A Close Call…Lessons Learned


I live in the Reno, NV area and we were fear-struck by a “serial killer” on the loose. There were four murders in a matter of two weeks which is unheard of for these parts. They have since arrested a suspect but people are still on edge and gun sales are the highest I’ve ever seen them here. Everyone is a bit on edge but that being said, life goes on. My activities haven’t changes but my level of awareness is a little higher though I am usually fairly vigilant anyway.

So last night about 9:15pm, my teenage daughter and I went to our gym. This isn’t a public gym but one that is part of a private housing community. It’s gated and requires multiple levels of badge access to get into the gym itself.  That’s better security than most facilities but not fool-proof my any means.

We had finished our workout, leaving one other woman in the weights area to continue her night. We went to the locker-room preparing to leave. Suddenly a loud male voice yells out on the main gym floor.  Neither of us could make out what he said but it was alarming. Immediately, we grabbed the pepper spray and knife I keep in my gym bag.  I didn’t have my handgun with me, I had left it in the truck. A decision I immediately regretted and have since remedied.

Alarmed, my daughter and I immediately constructed a plan. The locker-room only had one exit and it led directly into the area the voice came from. Being trapped without an alternate exit was not ideal. We decided that I would take the weapons and take point leaving the area with her within an arm’s reach behind me. Intentionally, I flung my gym bag over my left shoulder and put the knife in my left hand, pepper-spray in my right. I am right-handed and I train to not carry things on my dominate side because of the grasp-reflex that often prevents us from dropping a held object when we are ambushed thus I had the less effective weapons on my left.

We began to make our way toward the main exit, cautiously checking each section using the gym mirrors to gain greater vantage before proceeding to the next section. We made our way to the exit door which led to a well-lit walkway, still inside a gated section of the community. As we exited, from a darkened area about 15 yards away, the same male voice yelled “Goodnight!” with a tone of anger and contempt.

I knew we were steps away from turning a corner that would afford us cover and a directly line to the exit gate. So we quickly proceeded to round the corner and ran for the gate, to my truck parked nearby. We safely got in the truck and drove away.

Here are some of my after-action thoughts on the event.

1 – I am incredibly grateful that I have invested resources in training for my daughter. She’s skilled with a firearm, pepper-spray, edged weapons and is a hell-cat if physically attacked. More than that she remained calm, she took action and operated with intention. She recognized that there was a potential situation developing and she worked as a team to move to safety.

2 – I am grateful that I had a couple tools at my disposal but realize I can do more to prepare in the future. There are also times when we can’t have any weapons but we can improvise and we need a plan for that.

3 – Being aware of your exits, physical location and options is critical in developing a plan quickly. Using the mirrors and positions of advantage (angles and concealment matter). I am confident that this mindset saved my life during the Route 91 mass-shooting.

4 – I was aware that another woman was potentially in danger. However, my goal was to get my daughter and myself to safety.  In many of the classes I teach, I admonish students to be clear about their own personal rules of engagement prior to a critical incident.  For me, it’s a bit of a hierarchy and may vary depending on the scenario.  Last night, my daughter and I were my priority.  The other woman was on her own until I knew what was happening.  If I had walked out and found her being assaulted, I am confident that my daughter and I would likely have intervened on her behalf.  But that wasn’t the case and my priority was to move to a position of safety as quickly as possible.

Overall, it was a good learning experience and I’m pleased with how things turned out. You never know how you will truly react until you are put a situation like that.  I was very grateful that the training I’ve done over the years have given me tools that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Panic happens when you feel helpless, presence of mind comes from preparedness.

There is no way of knowing what was really happening last night or if we were actually in danger. As an instructor I like to say “You win 100% of the fights you aren’t in”. I consider last night a win.

Are you prepared for situations like this? I want to hear what you would have done.  Share your thoughts!


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