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Old 11-12-2012, 2:53 PM
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Hello,


My name is Len Baxley, and I am the Founder of the Texas Defensive Shooting Academy (TDSA), not to be confused with other TDSA’s. I started the original TDSA in Texas in 1995. The other TDSA firearm training organizations are located in Tulsa, Missouri, Kentucky and Canada. I trained them how to shoot, then taught them how to teach, then allowed them to use the “TDSA” name in a hand-shake business arrangement. With the exception of Kentucky, none of them are associated with me any longer, even though they still use the TDSA designation.

I am also the owner of the TDSA gun range, founded in 1995, located just outside the city of Ferris, Texas.

As many of you have already heard there was a tragic (non-fatal) accidental shooting at my range on Sunday, Nov. 4th 2012.

I have intentionally not commented on this incident for several reasons. I do not know if that decision has been a mistake or commenting now is the mistake.

I was not present when the incident occurred. I had just left the range. As range owner, Sonny Puzikas gave me his account of what happened. So in the interest of correcting the inaccurate information I will tell you his account and I will follow it up with my personal comments.

Just a short lead in for everyone to understand how it got to this point;

Sonny is a range member of TDSA. He asked to rent a portion of the TDSA range for a two-day class. He expected a large number of students and he advised he had one main assistant instructor, Maxim Franz, and several other assist instructors. I estimated there to be two to four extra assistant instructors. But I am ONLY estimating that number.
The first day was static type shooting, which I observed while I was doing my other range owner duties. Other then YELLING at a few students for forgetting to wear their glasses I personally observed no safety issues. The second day was going to be using a section of the range we call the city. The city is a 200-yard long live fire area with multiple ballistic rooms. Due to heavy rains Saturday night that section of the range was not usable so I built a three room shoot house for them in the front of the range. I closed down the range so the class would not have to worry about regular range members getting in their way.
IT IS VERY IMPORTANT that everyone know I inquired of Sonny and Maxim as to how they wanted to use the shoot house. At that time both Sonny and Maxim stated they were going to run each student through the shoot house one at a time while the instructor held on to the shooter’s belt. They then said, and that will only happen after several hours of dry runs (empty/unloaded) firearms. After hearing their training plan I agreed to them using the shoot house.
Skipping back to day two. After building the three room shoot house that morning, several hours past. I later observed Maxim conducting exactly what they had previously described. Maxim appeared to have half the class and was teaching them how to maneuver through the shoot house with unloaded guns. I DID OBSERVE GENE (Asst. Instructor that was shot) in the room with the class while Maxim was conducting the training.
Fast forward to late in the day, sometime past 5:00pm. I know this because it was getting dark. With the recent time change, the class was now getting into the darkness due to the large class. I advised Sonny I was leaving the range. Sonny then said, “We promised them a live fire run through the shoot house and we are not going to break that promise. We only have two students left though.” As a TDSA Range member, Sonny has access to the range front gate. Sonny said he would lock up so I left.

I was later notified about the shooting and went back to the range. Gene had already been transported to hospital and the Dallas Sheriff’s Office was on the scene.

AND HERE IS WHAT SONNY SAID TO ME:

“I was standing out front of the shoot house talking with students. I was taking some money and shaking hands and saying bye to students. I had heard the last shooter’s number called out, #41. (It seems that 41 was the last student that day) So I knew the last shooter was going inside to shoot. I heard the shooting stop. I did not hear shooting for a while. I finished saying good-bye so I decided to make a run in the house before I left. I made the statement, “I am going to do a run” and then I heard a person standing behind me respond to me saying, “OK” I did not turn around so I don’t know who said OK to me. I, wrongfully, assumed it was clear to go. I pulled my pistol out and set up and started coming around the corner like this. (Sonny then demonstrated to me how he did that, which was pieing the corner) I shot three quick shots at the far left target, then three quick shots at the far right target and then three quick shots at the close right target just inside the room. I then heard someone say, “You shot me” so I cleared my pistol and ran over and ask him where are you shot, he said, “the stomach” so I ran back out of the house and yelled for the trauma bags and to dial 911 and to ask for a helicopter. I then went back in to attend to Gene.
Gene was standing near the first target I shot at and was hit with all three rounds. He was hit once in the right hand, once in the right bicep, and twice in the lower abdomen. The student was also in the same room and bent down to check on Gene. Sonny said, I never saw them in the room.”

Points to emphasize:

*Gene was shot with the first three rounds fired. SO, he had NO warning and could not have yelled out or done anything once rounds started being fired.

*Gene was NOT in the second room, but instead in the first room.

*Sonny was not doing a failure drill and was not aiming at a head shot of a paper target or of course a person.

*Sonny, did announce his intent to shoot in the shoot house, and believed he was being given clearance to enter.

*The actual live fire training during the class was done one student at a time with an instructor holding onto the student’s belt.

*Sonny did then and still does accept responsibility for his actions resulting in Gene’s injuries.

*Very qualified medics, including a former Special Forces 18D Medic (now currently a Doctor in Private Practice) and an Army Medic with recent combat experience were ON scene during the class and treated Gene within minutes of the incident.

Under the heading of potential bias in writing this:
I want everyone to know that read my account my opinion. So you will understand I am not “taking up” for Sonny.
I am not a student of Sonny’s and have never been. I fall into the category of AK’s and anything related to them are horrible and AR’s are the way to go. I have been privileged to train shooting fundamentals to American Special Forces and don’t understand why any American would want to train with Russian Special Forces. AND to drive home that, when Sonny introduced me to his class on Saturday he actually said, “This is Len Baxley, the range owner, and he HATES AKs!!”
BUT !! That being said, I personally saw people in this class that I knew with the following backgrounds: USPSA Master Class shooter, Former US Special Forces Medic (yep, the Doc!) and a recent former 82ndAirborne soldier.
SO, before you totally dismiss this Class or Type of Class or Sonny for that matter. There is a obvious segment of good Americans that think enough of it/him to pay good money to travel along way and take this/his training.


Now for my personal comments, if anyone is interested in reading. I make these comments for several reasons: I have spent the better part of the day contacting news reporting agencies correcting in-accurate reporting. Mainlydue to “quoting” other reports. It seems NO ONE wants to take responsibility, but instead just keeps repeating, “We just want to get the story correct sir, so tell us the real story?” Of course after they got it wrong!!
So,for the current TDSA Range Instructors that have been wrongfully blamed for causing this accident in local and national news agencies and for TDSA Range members that have called to see how our range could “cause” such an accident I made this statement.

Gentlemen/Ladies, I have worked over 18 years to build the TDSA Range. A range that allows shooters the ability to shoot the way they want, without the stringent rules imposed likemost other ranges. One shot every two seconds, no moving, no drawing and generally, NO FUN. Hopefully, TDSA range members realize we allow a lot of freedom on our range while trying to keep it as safe as possible, “GIVEN THE FREEDOM YOU ENJOY” The hard truth is freedom comes at a cost, to use a very true statement. For instance, the freedom to run and gun means someone might trip and fall and accidently discharge their firearm and hurt themselves or others. I think about this frequently as a range owner. I have to way everyone’s desire to utilize the “cool” things we have on our range with the possibility/probability of an accident occurring.
Just think about how many other ranges have a 40 ft. shooting tower, live fire street, live fire 200 yard city capable of 50 BMG. I think they are all very cool stuff but as proven even an experienced instructor made a small mistake that had grave consequences resulting in a life threatening injury.
To my Texas Defensive Shooting Academy Instructors, thank you for your discretion and professionalism in this matter. Your restraint shows character. I am proud to have you as instructors and friends. We have made a true difference in many lives: civilian, law enforcement and most recently military.

In closing, I wish Gene Smithson a quick and successful full recovery.
Furthermore, I hope the friendship Gene and Sonny have will not be torn apart but instead strengthened in this very difficult time. Remember, what makes a man is not what happens to him, but how he responds to what happens to him. So can be said for a friendship.

Len Baxley
Founder TDSA
www.tdsa.net
972-217-1182
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