What would you do if your life was threatened? Most people would probably agree that they would do what they could to defend their own lives, even if that meant harming the person who was threatening them. It’s an easy thing to say, however, not so easy in practice; especially in a moment of panic.
This story begins on a dark night, in a woman’s home. She’s asleep, alone under the covers, and unbeknownst to her, a recent skirmish nearby had placed her in very immediate danger from a rather unsavory character with rage in his heart…
The man had broken into the kitchen through the back door. It was easy, far easier than he’d anticipated in fact. His initial impression was that someone who lived so close to a jail might have some sort of deadbolt or drop bar on the doors and windows. As it happened, these contrivances were not nearly enough to stop his entry.
The man had seen a car in the driveway and knew that someone might be home, though they had no idea that it was a lone woman. Nevertheless, he knew enough to grab a weapon as he headed through the kitchen. Oddly enough, he didn’t grab a knife, but a knife sharpener. Then, he headed over to the bedrooms.
A little after 3 in the morning, the local 911 operators received a panic-stricken phone call. It was from a woman who lived not far from the local jail and she’d caught someone breaking into her home. Not only had she caught him, but she’d also shot him and he was currently bleeding out onto the carpet just outside her bedroom.
The woman had no idea who the man was but she did note that his orange jumpsuit was particularly prison-like. Perhaps this was why when she’d stirred in her sleep to see him standing in her bedroom doorway, she’d reached onto the bedside table to pull out her handgun and fired. But who was the man she’d shot?
As it happened, the name of the would-be night stalker was Bruce McLaughlin Jr. He was, up until that night, a 30-year-old career criminal who had been in and out of the county jail quite a few times over the years. He was currently on trial on charges of first-degree burglary and grand larceny.
McLaughlin’s multiple stints in the jail were the result of a number of charges ranging from drug possession to assaulting a police officer to shoplifting. All of these seemed tame compared to what he may have had planned for the poor woman had she not had the foresight to keep herself armed. Little did she know, he wasn’t alone.
Planned it Together
McLaughlin had been incarcerated in the jail with another criminal named Timothy Dill. Both had found common ground in their mutual criminality and in the fact that neither wished to see their sentences all the way through. Over the next few days, Dill and McLaughlin planned their escape from the jail. They just had to wait for the perfect moment.
It was around 2 am that Tuesday when the two criminals put their hastily-conceived jailbreak into motion. Their plan hinged on the fact that the graveyard shift at the Pickens County jail was a bit of a skeleton crew. Their assumption was that the guards on duty that late at night would be less alert than the day shift. They were partially right.
The fact that all their fellow prisoners were sleeping soundly didn’t hurt their plan either. Dill and McLaughlin rose from their beds and surprised two guards, overwhelming and incapacitating them, before stealing their keys and locking them in a room. Unfortunately for the two jailbreakers, this was about where their “brilliant” plan began to collapse in on itself.
Other inmates, rather than aid in the escape, seemed determined to help the guards they’d attacked. They tried to stop Dill and McLaughlin who instead of lingering, bolted out of the facility and towards the chain link fence that surrounded the Pickens County jail. Desperate to escape, they got sloppy and split up outside the jail.
As soon as the other guards learned of the escape, they contacted the Pickens County Sheriff’s department. Deputies were dispatched and the immediate area was fully combed by teams of searchers. They found Dill on Concord Church Road. He’d managed to get a half-mile from the jail. He’d been free for a few scant minutes.
Dill was taken back to the jail and a few additional charges were added to his existing one of sexual conduct with a minor. He was charged with escape, two counts of kidnapping for his treatment of the guards, as well as first-degree assault and battery. The same fate would have awaited McLaughlin if he hadn’t made that last-minute stop.
Instead of heading for the woods or the road, the tattooed felon instead decided to break into a nearby house and in the end, that decision sealed his fate. Kicking in that kitchen door was the last mistake he’d ever make because, by the time police and paramedics arrived, the gunshot wound he’d sustained had ended his life.
As for the guards he and Dill attacked, they may have suffered a few bruises to their bodies and egos, but they will recover. The question that remained though, was whether or not the Pickens County Sheriff’s department would press charges against the homeowner who’d shot and killed McLaughlin. Unsurprisingly, people were split on the issue.
Sheriff Rick Clark was among the first to comment on the woman’s actions. According to him, the homeowner was well within her rights to shoot the intruder. Not only did he present an imminent threat to her life, offering her no escape route, but she’d also been trained to handle concealed weapons and had a right to wield them in self-defense.
A Big Threat
Sheriff Clark even spoke to the press about it and was unabashedly supportive. “This was a big guy. If she hadn’t had a weapon there’s no telling what would have happened,” he explained. “I gave her a big hug. I told her how proud I was of her.” Most importantly, Clark wanted people to know that she was a shining example of proper handgun usage.
Good Guys with Guns
The fact that McLaughlin didn’t survive his erstwhile home invasion attempt thrust the homeowner into a hot topic debate that’s been on a number of minds recently. The “good-guy-with-a-gun” debate is a popular topic these days, particularly because the United States seems to constantly be discussing the Second Amendment.
As expected, the National Rifle Association has come out in support of the woman. Just as they are supportive of anyone who use their legally-owned firearms to protect people against mass shooters and other such dangerous people. As open and shut as this case seems, there are those who might see the woman’s actions as an overreaction.
These critics might argue that those who just happen to make the right call and have access to firearms are no substitute for the supposedly-lax gun control policies that allow dangerous, often mentally-ill people to procure weapons legally. They are quick to point out that sometimes, these armed citizens can themselves become victims themselves.
As far as Sheriff Clark and the rest of his precinct were concerned, though, the woman was licensed and trained. She was not about to let the criminal take the gun from her and knew how to use it to protect herself, precisely because she was trained. And perhaps that is what it all comes down to in the end: knowing how and when to use firearms to protect oneself.