What Went Wrong in Kenosha on September 1, 2020 – and How to Avoid It

Attacking a man when he’s down is not always a good idea

Let’s get this straight, first: 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse performed as well in the circumstances as most adults 2-4 times his age, and with far more training and experience, could hope to do.  Once he found himself isolated and under attack, his decisions to retreat, his discretion in engaging only those that physically assaulted him, and his shooting leave little to criticize. 

Of course, the Monday morning quarterbacks are going to work on him.  He may have missed with several rounds he fired at his first assailant – except we’re still sorting out who all the other shooters were on the street that night – but in any case, he got good hits and stopped that assailant, in the first lethal force encounter of his life, in the midst of a huge adrenaline dump and Sympathetic Nervous System storm.  He tripped and fell in the street while running from a pursuing mob (which could never happen given the cat-like reflexes and superior gym-rat conditioning of true operators, right?). He hesitated until the last second to fire on the third assailant, who was charging him with a pistol (perhaps confused by the stupidity of that assault, but in hindsight, a remarkable display of restraint).  And so on.  All in all, I’ll say it again, he did as well as most bad-ass “opr8rs” would have done, who have never before found themselves in the midst of an angry mob, fronted by at least three crazed felons, yelling “get the m-f!”

But that takes us to the real point: how did Kyle find himself in that situation?  We do not know the details yet, as there is a gap in the video footage between the “tame” situation of several armed defenders on private property, and Kyle fleeing on his own across a lot with the now-deceased felonious pedophile hot on his trail.  There is only one witness statement available which may shed some light on what happened in between, but we’re neither trying nor defending the case, nor trying to fill in the gaps in the second-by-second narrative. The truth will out.

All of this might have been avoided had the folks associated with that car dealership under siege in Kenosha exercised more foresight, planning, and preparation, and ensured a higher level of training and teamwork. In fact, we saw a demonstration of how it could have gone, in video footage from the night before that showed several rifle-armed men standing in front of a Kenosha business as a large mob flowed past.  One at least of them verbalizes to the “protestors” who throw some harsh language back as is their wont, but quite rationally they “just keep moving,” while the defenders keep muzzles depressed, fingers straight, heads on a swivel – and in clear line of sight and mutual supporting distance, something Kyle missed terribly, the following night. Mission accomplished, that first night: that’s a good picture of how the protection of private property in a civil disturbance could go.  The next night, not so much.

Distributed Security, Inc. (DSI) offers a well-developed model of how an enterprise (i.e. private business), institution (i.e. church or school), community, or a network of any or all of these can protect lives and property in the midst of a violent civil disturbance.  Here are the basic tenets of the DSI approach – all of which were absent (or inadequate) in the Kenosha example we’re looking at:

  1. Analysis, comprising a threat assessment, area study, site survey(s), and an evaluation of outside assets that may contribute to safety and security, such as police, fire, and emergency medical, and response times and capabilities for each. Understand the law, and its constraints (what you must do) and restraints (what you cannot do). Take a realistic look at the political, social, and legal environment. What have the local authorities said (and done!) about maintaining order, and protecting lives and property? What is their attitude about citizens doing so?  This kind of information collection and analysis can’t be done overnight.
  2. Establish full, open, and sustained communications with local law enforcement, ensuring that you operate within the law and are prepared for safe and effective linkup with responding officers. If you can’t get law enforcement concurrence and support for your efforts, you should probably consider voting with your feet – relocating – rather than trying to defend under conditions that will put you at odds with local government and the legal system.
  3. Organize your private security force, so you don’t face a crisis with a last-minute pickup crew.  Neighbors and friends pitching in on the spur of the moment may be better than nothing – but it’s a lot worse than what you can accomplish with some prior organization. One of the most important elements of this is to insist upon teamwork and “battle buddies” so that no one finds themself left alone facing a lethal threat.  That alone could have changed the outcomes in Kenosha.
  4. Develop plans and procedures, for both ‘normal’ day-to-day conditions and for facing the threats you have identified.  Make sure everyone understands their role. Test your plans and procedures with validation exercises that can vary from a BOGSAT discussion (Bunch of Guys Sitting Around a Table) to formal war gaming, walk-throughs, and performance testing. Fix the errors, fill the gaps. Leave as little as possible to native wit and improvisation.
  5. Develop leaders, an organizational structure with shared understandings about discipline and the chain of command, IFF, and redundant communications.
  6. Make sure that everyone involved clearly understands their rights and responsibilities under the law, to include the crucial distinction between defensive actions wholly within private property versus engaging in melees, or projecting force, into public areas.
  7. And finally, neither last nor least, is training: both individual and team training, in firearms and in tactical and decision-making skills. We see many examples like Kyle Rittenhouse, of gifted amateurs, or individuals with little or no formal training who manage to come through in a crisis – but relying on hope, luck, or divine intervention in a life or death crisis is not a good strategy.

DSI offers training and guidance in all these areas.  We train individuals and enterprises to defend life and property. We pioneered distributed security networks which enable businesses, churches and schools to coordinate an active defense of their premises and their immediate community.

Our offerings range from $19/month on-line memberships for individuals to $1 million plus turnkey enterprise packages, all built on resources and programs including on-range training leveraged by on-line resources in 27 course formats, 6 enterprise service offerings, 114 online learning modules, 150 videos, manuals, training plans, a mobile app, and more.  All this is designed to assist individuals, enterprises, organizations and communities avoid the pitfalls of standing up a security capability to protect lives and property at the last minute in a crisis, as happened in Kenosha a few nights ago. These are dangerous times; best to do the thing well.

Go to www.distributedsecurity.com to find out more.

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