Welcome to today’s Law of Self Defense content, which in a departure from our normal practice is open-access rather than restricted to our Members. The reason for this exception is the news from New York City of a vicious attack upon a stopped vehicle containing a 74-year-old woman and her 50-ish son by a mob of violent aggressors who slammed the vehicle with bicycles and smashed the front windshield with a jumping leap from the hood of the car.
Indeed, so vicious was the attack that the NY Post reports a NYPD police officer described it as “animalistic”: Group of NYC bicyclists attack BMW in broad daylight, wild video shows
At that point, in a desperate effort to secure their safety, and with the 74-year-old woman openly weeping and in fear for her life, the vehicle drove through the attackers. Those attackers briefly pursued the vehicle, then fled, remain unidentified, and are unlikely to ever be held accountable.
Naturally, given our modern world, the event was captured by cell phone cameras from several angles, and those videos are embedded below.
I’ll note that this is not an isolated event, not even for New York City. Just two weeks ago a similar attack occurred upon another vehicle near Times Square, and that vehicle also drove through its attackers. The driver of that vehicle has since been charged with reckless endangerment: Police say six people were injured when a car plowed into Black Lives Matter demonstrators in Manhattan (The Guardian, Dec. 12, 2020).
Are the victims attacked by yesterday’s mob to be similarly charged for their effort to flee the attack upon them and secure their safety?
Especially in today’s era of highly politicized prosecutions it is more important than ever to ensure that you are equipped not only with the physical means and tactical expertise to ensure the safety of yourself and your family, but also that you are well-informed on the legal rules-of-engagement for these types of vehicular attacks, which carry with them legal issues not normally found in, say, a typical armed robbery scenario.
Accordingly, Law of Self Defense is partnering once again with our good friends at Concealed Carry to bring you a combo course of instruction that addresses both these sets of issues. Now you can obtain the combination of BOTH Concealed Carry’s “Complete Vehicle Firearms Tactical Training Course” ONLINE and instantly accessible, AND the Law of Self Defense “Lawful Defense Against Rioters, Looters & Arsonists Course” also ONLINE and instantly accessible, at UP TO 65% OFF their usual price, saving almost $100. (You can also choose either course alone, also at a great savings.)
I’ll share more about that exceptional offer—which, by the way, will be available for ONLY 48 HOURS—after our legal analysis of this mob attack on the vehicle in New York, including the cell phone videos taken of the event.
The victim vehicle contained the driver, who himself posted on Twitter as @maxtnyc212, and a passenger whom he describes as his 74-year-old mother. One news report (Daily News) reported that the driver was 36, but this would have made his mother 48 at his birth, which seems unlikely. Another news report (NY Post) reported that both were in their 50s, but this is contradicted by the driver’s own tweet. Faced with these contradictions, I’m going to presume that the woman was 74 years old, as reported by the driver, and the driver was in his 50s.
These two victims, while in their car, were attacked by a mob of between 20 and 50 yutes mostly on bicycles, with a few on small (apparently unplated) motorcycles. Of these 20-50, about a handful of the mob were the most aggressively violent, but of course one nature of a mob attack is that everyone acting in concert is effectively as responsible as the worst of their members. Further, the victim has no way of knowing how many members of a coordinated mob will decide to also escalate to the aggressiveness of their most violent members.
I note in passing that most of the mob appear to have been unmasked. In NYC. So much for that policy mandate.
The following videos were screen-captured by me from various Twitter posts (a practice I acquired after discovering that many videos disappear when they begin to attract attention), so I include both an image capture of the tweet, and an embed of the video pulled from that tweet.
The first video is captured in close proximity to the attack upon the vehicle and concludes with the vehicle driving out of the attack and down the road.
First the tweet:
Now the video:
The second video is also captured from close proximity to the car, but from a different angle.
First the tweet:
Now the video:
The third and final video is taken from the perspective of the vehicle’s stopping point, about a block from the point of attack.
First the tweet:
Now the video:
It is notably the vehicle is initially pursued by the mob. This is a common occurrence in such attacks, as noted in our “Lawful Defense Against Rioters, Looters & Arsonists” course.
Such pursuit makes achieving safety by simply driving away problematic in a crowded urban environment in which it is likely the fleeing vehicle will find its progress blocked by routine traffic, allowing even a mob on foot or bicycle to catch up to the vehicle.
In the third video it becomes apparent that the mob decides to move on from the vehicle, but that can obviously not be known to the people in the vehicle as they are making their flight attempt. It would be reasonable to presume, once a mob attack has been made upon the vehicle, that the pursuing mob continues to present an imminent threat as the vehicle flees.
So how did all this start? The driver of the vehicle tweeted the following the day of the event, providing additional details of what occurred, from his own perspective:
As one might expect from a reportedly “animalistic” mob, rather than accept the naturally occurring consequences of their own poor choices, the mob responded to this self-induced injury by violently attacking the vehicle, as seen in the videos.
Even after the vehicle drove a block down the street and pulled to the curb, the driver and passenger remained terrorized by the mob:
It is noteworthy that this attack occurred at 5th Avenue and 21st Street in Manhattan, in what is known as the Flatiron District, one block from the iconic Flatiron Building (image below) and two blocks from Madison Square Garden—normally considered a relatively “safe” part of New York City.
As the victim driver noted in another tweet, in an echo of Frank Sinatra, if it can happen there, it can happen anywhere:
Note also the reference of the subsequent attack on a cab driver, who was actually pulled from his vehicle and beaten down in the street. It is in the nature of mobs that their use of violence is indiscriminate and that anyone within their reach may be their next victim.
Indeed, even the original victims were not merely outnumbered, and not merely substantially older than their younger and, presumably, fitter attackers, they were also exceptionally vulnerable to suffering death or serious bodily injury from physical attack because of apparent physical infirmity, as evidenced by “medical license plates” on their vehicle noted by an eyewitness:
Fortunately, the victims in the attacked vehicle did not suffer serious physical injury, although the psychological trauma of such an attack, particularly upon an essentially defenseless infirm 74-year-old woman—particularly defenseless in a jurisdiction that effectively prohibits her from being armed for self-defense—cannot be underestimated.
Likely not as much can be said for the cab driver pulled from his vehicle and beaten, presumably to the point of being hospitalized, but I’ve seen no news reports on his condition.
It’s also notable that the event appears to re-affirm the old adage that “a Conservative is a Liberal who has been mugged.” While we know nothing about the politics of the persons in the car, some remarks in the driver’s tweets suggest they are typical New York Liberals: “I am all for taking money from corrupt cops …,” for example.
Also, an entirely unrelated tweet posted on Election Day makes clear he was happy with the purported Biden victory:
Other comments in the driver’s tweets, however, suggest that a red-pill moment may have been experienced. “Defund the police”? No way!
“ACAB: All Cops are Bastards!”? I think NOT, good sir!
Turns out that there’s never a social worker or confrontation dissuader when you need one—like when your 74-year-old mother is screaming into the phone to 911 that she believes she is about to be killed by a vicious mob.
OK, enough with the politics, let’s focus back on the law.
Clearly the people in the vehicle were the innocent victims of an unlawful mob attack—so what were their legal and tactical options? Here I’ll stay in my lane and stick to the “legal” part of that question—but don’t forget our FLASH SALE offer above that provides world-class instruction on BOTH the legal AND tactical dynamics of lawful defense against such attacks.
Legally speaking, the question is whether the people in the car were privileged to use force to defend themselves against attack, and if so what degree of force. To answer that question we naturally step through our usual Five Elements of Self-Defense Law Analysis, using the five elements of: Innocence, Imminence, Proportionality, Avoidance, and Reasonableness.
Incidentally, if this notion of the “Five Elements” is unfamiliar to you, I strongly urge you to download our 100% FREE “Five Elements of Self-Defense Law Infographic.” These five elements are the legal building blocks of any claim of self-defense to justify a use-of-force against another, and if you don’t understand these elements you simply can’t understand how self-defense law works in the real world. The 100% FREE Infographic provides a brief description of each of the five elements so that you have at least that absolutely necessary foundational knowledge, and of course it costs absolutely nothing. To download your free “Five Elements of Self-Defense Law Infographic” simply click the image or link below:
In terms of the element of Innocence, all available evidence is that it was the mob who were the initial unlawful physical aggressors in this confrontation—although it would be helpful to the victims to buttress this perception if they’d had dash cam video from within their car running continuously so as to have captured the first moments of the confrontation. In any case, Innocence, checked for the driver and passenger in the vehicle.
In terms of the element of Imminence, the victims in the vehicle made no use of force whatever (and that assumes fleeing the scene in their vehicle constitutes a “use of force” at all, until they were actually under physical assault. True, neither driver nor passenger was actually physically injured, but the law does not require a victim to be actually injured before they can defend—the law allows defense against the injury that is imminently about to happen, but for defense. So, Imminence, checked for the driver and passenger in the vehicle.
In terms of the element of Proportionality, what degree of threat were the people in the vehicle facing—mere non-deadly force, or deadly force—and what degree of force did they use in defense—again, mere non-deadly force or deadly force? Deadly defensive force would generally be warranted only if one were facing a deadly force threat. Were they facing a deadly force threat?
In some jurisdictions, an effort by an aggressor to forcibly and unlawfully breach your vehicle creates a legal presumption that the passengers inside are facing an imminent, unlawful deadly force threat, against which deadly defensive force would be legally justified.
New York has no such legal presumption, but even absent the presumption such circumstances allow for a reasonable inference of a deadly force threat.
This is particularly the case given the other disparities in force also present of this event—including being outnumbered some 50 to 2, being much older than the attackers, being infirm, and so forth. Collectively all of these clearly qualify as an unlawful offensive force readily capable of causing the victims death or serious bodily injury.
If deadly defensive force is warranted, the law does little to distinguish between various precise forms of deadly force. Had the victims been armed with a firearm, the use of a gun as deadly defensive force is justified if any form of deadly force is justified. In this case, being in NYC and apparently law-abiding, the victims would not have had a firearm for purposes of self-defense—but they certainly had their vehicle, which can certainly inflict force and even deadly force.
Here there is no evidence that any of the mob were injured by the vehicle when it fled to safety, but had they been, a defense to any criminal charge based on such injury would have been that the vehicle was being used as justified deadly defensive force.
Based on the facts of this case it would appear that the victims in the vehicle would argue that they weren’t intentionally using any force at all against their attackers but were merely attempting to escape—in that case, any injury to the mob would have been a justified accident. Had they used the vehicle knowing that injury was likely, however, the justification would be self-defense. In that context, Proportionality on these facts would be checked for the driver and passenger.
The element of Avoidance is generally relevant only in the minority of “Duty-to-Retreat” states, but sadly New York is among those states, and does impose a legal duty to retreat before one is privileged to use deadly force in self-defense.
Even in those “Duty-to-Retreat” states, however, that duty is imposed only if one can retreat with complete safety. One is not required to increase one’s jeopardy in order to attempt retreat before one can defense oneself, presuming one would otherwise be lawfully privileged to self-defend.
Here, there was no avenue of safe retreat other than proceeding down the road, as these victims did. Certainly, it would not have been safe to exit their vehicle into the gaping maw of the attacking mob. Remaining fixed in place also was no longer an option, once the attackers had smashed the windshield—a second such jump could easily have forced the entire windshield into the vehicle, both pinning the victims in place and breaching the vehicle to allow ingress by the aggressors.
In short, Avoidance on these facts is also checked for the driver and passenger.
What about the final element of Reasonableness? Was the perception of the passenger and driver of a life-threatening attack a reasonable perception? That is, did they genuinely fear a deadly force attack, and would a hypothetical reasonable and prudent person in their circumstances have shared that perception? It’s hard to imagine anyone answering those questions in the negative, particularly having seen these videos. So, Reasonableness is also checked for the driver and passenger.
Assuming all Five Elements of Self Defense Law are checked for the driver and passenger, and in the legal context of the state having to not merely disprove their claim of self-defense justification, but to do so beyond any reasonable doubt, it certainly appears as if the victims of this mob attack would have been fully justified in using deadly defensive force as necessary to secure their safety from that attack. (Again, don’t forget to download our 100% FREE “Five Elements of Self-Defense Law Infographic,” at: http://lawofselfdefense.com/elements)
As always, of course, use-of-force scenarios are extremely fact-sensitive, and even small changes in facts and circumstances can lead to very large changes in legal outcome—including, particularly, the legal outcomes of innocent, zero legal liability, and acquittal of any criminal charges, on the one hand, and guilty, 100% legal liability, and life in prison without possibility of early release, on the other.
I urge you to make sure you have the knowledge you need—both legal and tactical—to make the best informed, most confident, most decisive, most effective, and most lawful decisions you possibly can in defense of yourself and your family, even when faced with as chaotic a threat as a deadly force mob attack when on foot, in your vehicle, or even in your home.
That’s why Law of Self Defense is partnering once again with our good friends at Concealed Carry to bring you a combo course of instruction that addresses both these sets of issues. Now you can obtain the combination of BOTH Concealed Carry’s “Complete Vehicle Firearms Tactical Training Course” ONLINE and instantly accessible, AND the Law of Self Defense “Lawful Defense Against Rioters, Looters & Arsonists Course” also ONLINE and instantly accessible, at UP TO 65% OFF their usual price, saving almost $100. (You can also choose either course alone, also at a great savings.)
This is, however, an unscheduled flash sale in response to this news event, so it will be available for ONLY 48 HOURS, after which we necessarily need to return to our planned promotional schedule. Accordingly, if this scenario is of concern to you—and it darn well should be—I urge you to grab this opportunity with both hands, RIGHT NOW!
To learn more, just click the image or link below:
OK, folks, that’s all I have for you today—EXCEPT FOR ONE MODEST REQUEST.
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Until next time:
You carry a gun so you’re hard to kill.
Know the law so you’re hard to convict.
Attorney Andrew F. Branca
Law of Self Defense LLC
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