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    Default Shadow Figures: Assessing Criminal Threats

    Shadow Figures: Assessing Criminal Threats
    Bill Oliver
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    In the early 1980s I set about to look the devil in the eye, to learn all I could about dangerous criminal behavior. After a twenty year odyssey of working with the most dangerous inmate-patients that the state of California had incarcerated, I learned some lessons that might aid the concealed license holder in understanding the mindset, motives, and methods of the "shadow figures" we are defending ourselves against.


    The first twelve years of this odyssey was at Atascadero State Hospital, which houses violent, mentally ill offenders. Then the odyssey led to a supermax prison, Pelican Bay State Prison in northern California, where I helped to open and operate the Psychiatric Services Unit (PSU) for five years. Before retirement, the road led back to Atascadero State hospital to work for four years with Sexually Violent Predators (SVP.) After thousands of hours of discussions with inmate-patients, studying the nature of the criminal mentality, I found a lot of valuable information about how victims are picked and the criminal's mindset at the moments leading up to, and during a violent assault.


    The very first piece of knowledge to pass on is that the devil never looks like the devil; he looks very ordinary in most respects. An effective predator will be a chameleon and fit into the environment he is hunting. Visualize the mentality a deer hunter must use to stalk prey, and realize that to some individuals, you are the prey.


    Violence is not personal


    To you and me, the idea of being targeted for victimization is very personal and life altering. But to the violent predator, you are an object to be moved out of the way to get his need met. He has spent a lifetime rationalizing his actions, and you are simply the means to an end. More often than not, the violent predator will be under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or psychological desensitization, which makes it much easier to do anything to you. To the criminal, violence or simply taking what they want by any means is a way of life. They are often victims of violence themselves, and they see it as a perfectly normal behavior.


    How often have you heard that it is safer to comply with the orders of a violent offender? "Give them what they want." My experience tells me that this is sound advice only for a short period of time in order to deceive the violent offender into giving you the opportunity to decisively turn the tables. The violent predator already perceives you as an object. The more compliant you appear to be, the more contempt for you he will overtly display.


    A multiple-murderer named J.A typified the motive of a lot of violent predators. He was robbing a convenience store in Texas and the woman teller complied with his orders promptly and offered no resistance of any kind. When asked why he shot her in the head if she was doing everything he told her to do, he replied in a cold, matter of fact way, "I killed her because I could; why leave a witness?" The fact that this woman had several children meant nothing to him. Most crimes are done because the criminal believes he can do it and get away with it. The overwhelming reason comes down to, "I killed because I could!"


    Violent criminals will commit crimes and generally see it as your fault that you made yourself vulnerable to them by letting your guard down. It would be great if all violent offenders pulled knives or guns and yelled from a hundred feet away as they ran at you, but that is not the case. Usually violent offenders have a history behind bars, and in prison it is a deadly mistake to telegraph your intent to be violent, so they learn that the best way to launch an attack is by being casual, smiling, and not drawing attention before the attack. This often means engaging in conversation or other interaction before a violent attack.


    In a conversation with Charles Manson, while he was housed at Pelican Bay, he talked about how he entered the unlocked home of the LaBianca family and was smiling and non-threatening as he let it be known that he was there to rob them. He was by his own words, "kind and even joked and reassured Mr. LaBianca" that his intent was not violent as he tied up Mr. Labianca. Mr. LaBianca was deceived by his inability to imagine his own victimization beyond being robbed.


    In his closing statements during Charles Manson's trial, Vincent Bugliosi recalled the testimony of Linda Kasabian, who testified that she had heard Manson say that he had tied the LaBianca's hands and told them not to be afraid, that he was not going to hurt them. He went on to say:



    "In addition to those instructions, ladies and gentlemen, Linda also recalls hearing Manson telling Tex, Katie, and Leslie not to cause fear and panic to the people She testified: "It keeps ringing in my head that he said, 'Don't let them know you are going to kill them.'" Now, wasn't that considerate, wasn't that considerate of Charles Manson?


    "Since Manson was able to leave Mr. and Mrs. LaBianca in their home all by themselves while he walked back to the car, we can assume that Mr. and Mrs. LaBianca believed Charles Manson when he told them that everything was going to be all right and he was not going to hurt them. If they didn't believe him, right after he left, it seems to me that one thing they could have done would be to run out of the house, to get help. There is evidence that Leno's wrists were tied. There is no evidence that Leno and Rosemary had their feet tied. So if they did not fall for Charles Manson's lies when he left the house, they could have ran out of the house for help, or they could have locked the door. Manson probably left them still alive with pillowcases over their heads, and they probably thought he was just some freaked-out hippie, and if they did everything he told them to do and did not resist him, no harm would come to them. To fool the LaBiancas, ladies and gentlemen, Charles Manson had to wear the same mask that he is wearing in this court, just a peace-loving individual. In assuring them everything was going to be all right, and not to be afraid, obviously Manson had to talk to Mr. and Mrs. LaBianca. Can't you just picture the scene, ladies and gentlemen, Leno and Rosemary with pillowcases over their heads, Manson saying to them: 'You two piggies just stay put, now, and everything is going to be all right.'


    "And then silently snaking, snaking out of that residence to go down and get his bloodthirsty robots. Mr. and Mrs. LaBianca had no way of knowing that Charles Manson and his soft voice, his soft demeanor, was preparing them for their horrible death."[1]



    It is a common occurrence for a violent offender to use deception to mentally disarm a potential victim. Serial killer Ted Bundy would pretend to have a broken arm and be in need of assistance, knowing full well that people tend to see injured people as being harmless. He then used the cast on his hand as a weapon. The theme of needing assistance is used often to get close to and mentally disarm a potential victim.


    Using a woman or child to distract you and have you let your guard down is not that uncommon. I worked with one individual who would use his wife and child as bait to abduct women whom he imprisoned in his basement. He would rape and kill these women in his private torture chamber while his wife was fully aware, but complied out of fear for herself and child. Some predators manipulate women or young teenagers to become willing partners in the crime. Take nothing at face value too quickly.


    While working with the Treasury Department in the mid 1970s, I heard about a woman who was carjacked and abducted. The abductor forced her to drive out into the country. She realized she had to do something to prevent being raped and probably murdered. She decided to fake a seizure. She flopped her head into the abductor's lap and began shaking and trying to throw up on the guy, spitting and gagging. The abductor became distracted with trying to control the steering wheel as the car was free wheeling down the road. The abductor got control of the car and stopped it on the shoulder, then jumped out of the car to see if she had thrown up on him. The woman slammed the door and quickly drove away while the abductor stood on the side of the road, totally rattled. The woman used deception to take control of the situation and used her wits.


    It is perfectly all right to pretend to comply with a violent offender until such time as you can distract, deceive, or get distance from him, prior to using anything at your disposal to turn the tables, and if required, use a lethal response. His violence is not personal, and your response must also not be personal--but it must be decisive.


    Actual danger or paranoia?


    We have numerous unexpected interactions; rarely will an interaction be of any danger to anyone. But not all interactions are as they seem. Being aware of all possibilities, even the extreme ones, will give you more mental tools to assess all possible situations. Even some potentially dangerous interactions do not require the use of a lethal response. I carry two wallets so that if some mugger is foolish enough to want to rob me, I may give him the wallet in my right pocket which carries nothing of real value. The other wallet carries those things I hold more valuable. The reasoning is that if I determine that a mugger is not interested in anything but money, I may well give him my fake wallet rather than resort to lethal force. To fake compliance will tend to disarm him mentally and give me the advantage no matter what my decision is. Being a big, ugly, biker type, I seem to rarely attract aggressiveness but it might well be worth giving a foolish mugger a worthless wallet rather than deal with the issues involved with use of lethal force, if it is not absolutely required.


    A killer's mindset once the tables turn


    So what do you do when you have no doubt that you are being confronted with a violent assault and you have bought yourself, by accurate assessment of a criminal's dangerous intent, a few seconds to react? The predator will not be looking for a fair fight. He will be vulnerable by believing that he has caught you unprepared. He will not be debating the right or wrong of taking your life, and he will not be slowed down by any moral conflict. He has committed himself to making you his victim. The predator will not be concerned about what some paper will write tomorrow or what some lawyer will say. The situation has moved to the absolute here and now, with no yesterday or tomorrow that needs to be considered.


    I have talked with people who express some doubt about being able to shoot another human being, and it is good that they have empathy for others. However, when I ask them how long they would hesitate to shoot someone who was killing their child, or mother, or husband, there's no hesitation and doubt at all. Most people would hesitate out of denial that their own life was at risk, but they would not hesitate to shoot to save the life of a loved one who was in the exact same situation.


    Train for motor skill, train to improve speed, and train to improve your ability with a gun or other weapon. But more vital: train your mind to realize that you are learning to shoot so that your family is protected from the violent predator that would destroy the lives of all who love you by causing harm to you. To save the life of your child, wife, husband, mother or father you must find that which will momentarily bring out the killer instinct in every sheep dog. The article is called Shadow Figures because the violent predator has little more in common with a real human being than the silhouette target you use to practice.


    Your handgun is the final argument in a life and death altercation. Do not rely on it before you use the weapons of your wits, observation ability, and creative thinking to assess and avoid if at all possible, danger in any situation.

    ***

    Bill Oliver is a retired forensic Psychiatric Technician from California who worked twenty years at Atascadero State Hospital and Pelican Bay State Prison. Currently he works part time as a Psych Tech for the state of Colorado. He has six years of college, majoring in Psychology. He has a concealed carry permit for Colorado and for Utah. His favorite carry handgun is a Kimber Ultra CDP2/ 45. This is his first submission to USCCA. Bill Oliver can be reached as "Bebo" at both USCCA and American Sheepdog forums, or at BGoliver5081@aol.com


    Notes:


    [1] Partial Transcript of Linda Kasabian and Vincent Bugliosi closing statements: http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/proj...summation.html
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    That was very informative. I am going to read it out loud during my next Sheep Prevention Meeting- very good info- thanks!

    As far as staff contributers go you are fantastic!

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    Default awe.... shucks ....

    Phillip (UGA) gave me my own little signature logo ...
    but you really shouldn't do that .... honest ... I work much better and produce better work when being abused and neglected and banded and slapped around and picked on and treated like dirt and poked fun at and verbally insulted and spanked with a hairbrush ...really .. but I will try to produce some interesting work product for all you good people .. infact, I will start right now .........
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    Another excellent and informative topic.
    In paragraph 4 of Violence is not personal, you state, "This often means engaging in conversation or other interaction before a violent attack." In the thread which had the video of the man being blind-sided at a McDonalds, I had suggested that , paraphrasing here, "had the victim engaged the VCA in conversation, it might have prevented the attack." Since I agree with your conclusion and feel that mine are valid as well, I think the members need to understand the difference between the two statements.

    If a unknown individual comes up to you and initiates a conversation for no obvious reason, that person may be sizing you up as a potential target. He is in control of the conversation and the situation.

    In the incident on the video, if the victim had initiated contact with the assailant, it may (not guarnteed) have derailed the attackers plan. It would have put the victim in control of the conversation and the situation. Ambush predators are at heart cowards. Anything that causes a change in their plan, such as you not being a willing victim, may cause enough disruption in their OODA loop to allow for you to avoid or survive and attack.

    OODA: Observation, Orientation, Decision, Action.

    This is something we do constantly without thinking about it. When we drive on a freeway we Observe other vehicles, we Orient ourselves to the conditions, we Decide on what needs to be done, we take Action and avoid other vehicles. Whoever has the fastest and most effective OODA loop wins.

    As a juvenile corrections officer I see all the same markers in the juveniles I supervise. Whatever happens, if it is negative, is always someone elses fault. "Well, they shouldn't have had the stuff where I could steal it." I am fortunate that in the eight plus years I have been working in corrections I have seen only one juvenile that I would classify as a true sociopath. This young man stole a car and when he realized there was a baby in a car seat in the backseat, he threw the carseat and baby out of the car. I believe he did slow down a little. His world revolved completely around him.

    When discussing paranoia with people (usually Sheep), I tell them that I am not paranoid, I am prepared.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sgt T View Post
    Another excellent and informative topic.
    In paragraph 4 of Violence is not personal, you state, "This often means engaging in conversation or other interaction before a violent attack." In the thread which had the video of the man being blind-sided at a McDonalds, I had suggested that , paraphrasing here, "had the victim engaged the VCA in conversation, it might have prevented the attack." Since I agree with your conclusion and feel that mine are valid as well, I think the members need to understand the difference between the two statements.

    If a unknown individual comes up to you and initiates a conversation for no obvious reason, that person may be sizing you up as a potential target. He is in control of the conversation and the situation.

    In the incident on the video, if the victim had initiated contact with the assailant, it may (not guarnteed) have derailed the attackers plan. It would have put the victim in control of the conversation and the situation. Ambush predators are at heart cowards. Anything that causes a change in their plan, such as you not being a willing victim, may cause enough disruption in their OODA loop to allow for you to avoid or survive and attack.

    OODA: Observation, Orientation, Decision, Action.

    This is something we do constantly without thinking about it. When we drive on a freeway we Observe other vehicles, we Orient ourselves to the conditions, we Decide on what needs to be done, we take Action and avoid other vehicles. Whoever has the fastest and most effective OODA loop wins.

    As a juvenile corrections officer I see all the same markers in the juveniles I supervise. Whatever happens, if it is negative, is always someone elses fault. "Well, they shouldn't have had the stuff where I could steal it." I am fortunate that in the eight plus years I have been working in corrections I have seen only one juvenile that I would classify as a true sociopath. This young man stole a car and when he realized there was a baby in a car seat in the backseat, he threw the carseat and baby out of the car. I believe he did slow down a little. His world revolved completely around him.

    When discussing paranoia with people (usually Sheep), I tell them that I am not paranoid, I am prepared.
    Sgt T, there is very little we would disagree about ... I agree that often criminals will engage a potential victim to "size them up" as well as to put them at ease before an attack or they will engage the potential victim to distract the potential victim while an other criminal does the bad deed... I agree that the man at mcdonalds should have engaged to some extent the sucker puncher and had he spoken to him .. I doubt the criminal would have attacked or at least certainly not sucker punched the teacher because he would have not been in la la land waiting to be punched.
    I have worked with full blown sociopathic criminals who were well on their way to being hardened life long criminals and less than 22 years old .. very dangerous young people .. so if you have only met one young sociopath, you are lucky.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sgt T View Post
    As a juvenile corrections officer I see all the same markers in the juveniles I supervise. Whatever happens, if it is negative, is always someone elses fault. "Well, they shouldn't have had the stuff where I could steal it."
    I have heard something similar, but it came from a SHEEP.
    I used to hang out at a coffee shop in St Cloud, MN. Most of the clients were of the young "goth/punk" type. Really nice kids. Just maybe too liberal in their views.
    There was a police shooting in town one time where the police had to kill a local kid who had been cutting up, and causing trouble. He had stolen a car, led police on a chase, ran through some yards with a sawed off shot gun, and finally pointed said weapon at police.
    Well, the next day I come to find out that the dirtbag was known to some of the kiddies at the coffee shop. I remember one of them being absolutely incensed at the police for "killing the guy in cold blood". His reasoning? It was the cops' fault. If they had "put their guns away, Johnny wouldn't have had to use the shotgun he had."
    Never mind the stuff about stealing the car, running around with a loaded gun, and pointing it dangerously at the cops. It was "not his fault". He only "had the shot gun to protect himself".
    This is the mentality we must face every day. And the kid that said these things was not even a criminal!

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    Quote Originally Posted by SkivMarine View Post
    I have heard something similar, but it came from a SHEEP.
    I used to hang out at a coffee shop in St Cloud, MN. Most of the clients were of the young "goth/punk" type. Really nice kids. Just maybe too liberal in their views.
    There was a police shooting in town one time where the police had to kill a local kid who had been cutting up, and causing trouble. He had stolen a car, led police on a chase, ran through some yards with a sawed off shot gun, and finally pointed said weapon at police.
    Well, the next day I come to find out that the dirtbag was known to some of the kiddies at the coffee shop. I remember one of them being absolutely incensed at the police for "killing the guy in cold blood". His reasoning? It was the cops' fault. If they had "put their guns away, Johnny wouldn't have had to use the shotgun he had."
    Never mind the stuff about stealing the car, running around with a loaded gun, and pointing it dangerously at the cops. It was "not his fault". He only "had the shot gun to protect himself".
    This is the mentality we must face every day. And the kid that said these things was not even a criminal!
    Excellent point, and very well said. Two incidents locally fall among those same lines. A 15yr old was shot and killed by a police officer at a housing project when running from the police and he turned and pointed a handgun at the officer. The community made it out to be racially motivated and said he was just a kid. They basically drug this man through the mud and tried to have him fired for doing his job.

    Another incident involved a suicidal man surrounded by cops, raised a rifle at the officers and was shot several times, they paused and saw that the man did not go down and was still a threat, they had to open fire again. He was hit dozens of times all over his body from his ankle to his chin. They community was outraged and said it was excessive use of force due to the amount of gun fire. The family tried to sue, it has been dismissed I believe. The police believe it or not, have the same rules regarding the use of deadly force as permit holders. They cannot shoot until an imminent threat is shown and they shoot to end the threat. When he raised the gun, the threat of grievous bodily harm was there, and they shot to end the threat. After the first volley, the threat remained and they had to continue to end the threat. It's nothing personal, its what happens when you point a gun and threaten to take a life.
    It takes only seconds to call the police, waiting for them to arrive could take the rest of your life...





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    Good points, Phil.
    I think that people generally don't understand what constitutes certain parts of the law.
    As an example; most folks think of kidnapping as a crime where someone is taken away from their loved ones, is tied up in a basement, and a ransom is demanded for their safe return.
    However; in order for me to be guilty of kidnapping, all I would have to do is grab you by the arm and move you a couple of feet in a direction you didn't want to go. Especially if my intent is malicious.
    For a 1st degree murder it would be the simple act of saying something. If I have just shot you and you are laying on the ground dead, I can be charged with 2nd degree murder, or even aggravated assault if you live. However; if I were to utter the simple phrase "take this" before taking that first shot it has now become premeditated, and therefore 1st degree murder.
    The point is that most people don't know what constitutes legal action on the part of the police. Or for the private citizen for that matter. People have been brought up on the TV idea of law enforcement where the bad guy has to actually take a shot at you before you can respond.

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    Post Great article...it's time to review again...

    It has been almost three years since I first read "Shadow Figures." That was not too long after I began my journey into self protection and awareness. There are many ways the article affected me at the time; however, here are the two basic.
    1. It confirmed what always felt right, even during the time when the authorities were preaching the opposite...trust my instincts, my gut, use my brain and if necessary fight in whatever manner is required at the time.
    2. It helped me realize just how easily regular people can be deceived by those who want to do harm. Be alert, look beyond the obvious and question....
    I encourage all members to read this excellent article and to share with family and friends!

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    An excellent example of this: Ted Bundy. This guy was a smooth talker, and his disarming personality caused the deaths of many people.
    I deal with this every day on the job. People not realizing that someone is "sizing them up" as a potential victim. And then whining about it when they become the victim. If you're gonna be dumb, you gotta be tough. And what our society lacks right now is a lot of 'toughness'. Most people just are not as aware of their surroundings as they should be, and then mistakenly believe that the police can protect them from all evil. No sense of personal responsibility, no self-defense awareness mechanisms at all, not thinking things through.
    And we wonder why we're in the mess we're in now in our country today?

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