A Home Invasion
My girlfriend and I stumbled back to my house about midnight, a little bit drunk, from a neighbor's party in Cocoa Beach. We staggered upstairs, brushed our teeth and hit the sack right away.
The next thing I knew, the clock on my nightstand said 2:53AM. Vicki was sound asleep beside me. And I had to pee.
Coming back from the bathroom, I noticed a light shining up from ground level outside the rear bedroom window. I'd installed motion sensor lights above all the exterior doors and windows and they were sensitive enough to turn on whenever a raccoon or armadillo wandered by.
Security is a concern for me. Because my family is fairly wealthy, we're targets for robbers and burglars and kidnappers. Four years ago, my sister was snatched off the street in Boca Raton by two men who dragged her into a van driven by a third attacker. Unfortunately for them, she was armed and started shooting. When the smoke cleared, only she and the driver were left alive. He was doing life without parole and my sister had permanent hearing damage. Lesson learned. I wasn't about to make it easy for anyone who came after me.
My high-priced alarm system had become erratic lately, disarming itself without warning or refusing to arm at all. The system was shut down until a service tech could look it over. In the meantime, I was on my own. The security light had probably been activated by some passing critter, but it wouldn't hurt to be sure.
I opened a drawer in the nightstand next to my bed and picked up my home defense weapon. After much thought and experimentation, I'd settled on a Springfield Armory XD .45 pistol. A suppressor was screwed onto the 4" barrel and a powerful flashlight was mounted to the rail in front of the trigger guard. It certainly wasn't a small package, but it was easy to handle indoors. The gun held fourteen rounds of hollow point ammo, thirteen in the magazine plus one more in the chamber. As an added bonus, it wouldn't blow out my eardrums if I had to use it. In the movies and on TV, people shoot pistols and rifles indoors all the time and never mention the noise. Thanks to my sister, I knew better.
I pulled on a pair of cargo shorts, shoved a spare magazine into a back pocket and went downstairs to check things out. When I looked into the bathroom at the rear of the house, I could see light through the frosted window in the pool door leading to the patio. The security light was on. Shapes were moving outside the door and it sure as hell wasn't a pack of raccoons. I left the inside lights off and crossed the family room into the kitchen.
Next to the phone above the kitchen counter was a Bluetooth headset. I slipped it on and hit the speed dial button for 9-1-1.
"9-1-1, what is your emergency?"
"Home invasion in progress at this address." I knew my address was showing on her Caller ID screen and didn't waste time repeating it.
"Are they in the house?"
"Not yet. They're breaking in through the pool door in the back."
As I knelt behind the door frame, I could hear rapid typing.
"I have deputies on the way," she said.
"Please inform the deputies that the homeowner is armed. There's a woman upstairs in the back bedroom." Oops, I thought, I'd better warn Vicky. "Stand by, please."
I stood up, hit the Bluetooth "hold" button and punched the button for the master bedroom on the intercom panel next to the phone.
"Vicky, wake up! Vicky, get to the intercom! Hurry up, damn it! Vicky!"
A sleepy feminine voice came out of the speaker. "Danny, where are you? Shit, I was asleep!"
"Well, you'd better wake up fast. Somebody's breaking in through the pool door. Cops are on the way. I want you to lock the bedroom door, go into the bathroom, lock that door and call me on the intercom."
Her only answer was a faint click as she released the button.
The door leading from the downstairs bathroom to the family room opened into the bathroom, away from me, and it wasn't reinforced. The hinges were inside the bathroom and the door locked from the inside. It was useless for security, but it still might do me some good. While I was waiting for Vicky, I hurried across the family room and closed the bathroom door. Back in the kitchen, I selected a high intensity battery powered floodlight from the stash of hurricane supplies I kept in the walk-in pantry. I set it on an end table in the family room, aimed it at the bathroom door and switched it on.
A few seconds later Vicky called.
"Okay, I'm in the bathroom. Both doors are locked. I brought my cell phone."
Smart girl. I should have thought of the phone myself.
"Great. Now get in the tub and stay there until I come for you. If a cop tries to get you to come out, make him slide his ID under the door."
"Yeah, I'll do that. Holy shit Danny, I'm scared! Don't you get hurt, you bastard!"
"I'll be fine. The cops will be here any time now."
I released the intercom button, thinking, when seconds count, the cops are only minutes away.
I hit the Bluetooth button. "I'm back. My girlfriend is locked in the master bathroom. If one of your people could call her on her cell, that would be good." I gave the dispatcher Vicky's number.
"I'll have somebody make the call," she said.
There was a series of tortured metallic screeches as the invaders pried the steel pool door away from its frame. All the glass windows in my house had been replaced with "bulletproof" Level VIII polycarbonate, including the window in the pool door. The invaders couldn't break the window and they couldn't pry it out. The door was strong, but they were serious about getting in and they had the right tools.
"Deputies are three minutes out," said the dispatcher reassuringly. I didn't bother to answer. I had a strong feeling the cops would be too late.
My parents gave me my first gun, a .22 target rifle, when I was thirteen and from then on I was hooked. I've been involved in competitive shooting ever since. In college, I got into handguns, shooting mostly "action pistol" events. I enjoy shooting in matches where both speed and accuracy are required. I discovered that I got a kick out of laying it all on the line, shooting in front of a crowd. The pressure I felt while waiting for the invaders was familiar to me, but the stakes in this contest would be much higher than any I'd known.
My .45 was equipped with extra tall sights so I could see them over the suppressor. I lined up the sights on the bathroom door and concentrated on controlling my breathing.
With a final, loud screech, the pool door gave way. Seconds later, the bathroom door jerked open, revealing a bulky man wearing a ski mask and holding a combat shotgun. Another masked man was behind him to the right. The glare from the floodlight was blinding and the shotgun man hesitated, blinking. Time seemed to slow dramatically. I quickly interpreted the man's bulky appearance as body armor and my focus sharpened as I raised my sights to the middle of his face.
I pulled the trigger straight back. The gun made a sound like you'd get by slapping an exercise mat with the flat of your hand. The sights danced up and slightly to the right as a nickel-plated cartridge case spun out of the ejection port. When the sights bounced back to where the man's face had been, the face wasn't there.
Invader #2 was standing sideways with his back against the open bathroom door, no doubt shocked by the shower of blood, brains and bone chips that had blasted out the back of his partner's skull. He was holding a handgun and also had the look of a man wearing body armor, but body armor doesn't cover the shoulder area, especially when the guy shooting at you has you in profile. The sights moved of their own volition to the center of his shoulder and the magic that operates triggers worked its spell. Once again, the gun made its slapping sound, the sights did their dance and returned to the target. This time the target was still there and the pistol fired immediately. Invader #2 dropped in a heap, kicking.
Silhouetted in the light coming through the pool door, Invader #3 stood frozen. He was holding something in both hands that might have been a weapon. The floodlight didn't illuminate him directly, but I could see my sights just fine. I moved my sight picture to the top of his left thigh and fired. He screamed and fell backwards onto the tiled patio.
Off in the distance, I heard sirens. It occurred to me that I was still wearing the Bluetooth headset.
"You still there?" I asked.
"Yes sir. What's happening?"
"I've got three down, two inside and one on the back patio."
"I didn't hear any shooting. What happened? I heard someone yell."
"I'm using a suppressed weapon. The yell you heard was from the third guy. Tell the deputies he's on the patio and may be armed. I don't think the other two will be a problem."
"Yes sir," she said. "Hold please."
The sirens were much closer. Suddenly, I heard the roar of an engine and the screech of tires from in front of my house. Was there a fourth guy? Oh well, not my problem. On the other hand, there might be a whole platoon of bad guys out there. Cursing myself for a dumbshit, I dug out my spare magazine are reloaded. The first magazine still held 9 rounds and I dropped it into my pocket. Now I had 14 rounds available again and 9 more for backup.
Down the street, tires screeched again. A few seconds later, I heard two "pops" from a handgun followed by a flurry of much louder "bangs" from rifles. So there was another guy or two. There might be more. I held my position.
Sirens wailed as patrol cars wheeled into my driveway. Footfalls pounded by on both sides of the house.
"Drop your weapon! Show me your hands!"
Through the doorway, I watched as a deputy grabbed something away from Invader #3 and threw it across the pool deck. Other cops piled onto the wounded man. The shouting and thrashing continued for several seconds, handcuffs flashed and then things calmed down. A deputy stuck his head into the bathroom and immediately backed out, talking into his handset.
"Looks like things are under control," I said into the Bluetooth. "Thanks for your help."
"Glad to be of assistance," she said brightly. "I hope no one was hurt."
I didn't know what to say to that, so I hung up.
I stood up, ejecting the magazine from my .45. I set the magazine on the counter, turned the gun sideways and worked the slide. The chambered round popped out and bounced across the counter. I locked the slide back and placed the gun next to the magazine, along with my spare mag.
Someone was pounding on my front door. I turned on the family room lights, clicked off the floodlight and trotted into the foyer. Through the faux stained glass door I could see cops. I opened the door and stepped back.
Three cops hurried through the door with their guns drawn. I kept my hands in plain view and tried not to babble. "I'm the homeowner. There are two dead men in the back bathroom and your guys have the one outside. My gun's on the kitchen counter. It's unloaded."
The first two cops ran into the family room while the third one stayed to keep an eye on me. I punched a button on the entryway intercom panel.
"All clear, Vicky. You can come out now. I'll meet you in the dining room."
The next two hours were a blur. Other that telling the cops that I'd been defending myself and producing the Federal paperwork proving the suppressor was legally owned, I didn't say much. They didn't push me. The crime scene techs took pictures of the dead invaders and showed them to me on an iPad. I didn't recognize them and I refused to let Vicky look at photos of men I'd just killed. By the time the cops and EMTs and crime scene folks were finished, the sun was up.
After they were gone, we screwed hurricane shutters over my ruined pool door with the help of a neighbor and moved to a hotel. The cops had taken my .45 as evidence. I had other guns in the safe and I selected a Glock 17 and two spare magazines to take with me. There was no way I could feel safe if I was unarmed. A reliable 9mm with 52 rounds of ammo went a long way toward producing a warm feeling of security.
Vicky and I showered and put on sweats, then sat on the sofa in the hotel room, talking. We were both suffering the aftereffects of a massive adrenaline dump. Sleep was out of the question.
"It was so strange," I told Vicky. "It was like watching a video. The sights moved by themselves and the gun seemed to fire on its own. I could see the slide move and the cases spinning out, all in slo-mo. It was like some kind of violent Zen experience. My training just took over and I didn't have to do anything except watch."
Vicky seemed more upset about feeling helpless, curled up in the tub talking to the 9-1-1 operator, than the shooting. "I hated that," she hissed. "I've always hated movies and TV shows that portrayed the poor, defenseless girl cowering, hoping some big, strong man would come to her rescue. To hell with that!" She looked me in the eye. "You have to teach me to shoot. I can't just be some goddamn helpless victim. Screw that! I want to be ready!"
I checked the early TV news broadcasts and all the central Florida stations were making the most of the story. Crime scene tape kept reporters and their damned cameras away from my house, but they repeatedly ran footage of a county worker hosing blood off the street where the getaway driver had tried to shoot it out with the cops.
We met with Sheriff Dunton in his office at 11AM. The adrenaline had worn off and Vicky and I were feeling wrung out from hours of tension and a lack of sleep.
The sheriff directed us to a sofa and pulled up a padded chair across from us. Vicky held my hand. She was trembling and I was trying to stay calm. The sheriff did his best to put us at ease, but in real life, no one shoots three people in the middle of the night and then feels relaxed the next morning.
"First of all," Dunton told me, "the shooting last night was unquestionably in self defense. No charges of any kind will be brought against you. Under Florida law, the second those men forcibly entered your home, they were bought and paid for. You won't be charged and no one can bring any kind of civil action in connection with this incident. You're completely in the clear." He smiled. "And when we're finished here I'll walk you down to the arms room. Your weapon isn't considered evidence anymore. You can take it home today." He smiled again and shook his head. "That's one hell of a pistol you're got. It's just perfect. I'm going to see about getting those for my Fugitive Apprehension and SWAT teams."
"Now, if you're interested, I'll go over what we've learned about the shooting and what those poor fools were doing." He looked at Vicky. "Some of this is going to be pretty graphic. You might not want to hear the details."
Vicky squeezed my hand. "I'll be fine. I'm not letting Danny out of my sight."
"Okay then. Here we go." He turned to me.
"The guy you shot in the head never knew he was in trouble. The bullet entered through the right side of his nose, penetrated the hindbrain and exited just above the top of his spine. It must have gone out the door. We didn't find it." He paused, looking at Vicky. "Miss, are you sure you want to be here for this?"
Vicky was a little pale, but determined. "Yeah. Go ahead."
The Sheriff nodded and glanced at me. I shrugged and he continued.
"You hit the next guy through the upper part of the left arm bone. Twice. We can't tell which shot hit first, but both were fatal. One smashed the top of the heart and the other blew a big hole in the aorta. The medical examiner found them in the right lung, expanded to about .80 caliber." The sheriff sat back and looked at me. "You're a hell of a good shot. Those two rounds landed less than an inch apart, one right above the other. I listened to the 9-1-1 tape. Once you know what to listen for, the sound of your .45 is easy to pick out. The time between your second and third shots was only sixty-eight one hundredths of a second. You put two bullets practically on top of each other in less than three-quarters of a second. Your head shot was perfect, too. And you nailed the third guy right through the hip joint. Most people couldn't find the goddamned hip joint on an x-ray and you hit it from thirty five feet away. Please don't tell me you were aiming center mass!"
I shook my head. "Nope, the shot went right where I wanted it to. He looked like he was getting ready to take off and I didn't want to go for the head. I figured running a .45 slug through his hip socket ought to slow him down and make him easy to catch."
"Oh, yeah, my deputies didn't have any trouble with him." Sheriff Dunton sighed. "The getaway driver was another story. I'm sure you've seen the TV coverage. He tried to fight my boys. He had a damned .380 pistol and they had their patrol rifles. The guy was a moron and they blew him out of his socks." The sheriff smiled. "That makes three counts of first degree felony murder we can hang on the survivor." His expression turned grim. "One thing we got out of him was the reason for the break-in. They intended to grab your girlfriend here," he pointed to Vicky, "and demand two million bucks in ransom."
Vicky gasped. "They were after me?"
The sheriff nodded his head. "That's right. They wanted you. And from what he told us, they weren't planning to let you go. They were going to leave one of your ears with Danny when they left, just to show they meant business."
Vicky started to cry. I held her tight. This was not what I'd expected to hear. They were going to kidnap Vicky, mutilate her and kill her? For money? Any residual guilt I might have felt for killing those men evaporated. They'd had it coming. A quick death was too good for them.
"Something I don't understand," I said quietly. ""What made those shitheads think they could break in, kidnap Vicky and get away before two dozen cops showed up?"
The sheriff rolled his eyes. "They hired a 16 year old kid to dump five gallons of gas into two cars on King Street in West Cocoa and set them on fire," he said. "That would have pulled most of my guys away from the beach, but an undercover drug investigator with the Cocoa PD saw what the kid was doing and stopped him before he could light the gas. My deputies never got the call. The kidnappers didn't think you'd call us anyway, but if you did, they thought they'd have at least twenty minutes before we got there. The getaway driver worked for your alarm company. That's how they knew your alarm was down. They were sure you'd be asleep. They didn't plan on you spotting them or how long it would take them to get through your door. They sure as hell didn't plan on running into the shitstorm you rained on them."
He paused for a minute. Vicky sobbed into my shirt. My emotions were off the scale.
"All those men," the sheriff continued softly, "had long records. They were bad, bad dudes. Nobody's going to get hysterical with grief over them. The world's a better place without them." He leaned forward in his chair. "You can expect to go through some rough times because of this. Being attacked is a shock. Killing people, even vicious assholes like those, is a shock. I advise counseling and I can recommend someone. I'll give you her card before you go."
Vicky sniffled and shook herself. She sat up straight. "We'll go to counseling, but there's one thing I want to know right now."
Sheriff Dunton looked puzzled. "What's that?"
"How do I apply for a license to carry a gun?"
Five months later:
Vicky stepped up to the firing line on the "Roundabout" stage at the local Steel Challenge pistol match. The Range Officer took his position behind her.
"Load and make ready."
Vicky slipped a magazine into her 9mm Glock 19. She racked the slide, holstered her pistol and faced the targets with her hands raised. Spread out downrange were five round steel targets, 12" in diameter, painted white. The closest target was 7 yards away and the furthest was 15 yards. The middle plate, 10 yards away, was the "stop" plate. The course design allowed her to shoot the targets in any order she wanted to, as long as she hit the "stop" plate last.
The Range Officer held an electronic timer behind Vicky's head and asked, "Shooter ready?"
Vicky's hand flashed to her gun. She drew smoothly and engaged the plates, shooting four of them right to left, then swinging back to nail the "stop" plate. Her hits were plainly visible, nicely centered on the freshly painted steel. Vicky re-holstered and leaned back to check her time. The RO held out the timer. "Four point one seconds," he told her. "No misses." Vicky grinned. The next son-of-a-bitch who tried to kidnap her was in for a hell of a shock.
On a personal note:
The suppressed .45 in this story is exactly what I use for home defense.
So far I haven't needed it.
But you never know.
There are plenty of Steel Challenge videos on YouTube, if you're interested. Most of them are of top professional shooters, members of the Army Marksmanship Unit, Team Smith & Wesson, Team Glock, etc. Those people are just phenomenal. I shoot against them in the S&W National Match every year.
I've won dozens of local, state, regional, national and international trophies and titles, but the pros always kick my ass.