One Dead, One Badly Injured: This Is A Real Knife Fight.

Real knife fights are extremely rare, and the only ‘winners’ are the survivors. In an event I’ve never encountered in my entire criminal-justice career, two local trailer-park denizens decided to test their manhood like the gauchos of a Jorge Luis Borges story: mano a mano, with knives, before a crowd of onlookers.

One of them is stitched up and drugged up in the hospital. His dueling partner, Randy Basso (pictured) probably never read about Borges’ gauchos, but he died in the street like one anyway.

From KPTV-Portland:

A knife fight at a mobile home park in southeast Portland left one man dead and another injured Thursday.

The stabbing happened at the Scotts View Mobile Home Park on Glencoe Road around 12:30 a.m.

When Clackamas County deputies arrived, they found a “chaotic scene” with conflicting reports of what took place.

Randy Basso, a 47-year-old man from Milwaukie, was found lying on the road. He was pronounced dead at the scene, and the state medical examiner’s office is now investigating the cause and manner of death.

A second man found wounded at the address was identified as 36-year-old Peter Altman, also from Milwaukie.

Deputies recovered two pocket knives at the scene, and it’s believed each man had one of the knives.

It’s a good thing that knife fights are so rare. This sordid (probably drunken) story has no romance and nothing to teach us that we didn’t already know. Don’t be a criminal low-life. Don’t hang out in trailer parks. Don’t fight anyone with a knife in their hand.


  1. As someone who spent considerable time in trailer parks, (as a student, and after a divorce) I find your advice “not to hang out in trailer parks” a little bizarre. Trailer parks are just affordable housing and are generally not hotbeds of crime.

    If you want to find hotbeds of crime, just look to section 8 housing, which is usually not in trailer parks.

    Being a housing snob is your choice, but I do not think it is useful for self defense.

    In terms of safety, I would take the average trailer park over the average inner city housing any day.

    Advising people to stay out of bars, that I could agree with.

    1. Chris Dumm says:

      As a criminal defense lawyer, I read hundreds of police reports each year from my county. A shocking percentage of crimes occur in ‘mobile estates’ and a shocking percentage of wanted felons are apprehended in them as well. As you correctly note, subsidized public housing is another hotspot of criminal activity.

      As a prosecutor, every rural meth lab I investigated was in a trailer home or trailer park. It sounds like things are different in your part of the country, but in this area mobile homes are predominantly squalid hovels where no child should have to grow up.

      1. wang says:

        Sounds like the real take-away here is don’t associate with the poor.

        1. Chris Dumm says:

          Being poor is no excuse for living in drunken or drug-addled squalor. My mother and seven siblings grew up on a small farm with a total cash income of under a hundred dollars a month in the 1950s.

          They were as poor as dirt, and they never took a dime in charity or government assistance. But they had a tidy house, clean clothes and good grades.

        2. gringito says:

          This is ok, Chris.
          However, no reason to pick on the poor.
          I feel that there is a certain lack of realistic sense: if you are poor it is not always possible to avoid drunks etc. because this is often (NOT always) a side effect of poor neigbourhoods…

  2. David Crooks says:

    My personal experience certainly backs up your view that there are no winners in a knife fight. Last year, we were working on knife skills at my dojo. Every single time my instructor and I sparred (rubber knives, forearm and chest pads), we BOTH got “cut”, “stabbed”…every time, neither of us came away unmarked. The only way to truly win a knife fight is by not being in one.

  3. scubamatt says:

    I train specifically to fight with knives (PTK) so I disagree that there are no winners, and that you will always get cut. It is a matter of strategy, and changing the way you prioritize things. I will agree that unless you routinely and specifically train for combat with an edged weapon, you are not going to do well. This is just like gun fighting or fist fighting though, it takes training to survive without serious injury.

    I’d be curious to find out why they decided to go at it with knives, and with one man ten years older than the other. Age and reflexes are much more of a factor in a hand to hand fight than in a ranged gun fight. Agility and footwork count for more in a blade vs blade encounter.

    1. RAN58 says:

      So I’m wondering Scubamatt, care to share your experiences in the last knife fight you engaged in? (Not training match, but an actual on the street knife fight).

      1. scubamatt says:

        I’ve been in two real knife fights, one as a victim (stabbed from behind on a train platform in Germany, in the 1980s). I definitely didn’t win that encounter, unless you count survival as winning. I would have died if not for the timely intervention of some German paratroopers on an adjacent platform who saw the attack and came running. The guy who stabbed me wanted my Zippo lighter and a pack of Marlboro cigarettes, he didn’t even touch my wallet.

        In the other, a group of teenage thugs attempted to rob me on my bicycle. They ran out into the street and tried to knock me off the bike, and then produced knives when I refused to run away or let go of my bike. I drew my own knife (and grabbed my U lock in the other hand) and there was a short battle. I cut the tips of two fingers off one of my opponents, the others fled. Despite being the one who was attacked, I was arrested and charged with aggravated assault, but the charges were eventually dismissed. None of my attackers received jail time, just probation and community service. The family of the guy with the shortened fingers later sued me for his medical expenses, and though I won that suit, it cost me over seven grand to defend myself. I won the fight (physically), but lost the war (financially).

        1. Duncan Idaho says:

          “Shame on you, you knife-wielding maniac, for ruthlessly defending yourself attacking those poor children. They’ll be scarred for life, now. Where is your humanity, you monster?”

          ~ Sincerely, The Justice System

          Crying shame that you can even be sued over defending yourself.

    2. Mark Davis says:

      Sometimes luck is the most important factor.

      1. scubamatt says:

        I agree. I’d rather be lucky than good. You only have to be lucky once, you have to be good all the time.

  4. Acepeacemaker says:

    Isn’t the saying about knife fighting “He who bleeds the least wins”?

  5. Sam L. says:

    Every book I’ve read (just 3) about knife fighting starts with “you don’t want to do this” and escalates to “you’re both gonna get cut up” and ends up with “avoid at all costs, but if you’re gonna, you should know…”

    Saw a guy with a t-shirt: “You mess with me, you mess with the whole trailer park.”

  6. jwm says:

    I come from West Virginia. Lots of trailers and trailer parks there. Lived in a couple myself. There’s a difference in people that are transitional in a trailer park. People that are getting back on their feet after a loss or young people putting away money for their first real home.

    These are different from the generational mobile home dwellers. Most of the generationals are on the dole and quite a few of them are into crime. No inner city ghettos in those hills, but lots of the same attitude.

    1. Chris Dumm says:

      Thanks for making this point, jwm.

      I apologize to all for managing to side-track this grim story into a debate about mobile homes. I’ll try to avoid that in future.

      1. gringito says:

        Good idea!

  7. Mark Davis says:

    I wonder if this fight started out as an empty-hand brawl, and deteriorated from there.

  8. Mark N. says:

    Sword fights can be won–but that is because you can defend against blows with a sword. Knife fights, not at all. Unless you can very quickly disable the opponent’s weapon hand, you are gonna bleed.

    1. scubamatt says:

      That makes no sense. You are saying that sword fights can be won (while implying that knife fights cannot). You also say that you cannot defend against a knife attack, even with a knife of your own?

      There are at least two ways to defend:
      Displacement – avoid their attack by getting off line, circling
      Deflection – strike the incoming blade at an angle, or the arm controlling the knife hand with your own arm (if at close quarters)

      The problem is that when fighting a short edged weapon you must either commit to extreme close quarters (limiting your opponents range of motion) or to staying out of his range entirely while striking at his weapon hand (only). There is no in between, you must go immediately to one or the other, and you need to use footwork to avoid squaring yourself in the target box. If you try to stay at ‘medium range’ (the range where you can comfortably strike your opponent) as a boxer/wrestler/swordsman does, then you are inviting injury by pitting your reaction time against his actions. You will lose that contest, as you cannot react faster than he can act, you are always behind the moment, and you have surrendered the initiative.

      Your statement would be more accurate if you said ‘knife fights cannot be won using sword fighting or fist fighting techniques’.

      1. Sam L. says:

        When I fenced, I ran into a lot of people with faster defenses than my attacks.
        The first thing I learned in fencing was that swordfighting for real would leave me bleeding on the floor/ground.

  9. Aaron says:

    There are essentially only two ways to win a knife fight without getting cut/stabbed yourself:
    1 – you have a knife and the other guy doesn’t
    2 – you have gun and the other guy has a knife (and you have a little space)

    Moral: try to avoid fighting on equal terms with your opponent

  10. TRP says:

    CCW- enough said

    1. scubamatt says:

      Yep, these days I carry both a pistol and a blade. The blade is handy for retention of the handgun when the bad guy wants to hold it as bad as you do.

  11. RLC2 says:

    Thanks Scuba for the real world- that’s hardest to find, among “experts”

    This article fits with what I was told by a knife Sensei- multiple black belt, son of the guy who ran the USMC hand-to-hand training course years ago.

    “how do you tell the winner in a real knife fight- he’s the guy who dies in the emergency room. The loser is the guy who dies in the street”.

    Bottomline- for me:

    1. don’t get in a knife fight if you can run away…

    and if you have to fight –

    2. get ready to get cut up, so get it over with fast, jab-attack eyes/throat, etc,

    is what I understand from another weapons sensei, via a SEAL resource.

    Real world experience- thoughts on that?

  12. Big tough guy says:

    Yeah, these pathetic dumb fucks learned knife fighting is not like the movies.

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One Dead, One Badly Injured: This Is A Real Knife Fight.

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