Man Tracking His Stolen Car Gets into Gun Fight With Occupants

This past Sunday, a man found what he was looking for and more while tracking his stolen vehicle. Nothing in the incident is extraordinary, however it’s worth extracting some helpful lessons.

West 12th Avenue and North Decatur Street : Google Maps

The Defensive Gun Use—

According to Denver 7 News, at around 7:00 PM on February 5th, a man located his stolen vehicle. The man located the vehicle by tracking it with some smartphone app, perhaps something like an Apple Airtag. The man approached the vehicle near West 12th Avenue and North Decatur Street. News 7 reports that at least one of several people inside the stolen vehicle and its owner exchanged gunfire. The suspects flee from the area and crash in the 2900 block of West 10th Avenue.

When police arrived, all occupants had fled the stolen vehicle except for the driver, a 12-year-old male who sustained a gunshot injury. Paramedics took him to the hospital, where he died.

Some Takeaways—

I think there is value in looking at incidents like these to see if we can learn what worked, and what could be done better. Often with these types of posts, people misconstrue the intent, and characterize it as “Monday morning quarterbacking.” That is simply not the case.

Let the Police do Their Job:

I understand with defunded police departments, and a laissez faire attitude toward property crimes, victims in various places across the country feel like the police don’t care when a scumbag steals or destroys the property they work so hard to purchase and maintain. I’m speculating, but perhaps the vehicle owner contacted the police, and they said there would be a delayed response prior to going on his own hunt.

I don’t believe that under no circumstance should you try to locate your stolen vehicle if you’re tracking it with something like an Airtag. Just to say that in doing so, you’re taking on serious risk. During my time as a police officer on patrol, I often drove a vehicle equipped with a plate scanner, and hunted for stolen vehicles. I’ve recovered lots or stolen vehicles, and the occupants’ responses have often been violent. The point is, approaching an occupied stolen vehicle is inherently dangerous.

If you choose to track it, it’s best practice to follow at a safe distance and wait for the police to make contact.

duty to inform duty to notify

Don’t Assume—

At least one of the car thieves in this incident was only 12 years old. We’ve noted this disturbing trend of incredibly young criminals on the Concealed Carry Podcast, especially on our Defensive Gun Use episodes. The reason I think the age of the suspect is important is that we shouldn’t assume that just because someone is young, or a female, that they aren’t there to do us harm or incapable of carrying it out.

Consider the Bigger Picture—

The outcome in this incident is that a 12-year-old lost his life, and the man got his car back, presumably in worse shape than he would like. And while he has the right to find and take back his vehicle, it raises the likelihood of conflict. We should always look at engaging in actions that are likely to cause someone’s death, as a last resort. And while the vehicle owner seems to have been acting in self defense, he could have died, and now must deal with the reality that he had to shoot and kill a 12-year-old.

Again, I am not suggesting he did not have the right to defend himself, just that whenever we engage in an incident like this, we have to consider that someone may die, and that includes us. For most of us, taking the life of another human, even one who stole your vehicle, is a tough thing to live with. It’s natural to second guess your decisions leading up to the shooting. And it may make it harder if we could have avoided the conflict all together.

In Closing—

When I read stories like these, or watch videos of violent encounters, I try to learn lessons. I look at them as educational content. However, in doing so, I am careful to not forget that the subjects are real people. They have real families that care for them, real struggles and have to live in the reality of their decisions. Let’s try to learn from these stories without becoming jaded toward all humanity.

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  1. Carl Thorstad on February 8, 2023 at 2:00 pm

    Hindsight being 20/20, imho the owner was very lucky not to be numbered in the bodycount. Keeping an open line to 911, maybe maintaining visual contact with the car and updating police dispatch might have resulted in a different outcome. Buying the police time without losing sight of the vehicle might have been wiser, considering all the information the owner didn’t have, like who was in the car and were they armed.

    • J. Chandler on February 8, 2023 at 3:26 pm

      Agree Carl,
      It is true I need my vehicles for transportation to/from work and personal use, but none are worth my life. Buying a new vehicle (even without insurance) costs less to my family than a funeral + my lost income, or the medical costs and loss of physical capacity from getting injured. Besides, a car riddled with bullet holes put there by me is not worth the risk.
      Even if police don’t / won’t / can’t come retrieve the car, take pics of the thieves (if can be done safely) and let them work it. Then thank God you are still healthy and not in jail, and you don’t have to live with the memory of killing someone over a depreciating asset.

  2. Clark Kent on February 9, 2023 at 3:33 pm

    First of all, the correct spelling of ‘laze fair’ is laissez faire. As far as the car owner is concerned, he in a world of hurt especially if the dead suspect is a certain race (coupled with the fact he will be listed as a ‘child’ by the media). I can understand the frustration of the vehicle owner, as he has probably been shined on by the local police. Here in Washington state police chases have been banned for all intents and purposes so contacting same is a joke for the purposes of reclaiming your car. Plus, police are so understaffed they don’t even attempt any follow up on a stolen car report; your case number is only for insurance purposes. Although I don’t necessarily agree with the behavior of the car owner, I can understand it. Folks are becoming upset at the lack of the rule of law and a result are taking matters into their own hands.

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