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This actually happened to me in 1991: I was a few months from defending my Ph.D. so I was already under a lot of stress. I came home from work after dark to an empty house and saw that the light we kept on a timer wasn't on (it turned out later that the bulb had burned out). I entered the house and caught some movement out of the corner of my eye. I shouted, and the burglar who was on his way out the window took a pot shot at me with a 038. The bullet missed me by about a foot. I had nightmares about strangers in the house for years. None of that was my fault.

There is an epilogue to the story: after the incident I crawled to the phone and called 911. The police arrived a few minutes later, and a few minutes after that told me that they had caught the perpetrator. The put me in the back of a police car and drove me out to where they had a hispanic kid, maybe 15 years old, sitting on the curb in handcuffs. They asked me if I could identify him and I said no, it was dark, I couldn't see anything but a muzzle flash. So they let him go. I have no idea if I let an armed robber back out on to the street, but I've never lost a minute of sleep over that decision.

You own your actions, not your feelings.




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