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IN THE AFTERMATH OF A SHOOTING: What to do, what to say

September 10, 2012

by John Boch
(GunNews) – It’s Friday night and your legs are wobbly and you’re shaking like a leaf.  You’re holding your handgun after opening fire on a violent predatory criminal you reasonably believed was about to inflict great bodily harm upon you.

The smell of cordite still hangs in the air from the two rounds you just fired, just like you were taught in your basic handgun protection class a few years earlier.  You take a deep breath to calm yourself and look around for any other possible attackers.  Seeing none, you call 9-1-1 and ask for the police, an ambulance and wait for the arrival of the first responders.

What do you do?  What do you say?

As a long-time firearms trainer and student of hundreds of hours of training myself, I’ve heard several variations of answers to those questions.  Here’s what I recommend to my students and friends.

First up, once the police have been notified and are en route, your safety and security depend upon your own non-threatening behavior when police do finally roll up.

If you still have your gun, holster up if it is safe to do so.  Adopt the classic surrender position and follow law enforcement’s instructions to the best of your abilities.

Expect to have guns pointed at you.  Expect to be handcuffed and possibly even treated roughly.  The responding officers are going to take charge of the scene and secure it for their own safety.

The cops are probably going to start asking questions very soon after their arrival.  What should you say?

Well, one school of thought suggests that the first, last and only words out of your mouth should be to ask for your attorney.

That’s not bad advice at all.  You can do a lot worse.  Remember, everything you say may well be used against you, so saying nothing surely beats muddying the water of your self-defense claims by yapping unnecessarily.

I subscribe to another school of thought which I believe is better for a host of reasons.  It’s pretty simple and should be fairly easy to remember.

1.  Play the victim.  “Officer, that man held me up and I thought he was going to hurt me or kill me.  If he survives, I want to sign a complaint.”

2.  Identify evidence, especially anything investigating officers might miss.  “Officer, his knife is probably over there somewhere.”  If Mr. Freshly Perforated had any cohorts that escaped, offer a brief description:  “his buddy in jeans and a white t-shirt ran off that way and he might have thrown something in the bushes over there / on the roof of that building next door.”  Ditto for shell casings or other small items.  Failure to identify exculpatory evidence will be detrimental to your defense, of course.  “I want my lawyer” won’t help crime scene investigators find things they might ordinarily miss.

3.  Identify any witnesses to the officers.  Witnesses aren’t always eager to be identified.

4.  Now ask not only for an attorney, but an ambulance for yourself because you don’t feel so well and need to get checked out.  “Officer, I think you understand how serious this is  I’m going to need to talk to my attorney before I make a formal statement.  Also, I’m not feeling well at all.  I need an ambulance.”

Take the ambulance ride.  This will probably be the most stress you’ve ever experienced.    You’re certainly not going to be competent to offer a cogent statement.

While under the doctor’s care, police aren’t supposed to interrogate you.  It’s simply a second layer of protection above the primary protection asking for an attorney affords you.

As an added bonus, the friendly folks at the ER may give you a sedative to calm you down and check your heart, blood pressure and probably draw blood which will demonstrate your sobriety and absence of recreational pharmaceuticals.

Don’t be a chucklehead or a jerk to the cops, but be firm if the persist in asking you detailed questions: no statements until after you’ve talked with your attorney. If nothing else, just stop talking.

Irrespective how attractive or friendly the police officers may be, remember to consult with your attorney before answering questions.

Make sure your family is on the same page as well when it comes to statements to the police.  Make sure they know to be the victim!

Hopefully you already have an criminal defense attorney in mind to represent you (and to call first).  If not, retired judges and prosecutors often make good defense attorneys.  Failing that, have your family contact a local or regional gun rights organization to secure a reference or two.

Once you have an attorney and after you’ve had a night’s rest, then will be the time to provide a statement with your attorney at your side.  You will have an opportunity to articulate the imminent danger of death or great bodily injury you or other innocents faced.  If you acted to the standard by which you will be judged, you should be fine.

Hopefully, this will never happen to you.

If it does, however, choosing your words carefully can make a world of difference.

The author has been an NRA certified instructor for nearly fifteen years, teaching thousands of law-abiding civilians and a few government and law enforcement officers fundamentals of the defensive use of pistols and rifles.  He’s also graduated nearly a dozen different schools utilizing firearms and edged weapons for self-defense.

7 Responses to IN THE AFTERMATH OF A SHOOTING: What to do, what to say

  1. OregonBuzz on September 11, 2012 at 11:05 am

    Good advice. One other thought however, attorneys are expensive and so is having to defend yourself in court if it goes that far. The U.S. Concealed Carry organization and the NRA offer very good insurance policies which will pay those costs. Annual fees are about $250-$300. It’s cheaper than losing your home or making payments to an attorney for several years.

  2. GREYLADY on September 11, 2012 at 12:11 pm

    EXTREMELY IMPORTANT FINE POINT NOT ADEQUATELY COVERED ABOVE…

    “Anything u say can & ‘WILL’ be used ‘AGAINST’ u”

    Once spoken, it cannot, WILL not be used ‘FOR’ u! Even if it ends up being a key piece of evidence needed to clear u. OUCH! Bitch, huh. It will be thrown out if it cannot be used ‘AGAINST’ u. So Take the Writers great advice – and SHUT UP!! SHUT! UP!! U’ll have the uncontrollable urge to talk, talk, talk. SHUT-THE-HELL-UP!! CONTROL URSELF!!!!

    GREAT ARICLE. Keep up the good work.

    🙂

  3. Paul R on September 11, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    Well, I don’t agree with saying anything to the Po-Po other than; “Officer, I want to cooperate fully but I believe it is in my best interest to speak with my attorney first before answering any questions”. And then, by all means STFU.

    You can ask for medical attention if you want but only after speaking to your attorney, unless you are injured of course and then, by all means STFU.

    Any questions?

  4. jboch on September 11, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    Paul R., if you can’t remember the nuances of identifying evidence that might be overlooked, then by all means, you’ve got a good default position.

    The Armed Citizens Defense Network offers some great coverage for $85 a year, IIRC. I’m an instructor in their network and get paid nothing to promote them, but am personally signed up with them because I think anyone carrying a gun is wise to spend that money. They also have a good list of attorneys they can recommend. A whole lot cheaper than the option offered by Oregon Buzz above.

    John B.

  5. HooDoo on September 12, 2012 at 8:37 am

    Used to be that you were OK talking to law enforcement until they started giving you the maranda warning. Lots has changed since then.

    Be respectful, don’t believe a word they tell you, many of them will lie to you in order to lead you into incriminating yourself. It’s become the fashionable game, that and intimidation, beating handcuffed suspects (which you will be, but didn’t used to be until they had reason) and then you could always get shot for your troubles too. Some of them a trigger happy. They train them that way now and some of them really just want to shoot some criminal and it might as well be you because you are a suspect.

  6. kathie on September 12, 2012 at 8:46 am

    I wish I knew this a year ago..my husband I’d in jail awaiting trial for shooting a tresspasser on my property @130am. I fully trusted the cops and didn’t think they were going to arrest him. Now 390 days later my husbands life is on the line

  7. Firehand on September 15, 2012 at 10:43 am

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wXkI4t7nuc
    “Why you should NEVER talk to the police”