Back in 20191, I wrote one of my very favorite investigative posts ever, detailing how Sen. Trent Garner2 had blatantly lied when he testified to a legislative committee about getting shot while stopping a mugging outside a “restaurant.” (If you have not yet read that post, this post will likely make a bit more sense if you do so.)
In the previous post, we determined, based on public records from North Carolina and a rudimentary timeline of Garner’s military career, that the incident was actually a situation where Garner was held up at gun point outside a nightclub/strip club, then called 911 to say that he had been robbed and “shot in the arm.”3
Again, all of that information is in the prior post. I won’t belabor it here. The point of this post, however, is to take a closer look at the logistics of Garner’s specific recollection of how he fought off the mugger in his version of the story. Because, friends, at the risk of ruining the surprise, let me just tell you: the fight he describes makes no sense whatsoever.
Garner began his well-rehearsed tale by noting that he went to “a restaurant” with some buddies to “have a good time,” “to have something to eat” and to “hang out.” The buddies in question were “a 310-pound offensive lineman who played for a local Arena League team,” “a 250-pound linebacker,” and “another Special Forces Guy.” He noted specifically that they “parked at the back part of a parking lot.”
Here is the parking lot for the building that, in 2007, housed Kagney’s nightclub and Sharky’s Cabaret (a seedy strip club described on Yelp as “a dirty, grimy place filled with cheap dancers that double as prostitutes, and lots and lots of drugs.”
I’ll let Garner take the story from here:
As we walked out, I got in a car that my buddy had driven, and I heard my 310-pounds [sic] friend’s voice quiver. This wasn’t a man who was scared of many things. I stepped out of the car and saw two gentlemen—one who had a gun on my friend—demanding money, demanding my friend do something. You could tell the situation, the tension, rose [sic] in the air.
Hoo boy. Ok.
First, Garner notes that there were two people attempting to mug Garner’s buddy. Keep that in mind as we proceed.
Second, assume you are two muggers (with one gun, apparently), and you’re looking for a victim. Why in the world do you see a group of four guys, two of whom are professional-football-player sized and the other two who are certainly in good shape, and decide that is the best target for you?
The short answer is that you don’t. Unless, perhaps, they were the only people left in the lot and you were that desperate. But if that is the case, and two wildly desperate men surprised Garner and his Special Forces buddy in an empty parking lot, you really have to wonder about the situational awareness of the two military guys in this story.
Hell, even in the version that actually happened–where Garner was mugged by a single guy late at night and called 911–Trent’s lack of awareness about a potential danger in the parking lot of a shady bar/club/strip club is embarrassing. Here is a guy fresh off a Special Forces tour in Afghanistan, and some rando with a gun gets the drop on him? Unless Garner was very drunk, that does not make much sense.
Anyway, we’re getting to the good part now. Please continue, Trent:
I stepped in front of my friend and pulled out twenty dollars out of my pocket and told the guy, “man, it’s all good. Calm down. It’s fine.”
The [car] door was open in such a way that I was able to hold the money so the man reached for it. When he did, I slammed the car door on his arm, breaking it. After that, I speared him like you see in football, lifted him up on my shoulder and put him in the ground, and I heard the [hand slaps table]. I didn’t know what it was. Only thing I saw after that was a gun on the ground. Me and that person went for that gun. He got to it first and took off running.
So here is where the story quickly breaks down. Garner has already told us that he got into a car that one of his buddies had driven, so we can assume he was either in the front passenger seat or in the back seat. He gets out of the car and “step[s] in front of [his] friend.”
Now, not even accounting for the other two friends or the second mugger–we’ll come back to all of them in a bit–there are only so many ways that Trent, the 310-pound fellow, and the mugger with the gun could be arranged, considering that Trent has already gotten into and out of the car. The most plausible situations appear to be:
- If Trent was in the right rear passenger seat and the large friend was heading toward the driver’s door when the mugger stopped him, Trent would have to get out of the car and either shut the right rear door or step around it to be in front of his friend and facing the mugger. Regardless of whether the large friend had already opened the driver’s side door before the mugger approached, there is no way in this scenario for Trent to be in front of his friend, facing the mugger, and have a car door open in a way that it was between Trent and the mugger with the mugger on the edge of the doorframe away from the hinges.
- If Trent was in one of the passenger side seats and the large friend was heading toward the driver’s door when the mugger stopped him, Trent would have had to get out of the car, walk around the vehicle, and position himself between his friend and mugger. His offensive-lineman friend is going to take up whatever space is between the open driver’s side door and the car just based on sheer size, and there’s no car door in that scenario between Trent and the mugger.
- If Trent was in the front passenger seat and the 310-pound friend had just opened the rear passenger-side door when the mugger stopped him. Even here, though, Trent would have to get out of the front passenger seat and “step in front of” his friend to face the mugger, which would again almost certainly put Trent in a position where there was no car door between him and the mugger.
The absolute best-case scenario I can come up with for the arrangement of the parties, where there could conceivably be a car door between Trent and the mugger when Trent was standing in front of his friend would be if Trent was already in the front passenger seat with his door shut and the lineman friend was just about to open the rear passenger-side door when the mugger stopped him by approaching from the front right of the car. In this scenario, Trent could have gotten out of the car, been in front of his friend, and had an open car door between him and the mugger.
Unfortunately (for Garner), even in this scenario, the story doesn’t work, because the mugger would have been on the outside of the front passenger door, by the hinges. If Garner’s window was down when he opened the door, and he held out the $20 bill through the open window frame toward the mugger, slamming the door would not have impacted the mugger’s arm at all. If the window was up, the only way Garner could have made the mugger reach for the $20 in this scenario was to hold it basically in the car, perpendicular to the mugger, and get the mugger to reach into the space between the A-pillar of the door and the car frame, which is not a way any person would try to hand money to someone with a gun in their face, nor is it a way that a person with a gun on someone would reach for the money.
But, then, even if he somehow got the mugger to reach between the A-pillar and the frame, Garner’s story doesn’t work. For Garner to hold the money in that space until the guy reached into that space for it would have required Trent to also be between the door and the car. That would have prevented Garner–who, you’ll recall, did not even have the presence of mind to see that there were muggers approaching them–from being able to slam the car door on the guy’s arm without first moving back and to the right to create space. I have serious trouble buying that Garner–or anyone–coming out of a bar at midnight is going to be able to move so quickly and be in a position to slam the car door with arm-breaking force before the person who reached for the money pulled his hand back out of the space.
And that is in the absolute best-case scenario for Garner’s story.
Yet, if you zoom in to the back of that parking lot, where Garner says they were parked, you can see that there are only four spots where someone could approach a car from the front unless the car was backed into its parking space.
If a car was backed into any of those other spaces, the muggers would have to have crossed a good-sized chunk of open parking lot just to get to the car. In fact, regardless of which parking space the car was in, if Trent was already in the front passenger seat and he somehow failed to notice two men approaching the car from directly in front of him, that does not speak well for Garner’s state of mind that night, and it makes the rest of the heroic tale that much more dubious. Yet, as we’ve already seen above, if they approached from any direction other than directly in front of the car, the logistics of the door-slam attack become impossible.
In other words, in the best-case scenario for Garner’s fantasy about breaking an arm with the car door, you have to assume that he first failed to see two muggers walking directly toward the car he was already sitting in. Yikes.
We’re not done, though. Garner’s story follows up the car-door kung fu attack with a claim that Garner then “speared him like you see in football, lifted him up on my shoulder and put him in the ground,” at which point the gun went off. Except the mugger would have to have been right up against the car to reach between the A-pillar and the frame and would have been between Garner and the car once Trent slammed the door and broke his arm. So…Garner then somehow got back in position alongside the car to have room to tackle the mugger? How? If he was facing a mugger who now had a broken arm but was holding a gun, circling around that guy to get room to “spear him like you see in football” in a way that he hits the ground, rather than going right at the mugger, makes no sense at all.
It is only after Garner heroically tackled the would-be mugger and allegedly got shot that there is another mention of any of the other people who were at the scene at the beginning of the story. Now perhaps it is believable that the two football players were so scared by the sight of the gun that they froze and did nothing, but the fourth person on there in Garner’s group was “another Special Forces guy.” If Garner was already in the car in the front passenger seat and the lineman was getting in through the rear passenger-side door, the other Special Forces guy was either in the car on the driver’s side or was still outside the car. What was he doing during all of this?
And what of the second mugger who initially approached the car. Remember, “two gentlemen–one who had a gun on my friend–demanding money”? Was he also just standing around, even as Garner broke the other mugger’s arm, tackled him, got shot, and got into a scramble for the gun? I mean, if he was desperate enough to go along with a plan to accost two football players and two military guys in a dark parking lot, it seems unlikely that he would be a passive observer as soon as things went south for his compatriot, right?
My favorite part of Garner’s account, however, is how absurdly it winds up. You have Garner on the ground, on top of a mugger who has a broken arm and has been driven into the ground by Garner. The mugger’s gun is on the ground. Somehow, this injured mugger who has just been laid out on his back not only gets to the gun before uninjured, hasn’t-just-been-slammed-to-the-ground, Special Forces soldier Trent Garner, but also gets to his feet and takes off running before Garner–or any of the other three people with Garner–can grab him. That’s wild.
Also wild? Garner’s innate need to keep making himself a bigger hero in the story. After noting that the mugger had “got to [the gun] first and took off running,” Garner continued:
I chased him not realizing what had happened, but my buddy grabbed me and pulled me back and said, “Trent, you have been shot.” I noticed my back was wet from the blood coming down my backside.
So this guy has a gun and is running away, and Garner’s initial reaction is to chase him? To what end? In this fantasyland tale that absolutely never happened, what was the fictional, heroic ending that Garner wanted us to envision? That he was going to run the guy down, get the gun from him (something Garner had already failed to do at least once), and…shoot him?
Remember, this was testimony in support of why a Stand Your Ground law was needed in Arkansas. Except, absolutely none of this has anything to do with a SYG scenario. If someone broke into your home with a gun, accidentally shot you, and then ran away scared, running that person down and shooting them in the street with their own gun is in no way related to SYG. .
Perhaps that is the real point here. It is all well and good to make fun of Super Trent’s amazing tale of heroism that never remotely happened in real life. He certainly deserves every bit of spotlight that can be put on his constantly dishonest approach to being an elected official. But, when you peel back the layers of his lies, it quickly goes from a fun, “ha ha, look at this idiot” situation to a dark realization that Trent Garner is willing to fabricate a story about how he would have likely killed a man who was fleeing from him if only he wouldn’t have accidentally been shot first. Worse still, Garner is willing to make up pass this lie off as fact in front of a legislative committee in an effort to pass a bill that would literally make it easier for someone to shoot someone else.
God, that feels like several lifetimes ago at this point, doesn’t it?↩
(R-Up His Own Ass)↩
Of course, since the police report said nothing about a gun being used in the robbery, it seems Garner might have started lying about what happened from the minute it happened. He is nothing if not consistently dishonest.↩