Would you shoot a suspect who threatens you claiming to have a gun? That’s the decision that Pharmacist Pete Spallito faced last week, in Kansas City, Missouri. [Click here for the video.] A masked woman confronts Spallito demanding all the Oxycontin in the store. She said that she had a gun in the bag that she was carrying, and placed the bag on the counter. From kctv5.com . . .

Pete Spalitto described Tuesday’s events to KCTV5. He said that after the woman confronted his employee that the employee turned to him. The woman then demanded OxyContin from him.

He headed to the counter where he had his .45-caliber gun tucked away.

“I pointed it at her. I come into a good position behind the counter. I pointed it at her head,” Spalitto recalled. “She says, ‘I’ve got a gun in this bag.’ I said, ‘I’ve got a gun too.'”

The woman decided her best course of action was to flee and headed for a maroon-colored SUV with temporary tags. Spalitto gave pursuit until his hamstring had other ideas and he had to pull up. He is disappointed that he didn’t catch her.

Pete Spallito decided not to shoot. If he had, he probably would have been justified. He could not know that the gun that the woman had in the bag was made of plastic, and could not fire.
This screen shot from a previous robbery attempt at another pharmacy shows what appears to be the same suspect and a bag she is using.
In the video, it is understandable why Pete chose to take the chance not to shoot. The woman is hesitant or unable to shoot as the Pharmacist move around behind the counter, retrieves a .45, and points it at her. Later, Pete shows a reporter that he has a Ruger LCP .380 as a backup gun.
The pharmacy where Pete works is independently owned.  From the story:

He said he feels sorry for the employees of pharmacies owned by big chains who aren’t allowed to carry a weapon.

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out if you’re selling drugs in this day and age you should have a gun on you,” he said.

Would you shoot if a suspect claims to have a gun?  It depends on the totality of the circumstances.  There are risks in not shooting, but there are risks and costs involved in shooting, as well.
Pete Spallito believes that he made the right choice.  He regrets that he did not catch the suspect, and he pulled a hamstring while chasing her.
©2015 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
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80 Responses to Question of the Day: Would you Shoot a Suspect Who Claimed to Have a Gun?

  1. I would shoot if I was the victim. In AL, the mere representation by a robber that he is armed is sufficient to prove armed robbery, and therefore triggers the victim’s right to use deadly force.
    If I were a third party, I would stand by until an actual threat was presented.

    • In some states you have to prove that your circumstances were justified. In other states the state has to prove the opposite. Then there’s the possibility of a civil suit. Some states prohibit them, others do not. In some states, you’d even have to flee if possible. You’re in Alabama, so you’re better off than most.

      Based on that, and the fact that I’d rather not kill somebody unless absolutely necessary, in this situation, I’d probably do exactly what he did. She didn’t have a gun out, and if she was lying, I wouldn’t want to spend my day hoping to convince the local DA that she told me she had a gun.

      Also, if possible, I’d have grabbed the bag away from her. Apparently she hasn’t read any of RF’s posts on the dangers of off-body carry. 🙂

      As for the chase: Hell no! What if she had a well armed friend outside waiting to pick her up? That’s what cops get paid for.

  2. Good man. Stopping the crime or assault is the game, not just killing someone. Judgement should be applied to the situation lest judgement be applied to the shooter.

    • Ya, instead, chase them over to some dude’s house. Sometimes retreat is merely falling-back to take up a better offensive position. Pay your taxes and take your chances. Other than that, your life isn’t worth 1/2 a wet tick-turd. Don’t try to prove me wrong without first proving you don’t feel the same about me, because that is the equivalent to what is being asked here.

      • Is it possible for you to rewrite that disjointed ramble into a coherent statement. I can’t tell what the hell you’re on about.

        • As near as I can tell, he was pricing his own life at 1/2 of a wet-tick turd. Not sure what the exchange rate on that is.

        • With all this wet weather, I’ve gotten a surplus of wet tick turds. Can I buy Joe R.s in bulk?

        • Don’t let ’em get you down, Joe. Nothing wrong with being incoherently drunk at noon on a Wednesday.

        • Move your lips while you’re just looking at the pictures, pretend you forgot your glasses. No one’ll know for sure.

  3. I live in CA,

    I’d have to think probably far too long and risk getting shot before I shot.

    If I were wrong, and/or the person I shot were in the protected class, I’d be doing time.

    • I might be mistaken, but here in CA it still counts as an armed robbery if you lie about having a weapon, or use a toy painted up to look like a gun and use that. But your point is valid, which is that if you shoot some one in a victim group you’re likely to get into a media circus regardless of whether or not you were justified in doing so.

    • “Relating to the earlier example, most [U.S.] common-law, now supports the use of a gun to kill an intruder during a home invasion. If, however, the gun is then used to kill a lookout at the curb, and/or the driver of a getaway car parked down the street, the legal support for such action falls away.
      The limitation of support is intended to remove the right of the homeowner to act as final authority (judge) over the perpetrators who do not threaten his peace directly. It is there to protect the rights of the homeowner should he/she accidentally find himself/herself in front of another person’s house, or parked in a dark running car on a street in the middle of the night. It is there, too, to limit the negative consequences to innocent nearby.
      However, prosecution of these actions, as a crime, also smacks of unsustainable conflict.
      Would not the elimination of threat from the intruding individual be positively compounded by the elimination of the accomplices [11]?
      Does it not follow that a living, breathing individual who exists in permanent conflict and, in themselves, given over voluntarily to unsustainable conflict, cannot thereafter ever be safely considered to return [to have returned] to sustainable conflict. Thereby, flight from conflict NEVER indicates departure from conflict, merely the falling-back, the retreat, AND the repositioning for renewed attack!
      Does it not follow that it is easier to eliminate all of those interested in perpetrating crime than it is to permanently eliminate the employment of any of their tools?
      Further, is not the homeowner (by example) right to immediately assume an end-gameposture with everyone he encounters after being subjected to such a crime until he is absolutely certain that the threat has diminished to the point that societal agreement is again worth attaining.
      Consider too, then, how much more heinous the act of the perpetrators that permanently lessens the quiet enjoyment that the homeowner may obtain in participating in and forming new societies.
      In the legal prosecution of the homeowner, too, is it not fair to ask ‘were the intruders working for the court or the court working for the intruders?’ That is to say, “Which is true? Were the intruders massing an army [the law] against the homeowner? Or was it the law that was amassing an army [the intruders] against the homeowner? [12]
      Remember, while true Security is effectively an., albeit necessarily morphing, posture it is also the constant [however slight] exertion of energies, and reassessment and realignment of priorities, as discovered in the treatise PRIORITY. [13] And all crime is based upon response
      time.” [TERMS, J.M. Thomas R., 2012, Pgs. 40-41]

      • All the legal language is very fine,

        Hows that going to play on CNN, Fox, ABC, CBS, and NBC?

        That legal language may do me fine in a “court of law”, but in the “court of reality” that we have to live in. the synopsis of story runs like this.

        A 16 year old kid (insert, mother of 2, or aids victim, or whomever you like cause it wont be “gang member with long rap sheet”) tried to rob the owner of a business. The owner grabed his gun and threatened the kid and he ran out of the store with the business owner chasing him down the street.

        or
        A 16 year old kid (insert, mother of 2, or aids victim, or whomever you like cause it wont be “gang member with long rap sheet”) tried to rob the owner of a business. The buiseness owner grabbed his gun and opened fire shooting 5 times and kill thing kid armed with nothing more than a toy gun.

  4. In this case I think he did the right thing. He seemed to be in total control of his nerves. If she had been pointing the gun it would be a different story.

    • This guy had the best of both worlds – concealed pocket carry and a larger caliber behind the counter positioned right where he wanted it.

      I’d like to see how many people would draw and accurately fire a pistol from any concealed carry holster faster than this store-keeper did (multiple times) from a hidden countertop position while guns were pointed mere inches from his face:

      https://youtu.be/pkWgp2abM2w

  5. If you are being robbed you typically let robber have what they want and allow to be on their way. If they openly threaten your life you must believe them. Shoot? Tough choice which is what makes robbing a powerful position of control. The old rule, if you point a gun you’d best be ready to use it, no threats. In this shooting the robber seems justified as they are threatening your life with they present as with a firearm. Why doubt their words?

    • “If you are being robbed you typically let robber have what they want and allow to be on their way.”

      Ummm … no. We typically do NOT let the robber have what they want. If they want something, they can work for it.

    • hmmmm just give into the criminal and give them what they want. Depends….#1 do you honestly believe that the thief will leave without incident? #2 are there customers or other employees that could possibly get his with stray rounds? Can you get to your gun without turning your back, putting yourself in a bad position? And you have to make the decision in less than a second.

      My point is think about the possibilities beforehand because there isn’t time to think about it during a fight. look around where you work if you carry there, or have a gun available. where is a defensible position, where are the likely avenues of approach. Is it possible to just duck behind bullet proof glass, and call 911.

      As far as chasing the criminal out of the store…. dumb. What if the gun were real? and she decided to fight? what if her boyfriend in the car, also armed joined the fight. What if that armed boyfriend was a lookout on the street you ran past in pursuit? Point is once the threat is gone, call the cops. That is their job. Giving chase puts you in the tactical and legal disadvantage

  6. In Illinois, this would not be considered an “imminent” threat, as no lethal weapon is visible (as I read this).
    By good fortune, the victim was in an excellent position to defend himself without actually firing a gun.
    Would that every victim be so fortunate to have the luxury of the time and space afforded here.

    • Illinois still has a long way to go on self-defense rights, mainly in it defines ‘legal self-defence’ much more strictly than most other states. A gun can be fired through a pocket. If a perp is representing as a deadly threat, he should be treated as one.

  7. Tough call for sure. The mention of the gun by the robber (whether it says Replica or Desert Eagle .50) is the implied threat of force from using it. So its definitely imminent and a threat, I would say credible because I am going to trust that if this person is enough of a junkie turd to commit armed robbery, they probably dont care much about the lives of others.

    One thing I noticed is how completely non-aggressive the robber is the entire time, seems like the entire plan was just hope they give you stuff because you have a molded piece of plastic. They would have at least gotten some style points for going the banana in a bag route.

    • Wait, you mean a crackhead* didn’t have a completely thought-out, foolproof tactical plan with multiple backup scenarios meticulously mapped and strategized? That’s very surprising!

      * I know she was trying to steal oxycontin, but “crackhead” has a much better ring to it than “prescription opioid abuser”.

    • Wait, you mean a crackhead* didn’t have a completely thought-out, foolproof tactical plan with multiple backup scenarios meticulously mapped and strategized? That’s very surprising!

      * I know she was trying to steal oxy, but “crackhead” has a much better ring to it than “prescription opioid abuser”.

  8. Anyone who threatens you with a gun, seen or unseen, is doing so to put you in fear of your life. They win — I’m in fear of my life, and I will do whatever I think necessary to end that threat.

  9. Not tactically sound – but greatly courageous and honorable! Good job Pete!
    I like it.

    Scenario: Suppose the gun was real.
    Pete was unwilling to stand aside and have some addict take all the prescription drugs. He weighed his own life against the willingness of the robber to take a life, as he was not willing to take hers. Her willingness to take his life did not exceed the reward of the drugs and the impending court case and her own morals. It was dangerous. But it resulted in the robbery failing – and nobody dying. She has already learned that there are people out there that are both not willing to kill you dead, but also not willing to cooperate with your demands.

    If he shot her – he may have regretted it always after simply because it may not have been a real gun, and even if it was, she may have been unwilling to really use it. I’m sure this crossed his mind either during or before the encounter.

    His morals and his courage exceeded his fear. Liking it.

  10. Nope. To the best of my understanding in TN, there has to be an imminent threat and in my mind saying you’ve got a gun in the bag doesn’t cross that threshold unless and until you brandish the weapon (or perhaps start pointing the bag around).

    If I were the pharmacist, I’d have had my pistol on me, not somewhere behind the counter. Unless you are faster than 1100fps, best have it in reach.

  11. I’ll take an individual at their word if I have the reasonable belief that innocent life is in imminent and otherwise unavoidable danger or death or great bodily injury.

    You should too.

    John

  12. As for me, I would not have shot until i physically saw a gun. But I would not condemned any who would have shot her under the circumstances. This was one of the damned if you do and damned if you don’t situations. The safest way would be to shoot.

  13. I would do basically what this guy did. Check for an accomplice, get to a good position (nobody behind the perp), a bit of cover/concealment for me, put a green dot from my Crimson Trace on the chest or head and hope he/she doesn’t do anything stupid.

    I would not give chase beyond my door.

  14. All but 1 pharmacy is chain owned in a 30 mile range. The 3 that, are open 24 hours have no security, 2 of the pharmacists even wear garments that the home office doesn’t. Stupid as hell that Kevlar is prohibited, no gate or plastic spinner. The armed security at the hospital carries pistols more dangerous than the crooks. I see a hi-point I worry, especially when bangers carry Glock.

  15. He explained himself wonderfully. To paraphrase G.K. Chesterton, ” A man carries a gun not because he hates those in front of him, but because he loves those behind him”

  16. Is her hand on the bag, and is she threatening to shoot me, like right now?
    Then I might consider her worth 230 grains of high speed medication.
    If her hand is outside of the bag, no.

    Pin a badge on me and all that changes. Then, if I ask her for her insurance card and she “makes a furtive movement” towards her pocketbook, I have to shoot her.

  17. In concept, not until they at least tried to reach for it. In reality–depends on the circumstances, as noted elsewhere./

  18. As far as I can tell from the video, at the very least the woman has her bag in hand and at the worst, she has her hand in the bag. Either condition satisfies the “reasonable fear” standard in my book and justifies deadly force.

    Even in the condition where she only has her hand on the bag, she could reach in and fire through the bag in one second … typically faster than anyone’s reaction time much less anyone’s reaction time plus time to draw and put rounds on target.

  19. It comes down to what a jury would believe is reasonable. If the claim that there is a gun in the bag is credible and it appears that she is capable of accessing it and posing a threat, then you should shoot her.

  20. If someone is robbing you and says “I have a gun” it is a direct threat on your life, they are saying “I am going to kill you”. So yes I’d draw and shoot and they’d have whatever is my reaction time is between drawing aiming and shooting to decide to abort my murder and their robbery and run away.

  21. Just like I would not have sex with someone who claimed to have chlamydia, yes, i would shoot someone who threatened me and claimed to have a gun

  22. If the story is as said – she claimed a gun in the bag on the counter and I had mine aimed at her head – the no, I wouldn’t shoot. At least not immediately. If she tried to draw or give me similar reason for fear, then yes, I fire.

  23. Although he likely has the law behind him and although many would shoot justifiably, for me…no way. If I have time to get my firearm up and ready with a good grip, cover and chosen line of fire before she clears leather, I’m not shooting, no matter what anyone believes or teaches. If I need to, I will make the shot.

  24. My suggestion is to be D*MN sure you know the local law regarding this sort of thing. Specifically, know where the “trigger points” are for legally approved use of deadly force when the robber:
    – doesn’t show you a gun but says he had one; and
    – shows a gun but doesn’t point it at someone immediately (aka brandishing) when combined with a robbery attempt.

    Then, knowing that, think about what you are, or are not, willing to do before you’re actually in the situation.

  25. Are they committing a felony? Yes? I shoot, period. I’m in Missouri as well, there would be no legal ramifications for defending yourself from a lethal threat during commission of a felony. Isn’t Roberts mantra don’t draw on a drawn gun? Why risk your life?

  26. Cast iron balls on this guy. Didn’t let his adrenaline over come him. Good for him. If my day comes I hope to be as collected as he was.

  27. The pharmacist states everyone selling drugs should have a gun, yup just ask the dealers on the corners because they for sure are not rocket scientists.

    • “…just ask the dealers on the corners because they for sure are not rocket scientists.”

      True, the dealers are just un-documented pharmacists…

  28. I live in a state where you can open/conceal carry without a permit. So, gun or no gun, if someone is willing to risk their life by threatening yours then I would take them seriously and respond in kind.

  29. SHOOT.

    If you find yourself in a fair fight, you did not plan well.

    Explaining to the Police what happened beats being embalmed any day.

  30. Apply the reasonable-man standard to the ability, opportunity, and jeopardy apparent in the given circumstances. That’s a long-winded way to say, “it depends.”

    Whether or not justified in these specific circircumstances, there is nothing inherently unreasonable about believing a threat of an unseen gun to be credible enough to justify the use of deadly force in self-defense.

  31. Put that pocket pistol in a holster. They make very inexpensive
    holsters for pocket carry.

    Oh and I don’t know if I would of shot her in the face or not.

  32. Question: Why would a robber say “I have a gun” as a form of intimidation, when pointing it at the victim would surely make the point better?

    Answer: Because the robber is also a liar.

    Besides, as we’ve just seen, a gun in the hand beats a gun in a bag.

  33. If she is pointing the article represented as a gun at him, he would be justified in shooting. He is not obligated to figure out exactly what she’s doing If he has reason to believe she will shoot.

    That said, it’s always better to not shoot than to shoot. It’s good that he didn’t have to, and he obviously would not have been justified in shooting while in pursuit.

  34. I won’t judge the guy who was there, in the situation, and achieved the best possible outcome. Two things I was thinking was, 1) As someone else said, I would have had the .45 on me or just use the BUG I did have. He took a chance there. and 2) I would have considered pretending to go back and get her the drugs and then taking cover with gun out. He might have been in a stronger position.

    I think KenB raises a good point about accomplices. I didn’t think of that (I should have!) reading the story. There is always the possibility there is someone else in the store, backing the robber up. He could have gotten shot from the side while covering her. Another reason to retreat and take cover.

    I will avoid shooting if there is any way I reasonably can. The fact that I legally can shoot doesn’t mean it’s the way to go. But if I feel it’s them or me, I won’t hesitate.

  35. I would have shot her 10/10 times. To the extent of my knowledge, she is pointing a gun at me, with the intent of using it. She should expect her threats to be taken seriously.

  36. Given the headlines in the “shoots unarmed teen” vein, I’d likely hold off shooting. You maybe right and legal but, the press doesn’t care.
    Likely the most dangerous point would be when she ran. Was the movement towards her gun or to escape? Assuming she grabbed bag and ran, there’s a split second when a shot hits her front. Otherwise it’s a shot in the back. Not good for your defense.

  37. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out if you’re selling drugs in this day and age you should have a gun on you,” he said.

    Quote of the day! How much do you want to bet that gets taken out of context by the antis?

  38. I was taught in my CCW class (in Michigan) that the standard looked at in court for a justifiable shooting is “would a reasonable person feel that he or she, in the same circumstances, was in imminent danger of serious bodily harm or death”. It seems to me if a criminal says that he or she has a gun, and it looks as though they could very well have one (is that a finger pushing the coat pocket out? Or is it really a gun? And are you willing to bet your life that is isn’t a gun?), that criminal would be willing to use it and therefore is putting your life in danger. Therefore, a situation that justifies a defensive shooting more than likely.

    • This is certainly the standard that police use in Dayton and Cleveland, OH, and in CA, when shooting people holding plastic replicas and air rifles. It is the standard taught in the VA CCW class as well. Someone trying to steal oxy and threatening the pharmacist and the employee — he would be justified if he shot, more so if her hands moved toward the bag. Interesting how in the original article from KCMO the correspondent did not make the perp out as some sort of victim; might not have been the case in other communities.

    • There are a lot of variables, she’s not robbing a grocery store to feed her kids, she’s robbing a Pharmacy for Oxycontin to feed her habits. That alone would justify shooting her. Its a shame that she is driven either by her own addiction, or for someone else, to rob a Pharmacy. I have seen people because of addiction, living in Hellish conditions. I am just glad I am not one of them.

  39. “…A masked woman confronts Spallito demanding all the Oxycontin in the store. She said that she had a gun in the bag that she was carrying, and placed the bag on the counter…”

    So she said she had a gun in her bag, which she placed on the counter.

    Why not just grab the bag and say “Thanks for the free gun, dumbass?”

  40. It comes back to “it depends”. That man obviously didn’t feel in fear of his life, or he would have shot.

  41. As for giving chase:

    1. I’m Pete the Pharmacist, and I work for CVS.
    Once she leave the store, she’s not my problem at all.

    2. I’m Pete the Pharmacist, and my last name is on the sign in front of the store. She tried to rob MY STORE!
    More of a judgment call. I put myself at risk if I pursue, but I can’t bear the thought of some biotch robbing my store and getting away to try it again. I can see why he did it.

  42. Pretend you are hard of hearing and get as close as possible safely. Then quickly pull your gun and place the muzzle on her forehead and tell her if she moves you are going to shoot. If she does move (90% chance of trying to run away) then your gun is in a great place to quickly shoot her in the left or right shoulder.

  43. No. Legal or not, a mere claim is not sufficient evidence that this person represents a genuine threat to my life and limb. I don’t think I could handle having shot someone under those circumstances and it turned out that they were not armed.

    Wait, hang on. Here i’m picturing some jackwagon who is simply extremely upset in a verbal altercation and has lost all control over what they say.

    If this person is trying to otherwise victimize me in some way, robbery etc…, then that is a whole different ball of wax. If legal I just might.

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