You and your wife step from the bright lights of the theater into the darkened area of the parking lot. As you walk arm in arm to your car, discussing the film you’ve just seen, you begin to notice that the footsteps of someone else are mirroring your own. You glance back, and see two men following you. Unlike you and your wife, they do not appear to be discussing anything. Rather, they appear focused on you. “That’s strange,” you think. You go from yellow to orange, and drop back a half step, putting yourself imperceptibly between your wife and the two.
Your wife’s steps falter, and she looks back to you with a questioning look. Now, conscious of everything around you, you notice a third male closing in from the side. You push your wife behind you with your non-gun hand, and in a loud, clear voice, ask, “Can I help you gentlemen?”
One of them responds with, “Yeah, mf’er, you can help us! Give us your sh*t.” You feel your palms begin to sweat, and your breathing becomes shallow. All of a sudden, nothing but the three men seems to exist. You can feel your heart pounding in your chest…surely, if it pounds much harder, it’ll jump right out, won’t it? As if that wasn’t enough, your shoulders tighten uncomfortably. You force yourself to take a long slow breath. With infinite slowness, you feel calmness begin to return. You realize a wallet is hardly worth your wife or you getting hurt, so you say, “Sure…whatever you want. Just leaves us alone, OK?” You begin reaching for your wallet, and hear one of them say, “She sure looks good! Maybe if she’s nice to us, no one will get hurt”, and the others laugh.
You say, “Look, fellas, just take our wallets, and call it a night, alright?” The first male says, “We’ll decide when it’s over, punk!” and begins walking towards you, pulling a knife off of his belt. You know he’s too close…that he’ll probably kill you before you get it out, but your hand switches from wallet mode to gun mode. With practice that has come from dozens of hours on the range, you clear leather, bringing your Glock up to bear on the one with the knife. “Stop! Drop the knife!!” you yell, louder than you thought you could ever yell. Incredibly, instead of stopping he lowers his head and charges. Just as you’ve practiced hundreds of times, you put a double tap center mass on him, stepping to the side as you fire. He crumples to the ground, and begins writhing. Keeping him in your view, you swing the gun towards where the other two had been, only to see disappearing asses and elbows.
You begin to realize that there is more to the world as your tunnel vision recedes, and as you look around, people start to gather around you. The man at your feet is quiet now, so you hear it when someone in the forming crowd says, “He just shot that dude!!!” A woman in the crowd says, “Ohmigod!!! He’s got a gun!!!” You hear sirens in the background, and they are getting closer….
Believe it or not, your ordeal is just beginning.
Most people would agree that the above circumstances were a perfectly justifiable use of deadly force. However, between you and your freedom lies the necessity of making it perfectly clear, over and over, that it was justifiable.
Deadly force is generally defined as: “That force which is known to cause or to be able to cause death or serious bodily injury”, or something along those lines. Believe it or not, this is a very broad definition. Serious bodily injury is basically any injury that causes or is likely to cause permanent damage. Deadly force is generally only acceptable in the defense of your life or the life of someone else. I have heard that there are some states that allow one to defend property with deadly force; however, I’m not sure which states they are.
So, to be safe, before the use of deadly force, there needs to be the threat of deadly force used against you. For purposes of this article, we will assume that the above circumstances are exactly what happened. Before we go any further, we need to understand certain psychological truths pertaining to high stress encounters:
1. There will generally be a sense of tunnel vision
2. There is often some form of sensory exclusion - auditory, visual, etc. (what this means is that very often you will not remember some aspect of the encounter)
3. There is often lapse or distortion of memory (generally temporary), thus, when asked, “How many rounds did you fire?”, you may very well not remember. Also, a question like, “How many were there?”, might honestly (in your mind) be answered, “Six”…later on, you’ll remember that there were really only 3, but by then, if you change your story, it’ll look like you lied (at least that’s how it’ll be made to look).
It is important to realize that officers arriving on the scene will probably know little more than that they were sent on a “shots fired” call. When they arrive, and see one person on the ground, dead or dying, their first concern will be, “Is the guy that did this still here?” Next order of business will be, “Where is the gun?” Before those two questions are answered, there will be no further reasoning on their part. In our scenario, the answer to the first question will be, “Yes” (it’s you), and the answer to the next question should be made as blatant as possible to them, ASAP! My suggestion would be, as soon as you see the first officer approaching, either in his car, or on foot, DROP YOUR WEAPON, and step back a step or two from it (slowly)!!! (Now is not the time to worry about the finish on your gun!) The officers will be experiencing the beginnings of the same tunnel vision you are just getting over. They have trained responses to situations like this, and it will generally involve you getting face down on the ground, and being handcuffed. Do not be offended. As things stand right now, all they know is there is one person shot, and a guy with possession of a gun when they arrive. They don’t know of an attempted robbery, rape, murder, abduction, etc…as far as they know, you just shot some guy you tried to rob. Be patient, and do exactly what you are told to do when you are told to do it. Now is not the time to get indignant. You will get handcuffed. You will get searched. You will be there for a long time. Not pleasant, just a fact of life. Once they have the scene secured, the officers will generally calm down quite a bit. A detective should be called (this is dependant on agency size and policy). The officers will probably be gathering information from the bystanders. They will want your name, date of birth, etc…give this to them. They will ask, “What happened?” If they do answer with something like, “He tried to kill me. I was afraid for my life and the life of my wife. I’d like to speak to my attorney now, please” Say nothing else after that!!!! They may try to tell you you don’t need an attorney. You do. They may say, “We just need the details.” This is true, but they can get them from your attorney. There is no need to be rude, however, do be insistent. Under no circumstances should you ever give a statement without your attorney present.
Do not be alarmed if you are Mirandized (the “You have the right to remain silent….”) The law requires that anytime there is Police custody and Police interrogation, Miranda must be given. Notice the “and”. The officers do not need to Mirandize you if they do not intend to question you (beyond identifiers). You will be detained, and probably kept in cuffs until your attorney arrives. This is not meant to be punishment of any form. As I said, the police have very little idea what happened, and with no statement from you, they have even less to go on. PATIENCE is the key. Once you talk to your attorney, he will get things squared away.
As far as your weapon goes, do not expect to get it back until after the investigation is done. This can be a long time.
Also, be prepared for interference by the media. They will want to talk to you, even if it means disrupting your life to do so. Allow your attorney to be your media-relations guy, too. I would suggest changing your phone number and getting it unlisted after the incident. Don’t give the number to anyone that doesn’t absolutely need it.
As in all things, I am not an attorney, nor do I play one on TV!J Consult your attorney for State specific advice, as this is only an overview.
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