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Unfortunately, we live in an era where some groups who claim to be warriors for tolerance and justice show their true colors by being intolerant toward anyone who isn’t completely accepting of their rhetoric and actions. You might just be enjoying a dinner out with friends and, without provocation, you’re confronted by a crowd of angry activists demanding you immediately show your allegiance to their cause. If you refuse, you may be verbally accosted or attacked. It seems that the notion of agreeing to disagree is lost on many, and their insistence on forced ideological compliance through violence reveals what lengths they’ll go to in order to push their agenda. The problem with an angry mob is that until it calms down, cooler heads cannot prevail.
We often see this on the news and quickly go back to eating our dinner, while thinking to ourselves I’m glad that’s not happening where I am. But what if it was right at your front door? It’s nearly impossible to reason with an angry mob that’s intent on acting as your judge, jury, and — in the worst-case scenario — executioner. If a group of protestors hell-bent on making their point at the expense of the safety and property of others came to your neighborhood, are you prepared to deal with it?
Mark and Patricia McCloskey in St. Louis clearly felt the intruders who broke into their gated community were hostile and put their lives in jeopardy. Their decision to demonstrate they were armed to discourage any threats to their home and safety has now culminated in a cascade of legal troubles that are far from over. Given the reality that brandishing firearms could result in felony charges even when you feel threatened, we asked law enforcement officer Chad McBroom and attorney Jason Squires to weigh in with their expertise on what they would do if confronted with a similar What If? scenario.
The Setup: Protests by activist groups and random provocateurs are being seen all over the country in response to an increasingly contentious political climate. While many have remained peaceful, some have escalated into full-on riots, looting, and assaults on average passersby who were in the wrong place at the wrong time or just trying to protect their businesses or homes. You live in a safe, upper middle-class neighborhood on a cul-de-sac in a Seattle suburb. Your two-story house has a decent-sized front yard, a two-car garage, and gated side-yard entrance.
Your home isn’t dangerously close to any of the recent civil unrest concentrated primarily in the metro area. However, the recent trend has been for many of these protests to fan further and further out toward neighborhoods on the outskirts of downtown, both open and gated, to accost residents. When you return home from work on a Friday evening to your 10-year-old daughter and pregnant wife, you again hear on the radio that protestors are moving through the streets, but this time they’re reported to be within a few blocks of your home.
The Complication: Within half an hour of your arrival at home, you begin hearing commotion outside. A crowd has formed and begins hurling bottles, rocks, and other debris at the homes. Since you’re in a cul-de-sac, it’s hard to determine if they’ll remain there or keep moving after they feel they’ve made their point. Most of the crowd is masked; some are wielding blunt-force weapons such as baseball bats, and you think at least a few might be carrying firearms as well. Since it’s getting dark, it’s too difficult to determine what other weapons they have.
Your neighbor across the street, a retired police officer, comes out of his house while leaving the door open and his wife in the doorway. He begins shouting at the crowd to disperse and leave the area. You can tell he isn’t armed. As he approaches the protestors at the edge of his yard, he takes a sudden punch to the jaw and falls to the ground limp. Some of the other protestors charge the house and push his wife inside. Many in the crowd cheer, but you feel your heart sink into your stomach.
Could this escalate to other home invasions, including yours, and require lethal force? You frantically call 9-1-1 and explain the situation, but due to civil unrest in other parts of the city going on simultaneously, the dispatcher cannot give you any assurances on how quickly law enforcement may arrive. For now, you’re on your own. What do you do?
When people who are driven by a social or political agenda become violent, they’ll typically focus their rage against those they believe to be supporters of the injustices they’re rallied against. Keeping my home sterile of any political campaign signs that might make my home a target for those with dissenting views would be my first point of preparation. An angry mob will be looking for targets to unleash on. Likewise, the vehicles associated with my home need to be as sterile as possible. Many of us are proud of our family and our beliefs and like to display that pride to the world around us, but that can make us vulnerable. A stick figure family says how many people and pets live in the house. An NRA sticker says you likely have firearms in your home. An honor sticker says where your kids go to school. A parking permit in the window says where you work. These are things that not only give away personal information, but may even make us targets.
Disinformation can be an effective tool as well. If I knew a crowd was heading my direction, I’d consider displaying messages that’d be considered supportive of the cause in hopes the mob might decide to avoid harassing someone they think is a sympathizer. I’ve seen this tactic successfully used to an extent by local businesses trying keep their storefronts from being destroyed by rioters. [Editor's Note: We saw this very thing happen in the Minneapolis Riots, Read HERE.]
To the extent possible, I’d keep all vehicles inside the garage to not only limit the potential for property damage, but also to shield them from the angry mob and make them accessible to me and my family should we need to evacuate. With the random protests that have been taking place, I’d keep all vehicles topped off with fuel and park them facing outward to make a quick exit more feasible.
Since protests and riots have been random and without a logical pattern, I’d find it necessary to keep extra nonperishable goods stocked in the pantry should scarcity set in due to restricted movement or property damage. This would also ensure that we have plenty of food should we need to shelter in place for an extended period.
I’d have a bug-out bag readily accessible should we need to hit the road. The items I’d include in the bag would be three MREs, several bottles of water, an SBR or rifle-caliber pistol, extra magazines with ammunition, trauma kit, a lighter, solar power pack and cell phone charger, two flashlights, chemlights, four space blankets, a few energy bars, lockpick kit, 550 cord, and duct tape.
Knowing that anarchist types like playing with fire, I’d have two fully charged fire extinguishers inside the home, one upstairs and one downstairs. I’d also remove any fabric window dressing that could easily catch fire should pyrotechnics be thrown through my windows.
From a legal standpoint, I’d make sure I was up to speed on the state and local laws governing the use of deadly force, especially as it relates to home intruders and the protection of property. I’d also make a call to my home insurance provider to make sure my coverage was up to date to cover any newly acquired assets since my last policy review.
With an angry mob already formed and displaying violent behavior outside my home, I wouldn’t attempt to flee via vehicle. Being situated in a cul-de-sac places us in a situation where the crowd has nowhere to advance but toward us. Attempting to leave in a vehicle would only place my family out in the open where we’d likely be trapped in the middle of the mob with nowhere to run.
My first course of action would be to turn off all the lights inside the house and get everyone away from the windows and positioned toward the interior of the house. Having the inside dark may convince the protestors that no one is home to harass. It also makes it difficult for outsiders to see inside, while the exterior lights and streetlights make it easier for me to see what’s going on outside.
Next, call 9-1-1 to notify the authorities and keep them on the phone to produce a detailed audio record of the events. Hearing the genuine fear in the voice of the caller and chaos of the situation might be just what a jury needs to rule in your favor should your actions be tried in court.
I’d then arm my wife with a shotgun and a sidearm and grab my own pistol, AR-15 rifle, and plate carrier I keep in the bedroom closet. With my wife protecting the kids, I’d take up a defensive position at one of the upstairs windows where I could observe the crowd as well as my neighbor’s house.
I’d also set up a camera to record as much as possible to protect myself legally and maybe help send some of these bastards that just assaulted my neighbor to prison. The security camera I have located at the front of my house will record action from the ground level.
As the situation progresses and the possibility of facing a home invasion increases, I’d have my wife and kids fortify the front door by placing our large kitchen table behind it. While it won’t stop a crowd this size from gaining entry, it’ll slow them down and give us time to respond.
In addition to the possibility of a home invasion, the other major threats are fire and gunfire from outside. With the doors and windows creating choke points that make an invading angry mob easier to deal with, these two threats might pose the greatest dangers. Keeping the family away from exterior walls and windows will enhance their safety. I’d also instruct them to stay low to the ground and place hard furniture like wooden desks between them and the walls to add a layer of ballistic protection.
While we continue to enhance our defenses, I’ll have my wife get on the phone and try to contact some friends or family who are relatively close-by to begin forming an evacuation plan should we decide to flee the crowd on foot. Monitoring local news broadcasts may give us an aerial view of the situation that can help us determine the best escape route. Barring any known obstructions, our most likely escape route will initially be over the back wall through to the next street.
As I observe the crowd, I’m looking for nonverbal cues that’ll indicate an imminent attack. I’m looking for instigators to display gestures indicating direction. Pointing toward individuals can communicate specific instructions being given. Pointing or gesturing toward my house or a neighbor’s house can communicate the objective of actions being directed.
The Washington Criminal Code says homicide is justifiable when committed either: (1) “In the lawful defense of the slayer, or his or her husband, wife, parent, child, brother, or sister, or of any other person in his or her presence or company, when there is reasonable ground to apprehend a design on the part of the person slain to commit a felony or to do some great personal injury to the slayer or to any such person, and there is imminent danger of such design being accomplished;” or “(2) In the actual resistance of an attempt to commit a felony upon the slayer, in his or her presence, or upon or in a dwelling, or other place of abode, in which he or she is.” Furthermore, the law states, “there is no duty to retreat when a person is assaulted in a place where he or she has a right to be.”
Dealing with a large and potentially violent angry mob of protesters can be a touchy subject when it comes to the legal ramifications. While the sheer numbers can be intimidating, setting foot on your property only constitutes a misdemeanor trespassing violation. There must be reasonable grounds to believe there’s an imminent danger of serious bodily harm or death before deadly force can be legally justified.
Given the fact that I just witnessed members of the crowd physically assault my neighbor and force their way into their home with his wife, I have an articulable reason to believe that the members of the crowd approaching my own home have the same intentions. I haven’t seen the neighbor’s wife run out of the house since the crowd forced their way inside, which suggests she may have been brutally assaulted or is being held captive by the intruders.
My plan at this point is simple. With our ability to retreat being non-existent, our safest course of action is to hole up inside the house and address whatever threat presents itself. We’re now under the threat of serious bodily harm or death, so I tell my wife to let loose some 00 buckshot on anyone who forces their way through the front door.
While continuing to occupy my high ground position from the upstairs window, I’m looking to address any imminent threat against my family. If I see a gun or pyro device directed toward my home, I will use deadly force. Hopefully, the mob will decide to move their party elsewhere, but hope isn’t a strategy.
Every household should have basic supplies for any disruption in service. What is service? This can be a disruption in power, water, or essential governmental services like police and/or fire department. In my home, I keep three weeks of food and water as a basic level of preparation. Stop and think how much water a family of four requires for three weeks of survival. The answer: a lot. Water is approximately eight pounds per gallon and a family of four can easily use five gallons every other day. That’s a 55-gallon drum of water, and very few people have such a cache in their home.
Second, I always have three weeks of food. I find that food is easier because Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) are a fantastic source of emergency calories. Remember, each person will use, at a minimum, one bag a day. That’s a case every three days (12 meals per case with a family of four). That amounts to seven cases of MREs, which are more sensitive than people commonly understand. The average military MRE has a shelf life of three years. That shelf life can be extended to five or more if the MREs are kept in a temperature-sensitive environment.
I’ll add that in a hostile political environment, items like fire suppression are also key to protecting you and yours. I place fire suppression as an essential part of preparation. If an angry mob appears, fire is a very significant danger. As such, I have a multitude of fire-suppression tools like extinguishers (one for every room), fire blankets, and masks for smoke. At this stage your supply cache is getting quite immense — 55 gallons of water, seven cases of MREs, fire extinguishers, and other resources have nearly filled one room of an average house. This is a must for any “shelter-in-place” crisis. In addition, each family member requires clothing to deal with temperature and precipitation. I’d add that sturdy footwear is critical. I wouldn’t want my daughter running in her flip-flops.
As far as firearms, I have the usual assortment of AR-15s, tactical shotguns, and pistols. I have completed enough formal training to declare myself competent in their use and operation. Notice I didn’t say that I show up at a range once a year and shoot a paper target 25 meters away and call it “good.” I’ve spent the time and money to learn under some of the best instructors in the industry. A person doesn’t need to chase a Tier One operator around to obtain such proficiency, but a structured tactical class with a competent and highly regarded instructor is a must. Remember the three “T’s” of survival: training, training, and training.
When discussing preparation for home defense against an angry mob, I take things to another level. I have security cameras around the property and flood lighting. Yet, these items are a must even without a calamity.
Next step, I equip my home with security gates at every entrance. These are iron gates secured with a deadbolt lock that provides an added layer of protection. In times of domestic turbulence, a strong door is a must. I’d also add that political signage can be a target for people who disagree with you. Normally, this can result in a neighbor upset at your political point of view. However, in an angry mob situation, a party or candidate sign can make you a target. I have security screens on each window. I have a sturdy vehicle, always a four-wheel-drive, to provide a quick exit if the situation necessitates a speedy departure.
Lastly, for preparation, I have a $5 million personal liability umbrella (PLUP). A PLUP is a very inexpensive insurance policy that instantly adds $5 million to home and auto policies. At around $200 per year, a PLUP can significantly protect from civil lawsuits. Check the policy for any exclusions for Intentional Acts. Do not purchase a policy that doesn’t protect you from a use-of-force situation.
Before anything else, remember the old idiom: “Discretion is the better part of valor.” It’s one of a million such quotable notables that Americans are fed on a daily basis, but regarding an angry mob, this one is key. Simply put, thinking logically and avoiding trouble is the most effective weapon in any crisis. Use your brain. If something looks bad, move. Leave. Get to a safe location before trouble starts.
It’s Friday night in Seattle, and you come home to your lovely, pregnant wife and 10-year-old daughter. This isn’t exactly a crack “fire-team.” Soon after you arrive, trouble starts.
You hear loud noises and something like a megaphone. There are chants and screaming, and it’s getting louder. This problem is coming to you. You must act. What can I do to protect myself and my family? There’s nothing more important than protecting you and yours. Your neighbors are secondary considerations, let’s be honest. Do what you can to assist, but you and yours must come first.
Your retired law enforcement neighbor decides to confront the protestors. Why? In all of known history, does the mob disperse at one man’s presence? No, of course not. The angry mob attacks the single man, hitting him about the head. Can you assist? No, not legally. Some jurisdictions allow you to defend someone else (third-party defense) under certain circumstances. But, the prudent thing is to call 9-1-1 and secure your home rather than stumbling into the fray alone.
If there’s a lull, you can break cover and run to assist your retired neighbor. But, absolutely do not run to confront the angry mob with a firearm — this poses a risk of serious legal exposure. Aggravated assault is generally defined as “the intentional or reckless placing of another person in a reasonable apprehension of an imminent deadly attack upon their person.” Does pointing a weapon at a rioter constitute an aggravated assault? Yes. And, in some jurisdictions you may be charged with a prison mandatory offense. People hate to hear that legal protections are so fragile. But this is the reality in our current legislative environment.
There are currently no known protections for mob actions. Each individual in the angry mob is given their own legal protections. You might hear: “I was only filming this for social media when he pointed a gun at me!” We as defenders see the mob as its own entity. Each rioter is a tentacle of the same monster. However, the law does not share our view. Each person must be using or threatening deadly force at you to even potentially justify an armed response. So, keep all of this in mind before leaving your home with a weapon. As a defense attorney for 21 years, I fear a politically motivated prosecution more than any angry mob.
This is where the analysis takes a different turn. No matter what, you should protect yourself and your family from any harm. An angry mob throwing incendiary bombs at your house is a completely different analysis than your neighbor suffering a beating. When, and if, a mob is attempting to enter a home, residents within are almost commanded to protect themselves and their family. Remember, the closer the assault to where you lay your head on a pillow, generally, the more legal protections you’ll have in a self-defense situation. Please know that confronting an angry mob with an exposed firearm in front of your house will likely result in you being charged with a crime. However, repelling a deadly attack inside your home is a completely different situation that wouldn’t likely result in prosecution.
I’d have fire suppression gear staged everywhere and repel an attack with my fortifications like iron gates, deadbolt locks, or sandbags against walls. Currently, Amazon sells 1,000 sandbags for $299. To avoid criminal prosecution, one must call for help. Call 9-1-1 multiple times if necessary. There’ll be an electronic record even if help doesn’t arrive. Express fear knowing the 9-1-1 calls are recorded. It’s not the time to appear stoic. Ingress into your yard and incursion into your home are different things. Protecting your tool shed isn’t the same as protecting your pregnant wife or 10-year-old daughter. Rely upon your defenses when protecting property. Rely upon heavy, sturdy gates and locks. Your security cameras will record the calamity on the property, and your insurance can replace it afterward.
Most jurisdictions don’t allow the defense of property the same as the defense of the interior of the home. When it comes to the family, protect them, but be smart. Use the minimal force necessary to protect yourself. I handle cases where people use the “threat display” — Go away! I have a gun and I’m in my front yard! Why would someone do this? Avoid the angry mob as best you can, and hope the police show up. This sounds cowardly to many, but there aren’t currently many legal justifications/protections outside the home that insulate people from criminal prosecution. We need better legal protections for citizens who defend themselves against mobs, but those protections don’t exist yet.
Circle back to the idiom, “Discretion is the better part of valor.” If there’s trouble in your area, go stay with Uncle Fred until things calm down. Riots are becoming commonplace, regrettably. When possible, protect your family by putting distance between yourselves and any threat. In instances when this is impossible, shelter in place and protect your family with the minimal force necessary to repel any attack inside your residence. Fortify your defenses, stay indoors, don’t confront the angry mob, and you’ll improve your odds of avoiding costly criminal prosecution. Some might call you a coward for avoiding conflict, but it’s better than facing decades in prison at the hands of an activist judge and unsympathetic jury.
Getting trapped at home by an unruly and potentially violent group of politically motivated protestors is one of the most difficult scenarios one might face in today’s era of civil unrest. The volume of people and chaotic nature poses many logistical and use-of-force challenges.
Minimize your target signature and prepare for both immediate evacuation and long-term hold-out. Do everything in your power to avoid a violent confrontation, but if it becomes unavoidable, be ready to fight back efficiently with lethal force.
Chad McBroom is a 24-year veteran law enforcement officer with most of his time spent in the tactical unit. He’s spent over 30 years studying various combative systems and focuses on the science of close combat. Chad is the owner of Comprehensive Fighting Systems, and offers training in empty-hand tactics, edged weapons, impact weapons, and firearms tactics. He’s also a regular contributor to RECOIL. Check out more at
Jason Squires has been an attorney in Arizona for over 21 years. He has an emphasis on self-defense and firearms cases. During his off-time, he’s an avid three-gun competitor across the country. He’s also a collector of military firearms and vehicles. You can check out his practice at squireslawaz.com.