Three weeks ago today, on Sunday June 8, I was in the fourth day of a MAG-40 class in Kankakee, Illinois. Among other topics of the day, I warned the students that one of the dangers of armed intervention was “tailgunners,” criminal accomplices who cover their “point man” while pretending to be shoppers, and will assassinate anyone who interferes with their fellow thugs. That same day, some 1800 miles away, that scenario was acted out with tragic results.

A vicious psycho couple walked into a pizza joint where two Las Vegas Metro officers were taking a meal break, and ambushed and murdered them. Taking the slain officers’ pistols and spare ammo, they made their way to a nearby WalMart. The male of the pair fired a shot into the ceiling and ordered everyone out. One armed citizen, Joseph Wilcox, drew his own Glock and moved toward the gunman. The tailgunner, the gunman’s wife, sidled up beside Wilcox and shot him dead. The two nutcases then shot it out with police, and died.

I’ve waited this long to address it because it takes that long for the facts to shake out. Early reports said one of the first two officers returned fire and wounded one of the perps; turns out that wasn’t true. Early reports said the armed citizen was female, and had wounded one of the cop-killers; turns out, no and no. First reports said the female psycho killed her husband and then herself; later reports say a police bullet killed him and she didn’t shoot him at all, though she did put a slug in her own head after being anchored by a police bullet in the final gunfight.

No one with a three-digit IQ has blamed officers Alyn Beck and Igor Soldo for their own deaths: they were bushwhacked suddenly and without discernible warning. Not so the private citizen, Joseph Wilcox. An amazing number of people on the Internet accused him of “getting himself killed,” with one idiot even suggesting that he died while “playing Barney Fife.” An interesting parallel was seen on two threads over at In the “Carry Issues” section, quite a few people thought Wilcox had overstepped his bounds. They took the position that the gun they carried was only to protect themselves and their families, not the public. Interestingly enough, in the “Cop Talk” section of the same forum, police officers felt he had done the right thing and agreed with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police, who publicly proclaimed Wilcox to have died a hero and probably saved multiple innocent lives by interrupting the plans of the two whacked-out murderers.

Readers…I’d be very much interested in hearing YOUR take on this.


  1. Has anyone mentioned the potential that a suspected “tailgunner” may in fact be another CCW holder going to assist. I doubt if Mr. Wilcox saw the “tailgunner”, but even if he did, would he have recognized her as a “tailgunner” or thought she was another good guy like himself?

  2. Well, for me the man is a hero. Mr. Wilcox shown courage. Where as a lot of listeners and viewers would of said, I would of done the same thing. To me that’s quarterbacking. Until I’m put in that situation. I’ll never know.

    I will say this, speaking only for myself. I’m an acurate shooter. I shoot often, but for me I have to step up.

    It’s not enough to be accurate, I have to re-adjust my own mindset. I should train to not only protect my life, but anyone else’s.

    Training and being prepared, like our own military pilots train everyday, is key to survival. Speaking only for myself.

  3. One thing that is not as well known about this story is that the roommate/neighbor of the couple WATCHED as they packed up for this nightmare. She knew what they were doing, and she did NOTHING. She then had the audacity to say she had the “murders” of 5 (count them FIVE) murders on her head and started sobbing that she had lost “her best friend” (the woman that shot Mr. Wilcox). What she has on her head is the murder of 3, and the suicide that resulted from the 2 that caused the deaths of 2 fine officers and a true hero.

    I hope that I have the where with all to remember to look for “tailgunners” should the day ever come, but I also hope that if I die, I die a hero too!

  4. I wasn’t there and without seeing a re-creation have no idea what I would have done. As a general rule if I am in a position to assist it is likely I will. However, running towards the gunfire is not something I think I would do because of physical limitations. If I can’t assist from where I am and can leave the area I will, but if I can assist even if it’s just to observe from a safe position and report location and movement to first responders I will.

  5. While I am almost always armed often it is with a small pocket pistol. My japanese employer would certianly terminate me if I was caught carrying a gun during working hours. That doesnt stop me but makes me carry deep concealment. This guy was certainly a hero and much braver than me. I think I would have taken cover and exited and contacted 911. My 380 or 22 mag just not a gun I want to get in a firefight with. Nor do I want to spend years in court and maybe jail in the event that I made a wrong choice or had the police mistake me for the BG.

  6. Congratulations to “Brent,” for a dubious achievement award: the first truly crackpot comment in this whole, hundred-plus-comment discussion. No, Brent, it won’t appear here.

  7. He stepped up to defend his neighbors and gave his life doing it. He is a Hero and we can step back and learn from this later.
    May God Bless His Family and Friends.

  8. I would liken Wilcox’s actions to those of Mark Alan Wilson in the Tyler courthouse shooting. Anyone familiar with that incident should know what I mean without any further explanation.

  9. Back in the 90s, I took a course — “Officer Survival and Tactical Firearms”, I think it was called — thru a local community college’s reserve police academy (it was a summer session, and you didn’t have to be enrolled in the academy to take the class, which was both lecture and substantial range time). One of the instructors was a San Diego County Sheriff’s Deputy, who made the point that “there’s always one more victim, always one more felon, and always one more weapon”. Hard to remember when things go south, but too true.

  10. “…quite a few people thought Wilcox had overstepped his bounds.”

    My take is this:

    Whether or not a person takes action to use deadly force in ANY given circumstance is a personal decision based on one’s holistic view of the scenario, the law, and personal dictates.

    For example, the law may say that it’s OK to use deadly force in the defense of another…yet a person may chose not to do so due to potential consequences to their own family. Or a person may choose not to act due to the possible personal legal ramifications in using deadly force.

    Because of this, I can’t say how I’d ACTUALLY respond in any given circumstance without inserting qualifiers. For example, I MAY use deadly force in the defense of another person IF I could reasonably do so without bringing harm or death to an innocent bystander. If my wife/children were with me, my first priority would most probably be to get them to safety while providing any necessary cover. If the danger were imminent, I MAY act with less concern for myself or others in order to provide some measure of defense to those threatened.

    Armchair quarterbacking events such as these usually leaves a sour taste in my mouth. It seems apparent that Mr. Wilcox had good intentions and was thinking of the welfare of his fellow man. We could do with more people like this. Had this turned out differently and he had “saved the day” without getting himself killed, likely the song people would be singing would be of a different tune. But tragedy struck him down.

    What we should take away from this is not an absolute decision to act or not act in any given scenario. Rather, we should take it upon ourselves to question our own knowledge, abilities, and training in order to better prepare ourselves for the future.

    It is the responsible thing for ALL people who carry a firearm to do. And it’s the best way to give meaning to our brothers and sisters who have lost their lives in the defense of themselves or others, however they may have died.

  11. Several have stated that Mr. Wilcox overstepped his bounds of even his legal limits and failed to accomplish his mission. I am not qualified to comment on his legal limitations, however I can state I believe Mr. Wilcox did accomplish his mission. Mr. Wilcox delayed a vicious attack for a sufficient period of time to allow law enforcement officers time to effectively respond. Regrettably he purchased this time with his life. None of us will ever know if this was a conscious choice to act for the protection of others or if it was the act of a “cowboy”, but the fact remains his actions did significantly improve the likelihood of survival of the other customers in the store.

    I did not know Mr. Wilcox, but I would have been proud to call him neighbor and friend. America need more Joe Wilcox’s and fewer risk averters.