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A daycare owner who carried her gun for 25 years—apparently without learning how to use it in a self-defense context—shot twice at a purse snatcher in Philadelphia Monday evening, missing him entirely and striking a store security guard instead.

An armed woman opened fire at a robber who was attacking her but accidentally struck a security guard nearby, according to investigators.

The incident occurred at the Save-a-Lot store on the 5800 block of Pulaski Avenue around 6 a.m. Monday. A 51-year-old woman told police she was trying to walk inside the store but a man, later identified as Brian Prater, 45, was blocking the entrance. The woman said she then called store security and dialed 911 for help. After what the woman described as “several verbal encounters,” Prater charged at her with a large stick and tried to strike her, police said. He also allegedly threw hot coffee on her.

The woman, who happened to be armed, pulled out her revolver and fired two shots at Prater, according to officials. Police say the first shot ricocheted off the ground and struck a 24-year-old security guard who was nearby in his right shin. Prater then fled the scene with the woman’s purse and cellphone, according to investigators.

Responding police officers later found Prater on Rittenhouse Street, officials said. He still had his stick and the woman’s purse and he was taken into custody without incident, according to investigators. Prater, who was not injured during the ordeal, is charged with robbery and theft unlawful taking.

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Everyone has the right to defend themselves, but not everyone has the training to do so competently.

While it appears that Brian Prater probably posed a credible deadly force threat when he charged at her with a large stick, her shooting was horrific. We have no idea where the one shot went, but we do know that the other shot went into the pavement where it ricocheted low along the ground into the store security guard who was coming to assist her. I’d be willing to bet my next paycheck the guard was coming up to the pair from behind Prather, off to the shooter’s left, when she jerked the snot out of the trigger.

The woman is unlikely to face criminal charges for shooting at Prather (he did seem to pose a credible threat), but she’s still going to pay a very steep financial cost for this incident. The security guard she shot can and likely will sue her in civil court, and will either win or settle out of court for what I would probably guess is going to be at least a five-figure sum. If the damage to the security guard’s shin is permanent and crippling, we could very well be looking at a six-figure payout that will drain her entire life’s savings.

You are accountable for each and every bullet you fire in a self-defense encounter, and it frankly doesn’t matter what you intended to hit, or where you wanted the bullet to go. You are accountable for what or who you hit, and when you hit the wrong person, you’re going to be held accountable, criminally, civilly, or both.

I feel a great deal of sympathy for this woman. Based upon what her son told reporters, she was a very hard-working woman with her own business.

Unfortunately, some of the decisions she made during the encounter—such as attempting to place a 911 call during the incident—strongly suggest that she’s never done any sort of realistic self-defense training.

Shooting at static paper targets from your fixed position on a firing line does not adequately prepare you for self-defense, folks. It simply doesn’t.

Please take a good defensive handgun class (or more than one) from a reputable instructor, and once you’ve got the basics down, find a trainer that offers structured force-on-force training.

It’s an entirely different world when your opponent is a living, breathing, moving human being, and the time to learn to deal with that is in a safe, controlled environment with an instructor who can examine your reactions and give you solid advice so that you do things better the next time.

Going live for the first time against a real deadly force threat is sub-optimal, and often leads to poor results.

Training is expensive. Not training can bankrupt you, or worse, leave you or someone else other than the bad guy in the hospital or in the morgue.

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