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Reviewing Deadly Force Law in Light of Riots, Arson and Looting

June 3, 2020


Photo Credit: Washington Sentinal.com

By Mike Keleher

With the current nationwide pandemic of violence, riots and looting, I am seeing horrible news clips of innocent people and shop owners being beaten and victimized by these criminals and an enormous amount of police officers have been injured and killed trying to maintain order and keep the law abiding public safe from these behaviors.

Not knowing how far this rioting will go, and not knowing the extent and locations where it is occurring has been very troubling for everyone in America. Concern over staying safe has become paramount and some ordinary people I know and others on social media are frequently confused about the use of Deadly Force (Well if he does this and I do this, can I also do this other thing?”) and some public figures are providing ludicrous examples of misinformation right along with encouraging continued rioting and looting.

The underlying concept to the use of Deadly Force taught alongside firearm carry and ownership, is we as law abiding citizens, are only authorized to escalate to that level in protection of yourself or others when you are placed in fear of receiving a great bodily harm. Only then can you shoot to stop the person from continuing. Also, you are shooting to stop this felony behavior, not shooting to kill. Shoot to stop, and to defend your life. Repeating that phrase in the aftermath of a self defense shooting will be critical.

No law abiding citizen wants to kill anybody. We just want to be left alone and not subjected to violent or homicidal attacks.

Every gun owner needs to understand every bullet fired will have a lawyer attached to it. You may lose your liberty and life savings if you are wrong. You will be judged under the Reasonable Man standard by the police, state’s attorney and or courts in the months or years long aftermath, i.e.- your actions must be within the letter of the law and found to be reasonable in the situation presented and rendered in mere seconds.

Yesterday Joe Biden, the apparent Democratic presidential nominee made public comments stating he would like to someday see police confronted by people who are “only” carrying knives or other non-firearms just be shot in the leg, not the heart. Moron. Shooting anyone is using Deadly Force, and has the high risk of causing death. You can’t just wing ’em, shoot them just a little bit, or shoot the gun out of their hand like old Cowboy movies.


Photo credit: Dailytruthreport.com

The Chicago mayor was asked at a press conference yesterday about defending yourself in your home from rioters and looters and she said “That’s what the police are for.” Yes the same 12,000 Chicago Police (God Bless Them) who received over 10,000 calls to 911 calls this weekend reporting ongoing looting. Remember, when seconds count, the police are only minutes away.


Photo credit: Nbcchicago.com

I heard the Peoria Chief of Police asked a similar question related to protecting homes on a radio broadcast yesterday. He did not know the answer and said he would have to check with legal. The Chief of Police.

The law of the land is the best place to understand what is actually required of you. It is not always clearly written, but it is the law, and everyone should know the provisions and not rely upon fables, tall tales and “this is what I would do.” I’m not your lawyer and not dispensing individual legal advice, but everyone should be able to read the law and understand self defense. Lawyers are too large and expensive to carry around with you day to day even in a good shoulder holster or baby Snuglee.

Chapter 720 Illinois Compiled Statutes 5/Art. 7 lists the use of justifiable force in a self defense situation as:

“Sec. 7 1. Use of force in defense of person.
(a) A person is justified in the use of force against another when and to the extent that he reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or another against such other’s imminent use of unlawful force. However, he is justified in the use of force which is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm only if he reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or another, or the commission of a forcible felony.”

Get those highlights? 1. you must reasonably believe you have to defend yourself from: 2. imminent harm by another 3. only if reasonably believing using deadly force or risk of great bodily harm is necessary to prevent similar death or great bodily harm to yourself or another person 4. or to stop a forcible felony.

A forcible felony would be necessary to predicate any such self defense. Crimes like, first degree murder, second degree murder, predatory criminal sexual assault of a child, aggravated criminal sexual assault, criminal sexual assault, robbery, burglary, residential burglary, aggravated arson, arson, aggravated kidnapping, kidnapping, aggravated battery resulting in great bodily harm or permanent disability or disfigurement.

[Edit: While burglary and residential burglary are included in the list of forcible felonies, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled under Tennessee v. Garner that no matter what state law says about using deadly force over a property crime like burglary, it shall be considered an unlawful taking of life under federal law. So while you might skate under state law, the feds will likely hook you up. As they did the Tennessee police officer who shot a burglary suspect at the heart of Tennessee v. Garner.]

Notice the phrase “reasonably believe” shows up twice in that statute. You have to behave reasonably- often in scant seconds of escalating violence and your perception of what is really going on has to be accurate and will be reviewed extensively by people who were not there.

This “reasonableness” is not easy to define. It can change with each person and with each situation. If you are small, weak or surrounded you can be viewed differently than if you are a large person with more options. How you choose to respond should be made with the law in mind, not vigilante justice.

You need to be absolutely correct in your choice of self defense behaviors and the honest belief “I thought they were going to kill me” needs to remain at the core of any such decision. You can’t just be a little afraid, or just believe “Oh they are a rioter, they might do something bad to me.” To defend yourself, it has to be immediate and imminent risk of death or great bodily harm to you or others.

It is always better to avoid the confrontation than to have to engage in the use of force. It is safer, much cheaper, and has fewer life long consequences. Avoid the riot situation in the first place. You win the fight by not being there.

Next up, is the idea of protecting property. There are some provisions under the law when it can be legal, but in most cases, we are not allowed to protect personal property items with Deadly Force or even real estate like your house. Any such action still needs to have at it’s core a distinct and imminent threat to your person.

As an example, you might like your car, and if car jacked you might think you should be able use a gun to defend it-that is wrong thinking. A car is just property, not a life. Now, if the carjacking is accompanied by threats of violence or weapons to be used against your life, that is a self defense situation-not the actual property theft. If someone is stealing your TV are they an imminent threat to you? Call the police (leave the 911 call open to leave a recorded transcript of the events), use a loud voice to say “I have called the police and I have a shotgun!” stay away from them and protect yourself.

If someone is trying to get into your house, is it made in a violent manner and are you in imminent danger of receiving a felony or great bodily harm? Or is it a drunk at the wrong door? You can only use force to protect yourself from harm or forcible felony. You can stop the felonious unlawful entry to prevent harm to people-not protect the building. See the difference? You may have scant seconds to decide in the night if someone is a mere trespasser or a violent felony home invasion. How you feel about the risk of harm posed by this entry remains critical to Deadly Force decisions.

The Illinois state statute related to residences is:
720 ILCS 5/7 2 Sec. 7 Use of force in defense of dwelling.
(a) A person is justified in the use of force against another when and to the extent that he reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to prevent or terminate such other’s unlawful entry into or attack upon a dwelling. However, he is justified in the use of force which is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm only if:

(1) The entry is made or attempted in a violent,
riotous, or tumultuous manner, and he reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent an assault upon, or offer of personal violence to, him or another then in the dwelling, or

(2) He reasonably believes that such force is
necessary to prevent the commission of a felony in the dwelling.

What if you are caught up in your car during a riot or protest? This is not a traditional self defense situation. You have probably seen news clips of rioters blocking traffic and attacking vehicles on the roadway. Some have escalated to beating the drivers and some drivers have rammed or run over rioters. Very dangerous for all parties when multi-ton vehicles are involved. Deadly Force is a gas pedal away.

Best advice once again, is to avoid the situation in the first place. Be observant of the world around you-live in a heightened state of awareness, not oblivious. Be especially cautious in this current situation with so much violence scattered about. If you see a potential problem, don’t drive up to look at it or to capture it on your cell phone video.

Keep moving and get away. Can you turn around on a one way street, drive up on the curb or a yard or go through a stop sign to avoid being caught in a riot? Sure you can. It might be a violation of the rules of the road, but you are protecting yourself from the risk of harm-that comes first.

What if people come out onto the street and block your path? You can’t simply run them over. Even bumping them is probably not legal if they are just in the road. Even unlawful protesters in the road will be seen by the law as “pedestrians” and the rules of the road are fairly straight forward about driving over pedestrians. If they start making attacks against you while you are in your car or trying to flip the car or drag you out you then your life may be in imminent danger, and risk deadly force using the vehicle as a weapon.

Stay in the vehicle with your doors locked. It is comprised of metal and glass and is surprisingly difficult to breach even with good tools. There is a pretty famous video clip this week of a rioter bashing windows with a crowbar yet failing to shatter the safety glass-time to go!

Don’t think you can jump out of your car if surrounded and reason with or frighten off a mob of violent idiots with your dashing good looks, logic or pistol. Get the car out of there. If you have to crash a roadblock vehicle to do it then sacrifice your vehicle to save your life.

If you get out of the car you give up your lightly armored cocoon and mobility and may be overwhelmed and a weapon taken from you.

Hitting a roadblock vehicle must be done at pretty low speed, like 20 mph and your aim point for impact is over the rear axle. The trunk area is light compared to the engine compartment and the actual weight of the vehicle is centered over about a 6 inch patch under each tire. Hitting the rear end over the axle should shove the vehicle aside. Yes you will damage your car, and your airbags will deploy, but keep going out of the danger area. Even if your tires go flat you can travel a long way to get to safety on bad tires.

Times are bad this week. People are behaving like savages and have demonstrated little respect for the police or government When I see news of “peaceful protests” I also see the rioting, arson and looting going on using protests as a cover. It is too much. They are no longer making a protest point or advancing any sort of agenda beyond lets see how far we can go with this rioting and violence.

Stay safe. These are dangerous times and the risk of harm to us all is now quite high. It is normal for people to now worry “What would I do?” and have to consider protecting themselves and family from a part of our nation who have decided to cast off the rules and commit mayhem? Many self defense guns have had to be loaded up this week. Dangerous times indeed. Some stats from other years show firearms are used to in self defense situations up to one million times a year when no shots are ultimately fired. They save lives.

We have no statistics on the number of civilians injured by these rioters, the amount of dollar damage inflicted by looting and arson, but I fear it is enormous and inflicted upon our nation at critical time when small businesses can ill afford such losses.

We do have some numbers of injuries and murders inflicted upon police officers. These officers stand in the way of chaos and are armed and trained. They have been attacked in the last 96 hours by savages all across the U.S. These are duly appointed officers who are trying to keep the peace and who show up every day to protect all of us-even the protesters and rioters.

A Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Officer was shot in the back of the head by a rioter and killed. Someone shot up the Las Vegas courthouse and the Oakland Police Department. St Louis officers were shot, a New York officer was hit by a vehicle, three Buffalo NY officers were hit by a vehicle at the police station. Nine officers were hurt in Pittsburgh riots and Rhode Island officers were hurt as well. Two officers were hit in the head with projectiles in Santa Ana, CA. Two policemen were shot in Richland, VA and one struck in the head by a brick in Albany. Four more Prince William County VA police were hit in the head by projectiles. Seven were injured in Sacramento, CA, more in Lynchburg, TN and twenty one officers hurt in Salt Lake City. Three Denver officers were run over by a vehicle, thirty three NYC officers were injured during riots. Six Athens GA police were injured at a protest and two capitol police were hurt in Harrisburg, VA.

In Chicago 132 officers were hurt in the weekend riots. Officers in Oak Lawn, IL and Champaign, IL were also injured. In Davenport IA three officers were ambushed and one was shot.

Twelve Las Vegas Metro officers were hurt during riots and twenty one Minneapolis officers. One U.S. Federal Protective Service agent was killed by someone who drove up and shot him, and a retired St Louis police captain working as security at a store was murdered and the store looted.

Fifty officers of the U.S. Secret Service and Secret Service Uniform Division were burned by Molotov cocktails in Washington D.C.

These are heinous acts committed willingly against us all. Stay safe.





11 Responses to Reviewing Deadly Force Law in Light of Riots, Arson and Looting

  1. Bernadette Volkmann on June 3, 2020 at 12:51 pm

    Interesting read! I appreciate that. I want to forward this to Brad but he’s not on Facebook. Hope all is well with you guys

  2. Michael Keleher on June 3, 2020 at 2:16 pm

    I will send it along. All good here.

  3. Deb Hunt on June 3, 2020 at 5:12 pm

    Good read Mike, as always. During these times it’s good to review and clarify. The news media certainly cannot get it right any more than the Gov./Mayors. Stay safe my friend.

  4. Michael Keleher on June 3, 2020 at 6:48 pm

    I shared this article with my pal, a Mister T. Nugent. He published it over on his Facebook page and it drew over 1000 views in half a day, 262 comments and 255 shares. People seem to be hungry for the information during these dangerous days. I also sent it to a friend in California and he wrote back to say a security officer from his workplace in San Diego was blocked on the street last night on his way home. He reversed out and got an alternative route-which was also blocked by people in the street. He got out of the car to ask them to please move. They beat him.

  5. Jim Schultz on June 4, 2020 at 2:15 pm

    Mike, another excellent article. It also shows you stayed awake during all the law enforcement training you received. Thanks for sharing your expertise and experience with us.

    • Mike Keleher on June 9, 2020 at 11:58 am

      Thanks Cap’n!

  6. jj on June 4, 2020 at 9:03 pm

    Thank you for this.

  7. Don Wicklund on June 6, 2020 at 9:19 am

    As a former Los Angeles police officer, (retired as a Homicide detective,) I am obviously aware of the evil in this world.
    My years in Metropolitan Division has trained me thoroughly in LAPD’s shooting policy. I found your article spot-on and should be included in all CCW classes. (MY wife went through a CCW class and know that it was basically useless.)

    • Mike Keleher on June 9, 2020 at 11:57 am

      Don-YEs evil exiss and hats off to LAPD Homicide! I worked several cases with them when I worked out of Long Beach years ago as a U.S. Special Agent for NCIS. If you are interested email me your address and I will mail your wife a copy of one of my books “Concealed Carry-Basics and Beyond” mjkeleher@yahoo.com

  8. Lori Williamson on June 9, 2020 at 12:01 pm

    Thank you Mike for sharing the facts & for the detailed information on self protection.
    Appreciate so much your willingness to provide it to all. Stay safe. XOXO Lori

  9. Nobody on June 22, 2020 at 8:41 pm

    Just wear a mask, kill as many of them as possible, don’t be caught on camera, and be gone before the cops show up several hours later. That’s what they do, and they get away with it, so that’s what everybody else should do too.