When crime happens to youby Curtis Gilbert, Minnesota Public Radio
It's one thing when crime affects how you think and act in your neighborhood. But when crime really hits home, and you are facing a mugger or thief, what do you do? There are only two basic reactions: You can surrender and cooperate, or you can fight back.
St. Paul, Minn. — Brian Miller and Django Amerson were mugged together this summer outside Brian's apartment building in the Frogtown neighborhood of St. Paul. It was a Friday night, a little past midnight, and they were pulling into the parking lot of the building.
Here's what happened.
Brian: We drive past these two guys. I totally ignored them; Django apparently didn't, and we backed into a parking spot. We both got out, and we were talking over the roof of the car. And the next thing I knew, there was a gun in my back.
And this guy was like: "I'm gonna f***ing shoot you. Give me everything you've got!" And I got really scared, and afraid I was going to die, and only had $15 in my wallet. And so I just gave him the wallet and really, really hoped that they went away.
Django: I did not see the wallet change hands. I didn't see the gun at that point. They were kids. They were very young, and I just thought it seemed positive.
Brian: What could they have possibly been doing with me that was positive?
Django: Asking you for directions, or....
Brian: A friendly scuffle for directions?
Django: I walked up, and I just said, "What's going on? What's going on here? What's happening?" And then I saw the gun, and it rattled when the guy shook it. I don't know how else to describe it, because immediately, the first thing that went through my mind was -- this is very clearly not a real gun.
Brian: We reacted to this situation in very different ways.
Brian: I was pretty much emptying my bowels into my pants in fear and dread, and then this guy walks around the car and is like, "Hey, what have you guys got there?"
Django: I asked the guy with the gun, I said, "What's going on?" And he said, "Give me all your expletive..." And I said, "Hold on. That's not a real gun. You know that, and I know that." And he's like, "What? You don't think this is real?" And I said, "No. I know it's not real."
And we were right up by the entrance to the building, so in effect there's a wooden wall right next to us where the mugging took place. And I said, "If it's a real gun, go ahead and shoot a hole right there, and I'll give you the money that's in my wallet."
Brian: You have to say that while you were saying this, you were stepping up to the guy. I mean it wasn't like you guys were having a civilized discourse. You were bumping chests, and the one guy was like, "I'm gonna f***ing kill you!" And the other guy was like, "Do it! Do it! Do it! Shoot him! Shoot it!"
Django: They kind of started leaving -- getting nervous and creeping away. And what happened was, as a literal parting shot, he literally punched me with the gun. He threw the gun up to my head and pulled the trigger, at the instant that it both slammed into my skull and he pulled the trigger. It was just like a "schooooo" sound, and my head just got rocked to the side.
Brian: It looked like they just punched you and you fell over, to me.
Django: I just was like, "Whoa!" and totally disoriented for a good five seconds. And Brian was like, "Are you OK?" And I was like, "Man! I got shot in the head!" You know, and in my mind I'm going, "Man! And I'm alive! This is crazy! I must bleeding or something."
Brian: My perspective was that two guys with a real gun that could have killed us, had mercy upon us and just punched you in the head and ran away.
Django: It was probably a double effect of the impact of a gun, like being pistol-whipped, and the brand of the gun, which I think was Daisy, which is an air-powered pellet gun with a CO2 cartridge, which luckily, I guess -- you know very luckily -- didn't have a pellet.
But I was totally up for chasing those guys down just on foot. Then I decided against it, and kind of just slumped down in the parking lot and waited for the cops to come.
In retrospect I feel a person ought to operate off a list of priorities. And, I mean, what is a wallet compared to -- even if it's a pellet gun, I mean it could have been loaded! Who knows?
I'm touching the side of my face right now and there's skin I want there! What if he put it up to my eyeball socket and pulled the trigger? That would kill you. Yes. A pellet gun can kill you if it goes into your eye, because it will go straight through your eye and into your brain and you will die.
Brian: We're fundamentally different people in some ways in this situation. I've thought a lot about whether or not I would kick someone in the balls if they did this again, or try to do something like that. But, I don't know. I think I'd be too afraid that they'd shoot me.
Django: I'm more scared now than as it happened, for sure. I wonder if, deep down, I'm some sort of weird macho person. I'm trying to figure that out right now and assess it. I don't know where it came from and why.
You know, so as I look back on it, I go, Oh man, I really screwed up! I mean that's dumb. It's just dumb! And my neck is still very, very sore -- possibly avoided by just forking over the wallet.
- Morning Edition, 09/22/2006, 8:23 a.m.