Last night I was threatened by someone on my property.
June 15, 2012 2:35 PM   Subscribe

Last night I was threatened by someone on my property. What should I do to get over feeling vulnerable/anxious?

I was walking my (new) dog last night when I came home to find a car parked in my driveway. We live on a one way street with few other driveways, so I'm used to cars turning around there. It doesn't usually bother me. There was a man smoking a cigarette talking with two guys in the car. As I turned down the driveway to go to my back door I said to them "Hey guys, I'm gonna need to pull out in a few minutes." The guys in the car were seemingly nice and said something like "Sure, no problem," but the guy smoking the cigarette said "Yeah, when we're ready." I turned around and said "Excuse me?" That's when he started with "Yeah, you heard me f*gg*t. I'm not afraid of your dog, I'll come over there and kick your a$$." He looked like he probably could kick my ass, and I imagine this sort of aggression is from steroid abuse. I was pretty incensed at this- this is my house, and my wife and daughter were asleep inside. I stood my ground (I'm pretty sure that having a pit bull by my side helped give me confidence). He continued to threaten me and call me names, saying things like "yeah, now I know where you live f*gg*t," but actually crossed the street and started walking away. I followed him for a few houses, mostly because I wanted to see if he lived on my block (I've never seen him before). He started walking back toward me, still yelling threats and insults when I screamed something like "You're on my property?! In my driveway!? I am totally with my rights!" I'm not entirely sure what I meant by that, but I was pretty upset. That's when his friends pulled up along side him grabbed him. His friend said something like "Okay man, I'm getting him out of here, you just chill." At that point I said "thank you," to his friend and went into my house.

I didn't get the license plate of the car because I was too emotionally charged to be thinking straight. I also didn't call the cops.

I'm struggling with a few different emotions. I'm scared that I'm going to run into this asshole again, or he's going to look for me, and this time I won't have my dog, or he'll have a weapon, or his friends won't be as reasonable.

Part of me wants to run into this asshole again and kick the ever living shit out of him (though that is almost certainly a fantasy, he was pretty built).

I feel dumb for not getting the license plate or calling the cops.

If I see him at my house again, clearly I will call the cops, but unless he threatens me again, it will just be his word (and maybe his friends) vs mine.

tl;dr- previously unknown asshole threatened me with violence outside my house. He now claims he "knows were I live."

I guess I'm just looking for advice from people who have been in similar situations.
posted by brevator to Human Relations (21 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
This is a standard douchebag threat from people who are all talk.

The chances are that you will never see him again, or that if you do he won't recognize you. If you ever do see him again and he gives you any kind of shit, just tell him you're happy to call the cops and pull out your cell phone. If he continues to give you any kind of shit once you've done that, yanno, call the cops immediately and get yourself away from him. The worst thing you can do is confront personally. This is why we have police departments. My reaction in similar situations has been something along the lines of: "You're going to kick my ass? What is this, third grade? Tell you what... you stay there trespassing on my property and threatening me. I'm just going to call the police while I put the dog in the house. /dial phone/"

The reality is that, were he ever to follow through on any kind of physical threat, he would find his ass in jail and you'd have a civil case against him. It's usually worthwhile reminding people like him of these things, because for adults and these are the penalties.
posted by slkinsey at 2:54 PM on June 15, 2012 [15 favorites]

Carry a camera. Call the cops the instant you see him.
posted by rhizome at 2:55 PM on June 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

Not a safety or law enforcement expert but I would recommend that you remain vigilant about this guy. The odd thing is that it could go either way: he can come back, or not show his face at all. As sklinsey mentioned, many guys can be all talk but it can be hard to tell the difference. Do you remember what he looked like? Write down a description of that. I cannot speak of the legality of this, since I'm not sure what you can charge him with, or if this is grounds for a public notice (i.e. he's been going around terrorizing other people in the neighbourhood). I would inform the police if you see him again and he confronts you (in another scenario he may not recognize you at all), though. Until then. Make sure everything in your house stays locked, etc. I think the only thing that personally worries me is that he seems to live close by. In that, it isn't much of an effort if he really was bored one day and wanted to ramp up some personal beef.

I haven't dealt with a similar situation before, but I did have a stalker, so maybe some of that paranoia about "making sure your personal safety is top-priority" is letting loose here lol. It doesn't hurt to keep an eye out.
posted by raintree at 3:01 PM on June 15, 2012

Ack. I just realized I'm not helping to extinguish those vulnerability/anxiety feelings am I. I'm going to say that slkinsey has it on the ball... the chances of something terrible happening are really slim, though. If it helps, you could call a non-emergency number (I'm not sure where you live, but we have a police dept related number that is for non-serious things) and discuss what happened, and ask what they recommend you should do. Since I don't believe they can charge him with anything, chances are that they'll give you some tips on how to protect yourself best. You could also ask around the neighbourhood about this guy, to see if it is common occurrence at all, etc. Then put your alarm on and sleep easy. When my stalker reality was very much real, I would stay up at all times of night, wondering if the stalker was outside my window, etc. it was just eating me up every single day. Don't let that happen. Chances are that you are in no real danger despite what the mach man just told you... he most likely was looking for a response. Take all the precautions you normally would do and get on with your life.
posted by raintree at 3:08 PM on June 15, 2012

This is almost certainly an empty threat. If it makes you feel safer, get a permit and carry a weapon for a while (I did that myself when I was younger after some kids tried to stab me, so I totally understand that feeling of being exposed and vulnerable after an incident like that) - but before you do, just make sure you're feeling levelheaded and rational enough that you won't pull a Bernhard Goetz and go nuts on the next vaguely intimidating person to cross your path.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 3:10 PM on June 15, 2012

Wow, that seems kind of scary and annoying. Random assholes parking in your driveway and threatening you is not my idea of a good time.

You did the right thing. There's no way to win when engaging with an asshole. Especially one who has shit for brains, more muscles than sense and nothing to lose. You, you have something to lose.

I wouldn't worry too much about these dickheads coming back. They probably couldn't figure out how to find their way back to your house, even if they did remember who you were, what happend and where you lived.

The worst part of this is that you now are giving them free rent in your brain. Keep an eye peeled for awhile, but I'm pretty sure you've seen the back of them.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 3:21 PM on June 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

It's not at all surprising that you would feel vulnerable when someone who might live near you has threatened you on your property.

This guy may well say things like this to 20 people a week, it would be more worrisome if you had some sort of history of other personal interaction with him, but he may well have forgotten all about you by now. Although, since you live on a relatively isolated street, you might give some thought to your general household security. I wouldn't assume the men in the car were his friends, they may have just gotten him into the car to avoid any police involvement.

I'd be more worried about what was going on in your driveway before you showed up. My take on it is that 2 people in a car wanted a private place to meet with a pedestrian for some reason, perhaps to hand things to each other where no one else would see them. You probably don't want your driveway to continue to be this place, even if that guy doesn't return. You can call the police non-emergency number (find the one for the nearest station/substation), discuss the situation of people having meetings in your driveway as well as what happened after you discovered them, and request increased police patrols.

I suppose this isn't helping you to get over feeling vulnerable/anxious in the short term, but in the long run the cure for feeling less vulnerable, and for feeling less anxious about being vulnerable, is to be less vulnerable.
posted by yohko at 3:23 PM on June 15, 2012 [5 favorites]

I agree with the others above. This is an asshole trying to prove how big the hole in his ass really is because he was surrounded by his friends. It's unlikely that he will come back to do anything, but next time, have your phone and photograph his license plate and his face if you can.

The other thing I might do, if I was really feeling brave, would be to go to my neighbors and describe what happened. If it happened to you, it could happen to them. Having a "neighborhood watch" kind of mentality might be worthwhile.

Never mind Bernhard Goetz, don't go George Zimmerman. Leave this stuff to the police.
posted by HeyAllie at 3:24 PM on June 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

I've been in hundreds of these situations because I grew up somewhere backwards and I'm idiot enough not to avoid them. What you saw here was someone with a pathological fear of not being the alpha wolf in any given situation. Everything he said and did, from "When we're ready" to "I know where you live" was just him abiding by his core, crazy but common, ethos of "at all costs, never back down."

Easily, the situation you were in could have escalated into violence, but you managed not to force it that far. Once you parted ways, however, this is basically over as far as he's concerned. His concern was for not losing face in the moment. He won't come back to your house and if you see him again, he'll probably (assuming he recognizes you) say something derogatory to whoever he's with and leave it at that. If you confront him, you'll just start a new incident and once again run the risk of violence.

So, basically, don't woory about it. Be content knowing that you navigated this in close to the best possible way (by showing a spine and keeping it on his level, without forcing him into fight mode) and that his existence is a pretty bleak one compared to yours.
posted by 256 at 3:48 PM on June 15, 2012 [11 favorites]

About ten years ago, I had a neighbour who was in a band. They would rehearse late into the evening and attracted an "interesting" crowd, which included several obvious drug users. One guy would constantly wander over through the trees at the edge of the front yard and be a general nuisance. He would say similar things, shaking his fist and being generally uncouth. He often broke into odd profanity.

The first time it happened, the anxiety was similar. The memories of that evening are still clear, sitting on the edge of the bed, unable to sleep. 'What happens if he comes back?' We had a bat by the door at that time. I considered how I would respond if threatened again. For about a month, I was on edge. When there were noises outside, I popped up and went to peek through the blinds, peering out to see if he was back.

Finally, one night he did come back. A roommate and I went out and stood at the front door watching him. Although this time, he wasn't filled with piss and vinegar, he was delusional. Screaming and punching the trees. He looked at us and he looked like an animal – a scared trapped animal. He shouted and screamed at us, trying to provoke us. And there was just something so absurd about the entire thing that we laughed out loud. His mood changed and he looked as if he was going to cry and sodded off.

How do you get over it? You're having a fight or flight reaction; it's a physical reaction and it'll take you a few days to calm down again. In your case, you had a fight reaction, as since it's your house with your family inside, you're not really going to flee are you. Thus, you were geared up for a fight. Your body put itself into fight mode, and produced all the chemicals necessary to attack.

The memory is still fresh, and thus you're going to remain on edge for a few days. Basically, he disturbed your scenario. You had a nice, safe place where you didn't have things to worry about like that. Then one night you were threatened and your body went into fight mode. Thus at the present moment, you have subconsciously downgraded the security of your house – because there was an active threat made there. Your brain and body do not know whether that was an aberration or something that will continue. You need more data in the form of a few more 'normal' days. The more 'normal' days there are, the greater the chance that was an aberration, and you will relax.

And in terms of him coming back, you have to consider what he is going to get out of it. Sounds like he has an attitude problem and you are not unique in this experience with him. The ways his friends reacted sounds as if they may have seen this before – or may constantly see it. Thus, what would his motivation be to return? That he carries a grudge for you fighting back against him? If he was going to pick on someone to terrorise, it's not going to be a man with a pit bull at his side. The risks are too high. When he said he was not scared of the dog, indeed, he was scared of the dog. Because he offered that. It's not like you asked him, "hey man, you scared of my dog?"

He probably already got what he wanted out of that night – a rise. He wanted to bother you and probably gets off on pissing people off. Probably because he's pissed off. If he's exercising intimidation as power, it may well be because he has very low power or is intimidated. Thus, he intimidates you, and it worked (not an insult). Thus, he got what he wanted. He'll get some kind of attention from his friends, either positive or negative, and go on living his life.

As mentioned, you're too high risk a target to come back for, just for the dog alone. Also that there is no motive. Consider that you 'lost' the fight because you are intimidated. By this time, he won't even remember you.

And that's what terrorism is designed to do – provoke an excessive response to a relatively small stimulus. Terrorism works well when the terrorist can randomly violate senses of security, for rather than the action that is terrifying, it's the randomness. Hence why serial killers are so terrifying. Because there is no motive; no reason.

In your case, there's no reason for this aggression; it was completely unprovoked. How do you secure yourself against random aggression? You can't really. And that is where your mind is at.

If it makes you feel better, put a plan in place with your wife and programme police numbers into your phone. Know how to have a reaction if you need one again. For, with terrorism, that's all you can really do is be ready if something happens again.

In the meantime, try and relax. It may well make you feel better to speak with your neighbours about it and feel connected to a community. You tell them about the incident, they'll look slightly surprised and kick the ground a bit. You'll agree to watch out for each other. There will be a little bit of gossip, and everyone will be slightly more vigilant.

In the meantime, give the dog a bone for doing its job as a deterrent. Anyone who says they are not afraid of a pit bull has never seen an angry pit bull.
posted by nickrussell at 3:53 PM on June 15, 2012 [9 favorites]

Keep your cell phone on you so if you see him acting like that again you can film him and then it won't be just his word against yours. Also if you feel that unsafe it would be trivial to pick up some bear mace, it's over the counter in most places and you can find it at places like Home Depot and sporting goods stores.

For whatever it's worth, these sound like totally empty threats to me. I think if he was going to get physical with you he would have done it then and there. He was in the perfect scenario - you weren't expecting the situation, and he had a bunch of friends with him. And yet all he did was spout off a bunch of trash talk. He didn't even shove you. He didn't puff out his chest and go nose to nose with you. He didn't even get a safe distance away and then throw something at you. It doesn't even sound like he tried to intimidate you by staring you down. Based on that, he sounds like yelling and screaming threats is his thing.
posted by cairdeas at 3:58 PM on June 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Somewhat anecdotal, but I once spoke with a security expert about an incident like this. His take: the first hour after the incident is the real danger zone. If he doesn't return for vengeance within that first hour, the chances of him returning at all decrease dramatically. If he hasn't come back for more within 2-3 hours, it's close to 100% that he was just playing out his wannabe-alpha role in the moment and forgot you exist shortly thereafter.
posted by FeralHat at 4:14 PM on June 15, 2012 [7 favorites]

This sounds like a mouthy (and probably drunk/drugged) asshole giving out and his more sensible friend talking him down. The fact that his friend was reasonable suggests to me that you'll be okay here. He probably gave his asshole friend the "Fuck's sake, you were out of order there" talk after they left.

Keep an eye out for him for a while, but I honestly wouldn't worry too much.
posted by Decani at 4:14 PM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I didn't get the license plate of the car because I was too emotionally charged to be thinking straight. I also didn't call the cops.

On the plus side, they don't know that, which would be an additional incentive for them not to come back.
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 4:40 PM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Wow, that was really well put 256, very much like my own experiences!

If anything was going to happen it would have at the time of the incident. I find the end result to be pretty reassuring too. Friends lead him away you said thanks...his friends know he's a hot-head. If you ever run into him again chances are that he'll avoid you like the plague because you are ANOTHER person in the world who knows what a loser he is.

While someone parking in your driveway and being an asshole about it is definitely FUCK YOU territory, and even if you could take on all of them, you have a family to take care of.

I don't mean to be prissy/sissy or anything in pointing that out, but you never know when someone might be right on the edge, ready and willing to get really stupid.

Stuff like this has happened to me at least a couple times a year for the last few years (rough neighborhood and I actually love it) and I'm at the point now where I just slam on my mental brakes and give myself a few seconds to breath at which point I say something very politely, like, "I'm sorry, do you guys need any help? Is there something I can do for you?" Nearly every time the response is slack-jawed dismay...does not compute. Situation done.

Forgive me for bringing up the psychology card, but what I'm saying in those cases makes me proprietary...I own the ground I'm standing on, but in a way that is non confrontational. Still a man, just not one about to get a black eye or lose a tooth.

Anyway, I'm glad that you're OK, I agree with everyone that this is likely a done deal. Keep in mind though for future reference that avoiding escalation in a confrontation is best.
posted by snsranch at 4:55 PM on June 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'm a neighborhood watch veteran.

The best way to deal with the anxiety is to be productive and learn from this situation. Start with reporting the incident to the cops, just so there's a paper record if he ever might come back. Second is learn what to do in similar incidents in the future.

* First thing first is take a deep breath, look over your surroundings and get situational awareness, and find an escape route in case of violence.
* Second thing is to become aware of the descriptions of vehicles and people in the incident with you. Model and make of car? License plate (this is easy to practice, just read them off as you see any vehicle, and soon you'll do it almost instinctively)? What color is their hair? How tall, how heavy? Ethnic approximation? Distinctive clothing or marks (tattoos, jewelry)? And of course, importantly, is anyone armed or making preparations for violence?
* Third is to treat threats seriously by showing you are the adult in the situation. When the guy said "When we're ready" you should have immediately said, "This is my property and I'm asking you to leave." When he made the first threat you should have reiterated your telling him to leave and said that if they don't you're calling the police. The threat was meant to play on your fears and draw you into his psychological game. By not calling him on his bluff you gave tacit acceptance to playing that game with him (this, I'll tell you, was the mistake I made with a guy who mugged me last year). You could have made it simpler and safer by stating that you're going inside and if they're not gone when you check back you will call the cops (and then of course you need to do that). If you're really interested in keeping things from escalating, of course, you could just stand there and give him your best Clint Eastwood eye-cock, then walk straight inside with purpose. That would probably be enough to get them to peel on out.

(But yeah, even the "Can I help you?" approach would have been better as an opener.)

Do be aware that you were foolish to follow him -- that's Zimmermann stalking territory and does a number of things: you are escalating, you are leaving your own property and safety zone, and you are potentially following him straight to his door where he has relatives, friends, weapons, etc., as well as the law on his side. It's very risky. Neighborhood watch rules are pretty much observe and report, not taking the law into your own hands.
posted by dhartung at 5:05 PM on June 15, 2012 [10 favorites]

That guy is a douchebag, and he'll probably be dead or in jail in 5 years. I doubt you'll ever see him again.
posted by empath at 7:07 PM on June 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Also, you really shouldn't have followed him or escalated. Just back off and call the cops next time. That's what they are there for.
posted by empath at 7:09 PM on June 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Not that I promote any violence but I always carry this on me, it makes me feel better. Also, second that he is a dbag.
posted by ibakecake at 7:28 PM on June 15, 2012

In my zipcode there is a citizen's police academy where they have ten three hour classes over ten weeks for free and they teach you stuff you might find hard to believe. This guy was a punk. Punks are almost never more than a minor problem if you have a little basic training.

"When we're ready" is a prototype punk move.

Unless you are in a very messed up neighborhood his pals were nearly as disturbed as you were. Call the cops. In my experience cops like to talk to frightened law-abiding citizens about the best ways to handle their safety problems. And when I say they like to do that I mean that is nearly the most enjoyable part of their jobs.
posted by bukvich at 9:47 PM on June 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

In Code of the Street: Decency, Violence, and the Moral Life of the Inner City, sociology professor Elijah Anderson explains some of the dynamics of what he calls the "street" way of being, similar to what 256 describes. Particularly read Tyree's Story.
posted by slidell at 12:45 AM on June 16, 2012

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