I’ve blogged about how to shoot welland what mental preparations you need for a gun fight. Now we need to think about what happens after the fight. There are three main parts I’ll discuss: what happens in your head, what happens when the cops get there, and what happens in the courts.
This discussion is based on a lecture given at the Front Sight during the 4 Day Defensive Handgun course. It comes from my notes and their hand outs filtered through my memory. Their handout gives credit to Massad Ayoob for contributing.
What Happens In Your Head After A Gun Fight
It happen, you were the victim of a violent crime, you thought you were going to die and you used your weapon to shoot someone until they stopped. Now someone is laying on the ground near you, dead or dying. Your gun is at the ready, still trained on them. What happens now?
A torrent of emotions are going through your head right now. It will be a little different for everyone but here are some normal reations. You need to think about this in advance, so when the emotions hit you don’t do something stupid.
Two seconds ago you thought you were going to die. For sometime before that you’ve had adrenaline pumping into your veins. Now you know you are going to live. It is natural to have a rush of positive feeling, its called Survivors euphoria.
Ever almost been in a car wreck? You pull out at green light and just caught the guy speeding through the red in the corner of your eye. You slam on the breaks, the guy just misses you at 70 MPH. You sit there for a second and realize you almost died. What’s a normal response after half a second? You’ll probably start laughing. That’s survivors euphoria, and you’ll probably feel the same thing right after a gunfight.
It is normal and OK to feel this, but keep control of yourself. Now is not the time for pistoning fists and shouts of “Yes!”. Nor time for a happy dance, even though that’s what you feel.
Say there was a guy across the street reading the newspaper. He was far enough away he didn’t hear you yell at the guy to stop. He was too far away to see the other guy pull a gun. But what did he hear? That’s right the gun shot. Now he’s looking at you. Do you want this eye witness to see you doing a happy dance over the other guy? Not going to look good in court. Going to look like you were glad to kill the guy, not glad to be alive.
After that rushes through your system you are going to realize what you’ve done and feel regret. Doesn’t matter the guy was trying to kill you or you loved one, you just took another human life. You’ll feel bad about that.
Don’t let these feelings of regret take over. Don’t drop your weapon and fall down crying. Keep it together, you’ll have time to let go later.
Regret naturally leads to anger at this person. They forced you to do this. You were minding your own business and they attacked you. You gave them a chance and they didn’t take it. Now they have totally screwed up your life. Where ever you were going, you aren’t now. You’re going to spend hours dealing with the cops tonight, and probably months dealing with the court.
How could they do this to you! You’re going to get angry. Just as you don’t want to do a happy dance during euphoria, you don’t want to start kicking the corpse or cursing and yelling at it now. For the same reason.
You need to have a firm control over your anger when the cops get there, because they are probably going to do stuff that makes you more angry. Don’t take your anger out on the cops. Its dangerous both immediately and when you go to court.
I gave him a chance to stop. I warned him. Maybe if I’d given him a second warning we would have stopped. Maybe if I shot him in the leg, he’d still be alive. What could I have done differently?
These are natural thoughts and you are going to deal with them a lot over the next few months. But right now you need to put them to the back of your mind. And for sure don’t share them with the cops.
Fear and Panic
You’ve got all these doubts and now the cops are one their way. Fear and panic grip you. Part of you wants to run away. Don’t do it. Your best defense is to be there unless there is an immediate danger that requires retreat. If you retreat, retreat directly to a police station and make a report. Don’t let fear and doubt make your situation worse.
What Happens When The Cops Show Up
If you pull your weapon on someone, you have to call the cops. If you shoot someone you really, really do. What do you say in your 911 call? Here’s the exact working Front Sight gives to say:
Hell0 911? This is (your name). I want to report that I just shot an assailant who attempted to kill me with a (weapon). Please send the police and an ambulance. If he lives, I want to press charges against him for attempted murder. I am at (exact location) and I am a (give detailed description) wearing (detailed description) and am holding/carrying a (give description of the firearm).”
Now the police are on the way. What happens when they get there? At Front Sight they asked one of the cops in the class to demonstrate on the instructor. You should go and see it yourself. Here are a few tips.
You are going to be treated like a criminal until you are safe to them. That means they are going to point their guns at you. Disarm you, handcuff you and put you in at police car.
It may get confusing when they show up. They gave an example of three cars arriving at once. You are standing there still pointing your gun at the perpetrator. One cop jumps out and yells, “Drop you weapon!” Another yells, “Freeze!” and the third yells, “Get on the ground”. What do you do?
Don’t do anything. They haven’t shot you yet. If you move one of them is liable to. So keep doing what you are and one will take charge.
If the one in charge tells your to drop you weapon. Drop it. Open your hands and let the gun fall. If you are carrying a 1911 or something with a safety, you already put it on. It is very unlikely that a dropped gun will go off. Much more unlikely than a cop shooting you for moving.
Keep you hands in plain view and away from your body at all times. That is what the cops are looking at because that is where a threat would come from.
Should You Make A Statement To The Cops?
Depending on where you are the cops may not even arrest you. They can let you go if they think it is a clear case of self-defense. So cooperating with them is necessary if you want to be let go. If you clam up and don’t talk, they will have to arrest you.
You need to read the officer when he starts asking you questions. If he’s angry and belligerent, clamming up may be in order. You can ask for some time because you are rattled, and you can suggest they get witness reports first. You can also ask if the officer is the one deciding if you are arrested. If another officer is, like a commander, you can say you’d like to wait till they get there so you don’t have to repeat yourself.
If you do give a statement, keep it brief. They don’t need a novel, just the relevant facts about you being in fear for your life and why.
If they tell you it is policy to arrest everyone, then thank them and invoke your right to an attorney. You’ve got nothing to gain giving a statement, you are going to jail anyway.
What Happens In Court
Front Sight really focused on what happens outside of court. The whole idea was to find an attorney who could keep the case out of court.
Choosing an Attorney
They suggested you find an ex-cop or judge with a good relationship to the DA’s office. You want someone who can walk into the DA’s office and get a private meeting with him to talk about your case. You also want someone known to be a good guy who wouldn’t represent a real criminal.
Don’t pick the most high profile criminal attorney, because they have a tendency to make the case a big production and then the DA wants to get in on the press too. These guys are also often obnoxious and hated by the prosecutors, so they don’t deal with them. The DA also knows this guy doesn’t care if you are a good guy or a bad guy, and normally represents bad guys.
No matter if you get the charges dropped or aren’t even arrested, you can still expect the assailant to sue you. The burden of proof is lower in civil cases as well, and the juries will sometimes rule against someone just because of who they are. They may look at you as a wealthy person, and the other guy as a poor, now crippled person, and think, “He can afford to help these poor people.”
One thing they suggested, which was hinted at in the 911 call, was you should sue them first. They made a criminal attempt to hurt you, you could be owed damages. Then when they decide you’re a source of easy money, you’ve got the threat of a suit already against them. Now you can negotiate a dismissal on both sides.
There was a very long list of things you can expect to happen after a gunfight, from spending time in jail, to spending lots of money, to mental problems including inability to sleep and impotence, to strained family relationships. It is too long to transcribe, but it tells you this isn’t an easy process.
But it is better than being dead.
So you need to make sure when you pull the trigger it is worth it, which you do by knowing in advance what your plan is.
ASIDE: Are these posts too long? I could break them into shorter ones, but the material goes together.