Perception and Its Consequences

October 9, 2014  
Categories: Op-Eds

Sometimes it’s easy to explain why someone ends up dead. Sometimes, not so much (particularly if the reasons or causes are ambiguous). It would be nice if everything was as cut, dried and clear at the time of the event as it is in hindsight, but that’s just not reality.  Mad Duo


You are shopping at a big-box store one evening, when you see a man walking around with the above pictured rifle. He doesn’t have it shouldered, doesn’t have it pointed at anyone, but he’s still moving it around carelessly. What would you do? As a CCW holder carrying a pistol would you consider trailing him, should he decide to start shooting? Would you fire, fearing the worst if he started to point the rifle at a fellow shopper? Would you call 911 and let the authorities check it out? Or would you simply glance at this gentleman walking the aisles with an unslung long gun held by the pistol grip and think, “Naw, it’s all good,” and go back to shopping?


Crosman MK177 air rifle, same as the one pictured above.

 On August 5, 2014, John Crawford chose to pick up an unpackaged Crosman MK-177 air rifle while strolling the sporting good section of an Ohio Walmart. One might not find that too odd: maybe he was just standing there pondering a purchase. Apparently some asshole had removed the air rifle from its packaging to check it out, then took a new, in the box, undamaged MK-177 with its instruction manual, warranty information and barcode to the register. Crawford could have quickly inspected the unpackaged rifle, then laid it back down just like the previous guy had.


Is this a real ACR or a toy?

But that’s not what John Crawford did. Instead he picked up the air rifle and started to walk around with it. Crawford, 22, was shot by responding police seven minutes later, as he spoke to the mother of his two children on the phone. A concerned citizen had reported him, and (apparently) provided information to the best of his ability. When asked specific questions by dispatch, the caller gave short, to the point answers relaying what he appeared to see (i.e., how he interpreted what he was seeing).

Note: One man’s perception, being conveyed to 911 dispatch and then relayed to responding officers.

After picking up the air rifle and leaving the sporting good section to walk around the store, Mr. Crawford stood  bladed in the far corner of an aisle with the Mk-177 along his right side. As police responded, from his left hand side, they allegedly gave him commands and alerted him of their presence. The air rifle, which at this point was partially concealed on his right side, remained in his hand as the officers engaged. John Crawford died as a result of his wounds.


Is this a real SCAR, or a toy? Can you tell from 20 ft away?

Joint Task Force Awesome Member 5.11 Tactical

What killed this man? Was it a misleading 911 call from a casual observer of the situation? Was it Mr. Crawford’s holding of a realist-looking air rifle? Was it his poor judgement to walk around a public place while holding said air rifle? Was it trigger happy, blood-thirsty cops, indifferent to video, eyewitnesses, and a certain investigation for what could be labeled murder? Was it misidentification of the situation, as they looked down the long axis of a store aisle at a man holding a partially concealed long gun? What exactly caused the death of John Crawford?


Would this man, running toward you, capture your attention?

 “Somebody’s going to have to explain to me how anybody goes into Walmart and ends up dead,” said John Crawford Jr., the dead man’s father.

Okay. We will.

We live in a society that has become phobic of seeing firearms in public, partially because of the number of “active shooter” scenarios that have happened at stores, restaurants, offices, malls, schools, movie theaters and city streets this past decade. This is of course in addition to the fear created by pundits, media and others conveying inaccurate (negative) information. Many people do not understand firearms. They believe in Hollywood bullshit and buy into the anti-gun agenda seen, heard and read on a daily basis. Add onto that very legitimate law enforcement concerns, created in no small part to the fact that officers respond to potentially deadly scenes every single time dispatch gives them a call. They have the RIGHT to be cautious, as they are the ones risking their lives to do the job we ask of them. That’s not to say there aren’t bad cops out there making bad judgement calls, nor to say that avoidable tragedies don’t occur, but be realistic – the bad judgement calls occur only a fraction of the time. Consider the mindset of any officer responding to any ‘man with a gun’ call in a day and age when there are enough ‘active shooter’ events to demand their own FBI study. That study was badly done and terribly incomplete, by the way, but that’s a rant for another day. Right or wrong, LEOs are trained from rookie day one with the understanding that mass murders/active shooters are a likely scenario, although thankfully it’s a very small minority of officers who ever have to use deadly force.

That’s one way someone goes into Wal Mart and ends up dead. Unfortunately it doesn’t explain whether it was a justified or unjustified homicide, and whichever one the result is tragic – for the family of the victim and for the officers as well.

Anyway – watch the video. Listen to the 911 call. It’s unclear which category this shooting falls into. 


Behind the back, cross-body muzzle down? You have our attention, but not our concern. We will still keep our eye on you.

Recently, Special prosecutor Mark Piepmeier had announced that after three days of grand jury testimony, there will be no indictments in the shooting death of John Crawford III. That doesn’t mean this is over for the officers though. The evidence has been turned over to the Department of Justice for a Federal investigation. 


Hand on the pistol grip, alert to the dirt, you have our attention. How long does it take him to level that SKS at a chest? How long does it take a person to draw in reaction? We don’t have to know you or your motives to question your posture.

There are vast number of people making this a racial issue (this seems to be SOP), decrying the officers’ actions, calling them “trigger happy” and leveling accusations of “police brutality” or worse. Though it’s not as politically correct or as likely to make a good headline, one could just as easily (and possibly more accurately) make the argument, “Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.”  This holds true on a number of levels, particularly with regard to so-called “open carriers.” How are you open carrying? Do you look like you’re stepping outside the wire on patrol or do you look like you’re walking across the FOB to hit the PX?

Let’s look at the last aspect of this particular shooting: the deceased man’s own actions leading up to the shooting. 

“He just walked around the store with it, just like any shopper would do,” said Crawford Jr., the man’s father, referring to the air rifle. “There were people passing him by. You could see on the video there was no alarm at all.” 

We don’t know about you, but we don’t walk around stores with unpackaged, damaged products that we intend to purchase. If it’s the last product available, we will go find a clerk to check for more inventory. This is not what Mr. Crawford did. Nor do we fully believe he intended to buy the air rifle. His motives in picking it up, leaving the sporting good section, and then walking around with the Crosman MK177 is unclear and frankly confusing to us (as it was probably as confusing to those seeing it). It’s certainly nothing we would do.

What we can say with certainty is that ANYONE, regardless of their job or clothing, race, sex or age will capture our attention when we perceive them to be armed. Our uniformed officer minions (and to be clear, they’re not the ones writing this particular article) note the model of handgun, brand of holster and mode of carriage. With open carry citizens, we do the same. For open carry citizens with a hand on a pistol grip, our little voice asks “WTF is going on with this person?” Regardless of whether you are a cop, “open carrier”, criminal or casual shopper with a convincingly realistic air rifle, if there is a gun shaped inanimate object in your HAND, you have our full attention. Our plan is being formed the second it is perceived, and that plan has multiple possible outcomes based on what you choose to do with that gun-shaped inanimate object.  

We leave you with these two questions: How long does it take to scream out “Drop the gun!”, and how long does it take to snap up a rifle from the low ready? Some might say “The rest of your life.”

  Mad Duo Over

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Nate Murr

Nate Murr

About the Author

Nate is a former USMC Sergeant turned nasty civilian and idiosyncratic inventor. He lives largely on nicotine, whiskey, and hate and can be frequently found orating Kipling poems to frightened hipsters. A renowned procrastinator and storied adventure protagonist, Murr is a graduate of the Camp Lejeune School for Wayward Boys. A combat veteran of multiple tours in Iraq and Africa, he was a Marine NCO, Infantry Platoon Sergeant and Scout Sniper team leader. Murr is a fully qualified American Jedi, self-described handsome badass and world-renowned field barista (true story - he's brewed great coffee on at least four continents). As anyone who has spent any time talking gear with him, Murr is something of an idiot savant when it comes finger-fucking stuff to make it work better. Nate only chain smokes when he's drinking, and only drinks every day. We reckon he is probably best described as a sociopathic philosopher with vestigial cutthroat (though poetic) tendencies. Thus far Murr's writing has appeared in such places as here on Breach-Bang-Clear, on, in field shitters and portajohns on at least 3 continents, in RECOIL Magazine and of course Penthouse letters. You can follow him and his company at @frontier_resolve on Instagram.


  1. Jeb

    Right or wrong, law enforcement are TRAINED, in my State at least, to FEAR …the People. I have very solid sources, experiences and support to not only have that statement stand on its own accord – but to stand behind it as well. I am noticing a trend here on BBClear that borders making excuses for law enforcement and pasture raping any individual who opposes oppression and calls a spade a spade. I love this site and truly love the mindset of those making this site happen…but fuck a midget with a mule cock, this is getting repetitive. I will collect my thoughts and provide a perspective after I put my kids to bed and have time to indulge in what I hope to be a balanced discussion supported with factual statements and opinion based on logical reasoning. But for now, I will settle knowing another innocent life has been lost because of those entrusted to protect and serve. Innocent being subjective but clearly sound in this case.

  2. Artie Rypple

    Terrible situation with mistakes made at 5 or more levels…

    1). Store made a mistake not securing the merchandise so that it could not be removed from packaging

    2). Store didn’t adequately police the area for loose merchandise and secure it.

    3). Customer shouldn’t have removed and traveled with unsecured/unboxed merchandise.

    4). Toy weapons are supposed to have an orange tip, denoting they are toys. But since this was an air rifle, it’s exempt from that regulation (making toy/air weapons in lifelike replication of real weapons is probably a really bad idea without some kind of “toy” indicator)

    5). Caller didn’t provide accurate information to 911 (and was borderline false information)

    6). Responding officers appeared from the video to not consult with anyone onsite (at least not for long) “Have any shots been fired? No. ” would have been good information.

    7). It also appears that they could have easily observed and even commanded the suspect from a position of cover.

    I don’t want to second guess any policeman in such a situation, but putting myself in their shoes, I would have been very keyed up entering a situation with a potential active shooter. This likely played a role in being quick on the trigger. Having information from the store personnel and covered observation of the suspect may have saved this fools life. At the very least, the store should change it’s merch handling policy immediately and secure boxed toy/air weapons so they can’t be removed from their packaging.

  3. crabbyj

    I believe the reason why people believe there’s a racial component, is due to the disparity of outcomes. I wish I still had the link to the stats, but it showed that all other factors being equal, police officers responding are more likely to employ deadly force, when a minority is involved, as opposed to a white person.

    There’s a reason why it seems SOP…because it seems to keep happening. Of course, when it comes to racism, bigotry, and bias in America, if you’re not the one on the receiving end, you get tired of hearing about it. Some have gone so far as to claim that it doesn’t exist, so when someone brings up an example, they’re immediately accused of “playing the race card”, and no one actually pays attention to the message…no one likes to find out that their point of view is wrong, so yeah…you ignore the message or you’d have to concede that perhaps racism, bigotry, and bias still exists. If it still exists, then it’s possible that it can color one’s perception (implicit bias), even subconsciously…

    So, if bias, overt or implicit, can alter perceptions, then why is it so hard to accept the possibility that, upon seeing skin color, may have caused the officer to follow a different course down the threat and response decision-making matrix we maintain in our minds? In other words, if it was an old white woman with a gun, wearing support hose and sensible shoes, the responding officer would react differently than if it were a baggy-panted Mexican in a khakis and flannel shirt.

    In this case, as I understand it, like the Officer involved shooting in South Carolina, the Officer’s issued commands, then immediately employed deadly force, before the victim, realistically, had a chance to comply.

    I can understand the Officer’s fears. The time that it takes someone to process what armed Law Enforcement Officers, with guns drawn, are yelling, is the same amount of time, if you are a bad guy, it takes to bring the Officers under fire…so LEOs only have a split MICRO-second to decide if they’re going to go home and see their spouse and children, or if they’re going to the morgue.

    That said, I still want to know why this disparity is not seen as a problem law enforcement has to solve…people are seemingly more upset that people are, and rightly so, pointing out the elephant in the center of the room, instead of being upset that it’s there in the first place.

  4. michael thompson

    My $.02 worth is that the folks depicted in the pictures are clearly doing what they are doing for one thing….recognition. They are attention whores. Legal? Most likely in the state they are in. Smart? Not at all. If you have to walk into a pastry shop with an AK, SKS, or an AR strapped across your back I think its time to reevaluate where you are doing your shopping. Better yet…put down the donut and move away slowly. There is only one reason in the world for anybody to open carry a long gun and that is ATTENTION. The only other reason I can think of is to get a rise or reaction out of the people you encounter.

    • Michmike

      All i have to say to your comment is…… Thank you because why in the fuck do you need your ar at dunkin donuts as there are no zombies, well before my coffe I am but still. I am ex military and love my guns but I am not a 12 yo boy living out some fantasy and do not need to carry my rifle as a dick extension in public. No I am a dad who if I see you roll in with an ak will damn we’ll take notice and look to make a hasty retreat with my daughter as I am carrying nothing more than my spyderco knife! In my opinion u r unbalanced if u need your rifle at chuck e cheese and I wanna be some where else. Plus I kinda feel bad for the fat kid because everyone knows he is tool and it is painful to witness the ” oh that poor fat kid with the glandular problem” look.

      This shit makes me crazy and makes people who enjoy firearms look like unstable nuts.

  5. Brett

    Brandishing a firearm and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon are two seperate crimes. The difference is the direction of the barrel. The rest of the perceptions – means, motive, opportunity and posture would really dictate the response. In life or death calls, you can’t hit rewind. I don’t denigrate officers who employ deadly force when they feel threatened and I do criticize politicians who handcuff them by limiting deadly force application and post incidents to “kill him.” or “Why didn’t you kill him.”? If a cop thinks he can plug you in the leg and save your life – thank him afterwards because the political component wants to shoot you in the head because it is “cleaner.” One less body on the conscience is never a bad thing.

  6. CombatMissionary

    The answer is always, “It depends.”

    If the cops got a call saying, “There’s a dude running around Wal-Mart with a rifle threatening people,” and they showed up, and he was playing GI Joe in a corner and pointed the rifle at somebody, he gets shot, and that’s that. It’s his own fault.

    This being the world we live in, there’s room to ask if the cops just shot him without trying to talk to him. Some cops (a small minority) are stupid enough to just engage with firearms without him doing anything other than holding a realistic air rifle. It happens.

    Most likely, given that the grand jury chose not to indict, the cops did the same thing. Most lawyers say that you can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich. It’s fairly true. The cops were probably not in the wrong, but given the environment at the DOJ these days, I hope they have a good union lawyer. Oh, and Eric Holder can go to hell.

    • CombatMissionary

      In the spirit of the DOJ being mentioned, and my having brought up Eric Holder, I thought this was apropos. If you guys feel like you have to moderate it, though, I get it. Have a good one!

  7. Frank

    I don’t totally disagree with everything you say. I believe the police had limited responses when faced with a man with, what to all outward appearances, looks like functioning weapon. They, I believe, are victims as much as Crawford. I do blame the fellow who made the call. It appears he edited his observations to the police dispatcher. Here’s my shameless self promo: will say, the connection to open carry is an interesting link. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, open carry in urban environments under typical every day conditions is NUTS. Unless it’s a Mad Max on Main Street time open carry is a sure way of creating trouble.

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