Thursday, January 04, 2007

Meditations on aftermath

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.

Ask the regulars at your gun range/club who they'd recommend. Use your NRA, GOA, JPFO, KABA, LEAA, or SAF membership services and find out if they can point you at an attorney in your area.

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.

LawDog

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the advice.
One question; Being a LEO, how do you act toward a citizen when you are called to the scene of a shooting and he/she doesn't want to talk to you? I don't mean you personally, what is the average LEO gonna think?

Anonymous said...

I've seen the yahoos on tx.guns TFL THR and the mighty chronicles of Ayoob pontificate about this subject. Your advice seems to be the most realistic and sensible I've read so far and thats no B.S.

Anonymous said...

Thanks also...you know, now and again I wonder if you've learned to channel Cooper in your more serious moments.

WR Olsen said...

Great advice. May I have your persission to send your words to some instructors I know?

Tim Covington said...

I have a friend who is a lawyer. Her advice to me was to say two things:
1. "I was afraid he was going to kill me."
2. I want to speak to my lawyer.

I love your added advice of setting the weapon down and being well away from it when the cops arrive.

Kevin said...

Ahem.

I think I'll start looking for a lawyer...

Jon said...

Once, I had to persuade a drunk to leave my property. He had managed to run into a ditch and wanted to use my telephone to call for help. Our conversation through the closed door went nowhere until he heard me chamber a round into my shotgun. He decided he really didn't need to use my telephone.
I realized, after he left, that I was shaking like a 13 year old on opening day of deer season. With this in mind: Lawdog, you might add a clean pair of underwear in your to-do list.

Titan Mk6B said...

Worthwile post and comments. This is why I like this blog.

Anonymous said...

Lawdog, excellent advice as everyone has said. I would like to ask you specifically if you would care to comment on the case here in Houston Of Deputy Richard King. He was in a half-hour long high speed (over 100MPH on an urban freeway) chase of a suspect in a child abduction (he had just dropped the child off but nobody knew that at the time.) when he pulled into his apartment complex and saw the cops he turned around and sped off with the cops in hot pursuit. Deputy King managed to pull alongside and fire into the drivers seat causing the suspect to crash the vehicle. The suspect was hit once in the neck but survived. The local DA has the deputy up on charges of attempted Murder. meanwhile the parents of the 13 year old has taken her out of state to prevent her from testifying against the suspect, well and truly destroying any case against the man for child molestation. (the child was the daughter of the suspect's ex-wife's sister.)
You can read more here:
http://redinktexas.blogspot.com/2006/12/doing-right-thing.html

Anonymous said...

Mr. Dog that was a masterpiece. I wonder if a jury knows or is ever told of the mind bending efects of adrinaline? Anyway what would be the "prefered" method of someone answering the door? I mean you are responding to a shots fired call so should someone leave the door open or what?

Calico Jack said...

Thanks for the advice, especially about weapon handling and talking.

My attorney advises all his clients to call their lawyer before talking to the police in all circumstances. Our PD are very heavy handed, and will do what they can to antagonize the civilians.

Anyway, thanks for the post. If you'd like to go into a little detail about the things that are likely to happen to the law abiding home owner after a shoot, it would be appreciated. Specifically, what if my attorney isn't answering his phone at 3:00 AM? Am I going to spend the rest of the night in jail? If I am in jail, who should my family be talking to in order to find out where I am, especially if the police are trying to keep me hidden for a while.

Blackwing1 said...

Mr. LawDog:

Thank you for reiterating what our CCW instructor told us...and also for graphically illustrating just exactly how difficult that's going to be. The excellent book by Joel Rosenberg, "Everything You Wanted to Know About (Legally) Carrying a Firearm in Minnesota" says essentially the same thing.

I contacted a lawyer, recommended by my wife's parents (and also a founder of Concealed Carry Reform Now here in Minnesota) and he enquired from whom we had taken our training. When I told him, his only comment was, "Oh, I know xxxxx well. You won't have any problems. But if you ever do, I'll give you one piece of advice before I can get there: Shut the hell UP!"

Apparently a lot of people talk themselves into unnecessary legal trouble.

Thanks once more for a very intersting blog.

Anonymous said...

I'm just hoping Mr. McKinney, in the story below, doesn't live to regret that he was as restrained as he was, and allowed this critter to continue breathing ..................... look for a lawsuit from the critter against Mr. McKinney ..............
http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/latestnews/stories/010507dnmetredbird.9ac1bc3.html

Semper Fi'
DM

Anonymous said...

A piece of advice from my attorney: have a good friend and/or neighbor, one who is level-headed and patient, to manage you while the adrenaline rush dies down and he (the attorney) drives to your house. Presentation is critical in situations such as these, and testimony from LEOs at whatever hearing/trial/media circus about how you were bouncing off walls/crying despondently/laughing with glee won't help your case. You will need someone to hold your hand and glue your lips shut while the lawyer is en route. You will be an emotional mess and you will need to be managed.

The "manager's" other duties will be to keep kids and other family members out of the way. Ten-year-old Joey's excited but casual remark to a cop that "Dad said he was gonna blow away the next #$^%@ who set foot on the lawn" will be remembered and resurrected at the worst possible time. That means your attorney should also manage statements from family members to the cops.

Your attorney can make all sorts of statements without them being attributed to you; you cannot do the same.

Side note: depending upon your state laws, etc., a small, discrete "No Trespassing" sign visible somewhere on your property provides the necessary authority for your "manager" or attorney to request the police on scene remove the media from your property. The cameras will show up; you want them out in the street, not on your lawn or in your house.

And, as with all disaster recovery scenarios, not only do you need contact info for a competent and willing attorney before the event, you do need to hold practice drills so you know what to do, and how to do it, should Bad Bart receive his Final Educational Experience in your living room. A short, private (remember that word - "private" - because it's important) checklist is not unreasonable (have your attorney give you the details for the checklist, preferably on his/her letterhead). But don't make it fridge art. Part of the planning process should involve not being in control of your home for a while, so being able to retreat to a neighbor's house would be handy; it's not uncommon for LEOs to usher everyone outside while they get a handle on just what happened with whom, because their experience is that helps prevent unpleasant surprises. Because your house is a potential crime scene, they will open doors, closets, etc. to secure the scene and make sure everyone is accounted for. If it is unlocked, they will look inside your safe. That is not be in your best interest; at worst they will leave with all your guns, at best they'll be aware of (and willing to testify to) the dozen "probably loaded" Blastomatics they saw.

Anonymous said...

Try that link again:

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/
latestnews/stories/010507dnmetredbird.9ac1bc3.html


SF
DM

David said...

great post Dog... It caused me to post this somewhat related item about a shooting that went to trial in buffalo ny

Two idiots and a gun

the Northwestern Diamondback of THR said...

Officer 'Dawg, this is highly valuable advice. May we PDF it for release to the general self-defense community, or for coursework use?

Next to Last Samurai said...

Thank you, Law Dog.

Anonymous said...

Whooooweeeee... tough stuff, but definitely worth reading and knowing. Thanks for the great advice, especially for me: I have trouble keeping my mouth closed when I am nervous or scared.

martywd said...

Thanks LawDog,

Your post definitely brings up many good points of consideration that anyone willing to take steps to defend oneself when threatened in TX or elsewhere must most seriously consider before pulling the trigger.

Hopefully, HB 284 will be passed this year in the TX Legislature?

Anonymous said...

Good Stuff, brother.

Anonymous said...

LawDog, gotta question - is/are there state laws on the books in Texas re: tailgating? Here in the Houston area, it seems to be a favorite pastime ................... now, if ya want to get me 'spun up', just ride my bumper - I was taught that you allow at least 1 car length of space for every 10 miles of speed ................... my 26 year old never heard of that formula .................. but I have passed Highway Patrol types, with idjits crawling up my tailpipe, and the HP types just seem to turn a blind eye ................... and no, even though I'm 50, I'm not one of those drivers who believe you go 5 miles under the posted limit .................... I'm either on the nose, or no more than 5 miles above the limit .................. so the folks I'm complaining about are trying to do 10-20+ miles over - and when the posted limit is 65, that's ................... upsetting .................. ;)
Semper Fi'
DM

Anonymous said...

As an LEO with a total of 27 years on the job I couldn't agree more with LawDog. Look at it from the perspective of the first responding Officer. He gets a call with a report of "shots fired" and sometimes very little else. Understand that "his" adrenalin is going to be pumping as he pulls up to the scene. Understand that a majority of "shooting" calls received by police are "not" righteous, self defense shootings. Not only put the gun/knife/baseball bat down, be nowhere near it. Keep your hands in plain view at all times, and don't make any sudden movements until the scene has stabilized. Understand that the police are not your friends at this instant in time. You are a homicide suspect. Period.

LawDog, Great Blog.

The Conservative UAW Guy said...

Sage advice, LawDog.
Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Speaking from the point of view of the "People who can't shut up and can't afford to hire an attorney", I hope all law enforcement officers who might respond when the "Fit hits the SHan" (that's good, I have to remember that one!) are as aware of these facts you've listed.
And you're right...when you've just watched someone kick off, you're adrenaline is in high gear. And the smells you described are something that have stuck with me forever. It's not a one-shot, Gee-I'm-Glad-that's-over thing. When this happens to you, it's a life-long memory.
So besides getting a good lawyers' name, it might be good advice to have done research on a good therapist as well.
Good post, 'Dog! Stuff to think about.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dawg,
Good advice, I teach the CCH Cert. in my home state, some of the info I already use, the rest I will likely add.
By the BY might I link to your site at Dragon Watch?
DW

Anonymous said...

Besides what you said, among the comments this impressed me: Your attorney can make all sorts of statements without them being attributed to you; you cannot do the same.

Anonymous said...

LAWDOG,

As always, an excellent post.

I've taken Legal courses, as well as several "Licensing" courses, that cover this topic (two of which were for CCW permits - two seperate states); and yours put it all together in a nice, neat, and easy-to-read presentation.

One suggestion that I might make is to add a couple things to it (not necessarily needed, of course, just something to help your readers a bit more...) beyond the advise of knowing a good therapist that one of your other readers pointed out; as well as the advise another of your readers made about having a place your family can go to. EXCELLENT pieces of advise.

My first suggestion/addition would be that if you simply MUST say something to LE...

One of my former instructors (who is former LE, now working as a defense attorney) suggested saying ONLY "I intend to fully cooperate, officer. Please, just let speak with my attorney, so that we can write up an accurate and formal statement of the incident". Regardless of what you decide to say... know the words NOW, to a point that they become automatic AND unwavering!

That statement does a few things for you. It shows a willingness, on your part, to cooperate. It will keep MOST LEO's from trying to get you to talk about it to them (which, of course, goes a long way to ensure you don't say anything that can be used against you later). And, it allows YOU the time to come down from the emotional high, allows the stresses to subside a bit, etc... AND, a detailed and accurte written statement (that your attorney will help you to prepare) will go a long way in keeping it a Self Defense case. Incidentally, that statement will also go a long way in winning, or at the very least MINIMIZING the damages, in the lawsuit that WILL COME.

Keep in mind, too, that if you ARE arrested, it isn't personal; nor is it something you can, or should, "talk yourself out of". It only means that the arresting officer, for whatever reason (most of which ARE reasonable reasons, when looked at from the outside) felt it necessary to take you into custody. LET THEM! COOPERATE! It's going to be tough enough on you, your family, and your attorney as it is. Keep your mouth SHUT and go along.

The other thing is that another instructor of mine (who is a HUGE supporter of "What IF" drills), suggested that you follow through with ANY/ALL "What If" drills you do to include POST SHOOTS. ie, once, in your drills you give yourself is compete... say "OK, now, if it went south enough for me to pull the trigger... here's what I do... There's the nearest phone, there's a good place to meet the police without getting myself shot, follow the instructions dispatch says, this is what I tell them... this is what I tell the on-scene officers... If arrested... etc".

Pulling the trigger is only half the battle (and, by far, the easiest part); and yet, training yourself to live through ALL the ramifications afterwords is virtually ignored. Yeah, you're alive, but do you REALLY get to live again?

Know a good attorney, a good therapist, and plan/train/prepare for the POST-SHOOT...and, not just THE SHOOT.

After all, your goal shouldn't be "to stay alive"; but, rather, "to continue LIVING".

I, personally, can't thank you enough for giving us all a place to laugh, reflect, and THINK.

THUNDER

capitalGGeek said...

Excellent advice that will go a long way in a difficult an stressful situation.

Your scenario assumed a 'clean' shoot where the bad guy expires with holes in his front inside the house. What happens when the well-placed rounds from the hand cannon don't permanently end the criminal career, but leave him injured/incapaciatated/unconscious on my floor? Should I assume he had an accomplice and clear the house, or maintain position until the calvary arrives, or render first aid?

Joel said...

Well, from my POV, it all sounds like good advice -- and thanks to the commenter for the kind words about my book.

Part of the problem -- for the guy who has just shot somebody in self-defense -- is that the cops coming to the scene are pretty much guaranteed to be impenetrably skeptical.

Cops just don't see self-defense shootings very often. I recently did an HR218 class for retired LEOs from a local department. Between the twelve guys in the room there were, literally, multiple centuries of street experience. I asked them how many had been around the aftermath of a shooting -- all hands went up. No surprise.

How many had been around the aftermath of a legitimate self-defense shooting? Not a single hand.

What are the chances that a cop is going to recognize that it was self-defense? And, assuming that he/she does, what are the chances that the prosecutor will?

Much better to assume that a night or two or three in jail is just going to happen, and shut up, wait for your lawyer, and focus on the key issue: not going to prison.

Just my opinion; perhaps not worth what you're paying for it, either.

Anonymous said...

If I were on a jury and I found out that a shooter had contacted a lawyer about shooting someone before he did it, I would feel extreme prejudice against the shooter.

Likewise if I found out that he had purchased any books by Ayoob.

Anyone who fantasized about killing someone is a nut case.

The chance that the shooting was defensive is small, as he was just looking to shoot someone.

John Hardin said...

Anonymous #17:

Are you truly saying you'd prefer firearm owners to be ignorant of their responsibilities and limits in the use of deadly force for self-defense and unprepared for the situations they may find themselves in?

If I was on that jury I'd have the exact opposite opinion - that the person who'd consulted a lawyer before arming themself and who had read Ayoob and other sources about their limitations and responsibilities and rights was being an extremely responsible gun owner rather than a machobullshit "nut case" who "fantasized about killing someone".

Why glorify (or trust) ignorance?

"The chance that the shooting was defensive is small, as he was just looking to shoot someone."

So, you're going to ignore the evidence of the situation in favor of your own prejudices?

Snigs said...

I hate post here after it's been so long since you made the post yourself, but I want to thank you for your advice.

Over the weekend, the place I work was robbed. They took 1 personel file- mine. They have my name, address, work schedule, etc...

I called our lawyer from work. (He was impressed I knew to call him.) I fully loaded the 12 gauge when I got home.

Thanks very much LawDog for the really great advice.

Fastmetal said...

Dear Mr. Law Dog,

I have posted your article (Meditation Aftermath) on my blog:

http://concealed.wordpress.com/2008/01/18/%e2%80%a2-self-defense-shooting-and-the-aftermath/

My Blog is primarily about Concealed Carry and Second Amendment issues.

If you would prefer me not use your work, send me an email and I will get it off, asap. Sincerely yours, "Concealed" email:usmc130@gmail.com