January 18, 2008
• Self Defense Shooting and the Aftermath
Thursday, January 04, 2007
If you spend any time at all on the various gun forums of the World Wide Web sooner or later the conversation will come around to “What to do after a shoot”.
The advice given by anonymous figures riding the electron waves of the Internet can be … amusing. At best. At worst, some of the advice given will guarantee that the shooter will be hip-deep in legal trouble for the next lifetime.
I will tell you right up front that any comments made by your Humble Scribe are worth exactly what you paid for them.
First off — and I cannot stress this enough — anyone who carries, or owns, a gun or a knife needs to know a lawyer.
First thing tomorrow — or as early as possible — find yourself a lawyer who is familiar with self-defense cases and the weapons laws of your state.
Now, folks. Not at 0-dark-thirty with a critter bleeding out on your carpet and red-and-blue lightbars screaming down the road.
Once you have the name of an attorney, go talk to him (or her). It usually doesn’t cost much — or anything — to introduce yourself, sit in his office and talk about What May Come.
If you like him (or her), get a couple of his cards and put one in your wallet and another under the bedroom phone where you can find them after the bodies quit bouncing.
If you should find it necessary to help a critter into his next incarnation, hopefully you or a family member will have called 911 prior to the Grand Finale — so to speak — and the whole fandango will be recorded. However, if (for whatever reason) it was not possible to call 911 prior to the critter starting his trip to room temperature — please call 911 as soon as possible.
You will note that I don’t have any advice to give as to what you should tell 911 when you call them. Seems like everyone on the Internet has (legal) advice as to what you should tell the 911 operator, how you should say it, how many words to use and how many seconds to spend saying it.
In my experience, when your ears are ringing, the smell of powder and blood and various human secretions are clogging your nose, adrenaline is rampaging up-and-down your spine and a man — critter or not — that you just killed spent his last moments in this life in your presence begging God for another chance, or calling for his mother, or crying in denial and disbelief as he died …
… you are not going to be thinking of what your anonymous Internet buddy told you to say. You’re not even going to remember grabbing the phone, and if you are conscious of your conversation with the 911 people you have my admiration.
So. You have called 911. The very next thing you should do is pull out that lawyer’s card and call him (or her).
I don’t care how justifiable the killing was. I don’t care if you’re in Deepinahearta, Texas and the deceased is laying in the middle of your living room floor with an axe in one hand and a detailed murder list in the other.
Call your lawyer.
Like it or not, guns — and self-defense itself — are political. And District Attorneys are political animals. Trust me, you don’t want to be caught without a lawyer if Mike Nifong’s evil twin Skippy decides to make his political bones with your case.
You have called 911 and you have called your lawyer. Now — probably sooner rather than later — the scene is going to be crawling with cops.
Whatever you do, please, please, please do not greet the police while holding a pistol in your hand. Or a knife, bludgeon, broken bottle, chainsaw or whatever else you used to shove your critter in front of his Eternal Maker.
You, standing over a dead man, with a weapon in your paw when the cops show up is a recipe for an unpleasantness. Trust me on this one.
Again, there are thousands of folks on the Internet, each one with advice on what to do with your pistol, knife, or whathaveyou.
And — again — if you have the presence of mind to do something complicated with your gun, I salute you. But I doubt it.
Just remember not to have the weapon in your hand, on your body or with-in arms reach when you get face-to-face with the police. The officers are going to take custody of whatever you used to chlorinate the gene pool, and when they do — tell them where it is, but, please God, don’t go grab it yourself to give to them.
Last, but certainly not least, if there is any subject in which every-single-body on the Internet has advice for, it’s what to tell the cops about your shooting.
Folks, what you should or should not tell the cops is based completely upon the unique circumstances of your personal incident.
I can tell you that it’s never a Bad Thing to not make a statement to the police before your lawyer is present, but let’s talk Real Life here:
You have just ended the life of some mother’s child. You may have stared into the eyes of this person as the life drained out of them. You may have listened to the death rattle as they took their last breath. You may have heard this person’s last words, or you may have simply watched them kick until they were still.
Whichever, you have just breached the most sacred of Man’s taboos. You have done something that cannot be taken back, and you have done the single most powerful, awful thing one human being may do to another.
In addition, you’re going to be so jazzed on adrenaline that your teeth will hurt. Endorphins will mask any pain — and failing to find pain, they will be tweaking your inhibitions in 23 different directions. Your mind will have played tricks on you — sounds will have gone squirrelly; time will have done wierd things.
And worst of all, you probably won’t remember entire sequences of what just happened. Self-doubt is going to jump on your back like an 800-pound gorilla with cold feet and clammy hands.
And you will want someone — anyone — to understand that you were forced to do this terrible act. You will want someone — anyone — to know, to understand, that you had no choice in breaking the ancient taboo against killing.
Ladies and gentlemen, in the average self-defense shooting, it’s not getting the shooter to talk to us that’s hard — it’s getting him to shut up that’s difficult.
I can tell you to assert your right to have an attorney present during any interview with the police, but in the last 13 years of police work, I’ve never seen a justified Average Joe self-defense shooter who was capable of doing so.
Again, you may be different. I salute you if you are, but — again — I wouldn’t bet anything important that you won’t be like everyone else I’ve seen in that position.
So — my advice to you is to sit down with your attorney before the Fit Hits The Shan and discuss what your attorney wants you to do in that situation. Find out what your attorney wants you to tell the police, and try to stick with that.
Don’t be surprised if you find yourself unable to stop talking, though. Prepare for it, and you will probably be able to limit any damage done.