How Long Does it Take to Die?
Robert A. Waters
As published by KeepAndBearArms.com.
One of the arguments the gun-banners use is that victims of crime should call police and let the authorities handle the situation. As James Brady said, "For defense of the home -- that's why we have police departments."
An examination of two cases, however, would seem to put the lie to that statement.
On July 16, 2000, a woman at Greenwood Village Apartments in Denver, Colorado did just what Brady recommended. At 8:40 p.m., she dialed 911. Although she was unable to speak when dispatchers answered, they could hear the sounds of a struggle. Because the apartment's address didn't show up in the 911 system, it took eight minutes for police to find the location of the call.
When they arrived, police found a man with a bloody knife standing over a dead woman. In another room, a three-year-old child was screaming. The murderer, a rejected lover, had attacked and killed his former girlfriend sometime during the eight minutes it took police to arrive.
Contrast that with the following case.
This is the actual transcript of a 911 call from Maria Pittaras to the Pasco County, Florida Emergency Communication Center at 1:51 a.m., August 10, 2000.
Pittaras: "I just shot a man, a man was just in my house, and tried raping me, and I shot him, oh my God." (Gasping for breath.)
Pittaras: (Unintelligible screams.) "He's still alive! Come quick."
Dispatcher: "Ma'am, calm down."
Pittaras: "He's still alive. I heard him in there."
Disptacher: "All right, what's the address?"
(Pittaras tells the dispatcher her address.)
Dispatcher: "You say a man broke into your house?"
Pittaras: "Yes. Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God! I heard him in there!"
Dispatcher: "All right. What kind of a gun is it?"
Pittaras: "I don't know. I don't know. Oh my God. Oh my God. How long will it take for the police to get here? Oh my God."
Dispatcher: "We're getting an ambulance on the way over there right now."
Pittaras: "Please hurry, he's still alive, he's going to come back after me."
Dispatcher: "All right, stay on the phone. I'm going to put you through to the Sheriff's Office, okay?"
According to the St. Petersburg Times, Robert Metz broke into Maria Pittaras's home through a guest bedroom window. A family man who lived a few doors down, he pulled a nylon mask over his face, and climbed on top of the sleeping woman. Pressing a knife to her throat, Metz threatened to rape her.
Pittaras reached into a night-stand and pulled out a loaded .38-caliber revolver. In her panic, she fired a shot into the wall. Then she pressed the gun against the intruder's neck and squeezed the trigger. Although Pittaras didn't know it at the time, Metz died almost instantly.
It was only moments later that the frightened woman's 911 call came in.
"How long will it take police to get here?" Pittaras asked the dispatcher. The question hung in the air, a plaintive plea for someone to come fix the problem. But the police had not been there when the attack began, and it would be several more minutes before they would arrive.
Maria Pittaras had been left alone to fix her own problem.
Fortunately, unlike the woman in Denver, she had a gun and knew how to use it.
Let's examine what Pittaras's options would have been had she not had a gun.
When she awoke with the masked man on top of her pressing a knife to her throat, she could have tried to talk her way out of the situation. Those odds aren't good, of course, but they're better than nothing.
Or Pittaras could have meekly submitted and prayed that her assailant wouldn't kill her. Indeed, that's one of the alternatives recommended by many so-called experts. If you give in, maybe he'll let you live. It's better to suffer the trauma of having been violated than to fight back. In this case, as in many others, submitting would almost certainly have been a death sentence since her attacker was a neighbor who would have feared being recognized.
Or Pittaras could have fought back with her hands, or pepper spray. This would have undoubtedly enraged her assailant, causing him to inflict even more harm on her.
The gun-banners' best solution for surviving violent confrontations is to call the police. But that was obviously not an option in this case. Had Pittaras even had a telephone next to her, Metz would have physically restrained her as she attempted to call for help.
None of the above options offered any real protection to Maria Pittaras.
What does offer protection to rape victims, or victims of domestic violence, or victims of assault?
A few days after killing Metz, a Times reporter interviewed Pittaras.
"I understand that I did what I had to do," she said. "But I'm never going to be a normal person again. Every day I'm going to have to come to terms [with the fact] that I took a man's life, a man with a family."
Pittaras paused, then continued, "I know I'll get past this, but I'll never forget it. And I don't think I'll ever stop wondering why it had to happen."
Unlike the victim in Denver, Maria Pittaras survived.
But sometimes survival isn't pretty.