Use of Deadly Force - When?
There’s a story in the news today (1/12/2013) about two citizens in Houston who observed a man being robbed at gunpoint by a miscreant who fled the scene but he did not physically harm the victim.
The good Samaritans gave chase, exchanged gunfire with the criminal and wounded him. The bad guy then jumped over a fence whereupon a dog attacked him and held him at bay until the police arrived. (It just wasn’t his day apparently).
The story only identifies the two men who went after the bad guy as “strangers” leaving the reader to assume their identity is unknown - at least right now.
This story reminded me about when you can and cannot use deadly force. I’m hopeful that these two guys are never identified because if they are, depending on what kind of day the local district attorney is having, they could be in a whole lot of trouble.
The deadly force statutes in even the most permissive of states say something like the following:
“….in the event that an individual, or a person under protection of the individual, is in immediate danger of loss of life or immediate danger of grave bodily injury, it shall be an affirmative defense that the use of deadly force by the individual is justified.”
To that (in some states) is added that the individual must attempt to flee (disengage) unless that action would place the individual or the person under protection of the individual in even greater danger.
And somewhere in the statutes it will say something like “…once the threat has ended, the affirmative defense has also ended”.
Note that the statute speaks of 'Affirmative Defense', not the 'Right' to use Deadly Force. There is a world of difference.
Anyway, in the case of the two good guys who popped the crook, what they did was illegal because they were in no danger of immediate loss of life or grave bodily injury and, since the crook fled the scene without harming the victim, the victim wasn’t either. (Still, I hope that if a LEO discovers their identity he has the good sense to ‘misplace the paperwork’.)
There are always other things mentioned in the statutes like the individual must be legally able to possess a firearm, must have a right to be where the event took place, must have done nothing to cause or inflame the situation and so on.
And then there is the “reasonable person” test. This is the one that district attorneys love. In his opening remarks (if you find yourself charged) he will ask the jury to determine if they think a “reasonable person”, in possession of the facts that you had, would have done what you did. Now, you had about 6/10th of a second to decide if you have to pull the trigger but the D.A. has months to second guess you as he prepares his case and the jury has hours, days or weeks to do the same thing.
Add to that the probability that a jury made up of 12 liberals from the Upper East Side are going to have a different vision of what is reasonable than 12 jurors in rural Alabama and you can see that nothing is cut and dried when you use Deadly Force - even when you do everything right.
Meanwhile, your life savings are disappearing at a rapid rate to pay for your attorney.
The point of this post is to remind that the use of deadly force is almost always going to result in lengthy meetings with people in authority and when your adrenalin is pumping is not the time to give the LEO a statement. (A LEO who discharges his weapon in the line of duty is normally advised to not give a formal statement for 24-48 hours after the incident and to speak to an FOP or PBA attorney before he does so. Private Citizens should do the same thing although their attorney cost is going to come out of their pocket.)
Please post your own thoughts on the subject and if you have first hand knowledge of the aftermath of using deadly force, please share it will us.