This video of an older man holding a younger man who is on the ground at gunpoint seems relatively straightforward at first, but is perhaps the best example I’ve seen in a while that proves the truism that “looks can be deceiving.”

Imagine walking out of a business as the cameraman apparently does, to find a man with drawn handgun pointing it at another man, who is splayed out on the ground, sobbing. Two other bystanders ahead of the camerman begin advancing upon the scene, getting to within several yards of the primary actors.

The man with the gun warns them that the man splayed out on the sidewalk is carrying a knife, and that they need to “back off.”

The two men begin demanding that the man holding the gun prove that he is a cop, and demand that he produce a badge. They are in danger of escalating the situation. Fortunately, the two men stop their advance, and merely repeat the cry, “put the gun down.”

On the surface, that seems like a reasonable request… or does it?

After all, the man on the ground is still armed with a knife, and the man with the gun doesn’t have any obvious way of knowing if the bystanders who have been cursing and demanding that he put the gun down are also threats.

It gets even more perplexing—to me, at least—when police officers arrive on the scene and seem utterly unconcerned with the man holding the gun, devoting all of their attention to the man on the ground, telling him to spread his arms out wide, palms facing up.

When other officers arrive, the man holding the gun nonchalantly walked away and put his gun in his car as the onlookers stand by in what appears to be stunned silence.

It turns out that there is far more to the story.

The man coolly holding the handgun on the man on the ground is a retired police officer who works undercover security at a nearby store. He was in pursuit of a shoplifter when he saw the man in black holding the knife on yet another man, who was on a bike. The guard/former officer quickly shifted his attention away from loss prevention to stopping an assault with a deadly weapon in progress.

The video captured what happened next as the guard forced the knife-armed man to the ground and waited for police to arrive to the call he’d all ready placed for assistance in dealing with the shoplifter.

As it turns out, the man nose-down on the sidewalk was the victim of a bike theft, who had found the bike thief and pulled the knife in an attempt to get his bike back.

Confused yet?

In the end, the guard’s actions to stop an apparently deadly force attack by drawing his weapon was ruled justified by the police. Why did the responding officers not seem the least bit concerned by him as he held a gun on the knife-wielding man on the ground? It turns out that the responding officers knew the guard from his security work, knew he was a retired police officer, and viewed that he was someone they trusted to act responsibly with the firearm.

What happened to the guy with the knife and the bike thief? They apparently reached a gentlemen’s agreement (and I use that term in the loosest possible sense) not to press charges against one another, meaning neither man was arrested.

When it was all over, the only person who was arrested was the shoplifter that the security guard was pursuing in the first place.

While no charges were filed as a result of the portion of the activities captured in the video above,  Salt Lake City Police Sgt. Robin Heiden had some clear recommendations:

Heiden said she would not recommend most people intervening in what appears to be an aggravated assault, nor would she recommend confronting a suspected thief.

“If you find your stolen property, don’t ever try to get involved yourself,” Heiden said. “Give us a call, give us a good description where they’re at — that’s a priority call for us.”

Heiden said the bystander who took the video did the right thing in standing back and documenting the ordeal.

The case, Heiden said, is an example of why officers can’t be complacent when responding to calls involving unknown circumstances.

“You think you know what you’re seeing, when really what led up to it is completely different than what [you] thought,” she said.

A concealed carrier might be tempted to intervene if they saw a man pull a knife on another, but the situation could potentially go from “bad” to “worse” very quickly if he or she thrusts herself into the situation with only minimal facts. It isn’t always apparent who the “good guys” and “bad guys” are in any given circumstance, and it is often the case that there are merely two bad guys of varying degrees of criminality.

Cooler heads prevailed in this specific instance, but it is very clear that they could have easily taken a lethal turn as other people got involved in what they thought was going on.

Be careful out there, and be smart.