Does anyone ever wake up and think to themselves, “Hey, this is a great day to shoot someone in self-defense and then go through the wringer with prosecutors trying to send me to prison?” And deal with newspapers running your jail booking photo like the guy above?
Nobody does. But sometimes it happens.
For thirty years I’ve done self-defense advocacy and firearms rights. I’ve seen countless cases of self-defense, oftentimes speaking directly with the people involved and offering coaching on how to articulate the threat, defense strategizing, recommending and coordinating with defense counsel. Most of the time it’s done on the down-low because I’m not an attorney and what they say to me is discoverable. The only problem is that I’ve heard so many of these that I can get things mixed up. Also, I used the wrong kind of bug spray mix in my 20s (since taken off the market) and that killed my memory. Those are my stories and I’m sticking to them.
One common denominator among almost all: there is seldom a purely righteous self-defense case. In pretty much all of them, the good guy could have done things better and that’s the problem in self-defense: everyone and their dog will be second guessing everything you did (or didn’t do).
You carry a gun to make yourself harder to kill. If you’re a prudent person, you seek out training to avoid situations that might devolve into a deadly force incident. And lastly, unless you’re filthy rich, you have self-defense “insurance” coverage and a skilled, experienced attorney who you can call to make you harder to convict.
On Wednesday evening I learned of another case of self-defense that went to a bench trial for murder. The confrontation and perforation happened in 2020, but the case didn’t go to trial until last week. In the end, the good guy CCW holder was acquitted of all charges.
Here’s the background… and brace yourself for the drama. There are a lot of take-aways we can learn from here.
Cody Neuschwanger, 26, of Polo, IL (they have an awesome Tri-County shooting range there, by the way) had a 17-year-old friend named Shawn Warczak. Warczak’s mom was living in Rochelle in an abusive relationship with Devin Bailey. He’d exercised his pimp hand with her on a number of previous occasions, yet she was still living there with him. That’s just the tip of the drama iceberg.
On this day, the mom had been freshly abused and wanted to get out of the house because she feared another beating from Bailey. She couldn’t drive because she had been drinking and she had an alcohol ignition interlock on her car because of an earlier DUI arrest. And Warzak couldn’t drive because he didn’t have any car insurance. Yeah, I warned you about the drama here. But it gets worse.
So Cody picks up Warczak and Warczak’s friend and the set off for Rochelle to pick up the mom. While enroute they get more texts. Mom thinks Bailey might kill her. So they drive a little faster. At last they arrive and find mom standing on the curb holding a laundry basket of her possessions. Which, frankly, is pretty sad. But they get her picked up with Warczak driving his mom’s car as he was sober and she had insurance. Good on Cody for helping his friend in a big way.
But they’re not happy to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
In a moment of really poor decision-making, this happens. It boggles the mind, so I’ll quote the Ogle County News:
He left the residence with his mom and Davis in his mom’s car with Neuschwanger following in his car. But, he said, he returned to the home after his mom told him about more abuses by Bailey and wanted to tell Bailey to leave his mom alone.
So they left with the mom but returned to “tell Bailey to leave his mom alone”? Mr. Warczak apparently had zero good sense. Why Cody thought it was a good idea to return to the home is unknown. It surely seems above and beyond the call of brains. Young guys, especially teens, sometimes exercise poor judgement. And Cody probably went to make sure nothing really bad happened to Mr. Warczak.
Since 2020, hopefully Cody’s learned the value in avoiding dramatic acquaintances. Drama = self-inflicted misery.
Upon return to the mom’s Rochelle residence things didn’t go well. Gee, who could have saw that coming?
One thing led to another and Devin Bailey thought it a good idea to advance on a drawn gun wielding what the CCW holder Cody reasonably thought was a knife or machete. Turns out it was a 12″ rasp, which in less than ideal lighting does a pretty fair impersonation of a stabby tool or knife.
At which point Cody shot him. The round went low, hitting Mr. Bailey in the guts. Not an ideal shot, but it did it’s work and not only stopped the aggression by Mr. Bailey but it also ended his lengthy pattern of abuse. Permanently.
Here’s the teaser to the story from the Ogle County News… It has the best narrative of several stories I found about the case.
OREGON – An Ogle County judge ruled late Thursday afternoon that Cody Neuschwanger was acting in self defense when he shot and killed Devin Bailey following two domestic altercations at a Rochelle residence.
Neuschwanger, 26, of Polo, was charged with the death of Bailey, 37, of Oregon, who was found wounded about 9:15 p.m. on Oct. 29, 2020, outside a home at 1122 First Avenue in Rochelle.
Cody Neuschwanger made a lot of mistakes that night, along with the then-17-year-olds with him. But that doesn’t mean he loses his right to defend himself from unlawful violence. Having said that, making (stupid) mistakes increases the likelihood that the local prosecutor will charge you and vigorously prosecute the case.
Don’t have a lawyer? It’ll cost low six-figures to hire a competent legal defense for a murder trial. $100,000 minimum. Attempted murder? Expect about half that. And those were from cases several years ago.
This is why you have self-defense insurance.
Chicago-based attorney Michael Johnson represented Cody in this case through US Law Shield.
Johnson will be in Decatur on Friday evening from 6-8pm to talk about the case and answer questions about the use of force – and more. Well, actually, he’ll be a Coz’s Pizza in Mt. Zion. They have great fried chicken and their pizza isn’t too far behind. Come out, have dinner and listen to Mr. Johnson.
If you’re a US Law Shield member, this is likely the primary attorney who would represent you. You’ll have a chance to meet him in person and ask questions. And the event is free for US Law Shield members.
For non-members, it’s $10, which is a screaming bargain. What’s more, if it’s like the one I went to pre-COVID and before I signed up with them, they told me not to worry about it. I think they’d rather education gun owners and CCW holders more than they want that $10. But that’s my $.02. (No, I’m not an employee, or a paid rep for USLS, but they are one of the three self-defense “coverage” companies I recommend to folks.)
HERE’S A LINK to a promo piece for the event, along with a map, directions and the address to Coz’s.
Again, GSL and myself are getting no kickbacks, commissions or bonuses for recommending folks attend this. You’ll learn good information on how to make yourself harder to convict and it’s $10 at most, plus dinner and some gas. Bring your spouse or significant other.
I will say that if you’re a GSL member and decide to sign up (that’s prudent, by the way), they’ll knock off the initiation fee and give you a couple of months free on the back end if you sign up for a year (about $130ish last time I checked.)