Michigan Open Carry president praises man who shot attackers

Posted at 8:52 PM, Oct 06, 2015
and last updated 2015-10-06 20:52:23-04

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. -- Police in Battle Creek said a potential Craigslist deal took a violent turn on Tuesday night.

"Craiglist deal for a vehicle," Battle Creek Police detective Sgt. Jim Martens explained.

It all happened around 8:00 p.m. Robert Vanderwiel, 72, and his son Jon Vanderwiel, 42, traveled from the Grand Rapids area to Battle Creek to check out oa vehicle they saw on Craigslist.

The Vanderwiels were told to go to a home in the 600 block of Linwood, which, police said, turned out to be abandoned. The two men were then attacked by three people. Authorities believe that Jon Vanderwiel holds a concealed pistol license (CPL), and they said he fired two shots in self defense.

Two of the suspects were injured and found nearby. One of them was discovered in the area of Woodlawn Avenue, while the other was found in the 100 block of Broadway Boulevard. Both suffered gunshot wounds and were taken to a Kalamazoo hospital for treatment.

Martens said a situation like this can be avoided. "You can meet in a public place. You can meet in the daylight. You don't go by yourself. If something looks too good to be true, it probably is."

Police took a third suspect into custody on an unrelated charge and consider him a person of interest.

This incident also ties into the local and national conversation surrounding gun violence and gun control.

FOX 17 spoke with Michigan Open Carry, Inc. President Tom Lambert, a certified CPL instructor, who said Vanderwiel followed CPL training and showed “great restraint.”

“He handled the very poor situation about as best as he probably could have,” said Lambert. “The only way he could have done better is just not getting into the situation in the first place.”

“Some people like to say CPL holders are just cowboys looking to shoot somebody up,” Lambert said. "You have three attackers and only two shots, and both hit. That’s a lot of restraint for somebody, very good shooting."

Lambert reviewed the facts from Tuesday night’s shooting -- officers said Vanderwiel fired his gun twice, shot two of three men who assaulted him and his father, and did not shoot at the third man who officers said ran away -- and said Vanderwiel followed a critical rule of CPL training: "[Using your gun] is the absolute last resort,” said Lambert. “We do everything we can to not get there, but unfortunately sometimes we just can’t prevent it, because, as I said before, you’re not the one that gets to decide when you are a victim.”

“The person did what they needed to do to protect themselves and nothing more, and that’s what we teach in the class: you have to protect yourself from imminent danger, when there’s no more imminent danger you stop."