Dec 052009

For the most part the RV lifestyle is extremely safe, especially in terms of personal safety. I have always told new RVers that they have more to fear from an RV fire, or the idiot coming at them at 60 miles an hour riding three tons of steel, than they do from a criminal. An incident last night has proven to me just how wrong I have been.

We have been parked at an RV repair facility in Elkhart, Indiana having some repairs and upgrades done to our motorhome. Yesterday afternoon we picked up the fellow who flew in from California to buy our bus, and a friend who came to help him drive it back, at the airport in South Bend.

By the time we drove back to Elkhart, showed them the bus, got them checked into a hotel, and took them to dinner, it was almost 9 p.m. when we drove back to the repair shop, where our motorhome was parked in their small camping area. It’s a pretty dark place, and ours was the only occupied RV there. As we arrived, Terry said “Someone broke into our rig!” Sure enough, there was a softball sized hole in the door window. As I got out of the van and went up to the RV, Terry yelled “He’s still inside!” and I found myself face to face with a husky young black man coming out the door.

Now, I have been in the military, saw combat, I was a firearms instructor, a cop, have owned and carried a handgun most of my adult life, and have concealed weapons permits from two different states. But this lifestyle has made me complacent, and I seldom carry on a regular basis. And, when going to an airport, that is a big No No. So I wasn’t armed.

Our burglar, on the other hand, was armed with one of my own handguns, and as I yelled at him to show me his hands,door glass he raised one of my Glock 9mm pistols toward us. The smart thing to do when we first spotted the broken window was to back off and call the police, but this all happened in a matter of seconds.

When I saw the gun in his hand, my only thought was to keep him from using it, so I slammed the door shut on his hand, with him inside the RV and me outside, and then slammed it a second (and maybe third time), shattering the rest of the glass in the door. He dropped the gun, then ran past me to get away as I recovered the weapon. My first thought was to shoot him as he fled, but I’m not going to kill anybody for a few material possessions, and the threat to us was over.

Meanwhile, Terry was in the van and on the phone talking to the 911 operator, and I stayed outside, because I didn’t know if there was anybody else inside the RV, and I have other firearms on board. Terry handed the phone out the window to me because the operator wanted to talk to me, and about then I saw the same guy poking his head around the corner of the building. Not knowing if he was armed, I pointed my pistol at him and told him if he took one step toward us I was going to kill him. Fortunately for both of us, he backed off and ran away.

The police used a dog to track him from the RV around the building to where he came back, and then off to a service road, where the scent disappeared. He must have had an accomplice who fled when we pulled into the parking lot, because he appeared empty handed when he ran, but we are missing a flat screen LCD TV, netbook computer, my Seiko wristwatch, the cable for my Silverleaf engine monitor (which was plugged into the computer), and we won’t know what else until we take a total inventory.

Inside, the motorhome, there was a big pile of things in the entryway, including a couple of handguns, our Wii, DVD player, digital SLR camera and other stuff he had ready to take when we interrupted him.

cut seatHe, or they, also trashed our RV. There is broken glass everywhere, they cut a big triangle into the driver’s seat and pulled out part of the stuffing, ripped down the day/night shades in the bedroom, and threw stuff everywhere as they ransacked the place. The police dusted for fingerprints, and left a mess of stubborn black powder that is almost impossible to clean up.

But at least nobody got hurt. We are shaken, we feel totally violated, and I’m pissed off, both at the thief or thieves, and at myself. If they had to steal something because they are too damned lazy to work, okay, do it. But why vandalize our home in the process?

As for myself, I have become complacent in this lifestyle, and I let my guard down. Getting ripped off is one thing; almost getting shot with my own gun is unacceptable. You can bet that the next time I leave my motorhome, I’ll have more than my empty hand to point at whomever might be waiting for me when I come back home!

With the window busted out and temperatures down in the 20s overnight, there was no way we could stay there, and we were not about to anyway, in case they came back. I called our friend Michele Henry from Phoenix Commercial Paint and explained our plight, and even though it was late at night, Michele came back to the shop and opened it up so we could pull the motorhome inside and stay out of the worst of the weather until we can start dealing with things Monday morning. In the meantime, we are safe, and just coming down off the adrenalin high the incident gave us.

Thought For The Day – Count not what is lost, but what is left.

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Nick Russell

World-Famous, New York Times Best Selling Author, and All-Around Nice Guy!

  66 Responses to “A Violent Encounter”

  1. I was horrified to read about what happened and you both have been in my thoughts in the hours since. I understand completely how easy it is to feel that nothing will ever happen to you because it is so rare in the RVing community. My husband & I never carried a weapon and, thank God, never needed one in the six years that we full-timed. You both will be in my thoughts and prayers during the coming days as you deal with the aftermath. Ultimately, you will be able to put this behind you and head back south and enjoy some much-needed rest and relaxation. In the meantime, maybe it would be wise not to broadcast your exact location in your blog. And I hope the police catch the b***ards.

  2. Words are insufficient to express the outrage and shock we felt when we read your blog.

    Thank God for your safety. Whatever you may need, please don’t hesitate.

  3. Terry and Nick, Jinny and I were sickened to hear about the motorhome breakin. We are so glad that both of you are safe, and we empathize with your feeling of violation at the breakin. Our ’97 Airstream was in a locked, gated, video-recorded storage area in St Paul 10 years ago before we took to the road. One night, our trailer, along with many of the other ones there, was broken into and robbed. The thieves were never caught. To add to the feeling of violation, the next day, we were able to watch the video tape of these thieves’ breaking into all the rigs, including ours. GAKK! Joe and Jinny (from Life on Wheels ’06).

  4. So sorry Nick & Terry…how awful! Thank God you’re okay, and the stuff will just get dealt with. On many occassions, we’ve heard and read that often people’s own guns are used against them and we’re thankful you weren’t hurt. I may be ignorant on the subject, since we’re Canadians and as you know, carrying guns is not something that we do easily….but is it not possible for you to leave your “extra” guns, locked up in your rig somehow so that they’re not so easily taken? Obviously I know you will be carrying when you go out, but you can’t carry them all at once…..anyway, again, so glad you guys are okay. Best of luck and everything with dealing with your insurance. Stay safe!

  5. Nick I’m impressed with your instant reaction to the perp and thank God he didn’t squeeze off a shot before you got your gun away from him! Miss Terry is blessed to have had you there .
    To better times ahead!

  6. Nick & Terry,
    I read your story in terror. I can only imagine how you both felt and are still feeling. Your experience has put us all on notice and we thank you for relating this difficult post. So thankful that you are both ok physically and we pray that the incident will remain only as a warning not a permanent blot to your security and peace of mind.

  7. Wow. Scary event and I’m glad everyone was okay. My husband and I are just getting ready to go on the road next spring and he was just talking about a concealed weapons permit. I think maybe we’ll look into this further.

  8. Terry & Nick,
    So glad you both are ok. I agree that sometimes training and instinct take over without concious thought. Nancy and I are really glad neither of you were hurt. Everything else can be repaired or replaced. We’ll keep you in our thoughts.
    Cal & Nancy Hall

  9. I think you’re wrong. You were unlucky, but wrong. RVing is still one of the safest things you can do. The odds are in your favor. There are more people killed every day on the highways in automobiles, more killed as pedestrians, more burglaries of houses and autos than RVs.
    I’m sorry you had to be one of the few. Since we’re such a fearful society you’ve just added your unpleasant experience to the fears. We’re already a paranoid society, so lets just go ahead and make every more paranoid. Encourage more people to carry guns so they can kill or be kill because of the gun. GOOD JOB.

    The ODDS are always in your favor….. FEAR NOT.

  10. I know people who have been victims of burglars, and it can be emotionally very hard. You have my sympathy.

    If you had a gun with you the RV would still have been trashed but someone – maybe you – could be shot, possibly killed, in the armed encounter that you would have created. That’s an improvement? The guy was even caught in this case.

    This thief was not armed until you introduced the gun into the situation by obtaining it then improperly storing it (must have – the guy was able to get it). Please make the world safer, and get rid of it.

    This sort of thing happens to people’s residences all the time; the fact that this residence is an RV is almost irrelevant. I think you were right in the first place… the big risks are from fires and on the road.

  11. That’s nonsense, Brian. By your reasoning, if somebody broke into my home and raped me, would I be at fault because I have a vagina and did not wear a chastity belt?

    The burglar well may have had a gun when he went in. Who knows? Or a knife, and used it to kill or injure Nick and Miss Terry.

    How do you know the gun was improperly stored? He ransacked the place and tore it apart to find it. We have been in Nick’s RV and never saw a gun in plain sight.

    In your opinion, how should an RVer store a firearm? My brother has a gun safe the size of a refrigerator. No room for that in any RV I ever saw.

    Let’s keep in mind here that Nick and Moiss Terry were the victims. The criminal is the bad guy. HE chose to break in. HE chose to rip the RV apart. HE chose to slash the seats. HE chose to go on the attack rather than kick out a back window and run away. How was that any fault of the victims?

    Getting rid of the gun will ony make Nick an easier victim next time. Unless you have some magical way to first get rid of the criminal element in the world?

  12. Glad you guys are all right. Thanks for sharing the details. Sounds like you handled things perfectly. But the main thing is that you are safe. Hope things get settled back down quickly.

  13. I would like to thank Linda Maynard for her posting. Obviously, we are greatful for the safety of anyone (Nick and Terry). There are those people who don’t realize the number of people who are alive and well due to the safe and correct use of firearms against those that would cause them harm. (Byron and Brian) Imposing gun control on the law abiding citizen will ensure only the bad guy has a gun. Thank you for letting me vent. Glad all is well with you, Nick and Terry, even though I don’t know you.

  14. that is so scary! I am glad no one was hurt, other than the thief when slammed his hand in the door.

    My house was broken into one time long ago–they broke out the window in the kitchen door. All they took was me stereo and a Billy Joel album that was on the turntable at the time. I wonder, too, why they have to tear things up and trash the place when they steal from you? Why not just take what they want and leave the rest alone?

  15. Nick YOU saved your and miss Terrys life, I was attacked once when I was 16 years old on a dark street in Dallas Tx. by two men, it was so dark I did not see the punch coming,

    But as I got up and saw the two punks running away under a street light a couple hundred feet away,

    I found out that night I could kill someone, as I stood there thinking I would give 2 thousand dollars for a gun,
    I was so mad I could see myself shooting them.

    I stood around for two hours with my little 2 inch knife out in case they came back.

    Keep the gun, ON YOURSELF !! Good Work and had you not had the gun, the guy was looking to come back, so what does that say to the no gun people,
    Thanks Goodness for your quick thinking. Ed

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