To prevent or intervene and stop violence, we must address at least one of the following factors:
To prevent or intervene and stop violence, we must address at least one of the following factors:
In 2004, then-16-year-old Jon Romano walked into his school with a shotgun and shot a teacher who survived. He was stopped by another teacher who restrained him.
After serving a sentence of 15 years, he left prison and advocated for mental health awareness and tried to make amends by giving back to the community and working in a homeless shelter.
On 29 August 2022, he was attacked with a sword by a homeless man at the shelter.
He has shared his experience in the video above, which was originally shared on his Tiktok account here:
ALBANY — Jon W. Romano, who has sought redemption for firing a shotgun at students and teachers inside Columbia High School as a teenager in 2004, was the victim in Monday’s vicious attack at a homeless center on Sheridan Avenue in which a man wielding a sword attacked Romano and caused critical injuries to his arms and leg, according to police and court records as well as law enforcement sources.
Romano, 34, remained in critical condition Tuesday at Albany Medical Center Hospital after undergoing surgery in the hours after the attack. A police report indicates Romano’s injuries resulted in a “substantial amount of blood loss” and that responding police officers needed to apply tourniquets above his wounds to stem further bleeding.
The suspect, 42-year-old Randell D. Mason of Albany, was charged with attempted second-degree murder. He was arraigned in Albany City Court on Tuesday morning and sent to Albany County jail without bail. A prosecutor told the judge that Romano remained intubated and that doctors had “reattached” his arms and lower leg but remained concerned about the condition of his leg. He also was struck in the head, according to a police report.
Kristen Giroux, deputy director of Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless, which operates the Sheridan Avenue shelter — called the Community Connections Drop-In Center — told the Times Union on Monday the organization was “bringing in a trauma response team to support our staff and the other guests who were witnesses to this horrific event.”
“It did start with an argument and ended with (Mason) attacking our employee,” Giroux had said. Romano “works throughout the building, manages our clothing pantry and also helps out wherever he’s needed.”
She said the suspect had “used our center previously” and was known to the staff.
According to police reports, Mason allegedly stated, “Yep, I chopped him up — he was disrespecting me.” The report says Mason made that statement “multiple times” while in police custody. Another report, which indicates there is also police body-cam footage, said Mason remarked, “He’s down there all chopped up, said I was racist.”
William Hartl, a former employee of Community Connections said that Romano had worked in the clothing pantry there and was open about his struggles with mental health and had devoted himself to raising awareness on the issues that led to his troubles as a teenager. He said “Romano worked a position in an organization that provides a relatively overlooked service, ensuring that a demographic who has been largely abandoned by the rest of society has the resources they need.”
Hartl said that he left his job at the Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless last year to attend graduate school but returned to visit staff who informed him that Romano had embraced his work for the center and was flourishing in the position.
“You’re dealing with many people who have severe mental health problems with very little resources,” Hartl said. “The staff at IPH show up everyday, potentially putting themselves in danger because they care about the community, most of whom are thankful for the services. John paid a very high price for helping those that have fallen through the cracks and deserves to be viewed as a hero for his sacrifice.”
He added that the guests who come there for services also “are just like everyone else, they have their own struggles to face. Even his attacker needs empathy and compassion because to experience homelessness and poverty … it’s an incredibly difficult and damaging way to live.”
Earlier this year, Romano spoke to law enforcement officials during an event at the Saratoga Casino and Hotel, where he told the audience about the importance of looking out for signs that students are in trouble.
“If we can have them opening up and getting rid of any toxicity that might be building up in them, then hopefully nobody will even come close to doing anything that I have done,” Romano had said, according to a report by NewsChannel 13.
The Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office hosted the three-day conference on school safety, where Romano was a featured speaker.
He was released in late 2020 after spending more than 15 years in prison for attempted murder and other charges connected to the February 2004 shooting at the suburban high school in East Greenbush.
In 2018, Romano wrote a letter to the Times Union in response to a column by Chris Churchill which featured an interview with retired Columbia principal John Sawchuk, who had tackled and disarmed the 16-year-old after Romano had fired the pump-action shotgun twice, missing students but wounding a teacher.
“John Sawchuk is a hero who I owe my life to,” Romano wrote in the letter he sent from Coxsackie Correctional Facility in Greene County. “I know whenever another horrible shooting happens, he and all of my victims are hurt all over again from what I did to them. I want to take away their pain but knowing that I cannot, I want to prevent others from experiencing this pain.”
Romano, who was sentenced to a 17- to 20-year prison term, moved to Albany County after his release.
A parole panel noted that Romano had a low chance of returning to prison and a “positive relationship” with his family.
There was no information disclosed during Tuesday’s arraignment in City Court that indicated Mason suffers any mental health disorders. But Giroux, the deputy director of the Interfaith Center, had said, “We, locally and beyond, have a real mental health crisis that we need to deal with. As an agency it’s been our mission to support people who have been turned away by many other programs and agencies who have no place else to go, and that’s what this center is all about.”
The shelter has been open at that location since 2019, but Interfaith’s drop-in center program has been active for 16 years. The center, which broke ground in 2017 as a $5 million project, also provides apartments for formerly homeless individuals. The center provides food, access to showers and laundry facilities, and other services.
This example is almost like it was copy-pasted from some kind of sucker punch template.
These two are engaging in a dominance display, much like you see in nature documentaries, where the goal of both parties is to make the other side back down and submit to avoid a physical fight.
I can’t hear what they’re saying but after the man on the right replies to some kind of question, he then starts taking a draw from his cigarette to emphasise his conviction that he is not intimidated and will not back down. He is fixated on the other mans face.
The man on the left has a bladed stance, his fists are clenched, and he is maintaining just the right range to reach the full extension of his punches. But his stance mainly appears neutral, ensuring the other man remains unprepared in the pre-fight stage.
When he strikes, it comes from this hands-down, neutral stance. Although the man on the right has one hand up, there is not enought time to react to the first hit, and by the time the second punch comes, he probably has his eyes closed and he’s seeing nothing but flashes of light behind his eyelids. It doesn’t help that he appears intoxicated.
Notice how quickly the man on the left punches and transitions from a neutral stance to a fighting stance – less than a quarter second, which means that intoxicated or not, he never had a chance.
1. Don’t be a slave to your ego and walk away if you have the option
2. Do not bluff. Do not express or insinuate things you can’t follow through with. Bluffing is a last resort when de-escalation is impossible – strategically it’s at the same level as pleading for mercy.
3. Do not disregard or dismiss threats.
4. Maintain a safe distance and give yourself a reactionary gap
5. Watch their body language
6. If you want have a chance when the fight kicks off, you will need footwork, head movement and punching skills – in other words, go train in something like boxing, Muay Thai or kickboxing.
When a knife is introduced into a fight, no matter how low the level of violence was beforehand, it is now escalated to a lethal situation; a matter of life and death for both parties involved.
The effects of knife wounds vary dramatically – let’s find out why.
A higher quality version of the video is available on my youtube channel.
After making this video, I found a 1-hour long interview with Viktor. I definitely recommend watching this interview. He offers insights into his thinking during the confrontation, talks about his past experiences with violence and how this lead to his training and MMA career, and they broadly discuss violence what motivates young men to engage in this kid of behaviour.
Aside from weapons such as knives and guns, hard surfaces are the deadliest aspect of getting into fights in the street.
A single punch is unlikely to kill anyone, but the chance of death and serious injury is very high as a result of the fall following the punch and loss of consciousness.
Consider that if you become unconscious for any reason while you are standing, your head will fall from the distance of your own height. In other words, if you are six feet tall, your skull will fall six feet to the concrete. In a fight, you may fall much harder as a result of extra force from a punch or throw.
But somehow, many of us aren’t fearful about it, or don’t even consider hard surfaces as a risk factor at all. In fact, when people are organising fights, they often choose a hard surface over a softer one. A smooth, flat, hard surface ensures that the fighters can properly employ their footwork and don’t slip or trip. The fact that they may have escalated the consequences of the fight to life and death does not occur to them.
Similarly, people punch others in street fights, generally are not trying to kill the other person. It’s often about asserting dominance and protecting their ego; they would use a knife or a gun if they really wanted to ensure that the recipient is dead.
Some of these victims will suffer lifelong injuries and disability. Some fully recover, and some die. In every case, it’s potentially the worst case.
I have myself seen people get knocked out in front of me, hit their head on the ground and start convulsing and snorting. I personally know people who have suffered serious brain injuries as a result of falling after being punched. And I’ve seen multiple cases just locally where people have died the same way.
Throws and slams are equally, if not more deadly. With not a single punch thrown, a person’s skull can be smashed or neck broken if only they are lifted off the ground and dropped on their head.
If you are find all of this difficult to believe or are not quite sold on the seriousness of what I am saying, I want you to sit down and watch the videos below. Especially if you’re a young man who isn’t too concerned about this sort of thing, and you fancy yourself as a bit of fighter.
Hopefully this will be educational and I can maybe change some minds, which could maybe save some lives.
What you’re going ot see is extremely graphic, and I actually hope it makes you sick to your stomach. I really want to drive home the point that hard surfaces will kill you. Some of the victims in these video die, some are disabled, and some recover just fine. But the results are completely random and the worst case could easily have happened to any of them. Typically, when you see someone stiffen up and twist into a strange posture, they have suffered some kind of serious brain injury.
Proceed with caution.
Do not lift up someone who has just suffered a brain injury. Learn about first aid and the recovery position.
Alcohol increases your confidence and reduces your capability.
Steps into a longer stance first, then punches from the hip.
Ducks under punch, gets waist/leg and lifts for a slam. Potentially very serious injury.
St Kilda police, Melbourne Australia.
The man holding the baton made some errors:
Baton man seems to think intimidation is enough to keep him safe. The baton is like some kind of force field, everything else can be ignored.
From this position, when would he decide to use it? Once the fighting starts? Too late, too close. When the man fails to step back? This may be considered unjustified assault. Baton man then made a threat to seriously harm, which prompted an aggressive response. He put himself in a situation which is very difficult to win.
A brutal outcome as the victor continues to assault the other boy who is having a seizure as a result of serious brain injury. No regard for the potentially fatal outcome.
Belligerent man attempts to intimidate couple, pushing a female in the process. He seems to regret this a split second later as he reaches to hold and prevent her from falling.
Unfortunately he has already failed miserably to take stock of the situation he is in – alone, drunk, surrounded by bystanders who may not tolerate his behaviour.
Most people tend to overestimate their fighting ability. This man is off the mark further than most when he is surrounded by 5 youths (including the one operating the camera). He initiates the violence (flicks a cigarette at one and pushes another) but takes no appropriate action – allows himself to be surrounded, does not move, does not position himself correctly or attempt to isolate and incapacitate his opponents. He appears to falsely assume these youths will cower and back off.
A disappointingly common scenario – man knocked out, falling to hard surface which carries a high risk or serious injury or fatality. Bystanders are nonchalant and do not render assistance, instead placing the man at more risk (of falling again) by attempting to lift him off the ground.
“The fence” is a staple In the martial arts and self defense world. If you look up self defense videos and articles, you are bound to come across it over and over again. And most of them don’t quite get it right or completely misunderstand it.
The name was coined by Geoff Thompson in the 90’s. He was a bouncer and martial arts instructor who had been involved in hundreds of fights over many years. He also aspired to be an author and wrote several books on the subject of self defense, with most of his material centred around what he called the fence.
Geoff never claimed to have invented the concept, but he did put a name to it, and had the ability to articulate things in detail better than others. Since then it had been parroted ad nauseum.
If we look up some videos and articles covering the topic, it usually looks like the exact same palm up, bladed stance that was normally recommended by Geoff. The two main things people tend to talk about is how it’s a way to have your hands in a position ready to defend yourself should the opponent attempt to strike, without looking like you want to fight. Putting your hands up to your face in a traditional fighting stance like a boxer might be interpreted as a challenge. You also look like the aggressor to bystanders who are watching and recording what you do. So, you want to stand in a way that communicates you don’t want to fight. It’s about making a compromise between a stance which allows you to defend yourself and sending body language which doesn’t send the wrong message to escalate the situation.
These two concepts do make up some of the mechanics of this method, but they’re not the the core function. This is the part that people are getting wrong – they’re leaving out the most crucial element.
The first priority is controlling distance. It follows that this is also the main purpose of the fence. The most important factor in being able to sucker punch someone is distance.
You can use the fence even if you don’t have your hands up at all, keeping them at your waist in a neutral posture. As long as you’re keeping track of their position and behaviour and have a plan of action if they get too close, you’re applying the concept.
There are four things you need to establish a fence. All the other things like hand position and stance are details. And details are important’ but if you don’t have these four elements, you don’t have a fence.
1. Create a safe distance.
You might also call this a reactionary gap, which is enough space to respond should they attack. See my previous videos about sucker punches for more on this. Close distance enables surprise attacks.
2. Establish a clear boundary.
This means a boundary which is clear to both yourself and your opponent. If your hands are up just like Geoff always demonstrated, it should be pretty clear to everyone involved that you don’t want anyone within arms reach. You could also take a step back when they take a step forward, or put an object like a table in between yourself and the other person. All of these things communicate the fact that you don’t want them to get within a certain range.
3. Choose a trigger point.
Decide exactly at what point you need to take action. For example, if they step forward and touch your oustretched hand, is this when you will act? Will it be the second time they step forward after you already warned them? Whatever trigger point you decide on, you have to do something before they attack. Not during or after. This is a crucial misunderstanding about the fence – some people think it will allow you to wait for them to attack first. This is completely wrong. You need to act first, before their first attack. Range and stance are there for the worst case scenario where you fail to act first.
4. Plan of action.
Once they have hit that trigger point, what exactly are you going to do? In most cases, Geoff would simply punch the aggressor first. You defeat the sucker punch by using it. But it doesn’t have to be a punch. You might clinch and tie them up until help arrives, take down down to restrain or ground and pound, you might even turn and run if you really think you’re fast enough.
Naming it the fence is itself a metaphor, referring to the fence around a property which might not stop people coming in, but it does let both the trespasser and the land owner know that a trespass has occurred. Once you have that clear boundary, you can choose how to deal with the trespass.
One last point, you don’t maintain the fence after the first strike is thrown. You don’t try to keep that posture. You’re now in a fight. Get your hands up like you’re in a fight, use a fighting stance.
Watch the video at the top of this article for words from Geoff himself.
The problem underpinning all of this, is that if someone is close enough, they can punch you before you have time to react. This is more important than any other variable. As long as they are capable of throwing with enough speed and power (and many are), they can knock you out. You need to take steps to manage the situation before it reaches this point.
If you maintain situational awareness and behave appropriately, you will avoid the vast majority of situations which end in violence in the first place. Negotiate, compromise, de-escalate, avoid, exhaust all options. The rest of this post is about how the sucker punch works, and how we can respond in the moments preceding and at initiation of the punch.
There are two main types of sucker punch:
In a confrontation, do everything you can to avoid a blind side attack, as this leaves you with zero ability to defend yourself. If you take your eyes off someone for even a short moment, they can quickly cover quite a large distance to hit you. If there are multiple people involved, it’s impossible to watch both in front and behind yourself at the same time.
I can’t teach you people skills – rely on your own understanding of human behaviour to identify threats. If you feel that someone wants to punch you, they probably do, and you should act appropriately.
We can’t simply maintain a safe distance at all times with all people. Doing this makes most social interactions extremely awkward. But when your gut tells you that something is wrong, listen to it and be mentally primed for violence.
Some people respond to confrontations with different levels of denial, and this affects reaction time significantly. You need every split second you can get. Sure, act like you aren’t scared of them, be confident or whatever. But don’t try to demonstrate that you are not intimidated by allowing them to close the distance. Don’t convince yourself that they would never hit you, or don’t have the balls to do it. Find a way to maintain a safe distance, because at this range they can hit you before you have time to react.
Once the gap is closed, you MUST act first. At minimum, re-establish a safe distance. Use of force may be appropriate, such as clinching, takedowns, or strikes such as punch, headbutt, elbow. At close range, the first to act gets a free shot. At a safe distance, you will at least have a chance to read their movement and react/counter. Proximity matters more than anything else.
“The fence” is a staple In the martial arts and self defense world and often discussed, but poorly understood. When demonstrated it usually looks like a palm up, bladed stance, and is described as a way to have your hands in a position ready to defend yourself should the opponent attempt to strike. It is designed to be non-aggressive in appearance to prevent escalation, and communicate to observers (including phones/CCTV) that you are not the bad guy.
These ideas are all accurate, but they are NOT the main purpose of the fence, which is to maintain awareness of the proximity of your opponent. The core function of the fence is to establish a boundary, so that you can take action if it is breached. The name itself is a metaphor, referring to the fence around a property which might not stop people coming in, but it lets both the trespasser and the land owner know that a breach has occurred and consequences may follow.
In fact, you can use the fence even if you don’t have your hands up at all, keeping them at your waist in a neutral posture. As long as you’re keeping track of their position and behaviour and have a plan of action if they get too close, you’re using the fence.
The pre-emptive check is where we make physical contact prior to the actual *fight*, to check their movement should they start throwing a punch or someone else. Often, this will look like a C-grip at the elbow or contact with upper arms/shoulders. This is hopefully done in a way which does not escalate the situation, but be warned that some people will increase their aggression when you make any physical contact. Indeed, the stereotypical “fence” stance itself has become fairly well known these days, and some people may interpret it as a challenge regardless of your intentions.
There are many lists of specific signs that someone is about to attack you, for example clenched fist, verbal looping, pacing, clenched jaw etc. While many people will exhibit these behaviours immediately before attack, some will exhibit none. You need to take in the totality of the situation you’re in and make a judgement. Trust your gut, be alert and get ready for the punch.
Initiation is the very beginning of the physical attack, but this is the stage where we cannot discern between an attack and any other innocuous movement such as quickly raising the hand to scratch the head. If you were in the middle of a fight, you’d read this and take action – creating distance, using head movement, tightening guard and so on. If the attack is real, this is the last chance you have to make someone happen. If you are already too close, it won’t matter what you try. This is why we need to act earlier.
This is the point where we can confidently identify a real attack. For example, what began as a rotation of the shoulders is now a clenched fight travelling toward our face. It’s now far too late.
The problem is, many of us think that we need to wait until this moment, when we can see the actual attack happening before we make a decision and take action. Another unfortunate reality is that people will judge your decisions after the fact, expecting to see an obvious attack. Often, your choice is between suffering the consequences of the physical attack and the consequences of the justice system and/or court of public opinion.
Having said all this: if the first punch doesn’t end the encounter, you’ll still need all the other skills demanded by fighting; e.g. head movement, footwork, strikes, grappling. This takes time and effort in the gym. There is no shortcut here.
If you would like to see this explained in more details with real examples, or you’re not quite sold on the concepts I’ve introduced here, I’ve made 24 minutes of video covering the subject.
Click the image to watch on Youtube, or click here to watch on Minds.com
Click the image to watch on Youtube, or click here to watch the video on Minds.com
This is not medical advice or the result of academic research, only opinion gathered from practical experience.
Before we start, consider this example: Roberto Laudisio Curti was a 21-year-old man from São Paulo, Brazil. He died on 18 March 2012 after being pursued, tackled, tasered, sprayed with OC spray, and physically compressed under the weight of multiple police officers of the New South Wales Police Force in Sydney, Australia.
Death in custody is a far greater risk for those suffering excited delirium, psychosis and other mental health or drug related issues. First priority is have the patient conveyed to a medical professional for assessment, regardless of any offences committed.
If the patient is obeying directions, be prepared for their demeanour to suddenly change. Keep weapons out of reach, be aware of exits they might suddenly run toward etc.
Avoid verbal aggression where possible. Shouting may increase their fear and physical aggression. They are unlikely to “snap out of it”, submit and defer to authority.
Do not expect a rational response to directions or commands. They don’t act in their own best interest, let alone anyone else’s.
If they try to escape or become violent, have them physically restrained, sedated and treated by medical professionals as soon as possible. Use the minimum force in the minimum time. Although we want the minimum time, don’t rush and use more force than required, relax and breathe. Take care not to cause injury to the patient, yourself and your colleagues. Once restrained, minimise the time between detainment and medical assessment.
“If he can talk, he can breathe” is a myth. The best way to learn how certain positions and pressure can prevent sufficient breathing and blood flow is to participate some type of grappling class and get crushed yourself. After some time you will intuitively know what is safe and what isn’t. In my opinion, any other method of learning this is inferior.
Immediately search them for weapons once restrained. Self-explanatory but don’t forget it.
Don’t get complacent when they appear to be calming down. They may suddenly explode again and swing between rage, fear, submission, attempts to flee within moments.
They are not superhuman, but they are pushing their body beyond safe limits. They don’t appear to reach a point of exhaustion and reduced effort where most people would slow down. This is not only a concern for the safety of the people who are trying to restrain the patient, but for the patient themselves who risks pushing to the point of permanent damage and death. Their strength will only be a surprise if you have never felt someone resist you with 100% effort.
They may suddenly die. They will push through exhaustion, high body temperature, dehydration, physical trauma. Whatever are the physiological and psychological mechanisms that normally cause people to stop, just don’t seem to be there anymore. They are also likely to suffer poorer general health as a result of substance abuse and/or mental health issues. Some people will die if you ask them to run up a flight of stairs – what do you think will happen if they suffer a mental health or drug induced episode and resist arrest?
They remain conscious when they shouldn’t, absorbing physical trauma or tranquilisers/sedatives/anesthetics which would knock out most people. I’ve observed quadruple the normal dose of sedatives administered by paramedics before any effect is noticed. Don’t think that just because they’ve absorbed what you’ve given them and they continue resisting that they haven’t suffered irreparable or lethal damage.
They will not understand that their actions are futile and that they are losing the fight. A patient suffering excited delirium might not submit or understand that resistance is pointless. Even when handcuffed, strapped to a gurney and completely immobilised, they might continue to resist with 100% effort. They have no plan, they are not thinking beyond even the next second. Their actions are not the result of decisions, their words do not convey thoughts in the most extreme cases.
Avoid “pain compliance”. They either won’t notice, or it will only heighten their excited state – the result is pain defiance. Avoid the use of strikes where possible. You need to go hands-on and gain positional control. If a taser is used, get on them ASAP while they are temporarily incapacitated, because they might just get up and it starts all over again. Further hits from the taser will increase likelihood that they die from the accumulation of stress, exhaustion, injuries and medical conditions already present.
Be cautious when applying handcuffs. Even if every part of their body is held down by several people, after they feel the metal and hear the clicks they might suddenly get a death grip on the other side of the handcuffs before you can secure it around the wrist. People don’t normally resist in this way because it won’t help them escape, it will only delay the inevitable and cause injuries to their hand. But your patient isn’t thinking that far ahead.
Be aware of your own emotional state. When you are restraining them, you might feel that their intentions are malicious. They have no intentions, they have no plan. You might feel justified to use pain compliance, or feel that whatever pressure you are applying to their body is fine because they are still physically resisting with gusto and it looks like they can take it. You think the situation demands more force, but they will continue to babble nonsense and feel physically strong until their last breath, and now you’re sitting on a dead man. Control yourself.
If you know how to grapple and control someone on the ground, you have an advantage. Their movements are strong but erratic and uncoordinated. You CAN control them, especially with the help of a team.
The videos below demonstrate a few other mental health related incidents.
The standing headlock is one of the most common positions in street fights. People who are inexperienced in grappling tend to do it instinctively, for better or worse. The results are so-so with some people successfully dragging their opponent to the ground. For others it doesn’t work at all.
It can also be potentially disastrous.
There are limitless examples of “self defence” instructional videos on the internet showing headlock escapes which involve foot stomps, groin strikes, eye gouges, throat grabs and the like, however the most effective and deadly method is the slam or suplex. Any method of throws or slams can kill on a hard surface. Being slammed while holding a headlock is one of the worst ways for it to happen.
On the other hand, those who have extensive training in the position are able to use it safely and effectively. They understand how to apply a throw, how to set up the position, how to transition to something else and when to disengage. Watch the below demonstration for an example of a safe (for both parties) and effective throw:
If you don’t understand the position inside and out, simply do not use it. You might feel like you’re doing something useful, but the risks do far outweigh anything you might pull off with nothing more than luck.