When is appropriate time to use pepper spray? (Scenario)


I had a couple of questions regarding the appropriate time to deploy pepper spray. Last year I was at the Texas state fair. I was there with my girlfriend a buddy of mine and his girlfriend. On the way home, we took the DART train to get to where we had parked our car. It was the last train of the night and the train was packed. My buddy made a comment about how the train was taking forever to get going and then some guy (who I am 99% sure was heavily intoxicated) started screaming at my buddy. He was shouting things like “you motherf… let’s step off this train and fight” among other verbal obscenities for a good while. Basically out of nowhere… My friend literally made an observation out loud that the train was taking forever, did not use any obscenities, or say anything directed towards anyone.

I was legit scared he was about to start swinging on my buddy. I was directly between both of them along with my girlfriend. I told my girlfriend to retreat/swap positions with my buddy in case hands did start flying. We were unable to immediately retreat as we were packed in a good distance from the doors. I was also concerned if we just left, he was going to follow us outside the train. We ended up just standing there awkwardly letting this guy get up in our faces and yell. About 15 mins later the train conductor evacuated everyone off the bus for an unrelated reason.

With that said, if I hypothetically had a less than lethal means of defense like pepper spray, would I have been justified in using that to diffuse the situation and give us a better window to retreat? I was indeed in fear for my safety and the people around me even though it was just verbal.

What would you have recommended in that situation? Would you have done something differently? What is the appropriate time in general to deploy pepper spray? Can it be used in a threatening verbal altercation?

I legitimately thought with what he was saying it was going to escalate. The guy was bigger than both my friend and I combined so he had size on his side. While watching his hands, he would from time to time clench his hands into a fist. I just felt like and was a completely helpless victim. Hated that feeling and never want that to be a situation I deal with again…

Lessons I learned:

  • NEVER ride the train if you can avoid it, especially at night. Use Uber, Lyft or whatever else. Even if the cost is greater. Your life is well worth the few extra $$$.
  • Always be vigilant of your exits and always have an out in mind.
  • Specific to my case, I should have had the DART app installed so I could have reported the incident without having to call the police while the dude was looking right at me.
  • Watch the hands… He kept clenching his fists like he was going to swing
  • Immediately separate your loved ones from the danger zone if at all possible.
  • Do not further aggravate the aggressor. I stayed mostly silent as I was immediately in front of the guy. My friend who was right behind me was doing most of the diffusing even though we did nothing that warranted an apology.
  • It’s better to leave with a bruised ego rather than on a stretcher. Thankfully when the train was evacuated we were able to blend into the crowd and separate ourselves from the aggressor.

Edited some things to make the story more clear.


The fact that the train was packed would not allow you to use the pepper spray because it would have affected a lot of people. It may have been better to exit the train and chance him following you because it would have been easier to deploy the spray or even retreat. But at least you still had some witnesses there if he decided to continue his aggressive behavior and you can also call 911. you just increased your options and can strategize your next move.


Good point. That was my concern with using it. I think you made a good point that I should have moved to a better area and take the risk that he would follow.

Expanding upon your answer, lets say it was outside with no one else around. Would that have justified the use? EDIT: I am having a hard time understanding when the appropriate time to deploy something like that would be… When I search for these kinds of answers I seem to get very vague answers.

I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment.


If he continue his aggressive behavior and he is still following you in a threatening manner you deploy that pepper spray aim it and spray and then call 911.


I’d say if you’re outside and have the opportunity to evade, no. Now if you begin to leave and he follows or escalates. Call the police first if not in immediate danger. If the threat is immediate, it’s probably justified in an outdoor uncrowded situation.


Answers most likely will be vague as you just can never tell how the situation would play out. Even in situation that looks completely justified to some, that won’t guarantee that a jury will see it that way in the end. There’s no 100% guarantee.


Fair point. I appreciate your input on this. Stay safe out there.


Boy, isn’t that the key to this whole CCW defensive life choice… You better be sure personally that you’re about to die before you deploy your weapon or you’re going to jail for punishing a complete DB for his bad actions.


Just wow.

It sounds like you handled things well. I think deploying pepper spray in that small, crowded space would have been disastrous. Aside from your lessons learned, I can’t add much to that. Not knowing all the facts, I might have tried a couple other things: Many trains have an “emergency stop” device. It might have made sense to deploy it and get the heck off the train. At least in an open setting you could flee or spray. And perhaps having your significant other or friend dial 911, with phone volume turned down, and just let the call go through without talking to them. You would have had plenty of help when the train stopped.


So you’re outside alone and the mad giant threatens? Spray away. It’s better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6.


We are all so alike but, so different at the same time. Our differences:
.Out abilities/styles of defense
.Physical fitness
.Body size
.Weapons training
.The way we carry ourselves
.Who we are with and how we act while we we are part of a group (are we so distracted by a conversation/person(s) that we have no clue who is lurking behind that parked car).

We are profiled by:
. Family members
. Church members
. People on the street (and public transportation)
We all do it. It is human nature!
In my experience the best way to prepare is to know how you react under extreme stress.
For us all to be here, use time and resources for professional training and legal insurance says we have been through some stuff!
Your mind and gut instincts about people/situations are your best tools.
An excellent mental exercise is to isolate yourself form others (in a place where you are safe) sit or lay down and allow the emotions of your train experience to come back and hash out your options. Then physically get up and practice deploying your defense (even if the defense is something simple)
The point is to teach your brain and nervous system to make good choices even while under extreme stress! I agree with @Johnnyq60 on maybe removing yourself from the train. It seems to be the most effective defense from my stand point. I can definitely understand your thinking though. It was the last train of the night. How would you all have gotten back to your car? And would the area you got off at be more dangerous than being on the train with Mr. aggressive. A lot to take into consideration! At the end of the day you are the one who was there and knows what that situation felt like. Know how stress effects your actions.


@Dawn @MikeBKY Something in addition. Wouldn’t getting off of the train signal to the police/Court that you wanted to get away from the guy? As long as you did not say anything like step outside so we can settle this. And, it was four of you, two being males. Then choosing to use pepper spray instead of a fist fight. Giving the implication that you wanted distance and safety, not engagement and risk?


There are a lot of different options in every self-defense situation. In a crowd, expressing yourself verbally can help your physical and legal defense. Being loud enough to tell everyone around you what your intention is helps.

Getting off the train could be good or bad depending on the situation. If you’re vocalizing what’s going on it can help you. “We don’t want any issues, so we’ll leave and let you take this train.”

Saying anything like let’s take this outside is not a good idea.

Any sort of weapon usage in a crowd could be difficult to defend - depending on the situation. Trying to deescalate the situation is very important in a crowd.

There appears to be disparity of force in this situation (much bigger guy). However, multiple people on one person can even out that disparity (will be different in every circumstance).

It comes down to try to avoid any instigating, vocalize your peaceful intent for the attack AND the witnesses, get out of the situation if at all possible. Any sort of force will be a last resort.


I agree with @Dawn’s comments @Swim_Bike_Run. Every encounter you have with a person has its own dynamics and there is rarely a clearly right or wrong answer. Stepping off the train could be viewed as trying to remove yourself from a possible threat until a witness said the drunk said “Let’s step off this train …”
Talking your way out of the situation is almost always the best response, but that requires a rational person. Drunks are not always rational.
I really liked what @Dawn said about vocalizing peaceful intent. Early in my LE career I was taught to loudly tell the other party what I wanted them to do and, many times, what I don’t want to do. For instance, if you are telling them to get down or turn around or move somewhere, you want bystanders to hear you too. At the same time, if they are not complying, “I don’t want to have to hurt (or pepper spray or tase …) you” as opposed to don’t make me hurt you or I’m going to hurt you."

As far as using pepper, it should only be used when it is necessary. If he started to swing or lunged, or keeps inching closer, some overt action, that is the time to spray. Just because he is getting louder or clenching fists, should not prompt spraying but, it needs to be watched because it is an indicator.

Others mentioned pepper in a train. Any closed area always needs to be considered, but so does outside for wind and other environmental factors. If push comes to shove, you can use pepper indoors but you need to try to be judicious in its use. It will effect other people and they will not be happy.


Well said my brother

1 Like