After a Self-Defense Incident: Do What the Police Say!

After a Self-Defense Incident: Do What the Police Say!

If you are involved in a deadly force self-defense incident and can get to a phone CALL THE POLICE! Don't call your neighbors, your parents, your husband or your wife. Call the police.

Recently a 92-year-old Kentucky man used a .22 rifle to successfully defended his home from three intruders. His story of self-defense is not really about concealed carry, it is more about home defense. But there is an important element down near the bottom of which everyone needs to be aware.

The homeowner did two things wrong: After the incident he called his neighbors instead of calling the police and when police arrived and told him to put up his hands he told police, “I'm not putting my hands up.” He survived, but the situation could have been a disaster.

First off, if you are involved in a deadly force self-defense incident and can get to a phone CALL THE POLICE! Don't call your neighbors, your parents, your husband or your wife. Call the police and say clearly, “I have been attacked and I shot at the person who attacked me.” Then stay on the line and wait for instructions. Keep talking to that dispatcher until you see the officers arrive. Give your location, a description of what you are wearing and just to be clear, repeat, “I am the victim. Tell responding officers the victim is wearing…. and is waiting for them at…”

You don't have to say anything that will incriminate yourself, but you do want to clearly identify yourself so responding officers don't mistake you for a bad guy and shoot you.

Here's the deal, police officers responding to a “shots fired” call are on high alert and any reader who thinks cops should just “calm down” have never rolled up on such a call and begun walking toward the danger. At the same time, if you don't give ample information, police will arrive looking for “someone with a gun.” Remember, you have a gun.  So when police arrive at the scene of a shooting, the first thing they are going to do is secure the scene. That means you will be ordered (perhaps loudly) to put your gun down. Do it. If the police tell you to raise your hands, raise them. You will likely get handcuffed. Deal with it.  Realize that responding officers don't know who you are. They do know someone has been shot. They are looking for a person with a gun and they don't want to get shot. So they will take control of the gun and scene. Once that happens calmly explain your side of the story.

You have to remember a person holding a gun is an imminent threat, before any questioning or explanations can begin, police officers will and must remove that threat. If you are holding a gun and refuse to put it down, you may get shot. And the officer would be justified in doing so based on the totality of circumstances and the information that officer had at the time.  So, in the unlikely event that you are involved in a shooting, please do what the officers tell you as they secure the scene.


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  1. I retired as a LEO (college educated) and became a corporate officer/director. I’m big on the 4th Amendment.
    I don’t like LEO’s even leaving public property and trespassing on mine (seems like that is curtilage).

    So if any guy intrudes (I’ve seen LEO’s do it improperly) and I use deadly force (say I’m working in the garage with ear muffs on and some hot dog kicks in the door and gets himself shot) does the whole house become a crime scene with unresricted movement throught out? How about if I have a locked door? Maybe even a locked security door? There is no civil liability for deadly force in my state.

    No duty to retreat here. No 3rd party requirement. No signs. No “registration”. After 2 states and 3 departments I wonder if I become homeless (dead LEO or not)while crime scene dudes search my abode illegally for things even if I have my front room sealed off with a steel door from the rest of the house.

    PS I was on a traffic accident scene last year and got some unexpected (and unusual) guff from a fireman there with his ambulance for another driver. I warned him that he was about to experience a citizen arrest, taken to the ground (that hand to hand combat from the US Army has paid off), and cuffed (I always carry big wire ties in my belt loops). He backed off. Thor

  2. If you do, (Heaven Forbid), have to shoot someone in self defense and dial 911, I’ve always heard that the first words out of your mouth should be: I need an ambulance and the police at this location. Then tell the 911 operator who you are, (giving a discription of yourself), where you are and why you need an ambulance and the police, plus any other questions the 911 operator may ask.

    The reason for this is to have “on record” that you are primarily concerned about your attacker’s health and well being.

    This may go a long way to prove that you are not just a person with a gun that shot someone. Should this ever go to court, either criminal or civil, the fact that you were concerned with the suspect’s health may help your case.

  3. I carry a wallet card printed with this statement right behind my CCH license;

    “Dear Officer: If I have given this to you, I have unfortunately had to do what was necessary to defend innocent life. I am willing to sign a criminal complaint against the perpetrators(s). I will point out witnesses and evidence.

    As you may have experienced yourself, this is a stressful and traumatic experience for me. Therefore, I wish to make no further statements until I have contacted an attorney and composed myself. I also do not consent to any searches. I will cooperate fully once I have consulted with an attorney and calmed down. As a lawfully armed citizen, I ask for the same courtesy that you would show a fellow officer who was involved in a similar situation.”

  4. Just a couple of caveats regarding some of the things others are saying… The “I was in fear for my life” thing may not cut it if you had the option to retreat. (For example – you walked in the door and found an axe wielding intruder in your home. In states with a duty to retreat – you need to go back out that door whether your afraid or not.) KNOW your state laws on deadly force. For example here in Texas you have no duty to retreat, and can use deadly force to protect a third party. In New York, you have a duty to retreat and the threat must be to your own life not the life of another. Also – in Texas you have the right to use deadly force, in some instances to protect property – but in many / most states you do not. Know the laws of the state you are in! Also – and no offense to the cops reading, including the author but remember that no matter how friendly they seem, the cops are NOT your friend. Silent means SILENT, do not engage in any chitchat with police officers. Dont talk about baseball, the weather, etc. If you do – don’t be surprised when that “friendly cop” is a witness for the prosecution saying “He was cold. Chillingly cold. The poor kid who wanted nothing more in his life but a nobel peace prize and a bag of skittles was laying there face down in a pool of blood and Mr Smith was talking about the Broncos game. I’ve never seen such a stone cold killer!” The only thing you need to say to a cop is “I would like my attorney.”

  5. Outstanding advice on letting the police and 911 know that you feared for your life. That should be the only time you would use deadly force. Also, keeping quiet until you have your lawyer is another way of keeping yoursself from saying something that could be used aganist you.

  6. As an attorney of 33 years and an avid right to keep and bear arms and CCW supporter, I applaud the author of the article and both earlier comments. I spent 3 years as a staff attorney for one of America’s finest federal police training facilities, and KNOW when law enforcement arrives everyone on the scene is viewed as a bad guy. To not follow police instructions, or anticipate them and have your hands up when they arrive, is frankly stupid. I like the word choice in the article about “I shot at” the person. We attorneys spend literally years parsing out decisions made in a second. And rest assured, everything you say, even before any type of right’s advisement, is going to come back and haunt you. Never, ever, express any positive comment about shooting/killing anyone.

  7. As Mr. McCoy said, anything you say – on your 911 call and/or to the responding officers can and WILL be held AGAINST you in court.

    Keep in mind – officers are trained to get information out of you, and to ask questions multiple times and in various ways, to get you to contradict your own statements. This is how they are trained to ferret out the lying that perps always use. But in the unimaginable aftermath of a shooting, your mind is reeling, you are awash in adrenalin, you can’t even think, hear or speak normally. The probability of memory lapses and mis-stated facts is near 100%. And this WILL be used against you.

    The less you say in the immediate aftermath of a shooting, the better. My 911 call would go something like this: “I’ve been attacked, I was in fear for my life and had to use my firearm to defend myself. I am __ tall, ___ years old, with ___hair, wearing ___. Please send police and an ambulance right away to___.” Then HANG UP, clear & secure your weapon, and (if you aren’t injured) apply pressure to the perp’s wounds to stop the bleeding until police arrive. (this will be important in court) When they do arrive, cooperate fully, but give NO DETAILS of the incident to police verbally, and just say, as Mr. McCoy recommended above, that you will swear out a complaint and make your formal statements to police after your attorney arrives. Do NOT consent to a search of your home, cars, or anything else, under any circumstances, no matter how they pressure you. The size and scope of your personal gun collection will be an issue in court, so be aware of that.

    If you are just too rattled in the aftermath, (and most of us would be) just lie down on the floor, and ask the arriving officers for immediate medical attention, and to be taken to the hospital. This will delay aggressive interrogation till you’ve had time to stabilize yourself, collect your thoughts and memories, contact your attorney and prevent accidental self-incrimination.

    • Apply pressure to the wound? Do Not Touch the perp. Are you a doctor, an RN, trained in gun wound care? Most people likely are not. What if the perp is still capable of placing their hands around your throat, has a knife accessible or another gun you don’t know of? I disagree, Keep Your Hands Off. And why would I clear my weapon? Again, this perp if still alive could regain control of the situation if you do not keep your wits about you, or there may be another accomplice in the area you don’t even know of. Do not drop your guard till the authorities show up.

      • Very good point SmithKoWitz… stay away from the perp. You are not equipped or trained to render aid and as a civilian shooter you are not required to do so. Again, this piece was to point out that the old man refused to put his gun down. In doing so, he could have been shot. Here look at this video of a 72-year-old man killing a Texas Trooper. The old man shot from the hip while the officer was yelling to drop the gun. This is why cops shoot people who are “just holding” guns… it take less than second to shoot a cop while he is barking orders. Notice too, that none of the other arriving officers shoot that man.

        • Finally… as a working cop, if I were to arrive on the scene of a call with an officer down to see a man with a rifle, that man and his rifle are getting my full attention and he will get one chance to drop his weapon immediately before I open fire.

    • You and all the others who opt to remain silent are correct, that is your right and you should use it. My point in this piece is that gun owners should comply with the commands of the police. If you are holding a gun when the police arrive, put it down. In fact, that is good advice for every day of your life. If you are holding a gun and a police officer asks you to put it down (or tells you, orders you, whatever), do so. If your rights are being infringed, have that battle in the courts, not in the streets. If you refuse to put down your gun, there is a very good chance you will get shot and a very good chance the shooting will be ruled justifiable.

    • As far as “take me to the hospital” goes, if you start playing that game with the responding police officers, you are going to use up any benefit of the doubt you may have coming to you.

      DO NOT hang up that phone. The only lifeline both you and the cavalry have is that open line. Information is king and the homeowner has all of it. Failing to answer every question asked of you by the 911 operator puts everyone at risk.

      When the police are satisfied that things are in hand they will relax.

      Remember, the cops love to see someone turning the tables on the bad guys. Afterall, isn’t that what they do for a living?

  8. Certainly much to be concerned about if this moment ever presents itself in one’s life. Anywhere you read, they tell you to explicitly refrain from Saying Too Much. Bottom line: Call 911 (if applicable) report that a threat to your life has taken place and there is an injured party in need of medical care. Yes is a good answer to questions like: Was the perp shot, did you shoot them, was your life threatened; just a simple YES. Do not touch the perp, do not pickup their weapon. If the perp is down for the count, holster your weapon when the police arrive, keep your hands visible and do not rattle off some long story. My life was threatened is all they need to know. Call your attorney. Do not rattle off a story or chat with 911 either, the call is recorded. You may even want to hang up after you have reported the incident, depending on the situation at the location you called from.

  9. There are only five words you need to say if you ever find yourself in a situation where you have used a gun to defend yourself. Remember these five word and never forget them; “I FEARED FOR MY LIFE!”. There is only one justifiable reason to kill someone, and that is to protect your own life. While some will say that they also have the right to defend their property as well, and I agree with that, if you ever find yourself in court for defending yourself with a gun, you will be judged by a jury of 12 people that will be picked from the lowest common denominator, and if you try to justify your actions by saying you were defending your property; you will end up in jail. Just say, ” I feared for my life!” and nothing else. Do that and you will be fine.

    • In the state of Wisconsin, deadly force is described as “the use of a firearm or other instrument the use of which would cause a high probability of death.” The justification for the use of deadly force is as follows: Any action that has caused or imminently threatens to cause death or great bodily harm to you or another person or persons.

      For a threat to be imminent the perpetrator must have a weapon, intent and a delivery system. The weapon can be fists or feet. The intend can be stated or implied by actions.

      Your actions will be judged by what a reasonable person with same information you had at the time of the actions could be expected to do.

      Find your state statutes and learn them.

  10. Good article.

    One question though, I know I have the right to remain silent and I will exercise that right to the fullest.

    However, if I am ever involved in a Home Defense shooting, my wife and 5 kids will be there. In fact, if they are not present, it will be very unlikely that there will be a home defense shooting (I won’t shoot somebody to protect my xbox, my kids are a different story).

    What should I instruct them to do/say? Do they have the right to remain silent? Can they wait for legal representation?

    • If your family actually witnessed the event, I would suggest they too remain silent until getting legal representation. They should tell police they will make a complete statement at a later time, once they have calmed down and spoken to an attorney. In some states spouses cannot be compelled to testify against each other. Learn the laws of your state. Consult with an attorney before you are in such a situation so you know your rights and legal protection. Consider seeking out and buying an insurance policy that will cover legal representation in the event of a shooting.

  11. Never, ever, say that you have shot someone(anything you say WILL be held against you in a court of law). Tell the 911 operator that you have been attacked and that the attacker is now deceased. Clear your weapon and place it across the room from you. When the police arrive, tell them that you will be swearing a complaint against the attacker (who now looks a lot like a victim) and you will be glad to talk with them after you have obtained legal representation. After that, STFU!

    • Mr. McCoy has sound advice.

      The worst possible outcome after defending yourself and family in your own home is to be lethally targeted by the responding police.

      Even though your own excitement level will be extreme, so will be the cops.

      And as McCoy stated, minimize your conversation to bare facts. You defended yourself in the face of imminent danger. That’s all.

      You can get in a lot of unnecessary trouble by saying the wrong thing. You cannot get in trouble by shutting up.

      So STFU, and secure an attorney ASAP.


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