With a Gun To Your Head: The Larry Goldstein Incident

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Situation: You are surrounded by hidden, loaded handguns. Unfortunately, one of your kidnappers is holding a .357 Magnum to the base of your skull.

Lesson: Sometimes it’s best to lull your assailants off guard by complying and biding your time. Experience shooting under pressure will help when the targets are trying to shoot you.

May 15, 2015. In a suburb of Jackson, Miss., Larry Goldstein, MD, is in his open garage, loading his pickup truck. A successful gynecologist, his sleepless years in residency and dedication to his long-standing practice have rewarded him with a large, expensive home. Unfortunately, criminals are drawn to signs of money.

His personal sport for the last five years has been competitive shooting. He is on his way to a USPSA match. He has just put his gear bag in the back seat of the quad cab. In it are two CZ Shadow 9mm pistols, several magazines of 9mm, and enough ammo for the whole match. He hears a noise sounding like a squirrel on the eaves, and suddenly he is confronted by two strange men wearing bandannas over their faces.

The nearest, a broad-chested guy about 5′ 10″, shoves a long barreled stainless-steel revolver in his face. Larry makes it for a .357 Magnum. He can see the noses of the live cartridges in the front of the cylinder. The man snarls, “You know what this is?” Larry replies as calmly as he can, “It’s a gun.” Predictably, the next words from the man are, “We want your money!”

Larry’s gun safe is visible in the garage. The guy with the revolver spins him around, grabs him by the shirt, and forces him toward the safe with the gun’s muzzle at the back of his head. He orders him to open it. Larry’s shaky hands don’t get the combination right at first, and he tries to explain. “You’re lyin’! We’re gonna shoot you!” He finally manages to get the combination right. The intruders start grabbing stuff. There are at least two AR15s in the safe, including a .223, but the one they grab is a Smith & Wesson M&P chambered for .22 LR. They grab a handful of AR magazines and a few handguns and stuff them into a backpack.

They march him into the house, his hands behind his head and the revolver still at the nape of his neck. Larry does not have a gun on his person. He has earned black belts earlier in his life in Hapkido and Tae Kwon Do. He knows enough to realize a disarming attempt on one of the men will leave him vulnerable to the other. He bides his time. They walk through the bedroom, past Larry’s sleeping wife. He cannot find his billfold — it will later turn up in a pair of pants he was wearing the day before — and the robbers satisfy themselves by pulling all the money from his wife’s purse. Without waking Mrs. Goldstein, they march Larry out of the house. Their plan is to make him drive them to an ATM and empty his account.

At the pickup, the second man tries to load the AR15 and realizes he can’t fit a .223 magazine into a .22 LR. They make him get a magazine fitting the rifle. Both robbers get into the back seat, the revolver still aimed at the base of his skull, and order him to take them to the bank’s drive-up ATM.

Going Mobile

Dr. Goldstein experiences a “water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink” moment. Like many armed citizens (and off-duty cops) he has presumed staging guns reasonably close in the home or vehicle will be adequate. In the console is a Walther PPK .380. In the driver’s door pocket of his pickup are a Ruger LCP .380 and a GLOCK 19. All are loaded.

He assesses his odds if he reaches for one as he drives. Both robbers are in the back seat, the smaller man (about 5' 7", 150 lbs.) has put a full magazine into the .22 caliber AR, and Larry has to presume him to be armed even though he hasn’t spotted a weapon of the suspect’s own yet.

The other, directly behind Larry in the rear passenger seat, has the decidedly loaded revolver he’s kept pointed at Larry’s head. The bandits have the case between them containing two CZ 9mms and mags and ammo. At the wheel, he can’t see them both at the same time in the rear-view mirror. If he conspicuously turns around to look at them, it will tip them off and put them on alert.

Either of them will be able to clearly see if he reaches for the Walther, so the console gun is out. He might be able to slip one of the pistols out of the door pocket with his non-dominant left hand but shooting backward over his shoulder will be awkward and difficult, and he’ll be unlikely to be able to neutralize both before one of them can kill him. The logical strategy still seems to be, “Bide your time.”

At The ATM

The robbers ask him how much money he has in his ATM card account. Larry answers truthfully, “About $12,000.” They yell at him, “You’re lying! You live in that big house! You’ve got to have more money!”

They pull up to the ATM. The security camera will be able to identify only Larry. The masked men in the back seat are largely shielded by the truck’s tinted windows; perhaps they had this in mind when they chose to seat themselves where they did. Larry believes he can only withdraw a thousand dollars per day and tells them so. The refrain comes again, “You’re lyin’! We’re gonna shoot ya! We want it all!” Larry answers as calmly as he can, “We can’t get it all.” They tell him to try for $1,500.

It takes Larry a while to punch in the numbers. The machine won’t give him $1,500. He tries for $500, gets it, then gets another $500. He tries a third time but hits the wrong buttons, and the machine only gives him $20. Apparently fixated on the stated amount, the robber with the revolver tells him, “Get $480!” He does. They’re satisfied. They tell him to drive.

As the truck is rolling, the larger criminal tells him, “Okay, we’re gonna take your truck. Go to the woods behind your house … We’re going back to your house and get your wife.” He adds, “We’re gonna put you in the trunk.” Larry has already complied with their order to give him the opening code to their gate, and he knows he has had to leave the house unlocked.

As a medical doctor Larry Goldstein has spent his career diagnosing. The diagnosis of this particular problem is excruciatingly clear. Drive to the woods. Go to the house and get your wife. We’re gonna put you in the trunk of a pickup truck that has no trunk.
He realizes they’re going to murder him, go back to the house, and probably murder his unsuspecting wife.

The stakes of the game have just gone up and Larry Goldstein knows there is only one card left to play.

Steering with his right hand, he unobtrusively reaches down with his left, lifts the GLOCK 19 from the door pocket, and surreptitiously slips it under his left thigh.

Last Resort

They reach a spot in the woods behind Larry’s house. They order him to stop. He does so. They order him to get out of the car.
As he opens the driver’s door, Larry lifts his left thigh enough to discreetly pick up the GLOCK with his right hand. As he alights on the ground, the man with the revolver opens the door behind Larry’s and prepares to step out, as his accomplice comes out of the right rear door.

Larry Goldstein channels his five years of USPSA, sweeps the 9mm up rapidly into a two-handed stance, and opens fire.

He’s shooting as fast as he can. He can see the gunman starting to fall backward, can see a window on the right side of the car shatter as one of his bullets passes through his antagonist and strikes the glass. The robber falls backward on the rear seat, his gun still in a hand that has fallen limply down.

Larry turns toward the second threat. The other man is running away. Larry fires three shots at him, from about 30 yards. The masked man disappears from view.

Larry turns his attention to the downed gunman. He sees the revolver is still in his hand, snatches it away, and puts it out of the man’s reach. He grabs the blood-soaked gunman and pulls his body out of the car. The experienced MD knows a dead man when he sees one. The gunman has been hit twice in the abdomen, twice in the chest and once in the head.

The remaining thug is running in the direction of the Goldstein home. All Larry can think of is his wife’s safety. He jumps behind the wheel of his pickup and goes after him.

In moments, Larry has eyes on him again. The perpetrator is getting into a tan SUV, apparently the getaway car, he has parked near the church close to Larry’s home. He starts it and begins to drive away. Larry aims his G19 and fires three rounds at the vehicle. It disappears from his view. It’s not heading toward his house; he lets it go.

They’ve taken his iPhone. Larry Goldstein drives his truck to the nearest house, knocks on the door, and asks the lady who answers the door to call police. She hands him a phone. He first calls his wife, telling her to lock the doors. Then he calls 9-1-1 and gives a brief description of what has happened.

The first act of the deadly play is over. The second now begins.

Immediate Aftermath

The scene not being exactly downtown, it took police 20 minutes to arrive. When he saw them coming, Dr. Goldstein unloaded the GLOCK, set it in the truck and stepped away from it. Patrol officers and detectives alike were professional and understanding.

A crowd had formed. Having called his wife to reassure her, Larry phoned a friend he was supposed to pick up to go to the match with him. The friend called a mutual friend, an attorney, to meet them at police headquarters. One of the officers drove him there — in the front seat of the patrol car, un-cuffed. With legal counsel by his side, Larry told detectives what had happened. At one point the chief of police arrived. “How are you doing?” he asked Larry. “Not very good,” the doctor replied. “Don’t worry, you’re going to be all right,” the chief said.

The chief had told him no lie.

Long Term Aftermath

Larry was never arrested, never sued, and never had to pay a penny in legal fees. His lawyer friend refused to bill him. He got his guns back in about a week. The escaped suspect was captured within a few days. He had used his personal vehicle as a getaway car and had taken it to an auto body shop to repair the bullet holes and shattered window caused by Larry’s gunfire. “I thought he’d be charged with felony murder,” Larry told American Handgunner later, “but the charges were kidnapping, armed robbery, and home invasion.” Legal proceedings dragged on, as they often do. “In December 2018,” says Larry, “he was convicted on all counts. His sentence added up to about 80 years. He’ll be eligible for parole in 40.”

Dr. Goldstein got a new truck out of the deal. His had become evidence, necessarily stored with the windows up in an impound lot in Mississippi heat. The rear cabin was soaked with blood. Blood is tissue. Tissue rots. The insurance adjuster opened the door, gagged at the stench, and blurted, “It’s totaled.”

Needless to say, the incident left an emotional mark. “The next morning when I woke up, it really dawned on me what could have happened, and I lost it,” he remembers. “I was a basket case for a while. Every time I thought about the incident, it really upset me. Later, I went to the family burial plot, and was overwhelmed at how close I had come to joining them.”

One of the first things he did when he got home was to put a .45 caliber GLOCK 30 where he could reach it immediately. Was the dead man a gang-banger, with buddies who would seek revenge? He didn’t know, but he had to consider the possibility and provide for it. The hypervigilance remained for quite a while, and never entirely went away, even though no reprisals materialized.

“I went to a psychologist, and studied up on post-traumatic stress disorder,” Larry comments. “I lost appetite. I had trouble sleeping. I did have a few dreams related to the incident.” Before long, he and his wife sold the house and moved. Friends and family were extremely supportive. So, he remembers, were the police and the prosecutor’s office.

A competitive shooter, Larry had never felt a need to take a defense-oriented class. This changed. His 25-minute ordeal sent him on a long odyssey of training, all the way to instructorship; in fact, he and I met when he took my MAG-40 class at the superb Boondocks training facility in Mississippi. He has found sharing with others the lessons of what he went through to be therapeutic.

Lessons

The doctor’s short-term hypervigilance settled into simply … vigilance. Larry feels the biggest lesson he learned was the importance of being alert and aware and avoiding complacency. He now carries a gun on his person almost all of his waking hours and is seldom far from one. “I don’t step out to pick up my newspaper or take out the trash without a gun on,” he says adamantly.

If he had tried to fight earlier than he did, when the odds against him were all but hopeless, he would probably have been murdered and very likely his wife would have been, too. Larry was wise to give them reasons to keep him alive (getting money from the ATM on a weekend), to lull them into complacency with his compliance, and yet be ready to do what had to be done when the moment came.
He feels his competition experience definitely helped him win the fight with the men who were almost certainly going to murder him. When the time came to shoot, he performed on auto pilot: two-handed, eye level, hits sufficiently fast, accurate and voluminous to keep a deadly opponent from pulling the trigger of the revolver in his hand. Larry had been shooting USPSA for five years when the incident took place. He has continued competition to this day.

He’s glad he reached for the GLOCK instead of the seven- or eight-shot .380s also within reach. The G19 contained a GLOCK 17 magazine, for a total of eighteen 9mm rounds including the one in the chamber. It still had ammo on board after his three volleys of gunfire. The cartridges were match rounds, mild 147-gr. round nose FMJ handloads. His defense guns have modern defensive ammo in them today.
When Larry tells his story, one of the first questions he gets is “Didn’t you get in trouble for shooting at the fleeing felon?” The answer is, he didn’t, and this bears some explanation. The man he shot at had committed, not just a felony, but a “heinous felony against the person”: kidnapping. They had given him every reason to believe they intended to murder him. They’d explicitly stated they were next going to get his wife, who was sleeping in an unlocked house while the felon had the combination to the security gate. Larry was without communications, and no other reasonable means of capture seemed feasible. He could not identify the suspect — the only description he could give was a masked African-American man of average size — and if he was not stopped he was likely to remain at large indefinitely.

Finally, the cornerstone of the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Garner v. Tennessee was even police should only use deadly force on fleeing felons if their continued freedom constituted a clear and present danger to innocent human life. Larry had ample reason to consider this man armed and extremely dangerous. Remember, the thugs had told him they were going back to his house where they all knew Mrs. Goldstein was. While Garner was a civil case and involved police, it remains the defining statement on the mood of our highest court on the use of deadly force on fleeing felons. It is why I think, in this particular set of circumstances, Larry’s actions would have been defensible in court … and it’s probably why the investigating officers and the prosecutors had no problem with Larry’s final shots. Those last three shots, remember, were important factors in the ultimate capture of the surviving thug.

A last important lesson is it’s BS to think “I live in a nice neighborhood, so I don’t need to keep a gun at hand.” Au contraire: Larry lived in a fine home in a very nice neighborhood and this was one reason he was targeted! We can’t overlook how many times they told him a guy with a house as big as his should have lots of money on hand. The nice neighborhoods are where the best stuff is to steal.

We at American Handgunner thank Dr. Larry Goldstein for sharing the lessons of his deadly encounter with our readers.

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