LAS VEGAS – Surviving an armed encounter with a desperate suspect is no accident. Years of training helped prepare a Las Vegas gun owner for a shootout last month that resulted in the death of an attacking gunman, he told Fox News on Wednesday.
B.J. Baldwin is a defensive pistol practitioner and champion off-road racer. As he tells the story, which occurred on April 22, he and his girlfriend had just grabbed a late-night dinner at In-N-Out Burger and were in the parking lot catching up on emails and social media. Suddenly, they were encountering an armed gunman around 1:46 a.m.
He said his girlfriend noticed two hooded men charging her with weapon drawn 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 believed they appeared intent on doing harm.
“I knew there was a high probability that he would miss because I was returning fire and getting hits on him.”
– B.J. Baldwin
Upon sensing the danger, Baldwin pulled his licensed concealed firearm and the shooting began. The gunman fired twice at his girlfriend and six rounds 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.”
— James Woods (@RealJamesWoods) May 20, 2020
Baldwin unloaded 10 rounds into the gunman who was killed in the shootout. He estimated the shooting lasted about four seconds.
Each shot Baldwin fired at the armed suspect hit its target, including nine to the chest and one to “the central nervous system.”
The second suspect fled.
The Clark County District Attorney’s office ruled that the shooting was a “clear case of self-defense,” earlier this month.
The deceased 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.
A Las Vegas police report indicates Smith was accompanied by his brother, Kevin Smith, 40. Kevin Smith told police his brother was upset that morning because of a failed attempt to buy firearms from a gun store in the complex.
Prior to the shooting, Kevin Smith said, his brother threw rocks at the gun store’s front window. The siblings left the shopping complex on Tropicana, then later returned on foot, police wrote in the report.
“Kevin had a feeling Joseph was going to do something stupid, but denied knowing what,” the report said.
Kevin Smith said the siblings saw Baldwin and his acquaintance in the parking lot upon their return.
“(Kevin) Smith said Joseph walked up to them, pulled his gun out, pointed it at the female and smiled as he began shooting at the male,” the report said. “Kevin stated Joseph was the first to fire his weapon.”
Kevin Smith told police they did not know the couple, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
“Kevin told detectives the white male shot in self-defense and should not be charged,” police said.
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, according to the Fox News interview.
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.”