By Massad Ayoob
A family’s morning is shattered when a big, enraged man kicks in the front door and violently enters the home. The man of the family grabs his pistol, and …
Danger threatens sometimes at the least opportune moments. Even when the criminal justice system handles a justifiable homicide by the book, some in the community just don’t understand.
January 5, 2015, Austin, Texas. It is approximately 6:15 a.m. at the home of John Daub in a nice suburban neighborhood. The teenage sons and daughter are getting up and about, John’s wife is ready to sit down with her morning coffee, and John, 42, is a few hours ahead of them all. A mobile software engineer who owns his own company, he’s also a firearms instructor and martial artist who teaches part-time for Karl Rehn’s well-known local school, KR Training. Up at 3:30 a.m., he has been to the gym and back, and preparatory to his morning shower is sitting on the toilet with his smartphone, absorbed in reading his email.
When danger unpredictably strikes, it can find you in an awkward situation.
John hears a loud male voice outside, and shouts to his wife wondering what’s going on. In the main living area of the home, John’s wife is startled: first by what sounds like a human imitating a coyote’s howl, and then by loud, angry shouts outside. There is a violent shaking of the doorknob, and then a heavy banging on the front door. She can see it actually moving from the impact. She realizes someone is trying to kick down the door.
She screams to John.
Tunneled in on his iPhone, John has heard a loud male voice, but not the howling or the impacts against the door. What he does hear is his wife’s voice, filled with a tone of absolute terror he has never heard in the 20 years they’ve been married.
He will remember jumping up and pulling up his gym shorts. He will not remember reflexively pocketing the iPhone as he dashes into the bedroom where he has left his carry pistol in his gym bag. The Smith & Wesson Military & Police Compact 9mm is swiftly in his hand, fully loaded with Speer Gold Dot 124-gr. +P hollow points. Now, he sprints down the hall.
He’s so focused on putting himself between the danger and his loved ones that when he passes two people in the hall running in the other direction, he doesn’t actually recognize they are his wife and daughter, only that they are members of the family. His training has engaged. He is looking for the threat.
And now, in the living room, he finds that threat. Suddenly, he is facing a powerfully-built man he has never seen before. Daub can see his front door is wide open, the door-frame broken and the intruder is already well into the living room.
He takes the big man at gunpoint and yells, “Get the fuck out of my house!” There is no reaction. John repeats the command.
The man moves aggressively toward him.
John Daub is a tall, strong man himself, and is thoroughly trained in hand-to-hand as well as with guns. His training has taught him a criminal intruder moving toward a homeowner legally holding a gun on him should be assumed to consider himself capable of disarming the homeowner and killing him and his family with his own gun. With his wife and three children behind him, this is a chance John Daub cannot take.
He opens fire.
Unlike some in this situation, Daub heard his shots, and will remember the incident as having happened in real time, not in the commonly perceived slow motion effect known as “tachypsychia” nor as “it happened so fast.”
He perceives the big man turning away from him, back toward the door, and instantly stops shooting. He sees the man take two or three wobbly steps, reach the doorway, and then collapse just outside, his feet at the doorsill.
With his free hand, Daub gropes reflexively for his phone and finds it in his pocket somewhat to his surprise since he cannot remember placing it there. He dials 9-1-1 to report and request police and ambulance, and realizes he can hear his wife, elsewhere in the house now, calling the same number.
As he is talking to dispatch, he can hear the last, rasping breath of the downed intruder just outside the still-open door, and it is over. He sets down the pistol. Austin Police and paramedics arrive quickly.
The intruder will be pronounced dead where he lies.
John Daub was (and still is) a member of the Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network (armedcitizensnetwork.org). He called ACLDN founder and director Marty Hayes, who told us, “I got a call from John while the police were there. John asked me to call Attorney Gene Anthes, a network-affiliated attorney. I gave him John’s phone number and had Gene call him direct. I explained to both it was John’s responsibility to retain counsel; he did, and Gene and I were on the phone within an hour. Gene was at the Daub residence already, and speaking to the press. We got $10,000 to Gene immediately.”
Daub found the police to be polite and professional. Police press conferences informed the public that the deceased — Jared James, 24 — had been diagnosed as autistic and had a history of being committed to mental institutions due to his behavior. He had been living in a residential care facility a short distance from the Daub home. Investigation determined shortly before the incident, James had become agitated at the group home, began acting out, and then as one news source put it, “escaped.” A staff person at the facility had followed James a short distance, but returned when James refused to come back, and neglected to call authorities. James had gone on to pound on several neighborhood doors, and then to violently break the front door of the Daub home out of its frame and make entry. It was then the shooting occurred.
Between the shooting and the case being sent to the grand jury, as all homicide cases routinely are in Texas, the mental health facility in question was shut down and surrendered its license. On June 2, 2015, the Grand Jury after reviewing the evidence returned No True Bill, effectively determining no crime had been committed by John Daub. No lawsuit has been filed at this writing.
Few people are able to recall how many shots they fired in self-defense when the matter goes beyond two or three rounds. John was no exception. What we have with him, however, is the rare case of a man who was a deeply trained firearms instructor becoming involved in a shooting. It’s rather like an oncologist who is diagnosed with cancer himself: an uncommon opportunity for someone heavily experienced in the thing from the outside, to experience it from the inside. Here are some of John’s recollections.
“I know I fired with a two-handed grip. I don’t recall seeing the sights, nor do I recall not seeing — I just don’t recall either way. I do know I brought the gun up into a ‘proper isosceles’ stance (i.e. I wasn’t hip shooting or anything), and at least was sighting/indexing off something … if not the sights properly, at least off the slide, etc. This was all happening at about two to three yards.
“I cannot swear to this, but I believe I was target fixated … focused more at the threat. Probably trying to figure things out, being able to observe what was happening (e.g. expression on his face, etc.). Again, no conscious decisions at the time — it’s just looking back on what I remember and in hindsight trying to add some possible explanation to things.
“I am pretty sure I ran the trigger and fired as fast as I’d normally run it, but I can run .20-splits (.15’s if I really crank) so it just felt “normal” to me. I don’t recall it feeling faster than normal, nor slower. I had no idea how many shots I fired — it was just keep shooting until the threat isn’t a threat any more (as per all my training). As soon as I realized he was turning to leave (i.e. threat was ceasing to be a threat), I stopped shooting. Of course, that’s part of why there was one shot that landed behind the lateral midline, but of course it was only one shot. Turns out it was five shots, five hits; four bullets recovered (we assume one must have passed through and is probably somewhere in my front garden somewhere).
“One interesting thing is after it happened, on the phone with 9-1-1 … I fell back as far as I could in the house that would get me as far away as I could be yet still able to see things (my belief was we were being robbed and likely the dude had friends). While I was on the phone, there was a time I realized I had shifted the gun to my weak hand (so I could be on the phone with my strong hand). I distinctly recall realizing this and thinking how STUPID it was to have the gun in my weak hand, in case something else did happen. But I didn’t shift it back because I’d have to do this fumble/shuffle between gun and active-phone, and I was not about to do this since I was actively engaged with 9-1-1 — my plan then was if shit started to fly again, I will drop the phone and get to work. Of course I didn’t have to use it, but yeah … would I do something different? I’d not shift the gun to my weak hand,” John concludes.
The after-effects of a deadly force action are many, and John Daub went through a range of them. He told us, “I experienced a sense of exhaustion. When your brain has been going a million miles an hour, it leaves you feeling exhausted. I know for a fact I lost six pounds that day because I was in the midst of a weight loss regimen and weighed myself daily. It takes many, many, many hours to get the taste of adrenalin out of your mouth. I was constantly thirsty and never really felt it was quenched. There were no crazy nightmares, however. Hundreds of hours of training, along with teaching every weekend at KR Training definitely helped. There was a lot of stress inoculation, and that was huge.”
“Training,” John concludes, “gives you more than skills.”
“Our family on the whole handled it decently,” John told American Handgunner a year-and-a-half after the shooting. “A lot of this came from the fact everyone was inoculated. They know what I do and teach, and we had talked about it. The possibility of it happening and how to handle it was not a completely foreign concept. Everyone was able to handle it. My wife and daughter were hit hardest: for my wife, hardest thing was realizing she could have lost her husband. When it was going down, she had sequestered herself and two of the kids in the master bedroom and when she heard me yelling and heard gunshots, was thinking the worst until she heard me shouting to call 9-1-1, which was a massive relief for her. For my daughter, it was just the whole shock of it to a teenage girl. She likes to sleep on the couch in the living room, and that night she had decided not to. There was the reality of ‘Gee, I could have been right there in the thick of it.’ Both of my sons were largely unaffected by it. Our older son has done some training with us at KR. They were raised with a protector, defender mind-set. He was ready to grab a rifle and start fighting.”
He adds, “What affected all of us was a bit of hypervigilance, jumping when someone knocked at the door. A few days later there was a bit of red nail polish on the dining room table, and the resemblance to blood startled us for a moment. That eventually went away. Not ’til the grand jury no bill came through, in June 2015, did things really start to return to normal.”
One inevitable result of such an incident is what the great police psychologist Dr. Walter Gorski called “Mark of Cain” syndrome: Your having killed someone changes the way you and your family are seen — and treated — by others. This certainly appeared after John’s shooting. He told American Handgunner, “There were a lot of interesting reactions. At the beginning, in both the neighborhood and the community there was confusion as to what happened. The Austin PD spokesperson said all the right things, but one word they used, ‘threshold,’ made a lot of people think it happened at the front door or I let him in or shot through the door. He collapsed on the front porch, so some neighbors got the impression it had happened there, though he was six to 10 feet inside the house when I shot him. It was definitely not an instant collapse. He took at least two steps after being shot before he went down.”
John continues, “There was a lot of misunderstanding, so with my lawyer we released photos of the broken door, and the court of public opinion changed back toward reality. Not a heroic thing with a dead scumbag, not a vigilante who shot a young man, just a tragic thing for all concerned, though there are still a few neighbors who seem to think I’m a murderer. A lot of what we got was sympathy and support, people who wanted to do something but didn’t know what to do, but we knew there was a lot of care and love. Some were more curious than others about details. Some neighbors didn’t want to talk or interact. There’s still one neighbor who turns coldly away when we say hello to her. No anonymous death threats or anything like that. We did see some negative things in news commentary section, Facebook, all of that. There were some people who behaved in an ugly manner, fueled by their own biases or just didn’t have the correct information. We just shrugged it off.”
John is still carrying same kind of ammo, in a full-size M&P usually but sometimes in the compact, depending on the day’s wardrobe. Having committed to the platform some years before, then and now he’s had multiple M&Ps in both sizes.
Would he have been able to deliver an armed reaction sooner if he had been “home carrying”? Of course, and he knew that. “I always carried at the house,” he told us, “and still do.” At the time of the home invasion, however, he had stripped off everything but the gym shorts and was on the toilet and about to take a shower. Hence, the rush for the pistol in the master bedroom.
“There was one change we did make afterward,” John reports. “We got a big, heavy storm door for the front, security style with shatterproof laminated glass. It gives my wife more peace of mind.”
He wishes he could have known the mental health facility so near his home contained people with a propensity toward violence, and at least one of its residents was dangerous. However, the group home had kept a very low profile, and HIPPA regulations would probably have prevented the organization from giving such warnings to residents.
John feels much of the credit for his family surviving without any physical harm can be attributed to his training. He was so focused on what he knew he had to do, that there was no time to become terrified. Prior to the incident, his training had taught him he might experience perceptual distortion during such an encounter. Thus, he was not distracted or disoriented when he realized “some things were a bit of a blur.” This included not actually recognizing his wife and daughter as they raced past each other in the hallway.
The family knew what to do in an emergency. Each ran to safety, and the older son was about to access a rifle to join in the home defense when John fired the shots to end the invasion.
Let us end with another lesson John would like us to pass on: “Being able to sleep at night for the rest of your life is really important.” Having since been called both hero and villain over this incident, John Daub considers himself neither. He was simply a devoted husband and father doing what he had to do to protect his wife and children.
He would say when it was over, “I don’t believe any person would want such a thing to happen to them, no matter the context, no matter the circumstance. It’s an unfortunate and tragic situation for all involved. My heart breaks for his family. I ask you to please pray for the repose of his soul and for peace for his family.”