Heriberto Aceves is dead. The store owner was robbed back in his Bakersfield, CA store in late 2016 and the armed assailants brutally assaulted Aceves and his son. Aceves, though, put up a fight. He had a pistol behind the counter. Though the gun was loaded, the chamber was empty - in other words, "Israeli Carry." As Aceves struggled to rack the slide, his assailant shot him.
The incident was captured on the store’s security camera. Tragically, the case of Heriberto Aceves fits a recognizable pattern. Too many Americans feel like simply having a gun, even in an accessible holster, offers them protection. It doesn’t.
Let’s break down this case using the Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act (OODA) Loop analysis structure.
OODA Loop Step 1: Observe
For Heriberto Aceves, Observation was easy. An armed assailant was in his store demanding money. Images show him frantically going through his pockets, handing over items to a robber.
OODA Loop Step 2: Orient
Aceves had no idea where the incident might end. Many robberies are just that. Yet the violence of this incident led him to believe deadly force was necessary. He had a gun. From the video, it appears the pistol was behind the counter.
OODA Loop Step 3: Decide
The location of the gun put the store owner at a considerable disadvantage. He waited for a window of distraction, and then made a break for the gun.
We could derail this here and simply talk about the benefits of actually carrying guns. I’ll resist. Aceves decided to fight and went for his pistol.
Sadly, he had trouble getting on target. As he engaged his attacker, he had difficulty with his apron.
OODA Loop Step 4: Act
In the split-second movement between the counter and the one-sided volley of gunfire, a fatal flaw in Aceves’s plan emerged. The gun was not ready to fire. As he moved to engage, he tried to rack the slide. At this point, his attacker fired.
He fell to the floor. The assailant continued shooting. Even though he had been shot, Aceves still tries to get the slide back. He couldn’t. He died trying. His son (who had been seated behind him) was also killed.
It is all but impossible to overcome these odds. The man robbing the store had his gun drawn, loaded, and on target. The ability to fire a fatal shot required only a reactionary synapse in his brain. Aceves, tragically, had too many obstacles that he had set for himself.
That may seem like a tactless interpretation of an incident in which a man and his son, who was also shot, lost their lives. My intention isn’t to judge Aceves. Instead, I would offer this as a lesson for the rest of us.
Two men were arrested for the deadly assault. Darnell Hammond and Myron Givan both fired their guns during the robbery. Hammond allegedly fled the scene, but returned moments later for the money. When he left the store the second time, Givan had fled with Jim Langston, the pair’s getaway driver.
Hammond left on foot and was easily apprehended.
If you have already read my earlier piece on carrying with a round in the chamber, you can guess what this next section will include. It is the sermon that follows the reading of the text, and I present it unapologetically.
There’s no crystal ball that could prove, definitively, that Aceves would have lived if he’d had his loaded gun concealed on his hip, so I’ll skip that conjecture. I failed statistics in my freshman year of college. Even so, I know Aceves’s odds would have been better.
Most defensive shootings, the ones that prosecutors tend to qualify as “justified,” escalate quickly. In almost all of these instances where deadly force is justified, the assailant has a distinct advantage. Their weapon, be it a gun or otherwise, is already drawn.
Those responding to this situation often exploit an element of surprise. While the assailant may presume his or her victim is powerless, they often are not. A moment of distraction allows the would-be-victim to seize the advantage.
If you carry concealed, you must draw, get on target, and then engage that target. Even if you carry openly, you have to clear the holster.
This movement often lacks subtlety. Drawing a gun has a way of drawing attention, especially if you have to move clothing as you go.
Think about this logically. You are in imminent, life-threatening danger. You move without hesitation, sweep aside your shirt, draw your gun, push toward your target, and align sights. Then you pull the trigger and….
Aceves, and everyone everywhere that carries an unloaded gun, adds a new letter to their OODA Loop: P. P is for Panic. OODAPAA. Observe, Orient, Decide, Act, Panic, Act Again. Here’s hoping you get that second chance.