe he did. But if you've seen Rashomon or ever done any research in memory studies, you'll know that shit get all weird and stuff when you're stressed and shocked and you don't know what's going on. Logic abandons the fearful, a lesson Spinoza taught us. Give the guy the benefit of the doubt.
posted by dis_integration at 8:45 PM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Limeonaire, concussions will do that to you. I fell off a skateboard going about 30 or 35 one time, (down O'shaughnessey, for you San Franciscans) & knocked my head pretty hard on the pavement. I jumped right up & ran after my board because I was worrried about it getting run over, then me & my buddy decided I was alright & proceeded to keep skating for another hour or so - it was our lunch period during high school.

I "came to" over 3 hours later in 6th period journalism class about 3 o'clock, having no idea how I'd gotten there, or where I'd been since before lunch. It took weeks for me to slowly piece those 3 hours back together, & it was still like a dream, or a story someone had told me.

The initial adrenaline rush probably kept me going for a bit, then I some how functioned in a blackout state for a good while, then just snapped out of it. Brain trauma is weird and unpredictable, and adrenaline also makes us do weird and unpredictable things. Bad combo.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:49 PM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Heh. I just realized this is the guy from a couple of months ago who was photographed sitting on a park bench, typing using a typewriter.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 9:45 PM on December 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


I feel like you are completely overthinking this, rue72. As easy as you find it to disbelieve this story, I find it just as easy to believe it (and visualize how it would've happened).

I'm not incredulous at the idea of someone trying to mug a random passerby. So, sure, the writer might be misremembering rather than lying. Which is why I said that I don't believe the story, not that I thought the writer is necessarily trying to con us. But regardless of whether the writer intends this as memoir or fiction, there is just no way the story makes sense as told. I won't be redundant and list all the reasons here, I already did that in my long-winded post above.

Anyway, even if things happened in exactly the way that the writer says they did, then his resentment that nobody else tried to chase down an ostensibly armed man after a failed mugging is still ridiculous, to me. He should really take a page from everyone else's book and not try to chase down desperate, armed strangers who have just shot somebody, especially when the fleeing gunman has failed to actually steal anything.

And if this is all real, my takeaway is: crime in New York must really be down if nobody tried to pocket that abandoned BB gun before the police got around to looking for it.
posted by rue72 at 9:52 PM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


This seems completely realistic (I've been mugged once successfully and one or two times people have tried things unsuccessfully). I have no idea why anyone would think this isn't true.

I would probably try to trip someone running away from a mugging, but then, I am stupid that way. I'd be surprised if anyone else tried to do that.

Definitely, if you are mugged with a gun, the first thing to do is to look at the gun and figure out if it's real. The time I was successfully mugged, I instantly identified the gun as fake. While it didn't prevent me from being mugged, it certainly reduced the nastiness of the possible outcomes... I was able to resist somewhat and reduce my losses to $20 ($20 that I really needed, mind you) and a fat ear.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:34 PM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Go home kid.
posted by ReeMonster at 10:48 PM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Kind of surprised the cops dusted for prints - when we got burgled last year (nothing really taken, thankfully) they didn't bother, basically shook their heads indulgently at us having watched too many TV shows then left us a crime report to fill in so they could put it somewhere where they could ignore it.--Artw

You should move to the suburbs. I once had a, maybe $80, car stereo stolen and the police came out and took fingerprints all over my car. My prints are probably in their files now along with some punk high school kid's. I think sometimes police get bored in the suburbs.

Though they got a little excitement when someone got mugged with an 'uzi type' gun right in front of the very large police station.
posted by eye of newt at 10:53 PM on December 12, 2013


When I lived in Africa, I more than once came across a completely naked person, sometimes bleeding around the face a bit, in the middle of a busy urban street. From the first time it happened, in Nakuru, Kenya, I was uninformed but at the same time uniquely aware of what was going on. My Kenyan buddy in the car confirmed it for me when I asked - did the crowd catch this guy trying to pick-pocket or something?

It's a very effective crowd response to street crime. Its hard to walk up to someone and steal their wallet when your naked, as luck would have it.
posted by allkindsoftime at 11:00 PM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Kind of surprised the cops dusted for prints..."

I'm surprised when they don't. Burglaries and similar crimes are very often committed by repeat offenders who have already been arrested and their prints are on file. Even if a particular burglary or mugging is no big deal, they may be on probation or parole and, anyway, it's adding to a body of evidence that can be used against them later.

"Uh you don't even need to invoke the bystander effect. I'm sure as hell not going to go chasing after someone with a gun, to save your wallet."

Yeah, the "he definitely has a gun!" thing pretty much put the kibosh on any bystanders helping. Anyone who would have thinking there was a gun would have been very foolish.

"Guns make a loud bang when they are fired. BB guns go pop."

Yes, but a) a small-caliber handgun isn't like the movies, it sounds more like a firecracker (or even quieter than that) than it anything like movie/tv guns; and b) the bystanders didn't necessarily know that the mugger had fired the pellet gun (note: it was a pellet, not a BB, which you can use to hunt small game) because, as you say, it's relatively quiet.

"I would think an unarmed mugger, pretending to have a real gun, wouldn't give himself away like this - especially once he had a wallet."

At that point, he's not really giving anything away. The pellet gun isn't entirely non-threatening and, anyway, the guy was dialing 911 which the mugger might have feared would alert police nearby enough that he might be caught. He was trying to scare the guy into not dialing. Or at least distract him.

"I'm kind of incredulous that anyone could mistake being shot with a BB gun for being shot, but hey people act weird when panicked."

This is mistaken in both directions. As Horace Rumpole mentions, if you haven't been shot, you just know that your leg hurts and the guy had a gun. You have nothing to compare it to.

But in the other direction, a major study of gunshot victims in Chicago over several years found that the majority of them didn't even realize they were shot for about thirty seconds, and some didn't realize it for a couple of minutes, until bleeding and pain alerted them.

Television and film have badly misled people about gunshots. They're not that loud and they certainly don't cause people to fly backwards. Mefites probably are well aware of this. But also, unless the injury is to something that causes immediate disability or is otherwise impossible to not be aware of, the way that the body reacts to severe injuries of this sort means that often you don't feel any pain right away, even if the wound is quite bad.

Most gunshot victims are completely ambulatory, at least initially. This is a really big reason why police officers are trained to just unload their clips when they shoot — one shot isn't going to stop an attacker unless it's to the brain or the heart.

"...so he is trying to make a dramatic story out of a not-particularly-dramatic event"

Oh, please. This is a more violent criminal encounter than most people in the US will ever experience. It's a dramatic event unless you live an extraordinary life or measure "drama" of real-life experience by fictional standards.

"Limeonaire, concussions will do that to you."

Not just concussion, but shock. An experience like he describes, if he's not used to anything so traumatic, could easily cause him to experience shock and that impairs cognition and memory. If you've never experienced this, it's really weird and you don't necessarily know that it's happening. I've had it happen twice, both when I was much younger — once when it was just a very emotional situation and where I punched a wooden fence (which did cause some injury to my hand), and once when I was in a highway motorcycle accident that I was very fortunate to not be seriously injured (just bad road rash and a couple of fractured toes) but which did really cause me to experience shock. I just couldn't think and I didn't realize it until someone told me it was happening.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:36 AM on December 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Like a gun-muff.

*sigh* Gun-cozy. Muffs are entirely too soft and luxurious in fur, whereas the crocheted pattern of a cozy allows for a smoother action th... look, you don't even own a gun, do you? When you've educated yourself on the variety of shuttle-woven fabrics available for firearms we can talk. Gun-muff in-deed. Put white silk on a rifle after April why don't you? *scoffs*

it seems like the mugger would have to, I don't know, inch into position somehow and carry out the mugging while standing and moving crab-style

The crab-style is immensely strong and immune to nearly any weapon. When it's properly used, it's almost invincible.

Yeah...if somebody armed only with a BB gun takes your stuff, you bear some portion of the responsibility.

Nnnnaaaah. Someone threatens you with a weapon and they want your stuff, give them your stuff. Do whatever's necessary to save your life, but be completely willing to sacrifice any object or thing in your possession to do it. It's not worth the trouble.

Some of them were dead ringers for stand-up comedians. A lot of the men wore Hawaiian shirts.

They tried to stand up and fly straight, but it wasn't easy with that sumbitch Reagan Obama in the White House. I dunno. They say he's a decent man, so maybe his advisors are confused.

I know a superhero movie is the least likely thing to be based on fact, but I guess I hoped it could be grounded in some deep-seated truth about a helpful, New York City-based well of human kindness.

So...like what? I'm hard pressed to think of a scenario where this guy gets help (of the kind he's talking about) and no one gets hurt.
I mean, ok, Option #1 shoot the mugger. So "This man has a fucking gun! This man stole my fucking wallet!" - BLAM this man's brains are now all over your phone and your clothes, my gun-cozy has a dark hole in it and so my ensemble is ruined, and this man's family doesn't get to see him no more.
Option #2: somehow notice it's a BB gun in the melee. That would take a near-superhuman presence of mind. I have a near-superhuman presence of mind. I also have muscle memory. Which is a neat thing where you react at amazing speed reflexively. So I might notice, 'Say, that's just a BB gun,' until he points it at me and I react the way its been impressed into me. See option #1.
Option#3: The mugger somehow waves the BB gun around conspicuously during flight. I take him. Option #3a he points the gun at me before I control him(See Option #1, I am not going to get shot at by anything. BB gun, flare gun, anything.)
Option#3b I control him and disarm him.
- How?
Because as much as being a brick can be fun, it's not so fun when you have to reign it in because your opponent is jello. So - mid to late 40s. Heavyset. Balding. And I hit him like a linebacker hitting grandma, maybe break something getting the gun away from him, probably a finger (how sure am I it's a BB gun in those seconds?) and I put his head on concrete, I'm probably sitting on his chest. Heavyset guy. He's been panic running.
Option#3b1: He has a heart attack.
Option#3b2: He's seriously injured.
Option#3b3: He's neither.
Option#3b4: Surprise! He's also got a knife.
Controlled violence isn't magic. A blubbery guy with a knife really limits your odds. It means either he hurts (or kills) you, or you hurt him enough to drop it and capture him or you resume disengagement. I mean, it's not a matter of life or death if the guy gets away. It's not a Kitty Genovese scenario. So let him go.

I'll stop there. It's getting lugubrious. But the odds that no one gets injured are generally less likely than someone gets hurt. If I could dodge bullets, throw webbing and bend steel with my bare hands then maybe the high percentages would favor otherwise.
It's possible to take someone down and use the ground to control them. But, as it is, he's not going to get the opportunity to tap out or anything and there's no guarantee the police are going to arrive in a timely manner. So, what, I'm sitting with a bow and arrow choke on a guy for 40 minutes? I'm on my way to a wedding, or a job interview, or any number of other things so, what, I tie him up with the handy rope I carry for such occasions?

Meanwhile - how bad is Hermelin's injury? Is the best use of my time immobilizing this guy while ignoring the leg wound?
There are very few long term (relative to the situation) solutions that wind up with no one hurt.

No, the best case scenario is disengagement. It's better if it's on your terms but if he's retreating, don't interrupt him.
If people want to snap a picture of him, bear witness, so much the better. Tripping him, throwing him down, even for someone trained, is a dicey option.
Given you have a late 40s chubby guy willing to pull a trigger - albeit on a BB gun, but that's still doing harm and the guy is obviously not that bright - They've got a name for people like that. That name is called "recidivism."
Police would probably know the guy if they had a picture.

So "hey, take a picture of that guy!" might be a better thing to shout. People are documenting most of their lives now. Not much effort to get a pic or a movie and message it to you.
If people can't summon enough to bear witness, yeah, that's apathy.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:55 AM on December 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


Kind of surprised the cops dusted for prints - when we got burgled last year (nothing really taken, thankfully) they didn't bother, basically shook their heads indulgently at us having watched too many TV shows then left us a crime report to fill in so they could put it somewhere where they could ignore it.

I'm surprised when they don't. Burglaries and similar crimes are very often committed by repeat offenders who have already been arrested and their prints are on file. Even if a particular burglary or mugging is no big deal, they may be on probation or parole and, anyway, it's adding to a body of evidence that can be used against them later.

I'm surprised by how all-over-the-map people's responses are, and it's making me wonder -- what do you guys expect in terms of catching a petty criminal or from the cops in an event like this?

It wouldn't occur to me to try and catch/hold a mugger or thief until the cops show up -- if you got your stuff back, I would consider that a happy surprise and major win. The writer was probably not thinking clearly, so it seems misguided but not inexplicable that he would chase after the mugger at the time -- but it's now pretty long after the fact, and he still seems upset about other people not chasing down the mugger with him or reconsidering if he should have chased him, and apparently his friends agree with him. Is chasing down the mugger a response that seems normal to you? What would be the end goal, especially in a situation like this when the mugger isn't actually carrying any stolen property?

It also wouldn't occur to me that, in a situation like this, anything would happen in terms of police involvement -- though since a gun was sorta involved, the original call to 911 does make sense (well, in some ways -- why you would be trying to unlock and dial a phone inches away from a gun barrel, and how you wouldn't just be staring at the gun barrel and mugger and not really able to concentrate on your phone at that moment, I don't know, but...?!). In a situation like the writer's, I'd expect to wait around until the cops showed up, make a statement that's going to be filed away never to be seen again, and *maybe* be given a particular cop's business card. I wouldn't expect the mugger to be caught, let alone to get into any real trouble for it (what would "real trouble" even be?). That's basically what has happened when I've called about a stolen car, a broken-into car, a car that a person was demolishing right then with some kind of pipe/baseball bat, and etc -- literally anything petty- or property-crime-related that my relatives or friends or neighbors or I have called about has gone through that same routine. For smaller or slipperier stuff, the cops have basically been like, ugh deal with it, and won't come out or take any kind of report at all. And as far as I remember, nobody I know who's been mugged has even bothered reporting the mugging to the police, except as far as sometimes filing the form for a lost Driver's License so that they can get a new one. Are the cops' apologies for the wait and the extensive questioning down at the station things that seem normal to you? What would you expect their "investigation" and behavior to be like?

Oh, please. This is a more violent criminal encounter than most people in the US will ever experience. It's a dramatic event unless you live an extraordinary life or measure "drama" of real-life experience by fictional standards.

I agree that getting mugged is a dramatic event, but it also doesn't seem extraordinary to me. It seems like one of those things you try to take precautions against but that are sort of inevitable -- like getting into a car accident or falling down stairs. Are people thinking of this as "violent criminal encounter" or as "yup, shit happens" (or is there no difference?)? Does that align in some way with how you expect the cops to handle it?

Sorry if I sound like an alien from another planet asking these questions, I just find the range of people's reactions and expectations really interesting/astounding. And wow, maybe I've been incredibly callous, because some of these expectations didn't even occur to me.
posted by rue72 at 2:22 AM on December 13, 2013


"I agree that getting mugged is a dramatic event, but it also doesn't seem extraordinary to me."

It's not extraordinary in general. For the average individual American, having it happen to them is extraordinary. It's more extraordinary than getting into a car accident. I know one person who's ever been mugged. It happened when he lived in New York.

So I suppose that among New Yorkers, and even then I wouldn't expect someone who worked in the financial district to be the kind of New Yorker who is likely to be mugged, maybe it makes sense to think of being mugged as a common experience that you can expect people you know and possibly yourself to eventually have. But for most people, that's certainly not the case, even in the other largest cities.

And even then, it's a face-to-face criminal interaction where you've personally been threatened. I have trouble understanding why anyone would think that this guy wouldn't be upset and feel traumatized about it. Everyone I know who's had their home burgled has felt traumatized from it. It's a violation, and that's not even a personal encounter.

And I agree that it's unreasonable to expect the police to do much about this. I'm surprised they had him come to the station and look through mug shots. Not that that was necessarily a waste of time, they might have been able to actually arrest a guy if he'd been able to identify him.

People are hurt and sometimes killed in muggings and muggers do, in fact, use deadly weapons. That is a crime that the police take seriously. They don't know that this mugger hasn't, or won't, actually badly hurt someone. The guy was shot, even though with a pellet gun, that's a violent crime. The police rightly take violent crime seriously.

Even so, this isn't one that would likely lead to an arrest so, yeah, they're not going to take it that seriously. They had him look through the mug shots probably because it occured in the financial district and he was actually injured. Otherwise, they probably wouldn't have.

But all I disputed was the thing about taking fingerprints. It's pretty trivial to take fingerprints and even when they don't match anything they already have, they will have those prints on file as an unidentified person who later might be arrested, or leave fingerprints elsewhere, and so there's evidence and one or more crimes could be solved and an arrest made. Or, like I said, it could lead to someone on probation or parole going back to jail. It's trivial to do, doesn't involve that much paperwork, and then it sits there waiting to be useful later. That's a far cry from expecting the police to put out alerts or go interviewing witnesses or whatever. They won't do those things, of course they won't. Take a few fingerprints? Not a big deal.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:53 AM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


1. This reads, to me, as entirely plausible.

2. I really liked the numbered paragraphs. So much so I'm going to use it from here on out. Even when talking to my kids.

3. "Go home kid." Best advice. Then,

4. oh right, the typewriter guy. I like the Awl more than not - it reminds me a little of the NY Press when Russ Smith owned it, all these terrific writers worked there. Smith really knew what he was doing. And there were some duds. Like this (for me) it all reads a little like, "Fuck I had a hit with that typewriter-dork in the park shtick... now what... Maybe, yeah, maybe I could talk about getting mugged..."

5. I dunno. It could be I'm just worrying about lawn.

6. But seriously kid, who the fuck is going to interfere with someone with a gun? I've been around guns on the street in NYC, and it's a fucking misery. To this day I fucking hate that gun shit. In the forest, hunters, fine - on the street? Jesus I hate that. I was on the subway platform once and some smart-ass threw a firecracker - ka-POW! Everyone's diving every which way, trying desperately to put something massive between the sound and body because the sound was so much like gun-shot: we'd been conditioned. You don't have to live like that.

7. Another time, back in the 80's-90's: a deserted Sunday morning and I was headed to the Subway. I crossed in front of this car. The car was going the wrong way down the street, n.3rd st, in Brooklyn, a block from Kokie's (cf FPP from last spring). I got past the car and the guy called me back, asking for directions, I thought, but when I got nearer the car he reached under his seat in a way so evocative of reaching for a gun I did not wait to see if it really would be but instead turned and ran fast as I could. It was a fucking nightmare. There were no cars, no dumpsters, nothing to hide behind - and with every step waiting to hear the PAP! PAP! which wasn't coming. Finally I risked a look back, I was a good ten yards away. And the guy is out of his car. He's a little guy, and he's holding a car jack. A car jack. No gun. To play it down, we'll say I was full of adrenaline and at the sight of the jack, offended. I looked to find something to hit him with, I saw a near future involving mayhem but I needed a field-leveling tool. A car pulled up, a guy about my age rolled down his window, "Hey man, what's up?" I explained that I thought this guy was going to shoot me, but he only had a car jack and so I was going to fuck him up for being so rude. This guy's eyes lit up and started to get out of his car. His friend joined him. I was emboldened, fuck tools. I took another step and then the friend said, "Yo, 5-0 man." and all of them got back in their cars and in two seconds were gone. The patrol car drifted down the street, no one paid attention. I stood there panting.

8. I never got that worked up getting mugged. But the gun was evident then, or the knife.
posted by From Bklyn at 3:24 AM on December 13, 2013


I doubt that a simple mugging, perpetrated in the heart of an area devoted 24-7 to emptying the bank accounts of millions of people, would even be noticed or acknowledged. A bit like the effect a kid with a lemonade stand has on Coca-Cola.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:12 AM on December 13, 2013


It's weird the number of people armchair quarterbacking this. How on earth can you judge a guy for not being able to tell the difference between a BB gun and a real gun during a moment of panic?

Regardless of whether his story is totally true, he was fine afterwards, so he is trying to make a dramatic story out of a not-particularly-dramatic event. Maybe he's from Iowa

I don't know, it sounds a least a little dramatic to me. If someone tries to mug me, even if it's a fake weapon, it's going to ruin my day. but maybe I'm just a rube from Iowa.
posted by Think_Long at 5:54 AM on December 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


How on earth can you judge a guy for not being able to tell the difference between a BB gun and a real gun during a moment of panic?

because we have all seen Crocodile Dundee mate.
posted by srboisvert at 6:24 AM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


>>Except that in this case the robber only demonstrated that he wasn't holding a gun at all, but a BB pistol.

"But"? Shoot your eye out, Ralphie.


I have a friend whose eye actually was shot out with a BB gun when he was a kid. It happens, people!
posted by slkinsey at 7:16 AM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Television and film have badly misled people about gunshots. They're not that loud and they certainly don't cause people to fly backwards.

I think this is true in both directions. They may mislead about the loudness and stopping power of small caliber handguns, but on the other hand when was the last time you saw a bad guy on the screen shooting a .22? On the other hand, large caliber handguns are quite loud and will most certainly cause temporary (or even permanent) hearing loss if you are close enough. All those scenes where TV detectives are shooting their .45s from inside the car and everyone doesn't come out stone deaf are complete bullcrap. And, while it's true that taking a large caliber handgun round to a significant chunk of body mass won't make you fly backwards, it will most certainly make you stop whatever you're doing.
posted by slkinsey at 7:28 AM on December 13, 2013


"Limeonaire, concussions will do that to you."

Not just concussion, but shock.


Alas, I didn't have a concussion, and I wasn't in shock—I wasn't injured at all. I was just shocked. I think it was some sort of PTSD, in my case.
posted by limeonaire at 7:32 AM on December 13, 2013


Look. I'm pretty intimately familiar with guns, and the idea of not recognizing a BB gun seems ludicrous to me. However, I also accept that most people are not me. In the most heavily disarmed city in the United States, why the fuck should this guy be expected to recognize a gun? It's like trying to recognize an exotic animal that you've only seen in films. And yes, anyone who's been shot before by anything could tell the difference, but this guy probably hasn't been shot even by a paintball gun - which if memory serves are also tightly regulated in NYC.

That said, I still think there's some bullshit here.
I felt a searing pain in my leg, but the sound of the shot wasn’t deafening. I stayed on the phone, I spoke to the dispatcher. She told me to follow the man at a safe distance.
Are you fucking kidding me? No dispatcher would ever tell a fucking gunshot victim to hobble after the shooter. If they did, they would be fired. Remember, at that time he says he didn't know it was only a BB shot, and the dispatcher wouldn't know either because all she has is the phone.

This is the part that marks at least a significant part of the story as a lie.
posted by corb at 7:56 AM on December 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


I don't think we should be blaming the victim for not resisting an assailant who appears to have a gun. Someone desperate enough to mug and shoot you with a BB gun could also be carrying a knife.

And I don't think we should be condoning the radical wimpification of humanity.

Someone without a BB gun may be carrying a knife. There's no indication that the criminal was carrying a knife. If you resist, and he turns out to be, then, by all means, back off.

People have certain responsibilities to resist injustice. Stealing your hard-earned stuff is injustice as surely as denying you, say, your freedom of speech or movement. One has to use judgment, of course--no one would deny that. But if you get to the place where you won't even resist and take your stuff back after you already realize it's just a BB gun, then you--at the very least--bear some measure of responsibility.

Sadly, "don't blame the victim"--which is sound advice--has started to mean do not admit that people have any responsibility whatsoever for defending their own rights. which is lunacy.

Of course if the person in question has an enormous advantage over you (he's huge, you're tiny...he has a real gun...etc.) then the obligation to resist injustice is relaxed. However, the line of thinking suggested by denying my fairly minimal claim is that, even if you have a very high probability of successfully resisting injustice (say, an obviously small and weak person with no weapon demands your stuff), you have no obligation to do so. But that is lunacy.

People who refuse to resist injustice even when they have a good chance of doing so at only a fairly minimal risk to themselves are free riders on those who accept their responsibilities to do so.

In brief: cowardice is wrong.

(Of course, if you're rich, defending your stuff might not be worth the hassle. Though now you're helping out someone who might steal from the non-rich next time...)
posted by Fists O'Fury at 8:16 AM on December 13, 2013


yesterday in broad daylight, sitting at the bus stop in my relatively safe neighborhood, a punkass teen snatched my phone right out of my hand and ran.

he ran toward the police station a block away and I chased him until a police officer standing outside told me to stop and he would take it from here.

I was sent inside and the desk clerk asked my recollection of what happened, I guess to start a report, and I could barely remember a thing despite it happening not five minutes prior. I couldn't remember what the kid looked like or what color jacket he had on. all I remember is thinking how could this happen to me while running after him.

and I didn't even stop to consider if this guy had a weapon. a few weeks ago a ladyfriend of a friend was punched in the face before her phone was stolen and I didn't even stop to think if this guy would punch me too. I just ran after him and I would have ran after him until I couldn't have anymore. which, since I'm out of shape, would have been maybe another block.

so what I'm saying is that sometimes shit gets distorted after bad things happen to you. two days ago I think in would have been in the "this story smells fishy" territory but now I'm like "poor dude doesn't even know what happened"

and no, the police officer didn't catch him.
posted by kerning at 8:49 AM on December 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Kerning: Yep. I was mugged last year while out running at 8:30 am, in a nice neighborhood with lots of people around. Kid on a bike rode up to me, pushed me into a fence and grabbed my phone. I was so shocked/surprised, I started running after him, even though that was a bad idea and there's no way I would have been able to catch up with him anyway. I remember yelling something ridiculous after him, like, "Why would you DO that???"

There were lots of people around, and a woman offered to drive me the six blocks to my house. I called the police, not expecting anything, but not only did a bunch of them show up immediately, they took me down to the station, took my statement, and then took me on a freaking ride-along to see if I could identify the guy who did it (after a few guys with bikes and green hoodies had been rounded up). They took it way more seriously than I expected.

It was unsettling and weird, all of it, the phone-swiping and the police part of things, for all kinds of reasons, and trying to make sense of it afterwards, even in the most literal this-happened-then-that-happened way, was difficult at first because of the whole adrenaline/shock/etc thing. And this was something minor and relatively no big deal, considering. So, yeah.
posted by mothershock at 9:10 AM on December 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


But if you get to the place where you won't even resist and take your stuff back after you already realize it's just a BB gun, then you--at the very least--bear some measure of responsibility.

Uh. No. You honestly don't. Victims are not to blame for crimes perpetrated upon them, full fucking stop.

And frankly I don't consider any material object I own worth ANY physical violence; I'm not gonna get myself punched over an iPhone, I'm not gonna get myself shot (with ANYthing) over my laptop. It's just fucking stuff, man.

And no, I'm not so rich that it wouldn't be a hassle to lose these items. But shit, man. I'm a tiny woman who's been knocked out a couple times in her life --once by someone even smaller than I am-- and shit. Just. Ain't. Worth. It.
posted by like_a_friend at 10:07 AM on December 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


And I don't think we should be condoning the radical wimpification of humanity.

A phenomenon also known by the vast majority of humans as "civilization."
posted by like_a_friend at 10:09 AM on December 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


I don't think any of us can categorically say something is considered civilized by the vast majority of humans - and I think you'd be very surprised about what some people consider necessary and proper in other cultures and places.
posted by corb at 10:11 AM on December 13, 2013


You're right, corb, I should merely have said by many. And likely the vast majority in this particular culture--the culture of the story in the FPP. I lived in Manhattan a long while and never met a single person who really, truly, longed for their life to be MORE like Thunderdome.
posted by like_a_friend at 10:13 AM on December 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Victims are not to blame for crimes perpetrated upon them, full fucking stop."

That bears repeating.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:27 AM on December 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


I'm surprised he got mugged at all, considering all the Ex Post Facto internet tough guys (and gals) in this thread.

"radical wimpification" Christ.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 11:11 AM on December 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


corb: “This is the part that marks at least a significant part of the story as a lie.”

I would not say "lie," necessarily. I would say "untruth." People misremember a lot of details of these kinds of experiences.

But no matter what we think of the truth of this story, this part, at least, is very ill-considered:

“31. Whenever I tell people about what happened, they are shocked that no one came running. My roommate is convinced that it would have only taken one person, and then everyone would have leaped into action. I like to think that if I had been around, and this happened to someone else, I would have changed my stride, but it’s impossible to know. And I’d rather not find out. It’s easier to have lofty ideals about yourself when they will probably go untested.”

"Leaped into action?" "Changed my stride?" What exactly are people supposed to "leap into action" when they see one person point a gun at another person in broad daylight?

A note for my fellow citizens: if you see someone pointing a gun at me and demanding my phone and wallet – for the love of God, please, do not leap into action. Do not run toward him. Do not chase him. Do not shout and call other people to rush over to help. I don't want to get shot, and I don't want you to get shot.
posted by koeselitz at 12:27 PM on December 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


corb: “Look. I'm pretty intimately familiar with guns, and the idea of not recognizing a BB gun seems ludicrous to me. However, I also accept that most people are not me. In the most heavily disarmed city in the United States, why the fuck should this guy be expected to recognize a gun? It's like trying to recognize an exotic animal that you've only seen in films. And yes, anyone who's been shot before by anything could tell the difference, but this guy probably hasn't been shot even by a paintball gun - which if memory serves are also tightly regulated in NYC.”

I agree. Also, incidentally, I have been around guns a bit, and I remember my friends having those little plastic Daisy rifles when I was a kid, but there are apparently some models available at Walmart now that would give me plenty of pause if someone pointed one at me. Particularly the replicas of actual guns.
posted by koeselitz at 12:33 PM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Those are actually remarkable lookalikes, koeselitz. I take my response back, I'm totally an old-fogey! I probably would not personally be fooled, but I'd be relying on things like weight and how it was handled and the sheen of the material. I would not expect even non-New Yorkers to recognize those as not-a-gun.

I'd probably leap into action if I saw a gun, myself, but honestly, it's all combat training that operates on reflex at this point and may not even be the smartest thing to do in a non-combat situation. It's hard to say, but I don't expect anyone to fight a gun with their fists.
posted by corb at 12:49 PM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Uh. No. You honestly don't. Victims are not to blame for crimes perpetrated upon them, full fucking stop.

And frankly I don't consider any material object I own worth ANY physical violence; I'm not gonna get myself punched over an iPhone, I'm not gonna get myself shot (with ANYthing) over my laptop. It's just fucking stuff, man.


Uh, yeah, actually, for the reasons I've already explained. Saying "uh, no" is not an argument.

To repeat: you are, in the imagined case, going to get yourself shot *with a BB gun,* ferthelova...

"It's just fucking stuff" is the kind of thing people say when they (a) have not had to really work for their stuff, and (b) have no self-respect.

People don't get to take your stuff. If you've worked for your stuff, then that's your life you've invested in it. Stealing your stuff is tantamount to enslaving you for however long it took to earn the money for the stuff.

The very idea of simply cowering and handing over your hard-earned stuff to someone who can't seriously harm you is nauseating, and betrays insufficient respect for humans and their autonomy and dignity.

There's a view of humanity (more common, sadly, now on the lefty-left) that has it that we should simply fall on the ground weeping and begging for mercy when faced with certain kinds of adversity. It's a really nauseating view of ourselves and our obligations according to which even minor physical violence is some kind of terror that can never be endured. I wonder what kind of sheltered lives people must have lead to believe such a thing.

Giving in to such injustice when you could stop it at the risk of fairly minimal physical injury puts a kind of radically over-inflated premium on physical safety. It's a damn good thing that our liberal forebears who stood up against civil rights abuses, union-busting, and the bloody Nazis didn't think like that.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 1:02 PM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think it's weird that you have drawn parallels between slavery, the civil rights movement, and not resisting material robbery.

You probably just think I'm a pussy.
posted by Think_Long at 1:11 PM on December 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


People don't get to take your stuff. If you've worked for your stuff, then that's your life you've invested in it. Stealing your stuff is tantamount to enslaving you for however long it took to earn the money for the stuff.

I agree with you, but think your tone is unnecessarily harsh to people who have only lived their lives one way, and been taught that it is morally laudable to allow someone to steal from them rather than do violence. I find it as upsetting as you do, but this isn't going to fix that.
posted by corb at 1:25 PM on December 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


"It's a really nauseating view of ourselves and our obligations according to which even minor physical violence is some kind of terror that can never be endured."

Oh, for fuck's sake.

I am perfectly happy to endure physical violence. Indeed, I'm practically eager for it. I also realize that this makes me not entirely well-adjusted and I have enough goddamned sense to be aware that coming up with elaborate philosophical rationalizations for my predilection for violence is adolescent and embarrassing. Other people lack such sense or self-awareness. People like you.

Your numerous insinuations of cowardice and emasculation, or whatever it is that preoccupies the freudian depths of your psyche, of people present in this thread, are unjustified because these other folk, unlike you, haven't built a philosophy of civilized behavior around their inadequacies, but rather around certain considered principles and practical judgment. You may find that a challenging idea, but, you know, suck it up.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:46 PM on December 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


I remember walking though an underground tunnel in downtown Chicago one morning when I was in my 20s. I was in my suit and carrying my briefcase (and half-asleep) when a man came running out of a newsstand carrying a bunch of stuff. The proprietor of the newsstand was shouting "hey, come back, stop that guy!"

So, in my sleep-addled state, I tried to block the guy, just by standing in his way. His immediate response? He grabbed onto my briefcase and tried to run off with that, too. I wouldn't give, and we struggled for a bit (while the proprietor continued to shout) but he finally let go, and off he went.

Nobody else -- and there were a lot of other people -- did a thing except watch it play out, then they went back to their dull morning commute tunnel-walkthrough. The bystander effect is certainly real (and/or people generally stay out of things they don't want to be involved in), whether this article is or not.
posted by davejay at 2:18 PM on December 13, 2013


Yeah...if somebody armed only with a BB gun takes your stuff, you bear some portion of the responsibility.

I find this opinion disgusting. Someone with a BB gun can blind you. Someone with bare hands can strangle you or gouge your eyes out. When threatened with violence, it is not necessarily unreasonable for anyone to give up the contents of their pockets, and they shouldn't be blamed for doing so.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 3:34 PM on December 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


I felt it was fake because no dispatcher would ever tell you to follow you mugger.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:35 PM on December 13, 2013


did the crowd catch this guy trying to pick-pocket or something?

When I was in Kenya, a mob killed two petty thieves. It was also, I think, in Nakuru. Bad place to be a burglar methinks, but seeing the packed markets in the centre of town, I can understand the appeal.

Kenya: More full on than people generally imagine, I think. I got way more warnings about security when we went to Namibia, spent half the trip incredibly paranoid, and with hindsight really never needed to worry. Got hardly any warnings about Kenya, but heard a lot of scary shit from Kenyans once I was there.
posted by smoke at 5:37 PM on December 13, 2013


I wonder what kind of sheltered lives people must have lead to believe such a thing.

The kind where I've already been subjected to significant physical violence, as well as regular threats of same, just by virtue of being in public with a vagina, and I am goddamn tired of it and no longer consider an electronic gadget to be worth my eyesight, possession of a relatively unimpaired brain, and currently unviolated orifices. Christ on a bike, sorry if that knocks me out of the running for Greatest Generation or something.
posted by like_a_friend at 8:08 PM on December 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


Fists O' Fury: "To repeat: you are, in the imagined case, going to get yourself shot *with a BB gun,* ferthelova..."

But we're talking about a situation here that's so hypothetical that it verges on the hallucinatory. Yes, if someone pointed a little old Daisy pump-action air rifle with the orange plastic thing on the muzzle at me and demanded my wallet, I'd laugh knock them over and take it, even if they shot me in the process. That is absolutely not what happened here, and it's not even likely to happen. What happened here (apparently) was that somebody pointed a gun that was convincing enough that they clearly thought it was real at the guy, he froze, then he chased after them once he realized it wasn't a real gun.

What would you do if someone who knew how to use a gun - or worse probably, someone who didn't know how to use a gun - pointed a real, live gun on you, and you didn't have anything to point back at them? Punch them in the face and take it from them? Life isn't a movie. You can stand defiant and demand that they hurt you before taking your stuff - that's fine. That's a calculation you've made within yourself, and you're free to make that choice. You say you'd be willing to pay whatever price you had to. That's up to you.

Personally, however, I have plenty of self-respect and dignity and surety of my own autonomy. I don't need to go buying self-confidence at the price of the use of my hands or my legs or my eyes or anything else. I like living, and I like having all my parts, and I like those things more than I like feeling like I'm invincible. You feel different, and that's okay. But because I like living, and because I live in a society of humans who generally feel similarly, I have decided to pay people in blue uniforms to carry guns around and attempt to make sure that I'm allowed to go on living without surrendering my valuables to every nut job I pass on the street. And for the most part they do a good job - often too good, but that's an issue for another day.

The point is - people are going to disagree with you on this. That's fine - you're the self-reliant type, and that is okay for you - but like corb says, you've got to accept that most people are not going to be like you in that respect. A human is a political animal, says Aristotle. That means she or he needs other humans - and in a lot of cases it means she or he needs other humans to protect her or him. Those of us who are in that boat are not any less human nor any less members of society.
posted by koeselitz at 9:31 PM on December 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Quite recently there was a 13-year-old boy killed by a sheriff's deputy in Santa Rosa; the boy was carrying a real-looking rifle that was actually an air gun. If someone who is around guns all the time, whose job it is to know about guns, can't tell in an instant if a gun is really a gun or is really not a gun, then expecting that of someone who's maybe only seen guns in movies seems idiotic.
posted by rtha at 8:16 AM on December 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


That said, I still think there's some bullshit here.
I felt a searing pain in my leg, but the sound of the shot wasn’t deafening. I stayed on the phone, I spoke to the dispatcher. She told me to follow the man at a safe distance.
Are you fucking kidding me? No dispatcher would ever tell a fucking gunshot victim to hobble after the shooter. If they did, they would be fired. Remember, at that time he says he didn't know it was only a BB shot, and the dispatcher wouldn't know either because all she has is the phone.

This is the part that marks at least a significant part of the story as a lie.
--corb

911 employees do this! Wasn't there a news story a while back about this guy being threatened by a bunch of racist rednecks and the dispatcher told him to drive back to the scene of the crime, and he ended up getting killed?

I once called in a drunk driver who was swerving all over the freeway. The dispatcher told me to drive up next to him to see if I could see his face for later identification. I think I was doing the 'follow authority figure' thing, because I actually did it. Later I thought about how stupid that was of me. The guy could have swerved over and killed us both. This part of the story was very believable to me because no one would make up such a thing (who would believe it?), yet it really happens.
posted by eye of newt at 5:37 PM on December 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hooded sweatshirts without a zipper typically have a single double-ended center pocket.

I literally did not know or even imagine this, so thanks, I guess!
posted by turbid dahlia at 2:32 PM on December 16, 2013


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