What happens after you pull the trigger? The aftermath of a self defense shooting will be both scary and unpredictable. While it is important to know what to do after you are forced to shoot someone, it is perhaps even more important to know what not to do.
Self Defense Shooting: Before you pull the trigger
Never say, “I will kill you if you come any closer,” or any variation of that. Instead say, “I have a weapon, STOP!” Or say nothing at all. If you verbally tell someone you are going to kill them, under any circumstance, you may very well be charged with premeditated murder. Prosecuting attorneys will use every opportunity they can against you. Don’t give them anything extra to use.
Oftentimes, just pulling the firearm out and telling the perpetrator to stop will be enough. Most are after easy targets, so don’t be one. If he doesn’t stop, however, be prepared to shoot, and not stop shooting, until the threat is eliminated.
Self Defense Shooting: Choosing to pull the trigger
In a self defense shooting, always shoot to kill. Never just “aim at the knee caps,” hoping to stop the bad guy before he gets to you. If you feel the need to pull out a firearm to save your life, you better be shooting to kill. Believe it or not, it is much easier to defend a killing than a maiming.
The one time you should never fire is if the perpetrator turns and walks away. Shooting someone in the back is difficult to defend, and you will without a doubt be charged with murder. Don’t let your guard down though, as oftentimes the bad guy just acts like he is walking away. Then, when your gun is holstered, he turns and charges. Stay ready, and then shoot to kill him from the front.
On another note, have you given thought to what could happen if the bad guy lives? He could sue you in civil court. Or even worse, track you down and exact revenge when he gets out of jail. You do not need these worries. Eliminate the threat forever.
Self Defense Shooting: Immediate Aftermath
If you are the one calling 911, never say “I shot someone in self defense,” or “Someone has been shot,” or anything like that at all. Say instead, “I’ve been a victim of a crime, please send an ambulance.” If you say someone has been shot, the scene will have to be completely secured before any medical help will be allowed in. Cops and perhaps even the S.W.A.T. team will arrive, rendering any injured people helpless.
Remember, you are responsible for every bullet that leaves your firearm. If your bullet went through the bad guy and into a child behind him, you are responsible. That child will be left injured and unattended until the scene is cleared and deemed safe. You may be injured as well. Considering it takes 8-11 minutes on average for police to arrive on scene (in the city, much longer for rural areas) and who knows how much longer to clear it, this could mean life or death for innocent injured bystanders and yourself.
While you are waiting for help to arrive, make mental notes of your surroundings. Don’t touch the crime scene, and don’t talk to the witnesses. Also be sure your firearm is holstered or put away.
The 911 operators are trained to keep you on the line and talking. People tend to babble when under duress, so choose your words carefully. Always say that you were a victim of a crime, ask for ambulance, and give a good description of yourself so the police know who you are when they arrive. Don’t dump out everything that happened on the call. If you continue to be pressed about what happened, just say “I’m in shock and can’t think right now.” Also, don’t call family members or post anything on social media.
Self Defense Shooting: When the Cops Arrive
The most important thing to remember in a self defense shooting is that you are the victim! Cooperate fully with the police. When they ask what happened, tell them exactly what happened. Say, “I was attacked by that man. His knife is in his hand. He grabbed my arm, see where I am cut? That person saw it. I was in fear for my life.” Simple, concise facts only. Cooperate to the barest minimum, with full respect. If they press you, politely say, “Knowing how serious this is, I would like legal counsel present before I say anything else.”
Never say right off, “I am not talking without my lawyer present.” This not only makes you look guilty, but also is most likely your ticket straight to jail. If you are cooperative, and it is obvious by the scene of the crime and witness accounts what happened, you might actually sleep in your own bed that night.
However, if you are not charged at the scene and are allowed to go home, your fight is still just beginning. You’ve only won half the battle.
Self Defense Shooting: Call Your Attorney ASAP
If you carry a firearm for self defense, you should also carry insurance to cover your legal expenses should you have to shoot someone. There are plenty of companies who offer this service. Do some research and find the one that best fits your needs. Here is a handy chart that compares the most prominent insurers, but there are many others. The only thing I would recommend is to be sure you will be covered in all 50 states. Some state companies have much cheaper policies, but you are only covered in your home state.
If you have one of these policies, you will have immediate access to an attorney who is very knowledgeable in the laws of your state. If you do not have a policy and regularly carry a firearm for self defense, please at least have the phone number of an attorney you can trust on speed dial.
Meet with your attorney as soon as possible after the self defense shooting. Let him or her take over, and only speak what/when he tells you too. Do not share any details on social media, or even with any family members outside of your immediate household. Every thing you say can and will be held against you in a court of law.
If you are arrested at the scene, completely cease talking upon the police reading you your Miranda Rights. Stay completely silent until your attorney is present. If you are actually forced to spend a night or two in jail, do not speak to the other inmates. Many will use your situation to better themselves. And all are looking for a ticket out.
Self Defense Shooting: Are the Consequences Worth the Risk?
One of my favorite sayings is “I would rather be judged by 12, than carried by 6.” So yes, the consequences are worth it. What I do not advocate, however, is being a hero. If you can get away without firing a shot, then run. But if you cannot, and either your life or the life of someone you love is in danger, fire without hesitation.
I truly hope to never find myself in this situation, and that you don’t either. The two key things to remember are that you were the victim, and that you were afraid for your life. By telling the 911 operator and the police those things, you are giving yourself a head start on exoneration. Stay safe my friends.