Simple Yet Crucial Steps to Follow After a self-defense Shooting
Learn what to do after a self-defense shooting from a 30 year veteran police officer.
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What Should I Do Immediately After a Self-Defense Shooting?
"No good can come from talking to the police, even if you are the police."
Officer Keith Graves 1998
I gave this advice to every single police recruit I ever trained. When I talked about what to do after an officer involved shooting (OIS), I emphasized to them to keep their mouths shut. Sure they are required to give some information, but give the required information only and let others do the talking for you. Even if you are completely justified. Not talking to the police about what happened goes against what a lot of us were taught, but these are trying times and there are rogue prosecutors willing to throw you under a bus to further their career or to calm the streets to prevent a riot. Just look at the numerous police officers being prosecuted for self defense shootings that are later found not guilty (watch The Fall of Minneapolis to get a better view of what can happen to you).
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You also need to worry about lawsuits. Most people are concerned about the criminal/legal aspect of self defense shootings. But, a majority of OIS's result in a civil suit against the officer, his or her supervisors, the department, and the governing entity like the city or county. Expect the same for yourself as a concealed carrier. Expect that you will be sued and that everything you say, do, and your prior training will all be brought into the civil suit.
I'm going to break down what you need to do after a self defense shooting. I've responded to and investigated multiple shootings over my 30 years in law enforcement in California. Some of what I tell you, like not willingly talking to the police, may go against your moral and ethical code. Take my advice seriously. The only one looking out for you after an incident is you.
Provide Medical Attention Immediately
The first priority in the aftermath of a self-defense shooting is to attend to any medical emergencies. This involves several steps:
Assessing Injuries: Quickly assess if you, the assailant, or any bystanders have sustained injuries. Remember, even seemingly minor injuries should be treated seriously. Make sure you disarm the suspect before giving them aid. Search them for secondary weapons before giving aid.
Calling Emergency Services: Dial 911 to report the incident and request medical assistance. Be clear about the nature of the injuries to ensure appropriate medical response. Be careful of what you say. It is preferable to let someone else make that call. If you are by yourself, you'll have to call. But you want someone else to make that call if possible. The 911 recording will be used against you in any court proceeding, like a lawsuit.
Providing First Aid: If trained, administer basic first aid while waiting for professional medical help. This could range from applying pressure to a wound to performing CPR if qualified.
Avoiding Further Harm: Ensure you are not putting yourself or others in danger while attempting to provide aid. If the scene is not safe, prioritize getting to safety. Call in reinforcements if possible.
Contact the Police After a Self-Defense Shooting
After ensuring that medical assistance is en route, the next critical step is to contact law enforcement. This action is not just a moral requirement, but also a practical necessity to manage the situation effectively and responsibly. If possible, have someone else make that call. The shooter should avoid all conversations with the police. Remember, when you call the police, the line is recorded and the recording will be used in the investigation.
Making the 911 Call
In the event that you haven't already called 911 for medical assistance, doing so to inform the police of the shooting is imperative. When making this call, it's essential to provide specific and clear information. This includes your current location, a brief description of what transpired, and any relevant details about the assailant or the situation that might be crucial for the responding officers. It's important to stay concise and factual; avoid speculating or providing unnecessary details. Remember, this call will be recorded and could be used in any subsequent legal proceedings. Therefore, it's advisable to focus on the facts and avoid sharing your perceptions or opinions about the incident.
If you find yourself alone and you, the shooter, need to make the call, keep it simple. Use this as an example:
911: "911, what's your emergency?"
You: "I'm a security officer at Central Baptist Church. Our address is 123 Main Street. A man just came into our church with a gun and tried to shoot our pastor. The man has been stopped. He has been shot and he has a gunshot wound to his abdomen. He is being detained by parishoners and we are giving him medical aid. We need an ambulance and police."
The 911 dispatcher will ask you who shot the man, his description, your name and they will keep asking you questions and keep you on the line until the police arrive. Just know that whatever additional information you say will be used against you in a court proceeding if it ever comes to that. You are giving what is called a "spontaneous statement." Remember what I told you, "No good can come from talking to the police, even when you are the police."
Be polite, but decline further questions. you can say that you need to hang up to provide medical aid, which is true.
Staying on the Scene
Remaining at the scene of the incident is vital unless it poses a direct threat to your safety. Departing before law enforcement arrives might be interpreted as an attempt to evade or flee, which could complicate your legal standing and the perception of the incident. It’s important to be mindful of how your actions post-incident can be perceived legally. If you must leave for safety reasons, try to inform the 911 dispatcher of your intentions and whereabouts. This transparency can help mitigate any misunderstandings about your departure from the scene.
Preparing for Arrival of Police After a Self-Defense Shooting
Upon the arrival of law enforcement, the dynamics of the scene will shift significantly. The police will take control of the scene to ensure safety, collect evidence, and begin their preliminary investigation. It is crucial at this stage to comply fully with their instructions. Keep your hands visible at all times to avoid any misinterpretations of your actions. Be prepared to be treated as a potential threat initially, as the officers need to secure the scene and may not immediately know you are the person who acted in self-defense. Expect that you will be handcuffed, detained, and placed in a patrol car while they sort out what happened. This may not always happen, but expect it to happen so you aren't surprised by it later.
Remember, the police officers are arriving at a complex scene and must assess the situation quickly. Your cooperation is key to ensuring that this process goes smoothly. Following their instructions, providing identification if asked, and refraining from making sudden movements or gestures that could be misinterpreted are all important for your safety and for the effective processing of the scene.
Legal Representation: What Happens After a Self Defense Shooting
The aftermath of a self-defense shooting is often a labyrinth of legal complexities and procedures. In such a critical time, securing legal representation is not just a recommendation but a necessity. This section delves into why consulting an attorney promptly is essential and how it can significantly impact the course of events that follow a self-defense incident.
Law enforcement will read you your Miranda Rights, however, they can avoid this by saying there was a public safety hazard and needed to ask you questions quickly. Either way, these are your rights:
The Right to Remain Silent: This means that the suspect does not have to say anything in response to police questioning.
Anything Said Can and Will Be Used Against You in a Court of Law: This warns the suspect that their statements can be used as evidence against them in criminal proceedings.
The Right to an Attorney: The suspect has the right to consult with an attorney and to have an attorney present during questioning.
If You Cannot Afford an Attorney, One Will Be Provided for You Before Any Questioning if You Wish: This ensures that the suspect has access to legal representation, regardless of their ability to pay for it.
You are the suspect. The police are investigating a homicide. Whether it is justified will be determined in the investigation. When an officer is involved in a shooting, they read us our rights because we are suspects in a homicide. We always invoke our rights. That means we refuse to talk without an attorney present. NEVER waive your rights. Remember, no good can come from talking to the police even when you are the police.
Consulting an Attorney
As soon as the immediate safety concerns are addressed and law enforcement is contacted, your next call should be to an attorney. It's crucial to seek a lawyer who specializes in self-defense cases or has extensive experience with criminal law. An attorney can offer immediate advice on how to navigate the situation, particularly in the critical first hours and days following the incident. They can guide you on what to say and, importantly, what not to say, both to law enforcement and in any public or private conversations. Having legal counsel early in the process can prevent missteps that could adversely affect the outcome of any legal proceedings.
It is best to have a lawyer to call ahead of time. I recommend having self defense insurance, like USCCA or an equivelant. They will give you a number to call if you are involved in a shooting. Have that number in your speed dial.
Understanding Your Rights
A key aspect of your initial consultation with an attorney will be a discussion of your rights. This includes your right to self-defense and the legal parameters within which it applies, as well as your Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Your attorney will advise you on how to exercise these rights properly. For instance, while you have the right to remain silent, knowing exactly when and how to assert this right is crucial. Your attorney will help you understand the nuances of these rights and how to apply them in your interactions with law enforcement and other authorities.
Navigating Legal Processes
Following a self-defense shooting, you may face various legal processes, ranging from police questioning to potential court appearances. An attorney will navigate you through these processes, ensuring that your legal rights are protected at every step. They can help prepare you for what to expect during police interrogations, arrange for bail if necessary, and represent you in court if the situation escalates to that level. Moreover, they can work on gathering evidence, securing witness testimony, and building a strong defense on your behalf.
The right to remain silent is enshrined in the Fifth Amendment to protect you from self-incrimination. In the emotionally charged aftermath of a self-defense shooting, you might feel compelled to explain your actions or justify your behavior. However, any statements you make could be misconstrued or used against you in legal proceedings. Hence, it is advisable to limit your communication until you have consulted with your attorney. They will guide you on how to articulate your actions within the legal framework of self-defense.
When interacting with police, it is advisable to convey the basic facts - such as your identity and the assertion that you acted in self-defense. Beyond these initial details, you should exercise your right to remain silent until you have legal representation. Your attorney will advise you on how to engage in further discussions with law enforcement, ensuring that your statements are legally sound and do not inadvertently harm your defense.
Be extremely cautious about making any public statements regarding the incident. This includes comments to the media, posts on social media platforms, or discussions in public forums. Public statements can be used as evidence in legal proceedings and might impact public perception, which can indirectly affect your case. Your attorney will provide guidance on managing public communications and help you navigate the delicate balance of public interaction following such a critical event.
It's not just criminal proceedings. You can be cleared of the shooting, but then the family comes out of the woodwork to say he was just getting his life together and they file a civil suit against you. Any social media post you made or any statement you made to a buddy in a bar will come out in that lawsuit.
The Role of Police in the Aftermath of a Self-Defense Shooting
After a self-defense shooting, the role of the police is integral and comprehensive, encompassing several critical responsibilities. Their immediate focus is on processing the incident, which involves securing the area to ensure safety and establishing a perimeter to preserve the scene for investigation. They assess any ongoing threats to public safety and begin gathering preliminary information. This initial stage is crucial for setting the framework of the investigation.
The individual involved in the shooting, particularly the one who used the firearm in self-defense, becomes a primary focus for the police. Initial interactions typically include ascertaining the individual's involvement and gathering basic facts about the incident. If the individual is taken into custody for questioning, the police are responsible for reading them their Miranda rights, ensuring their constitutional protections are upheld. This step is vital in safeguarding the individual's rights against self-incrimination and in securing their right to legal counsel.
Collecting evidence is another critical aspect of the police’s role. They meticulously gather physical evidence, which includes the firearm used, any discharged casings, bullet trajectories, and other relevant materials at the scene. This evidence is vital for reconstructing the sequence of events and understanding the circumstances of the shooting. Photographic and video documentation of the scene also forms a part of this process, providing visual records that are essential for later analysis.
In addition to on-site tasks, the police play a key role in coordinating with the prosecutor's office. They provide the prosecutor with all the gathered evidence and initial findings, which are crucial in determining the legal course of action. This collaboration is essential in assessing whether the shooting falls within the legal boundaries of self-defense and what charges, if any, are appropriate. The prosecutor relies heavily on the police report and collected evidence to make informed decisions about proceeding with any legal actions against the individual involved in the shooting. The prosecutor will, ultimately, decide if they are going to file charges on you for homicide, or declare the case justifiable homicide.
Now that you understand what is going to happen after a self defense shooting, keep these key steps in mind:
Start doing scenario training at your church. Include calling the police in your scenarios along with what you are going to tell them. In the scenario, act out the police asking questions so you can get used to asserting your rights. If you are a witness, this is a chance to show law enforcement that your compatriot was acting in self defense.
Get self defense insurance. I'll be doing a video on self defense insurance shortly. I'll cover what it is and what is the best one for you. In the mean time, find a lawyer you can call if you are involved in a shooting. DO NOT GO THROUGH THIS WITHOUT ONE!
Get professional training. Going to the range with your friends and qualifying is not enough. Find a reputable instructor and train with them.
Remember, the police are your friends, but they don't know what happened and they need to get to the bottom of what occurred. Keep your mouth shut, get a lawyer and let witnesses and your lawyer do their jobs.
Frequently Asked Questions | FAQ
Q: What should I do immediately after using deadly force in self-defense?
A: First, ensure that the scene is safe, provide medical aid, then call 911 and report the incident. Be sure to provide necessary information but avoid making detailed statements until legal representation arrives.
Q: What legal repercussions could I face if I shoot someone in self-defense?
A: Depending on the circumstances and local laws, you might be subject to investigations or even criminal charges. It's crucial to seek legal advice to protect your rights.
Q: How can I know if my use of lethal force in self-defense was justified under the law?
A: Understanding self-defense law is critical. Your actions must align with the legal definition of self-defense, including reasonable belief in imminent danger and proportional use of force.
Q: Should I provide a statement to the police after a self-defense shooting?
A: It's advisable to provide basic information to the police, but refrain from elaborating on the incident without legal representation present.
Q: What steps should responsible gun owners take after being forced to defend themselves with a firearm?
A: After securing the scene, contact law enforcement and seek legal advice from a criminal defense attorney who specializes in self-defense cases.
Q: How can getting involved in a self-defense shooting affect me and my legal standing?
A: Being involved in a shooting incident can have significant legal implications. It's essential to seek counsel from an experienced defense lawyer to navigate the legal process.
Q: What should I do if I find myself in a situation where I have to use my gun to protect myself?
A: After using a firearm in self-defense, ensure your safety, call 911, and then refrain from discussing details of the incident until your legal representation is present.
Q: What is the role of the Concealed Carry Association in situations involving the use of deadly force for self-defense?
A: The Concealed Carry Association can provide legal support, resources, and guidance for gun owners involved in self-defense incidents, helping them understand and navigate the legal process.
Q: What does "stand your ground" mean in the context of using deadly force in self-defense?
A: "Stand your ground" refers to laws that allow individuals to use lethal force in self-defense when facing a threat, rather than retreating from the threat. However, laws vary by jurisdiction, so it's crucial to understand the laws specific to your area.
Q: What is the importance of having a reasonable belief in imminent danger when using a firearm for self-defense?
A: A reasonable belief in imminent danger is a key factor in justifying the use of deadly force in self-defense. This belief must be objectively reasonable under the circumstances as perceived by a person in the same situation.