There’s been a local story going around in my area where a group of “utes” beat down a man. I think it needs some analysis for lessons. First, let me be clear as I go through some of this article. I do not think the victim “deserved the beating” or was in the wrong from a legal/moral standpoint. However, going through this scenario could give us some perspectives to consider if we are in a similar situation.

From the article:

Officers say, Evan Purcell, 40, was walking his dogs with his 10-year-old niece around 9 p.m. at Anna Maria Elementary School when he saw a group of teens drinking and possibly vandalizing the school. That’s when the police department says Purcell yelled to the group to “stop and move along.” The teenagers instead became aggressive and approached Purcell, according to a press release.

First item: did Purcell need to yell at the group or just call the cops? I can understand the desire to get involved with what Purcell considered a minor issue. However, there are some factors to take into consideration that I would have taken into account before yelling at a bunch of teens. One, he had his niece with him. That was someone who was under his protection. Two, he suspected alcohol was involved and possible criminal mischief. Both of those would make me hesitate to get directly involved. I’m guessing that Purcell didn’t expect the group to attack.

“The victim was in fear for his safety and pulled out a pocketknife to scare off the group. Several of the males in the group attacked the victim knocking him to the ground,” police wrote in a press release.

During the attack, officers say Purcell was possibly hit with a skateboard and punched and kicked in the head until he became unconscious. The group of teens then reportedly fled in a Kia Sportage.

Second item: Pulling the pocketknife. I’m going with the assumption that lethal self-defense was justified based on disparity of force. Several teens against one man who needed to protect a pre-teen girl. I’m also fully aware that often the simple act of brandishing a lethal weapon will often defuse the situation. So, my first question. Considering he was only armed with a pocket knife, would it have been more prudent to look for an avenue of retreat? Was there one available? A mitigating factor was another article stating that the niece was running away. Perhaps Purcell felt he needed to stand and fight so his niece could escape. If that was the case, then retreat is not available.

Here are my takeaways. If I’m observing a criminal act that doesn’t involve an immediate threat to life, I should consider a few things before putting myself into the situation. First, what is the anticipated danger to me and those under my immediate protection from the criminals? Second, do I have appropriate tools or evasion routes if I screwed up number one?