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B.J. Baldwin, a defensive pistol practitioner and champion off-road racer, said he and his girlfriend had just grabbed a late-night dinner at an In-N-Out Burger restaurant and were in a parking lot catching up on emails and social media when their ordeal began around 1:46 a.m. April 22.
He said his girlfriend noticed two hooded men pointing a gun at her and charging in her direction from across the parking lot. Once she was able to alert him, the men were 15 yards away with the gun pointed at her and smiling, he said. He said they appeared intent on doing harm.
Upon sensing the danger, Baldwin said he pulled his licensed concealed firearm and the shooting broke out. The gunman fired two shots at his girlfriend and six shots at Baldwin, he said.
“I knew there was a high probability that he would miss because I was returning fire and getting hits on him,” Baldwin said. “I wish I wasn’t at the wrong place at the wrong time, but I’m glad it was me instead of a less-skilled defensive pistol practitioner.”
The gunman died after being hit with 10 shots in a shootout that Baldwin estimated lasted about four seconds.
Each shot Baldwin fired at the gunman hit its target, including nine to the chest and one to “the central nervous system.” (The second suspect fled.)
Baldwin said one of the tenets for defensive pistol practitioners is to never use your weapon unless there is no other option. He said his only objective that night was to return home safely. But he said his training and experience in racing prepared him for the exchange.
Earlier this month, the Clark County district attorney ruled that the shooting was a “clear case of self-defense.”
The alleged gunman, identified as Joseph Smith, 43, was apparently upset about an earlier issue at a gun store, The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported, citing a police report.
The second suspect, identified as Smith’s brother, reportedly told police he had a feeling Smith was “going to do something stupid.”
The brother asked authorities not to file charges against Baldwin for using his weapon, the report said.
Baldwin, 40, said he takes firearms training seriously and hopes that those with concealed-carry permits take inspiration from his story to undergo more training. Baldwin said he trains more than the average concealed-carry holder, often training with tier one military operators and professional sports shooters like his girlfriend, Tori Nonaka, 25. He estimated that it took him about a second to draw his gun and land the first shot.
Baldwin said he feels “sadness” for Smith’s family because of the gunman’s death but believes “God may have put this man in front of me for a reason.”
The National Rifle Association tweeted out an interview with Baldwin regarding the incident that drew responses from some of the county’s top conservative voices, including Donald Trump Jr. and actor James Woods, who tweeted, “Now more than ever learn to protect yourself and your civil rights under the Second Amendment.”
Baldwin told the NRA, “As soon as I started engaging the first person, the second guy realized that I had a firearm, and I was there to fight to make sure I made it home to my family. That struck fear into his heart, and he ran as fast as he could in the opposite direction because he wasn’t there to get into a gunfight — getting in a gunfight was not on his to-do list.”