Bad Advice Part 5
One last piece of advice that should be addressed concerns the often-heard admonition to say nothing at all in the immediate aftermath of a defensive shooting. It’s not really good advice…but it’s not bad,
either. Some things need to be said, but you need to be very careful about what you say. There are several views on what to say, and what follows is only one opinion. It might not fit every scenario, but hopefully it will at least get you thinking carefully about the repercussions of what you do and do not say.
First Things First
The immediate moments after a lethal force incident are crucial. You will be stressed, upset, and full of adrenaline – you will probably not be thinking terribly clearly. You may be injured, and you are in danger of going into shock. As unlikely as it is that you will ever be involved in a defensive shooting, it might happen – think through how you should deal with it before you are put into that situation. It is very important that 911 be called as soon as possible. If the conflict happened in a public place, someone else might already have called for help. If you can do so, you should call 911 too, but remember that every call is recorded, and it will be played over and over in court, so your words and demeanor are important. Keep it brief. State your name, give your location, say that you have been attacked, there has been a shooting, ask for an ambulance and police to come. The 911 operator will ask for details, such as who has been shot, how many shots, and what condition the injured person is in. People have an instinctive desire to answer questions, but don’t. Tell them to come quickly, and that you are afraid. This is not to make their job hard. The ambulance will come whether or not you give details. If you say “I shot him” the prosecutor can call you a killer. If you say there were three shots, and it turns out there were seven, you look like a liar. Everything can be twisted. But that does not give you license to lie…your words should be few, but true.
If the attack was witnessed, the people who saw it might be friends or accomplices of the assailant. They might be innocent bystanders. Either way, don’t discuss what happened with them. Just make a mental note of everyone you see, and their position at the time of the attack. Your assailant might also be a witness if he survives. The point is that not all witnesses will tell the truth, and the ones that try to often mess up details. Still, discussing the event with them looks like tampering.
When the Police Arrive
The police are not your enemy, but that doesn’t mean they can’t hurt you. They don’t know you, and they didn’t see what happened. They see a body, and you have a recently-fired gun. They are doing their job, and part of that is to try and get as much information out of you as possible. Some things are good to tell them, such as where your gun is (not in your hand, please; holster it or set it on the ground as soon as they are within sight). Tell them if you know where the assailant’s weapon is, who witnessed the event, or if anyone ran away from the incident. Let them know if anyone moved anything at the scene, including if you moved the assailant’s weapon out of his reach. Those things help them get hold of the information that will help you defend your actions. Be respectful, and tell them that you will cooperate and give them a full statement after you see your lawyer, and you would like your lawyer right now. It is also a good idea to ask to be taken to the hospital and checked out. Then stop talking. Wait until you have privacy, call your lawyer, and do what he says.
A Final Warning
Never talk to the media. Period. Don’t defend yourself, don’t tell your side of things, don’t respond to provocative questions. Unlike the police, the media really are your enemy.
Be truthful, but be very careful about what you say.