Lessons from a Home Invasion

The following video is a talking-head interview — raw and uncut — with a woman who survived an attack by an armed home invader.

Career Criminal Willie F. Stith III had apparently heard, mistakenly, that her boyfriend had a lot of money in the apartment. He meant to take it, even if he had to beat her, tie her up, and threaten to kill her.

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[Kay Dickinson] was coming home from work when she noticed a man with a bag of garbage at the end of the hallway for her apartment.

Dickinson said she went to unlock her door and the man attacked.

“He grabbed me and pushed me into the apartment,” Dickinson recalled. “We had a tussle and he choked me and gagged me, and I dropped everything right there in the kitchen.”

Dickinson said the man, later identified as 35-year-old Willie Franklin Stith III, knew her name and her boyfriend’s.

“He kept saying, ‘give me the money, give me the money,’” Dickinson said, explaining she didn’t keep any in the house.

Stith then lead [sic] Dickinson down the hall to the bedroom where he tied her hands behind her back with a belt and wrapped the cord of a cell phone charger around her mouth.

“As soon as he took me to the bedroom, I looked over and the gun was sitting there – and I was like, there’s a reason the gun was sitting there,” Dickinson said. “I was just hoping he wouldn’t see it because if he saw it he might take it and I knew that was my only chance.”

Dickinson was able to wiggle loose from the belt. She jumped on the bed, grabbed the gun and pulled the trigger.

Stith ran towards the front door and then collapsed. She called 911 and took the gun out of his hand.

“I didn’t know if he was alive or dead,” she said.

So, did Stith get his gun at your Local Gun Store? To our amazement, he did not. As it happens, he is, er, was, a many-times-over Prohibited Person:

According to the Department of Public Safety website, Stith has multiple convictions, including larceny and burglary. Stith also served multiple prison sentences, the most recent a 10-month stint for second-degree burglary that ended in August 2005.

They somewhat understated his record. County jail stuff doesn’t show up on this database, apparently, but he’s been in State of NC trouble since 1998 and has by our count thirteen felony convictions. He also didn’t get out until 2006, it says here. The only reason this isn’t a murder is because Ms Dickinson, like Han Solo, shot first.

We’re not going to give this the full John Correia analysis here, but there are some things our gal did right:

  1. She elevated her awareness when something (hulking black guy with a garbage bag) was out of place in her world;
  2. She didn’t become hysterical, not while under attack, not while gunfighting the invader, not while on the phone to 911, not when the cops came.
  3. She freed herself from restraints. Very Important. Do not let them restrain you. Do not let them transport you. If they do restrain you, free yourself as soon as you can. Time and distance are mortal enemies.
  4. She kept thinking, and kept looking for an opportunity.
  5. When she saw her opportunity, she took it without hesitation.
  6. She shot the guy without a command or warning. When he’s armed, that’s just tipping him off and asking to get shot. “If you’re going to shoot, don’t talk. Shoot.”
  7. She hit with her shot.

There’s a couple of things she might have done better:

  1. The pistol on the Bible would have been of no use to her, if Stith hadn’t taken her to her gun. Better to carry it holstered (yeah, most people don’t).
  2. The hallway is exactly the sort of “transitional space” that John Correia talks about. It feels like home but it’s not as safe as home. People are complacent here; criminals exploit this. If some guy in the hall tingles your spidey sense, back out and wait for him to leave. If he doesn’t, call the cops. Wilmington, NC’s finest would have cheerfully put the habeas grabbus on Stith for his unlicensed, prohibited pistol. He’d be headed back to prison, but alive.

And that’s about it, really. Overall, a very good job of self-hostage-rescue.

Now, bear in mind that we’ve only heard one side of this story, and perhaps other things will emerge. But this looks like a clean shoot from the information at hand, and it would be hard to argue that society has lost a beacon of luminosity and pinnacle of humanitarian virtue, with the abrupt end of Willie Stith III’s life.

12 thoughts on “Lessons from a Home Invasion

  1. MD

    Interesting interview with the victim. I would bet money that woman is not a stranger to violence. She has seen it and experienced before. I’m glad she survived this event.

    1. Hognose Post author

      That’s a possibility I hadn’t considered, MD. Of course, stress inoculation prepares one better to withstand stress, and the stress preload can come from experience or from training, or both. I don’t know anybody who isn’t critical of his own performance first time under fire, no matter how fortunate the outcome.

    2. Kirk

      Don’t overlook the possibility that she’s a “natural”, either…

      There are some very surprising people out there, in terms of ability to handle stress. Just like there are people who you would think should be able to handle it, and who turn out to be complete flakes, despite a lifetime of training and working in a profession that requires it.

      You don’t know what you’re gonna do when you see the elephant, until you see the elephant. And, even then, variables come into play–Things happen one day in one way, you handle it. Another day, another way… you don’t.

  2. Bill T

    Situational Awareness is essential in survival. It is not paranoid to live in “Condition Yellow”. Use caution everywhere, especially approaching choke points. When I come home I pay special attention to the condition of my entry way. Is in the condition I left it? I try to be observant of anything out of the ordinary. If the front door is open or unlocked I won’t go in immediately. If I hear anything and my dog is not barking I don’t go in (Means the dog has been disabled in some way). Avoidance is much better that confrontation. If there is no threat you have lost only a small amount of time. If there is a threat you didn’t just walk into an ambush and possibly saved your life.

  3. John Distai

    The importance of situational awareness again, as Bill T states. Also having a “warrior mindset” is important. I found it interesting that throughout the ordeal she was thinking of weapon use. She mentioned being aware of her knife block while in the kitchen. Her bedroom was already “prepared” as she had a loaded gun laying out in the open, instead of locked up, unloaded, and hidden (it’s for the children!). Perhaps that was her doing, perhaps it was her boyfriend’s.

    I’d be interested to know what factors led her to have this level of awareness and type of thinking. Was she a victim of previous violence as MD stated? Did she grow up in a household that somehow “tuned” her to be more sensitive and ready to fight? Did she have a previous partner who was violent? Was she a “natural” as Kirk stated, and just happened to act rationally in a charged situation?

    There was some sort of thinking and preparation there beforehand that led to the gun being in the open. Did she, or had she lived in an unsavory area for a long time? Had she or her boyfriend had previous partners that were stalkers? Were they involved in some sort of shady activities that may have violent repercussions? Did they both believe that “self-sufficiency” was important, and that self-protection was their job, and not the job of the Police? Why was the gun there?

    These are all interesting questions, at least to me as I struggle to get loved ones to be fully present to what is going on and pay attention to the many signs of what people around them are up to. Growing up in frequent danger made these awareness skills more readily available to me. How do you impart the same skills in loved ones that did not grow up in frequent danger? How do you get them to take this stuff seriously if they don’t view risk in the same way?

    1. John M.

      I grew up in a very safe suburb. I went to college in a medium-sized city with somewhat outsized violence. I quickly made friends with someone who grew up in a similar type of city. His level of situational awareness absolutely dwarfed mine. He saw things that I was just completely oblivious to. And all he had to do was look. I learned a lot from him, but chief among the lessons was just to use my eyes and my neck and look.

      One close call in particular really got my attention. So maybe that’s the answer to your question: arrange a close call. :)

      -John M.

    2. Al T.

      Sometimes it just takes a good scare. Even then, some folks go straight to the willful disbelief of what happened. You can get them to read Gavin De Becker’s “Gift of Fear” and Jeff Cooper’s “Principles of Personal Defense” but just like talking someone into swimming lessons, sometimes they have to get wet before they understand.

  4. Boat Guy

    Had older son’s once-and-future girlfriend accompany him this Christmas. VERY receptive. Took her shooting (first time) demonstrated some unarmed techniques and bought her a SureFire flashlight (and spare batteries). I expect she’ll become DiL – and that’s when she gets a LOT more training – and stuff.

  5. Keith

    In the past I’ve come home when no one here and found a could see a light on I did not remember leaving on. I’ve walked around the house looking for any sign of a break in. I’ve then gone in, being very aware, move a step, pause and listen, repeat till I got to my pistol. I’d then go through the house tactically, slowly with all senses alert.

    When I come home I scan the visible part of the house and bushes (kept low) and look around as I walk from the vehicle to the door. When I leave the house I scan around constantly for any threat.

    When I go anywhere I’m tactically aware of entrances and exits. I watch the people around me.

    Keep your powder dry and your faith in God.

    1. John M.

      Solar-powered motion lights are pretty cheap these days. I’ve hung a couple around the exterior of the house as a disincentive to folks lurking in my bushes or alley.

      -John M.

    2. Tennessee Budd

      If my tomcat doesn’t greet me, howling for supper (he is apparently bottomless, despite being rather trim), my hand goes on my sidearm before I have the door fully open. I have certain “tells” not far inside each door, things no intruder would just leave sitting there (one is an unloaded P-64; another is a loaded but non-functional .22 rifle).
      I’ve come home before & cleared the house, basement, & garages because something just didn’t feel right. I don’t consider it wasted time, but training. My GF has done the same.

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