What To Do If You Witness An Altercation

What To Do If You Witness An Altercation

The news is full of cell phone videos of altercations, often extremely violent, taken by bystanders. What should you do if you witness an altercation? Unless a innocent person is in serious danger and you are capable of taking a calculated risk to help, your best option is more than likely to leave the area and call 911. Hanging around an altercation exposes you to a lot of risk, risk that could cost you your life. I will share two experiences to illustrate why hanging around trouble is never a good idea.

Third Party Retrieves Firearm

When I was a teenager I was at a park hanging out with some high school friends. Several cars full of kids from a rival high school arrived. A fight soon broke out between two people. Immediately, I decided it was time to leave. I hurried back to my car and noticed a kid from the rival high school going to the parking lot as well. I watched him open his trunk, take out a gun, put it in his pants and head back to the fight. Don’t ever forget, good thugs bring friends. Criminals often travel in packs and it’s impossible to discern who is associated with who in a crowd. You must assume that an aggressor is never acting alone.

Patrons Denied Access After Altercation

If you are in an establishment of any kind and someone is thrown out, it’s time to leave. To fully understand the danger involved in such a scenario, we must understand the mindset of someone who is denied what they want. Most times people are removed from establishments due to a physical altercation. The person is agitated and unstable. They are removed against their will. Control has been taken away from them. This is often a trigger for violent behavior. When someone has another person’s will forced upon them and is told to leave, they will often return and escalate the situation. The media is filled with stories of how innocent bystanders are shot outside of establishments by patrons who were thrown out and came back to shoot into the building and at security guards.

Several years ago I was at local piano bar with my wife. It was a rather large venue. Pepper spray overtook the entire venue. Everyone was evacuated and the fire department was called to ventilate the bar. Pepper spray was so thick people were throwing up outside. The funny thing is, no one knew what happened, or at least they were pretending not to know. My assumption was that an altercation broke out between the security and a patron. The security subdued the patron with pepper spray and quickly removed him from the bar. My guess is that management was downplaying the event and wanted everyone to return. I told my wife our night was over and we were leaving. It was just too much of risk to stay at that venue with the possibility of a violent person returning. I always try to error on the side of being over cautious.


Unless you are willing to get involved in a physical altercation to help a victim and accept the possible outcomes, it’s best to call 911 and leave the area. If it’s not your fight, it is not a good idea to hang around. The risks of the situation escalating and turning lethal are real.

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