atlanta-dollar-store-shooting-cash-register-2016

On November 21 in Atlanta, Georgia, an armed robber tried to knock over a Family Dollar store. He was wounded twice for his efforts, then arrested. He’s lucky to have survived.

From 11alive.com:

Atlanta Police say the man walked into the store around 9:55 p.m., pulled a gun and demanded the contents of the store’s cash register.

As the robber was leaving the store with the cash register itself, an Atlanta Police spokesman said one of the store’s employees pulled a personal handgun and shot the suspect in the hand and thigh. Police then arrived on the scene and took the suspect into custody without any incident.

It appears that the suspect never fired a shot. This was, in part, because of good tactical judgment on the part of the defender who shot him. A robber who displays a gun doesn’t cease being a threat because he appears to be walking away. A deadly shot can be fired in a fraction of a second.

Defenders should be thinking about when to act in a defensive situation. In some situations, there are few choices. In others, you have more options. If a criminal is attempting to gain compliance, the possibility of an advantageous time or circumstance is high.

It’s difficult for criminals to keep focused on all possible threats at all times. Their attention may be diverted by an opening door. They may allow an unarmed accomplice to intervene between them and their victim. Even a glance in another direction is enough to allow a practiced individual to draw and fire.

It’s not uncommon for a suspect to focus their attention on their main object: the loot. Some have even put down their guns to better grab more cash.

In the Family Dollar store in Atlanta, the defender waited until the suspect’s hands were full with the cash register. This didn’t stop the suspect from being a threat, but it helped to make any response slow and ineffective.

Each situation will be different. Consider your options. If you decide to make a move, time it to your advantage. Thinking through possibilities before a situation occurs, playing what-if games, will give you a number of pre-considered options and make your response faster and more effective.

©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

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33 Responses to Self-Defense Tip: Timing Is Everything.

  1. How does this look as far as “imminent threat”? Guys hands are full, he’s leaving with cash. You shoot him in the back, side etc.

    I’m not suggesting this was bad, just wondering. Any internet lawyers?

    • In my jurisdiction, the suspect disengaged voluntarily, was retreating, was no longer an imminent threat (which is the only condition that justifies use of deadly force….of any kind). The concept of “might still be a threat” is not entertained.

      Caveat: Observation based solely on the information presented in the post and link; YMMV

      • It does not seem that he “disengaged” to me. He was well within range of a handgun, he had threatened deadly force with a handgun, and was momentarily using his hands for another purpose.

        Would you say the same thing about the person who feigned surrender against the guy with the AK 47 pistol in Atlanta? As we saw in that case, “retreat” was simply a ruse.

        • What I “think” is irrelevant in court, here. When someone has a gun/knife pointed at you, advancing, you might be able to sustain “justifiable” shooting. If the suspect is no longer facing you, no longer advancing, putting distance between you and him/herself, drops the weapon, is diverted to something else, “justifiable” becomes very difficult to sustain. Law does not consider every possible outcome regarding threats. “Imminent” has a definitive meaning (refined/re-defined, case-by-case). It is possible that if you were robbed at gunpoint, and the robber turned away, or was distracted, you might be “justified” in presenting your firearm as a deterrent to further danger. However, if you shoot, you may be charged. All this should be considerations put into the OODA loop….prior to ever having to actually OODA.

        • It is certainly possible. Much depends on the jurisdiction that you are in, and the authorities involved. The vast majority of the cases that I observe, do not charge the defender in such situations. It can happen. I do not recall the last time I heard of such a situation. I think I read of one such in a Massad Ayoob book, 20 years ago.

        • Four years ago, we had several publicized self-defense events over a few months. In each case, the defender was arrested under multiple charges (maintaining a nuisance, discharge of a firearm, reckless endangerment, attempted manslaughter, and one or two I don’t remember. The events all happened in residences. The liberal press accidentally exposed themselves and fellow-travelers by asking police and DAs why the “victims” (defenders) were arrested for defending their lives. The authorities flatly stated (and the media reported) that guns in the hands of private citizens were unsafe and unwelcomed. The authorities wanted to rid all gunowners of their firearms. Charging the “victims” was one way to do so, because even if exhonorated, the citizens would be financially ruined, cowed into never using their guns again (with the downstream effect of preventig others from armed self-defense). And that was the whole point. Eventually, all but one defender was found “Not Guilty”. The exception shot people stealing his truck right in front of his face, driving away.

          The reason for the submission here was to put things on the table for consideration, not for support of not being armed.

          Many times on this blog people bluster about judged by 12, rather than carried by 6. Sound terrific, except when anti-gunners get to choose the 12, which is almost all the time.

        • It really depends on where you are. I follow most of the published self defense shootings. I certainly do not get them all, but of the ones that are published, I believe I see a good sample. The number of people who are charged in such cases are vanishingly small. It can happen, but I am trying to remember a case where it did. If the person shot does not have a gun or other weapon, I see a few. If they have only a contact weapon, such as a knife or club, it happens, but is less common.

          Even in New Jersey, I have seen a couple of cases recently where an armed employee shot a robbery suspect, and there were no charges..

          Thanks for your contributions. They are well thought out and they add to the discussion.

        • Thanks, Dean.

          So far, this topic has been a discussion all around, for all the contributors; refreshing, indeed.

        • Sam I Am,

          I hear what you are saying and I still disagree. Now if the robber had dropped his handgun on the floor, was something like 20+ feet away, and retreating, I would agree with you. A robber who just threatened you and still has a handgun in his pocket is still a credible, imminent threat of death or grievous bodily harm in my opinion.

          I can imagine some prosecutors might still attempt to convict the defender. And I imagine almost all juries would be hung.

          Of course we don’t know for sure.

        • “A robber who just threatened you and still has a handgun in his pocket is still a credible, imminent threat of death or grievous bodily harm in my opinion.”
          – There is no personal disagreement here, but the law is not our friend.

          “I can imagine some prosecutors might still attempt to convict the defender. And I imagine almost all juries would be hung.”
          – Possibly, but the cost of defense, in every way, should never be discounted.

          Given the zillions of personal interactions between all the people in the country, the odds of me needing a firearm for defense is near-zero. Given all the interactions I have with the public in my town, the odds of me needing a firearm for defense is greater than zero, but statistically negligible/insignificant. The risk/reward analysis must be influenced by the potential for personal legal/financial disaster when being legally correct. The required analysis and conclusion is not a sufficient element in the decision to “gun-up”, but it does require careful planning for adverse outcomes. In every way imaginable, the horror starts when the shooting stops.

        • I think what Sam is telling us is that, in his jurisdiction, any private citizen who uses a gun to defend himself/herself in such a circumstance is most likely going to be prosecuted by politicized DA. In the absence of more specific laws protecting victims, private citizens will continue to be vulnerable to be seen as criminals for defending themselves. It ain’t fair, ain’t right, it just is.

      • He wa only attempting to make his get away, but that’s still part of his assault with a deadly weapon. A get away is not a signal that he wants to disengage from hostilities, only that he’s more focused on the get away at the moment. If ge found that store’s front door had since been remotely locked, I guarantee you’d see him actively attack or threaten whomever had the ability to unlock it. He hadn’t given up criminal violence whatsoever.

        The wisdom of Texas law recognizes this: you may use deadly force on a thief fleeing with your property.

        • “The wisdom of Texas law recognizes this: you may use deadly force on a thief fleeing with your property.”

          Yes, the laws are different everywhere; the point of my cautions.

          In my town/state, shooting at a fleeing robber/burglar will get you a murder charge. When the perp turns away, you are no longer in “imminent” danger. As I noted, “might still be a threat” will not fly in every jurisdiction.

          It is unwise for people to equate what they think is right with being “right” under the law. National reciprocity for concealed carry poses a number of dangers for gun owners not familiar with every state, municipal, township gun laws.

          To borrow a phrase, “right” in our own eyes does not make us “right” everywhere, at all times.

        • And, the questions being addressed are legitimate, for a change. 2A does not give anyone the right to present their weapons, nor to fire them at anyone or anything. The states are within their authority to prosecute if you use a chair to brain someone who is using a machine gun to murder hundreds. That’s what elections are intended to address. Voting for free stuff in place of freedom earns us exactly this.

    • Jurisdiction is the relevant point. In Texas the shooter didn’t need to worry about imminent threat. The theft/robbery was enough.
      Sec. 9.43. PROTECTION OF THIRD PERSON’S PROPERTY. A person is justified in using force or deadly force against another to protect land or tangible, movable property of a third person if, under the circumstances as he reasonably believes them to be, the actor would be justified under Section 9.41 or 9.42 in using force or deadly force to protect his own land or property and:
      (1) the actor reasonably believes the unlawful interference constitutes attempted or consummated theft of or criminal mischief to the tangible, movable property

  2. “Defenders should be thinking about when to act in a defensive situation.”

    People who are, or who are planning to concealed carry should try to get the ‘lay of the land’, so to speak on how the local prosecutors view armed defense.

    An area like mine (central Florida) isn’t usually a problem, but for some areas, they may have an un-offical policy to charge the defender and ‘let the court sort it out’, so to speak.

    That could have a serious impact on your wallet and family, even if you did nothing legally wrong,

    That is one of my biggest worries about ’50 state reciprocity’, how a concealed carrier gets treated for a legitimate shoot in a Democrat-controlled city that hates gun rights like NYC…

    • “they may have an un-offical policy to charge the defender and ‘let the court sort it out”

      Good! In fact, in Houston, it isn’t an unofficial policy. It is policy and also the law. The law part is that in order to prosecute someone for a felony, they must be indicted. It begins with an arrest, but if the grand jury no bills you, you’re free.

      Your point is more about the original arrest and whether the prosecutor alone can rule it justified and that’s that. In Texas, the policy part is that every homicide where the responsible party is known goes to the grand jury.

      That’s the way it should be. I don’t want cops on the curbside at three A.M. deciding who gets charged or not. Neither do I want some overworked ADA making that call in a back office somewhere.

      Ultimately, when there’s a dead body, I want an impartial grand jury of citizens taking a look at that and deciding whether to indict. I know, it’s a lengthy, expensive process for an open and shut case of a good guy with a gun. Why not just cut him some slack? Because that grants way too much prosecutorial discretion. Guilty people slip by and innocent people get railroaded into full trials that way. Let the grand jury decide.

      • ” The law part is that in order to prosecute someone for a felony, they must be indicted. It begins with an arrest, but if the grand jury no bills you, you’re free.”

        I’m not (much) concerned with how I would likely be treated in Texas on a defensive gun use.

        I’m *very* concerned with a jurisdiction that would slow-walk it as much as possible, to send a *message* about you bringing and using your lawfully carried weapon into their turf. The message being, they will legally (and happily) destroy your life (bankruptcy, etc.) for JUST EXERCISING A CIVIL RIGHT.

        I want 50 state carry.

        It will, however, open up a big-assed can of some very* big* problems.

        We need to be very careful what we wish for. We may well get it…

      • The prosecution has control over who is seated on the grand jury and over the information used to make their decision. In short, a prosecutor can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich because the grand jury is just a rubber stamp for whatever the prosecutor wants to do.

  3. Would it not be more sensible, if the clerk has his gun out, up, and on the perp, to simply keep his gun on the criminal so long as the perp’s hands are full and he is walking away from the clerk, with full hands. The instant he starts to turn or appears to free a hand and go for his gun, stopping him cold would seem justified.

    There may be key details in the clerk’s reality that remain untold in the facts we are given.

    This isn’t, obviously, an opinion of law, but simply a reflection on this, that we ought to minimize our trouble until forced to bear the burden of possible litigation. If the clerk doesn’t trust his shooting skills, all the more reason to avoid shooting. Of course we should remember the increasingly well-known meme among criminals, that they can try closing the distance to an armed victim by backing up to him: That’s a different matter, one in which shooting the perp in the back is unavoidably the just action.

    • “Would it not be more sensible, if the clerk has his gun out, up, and on the perp, to simply keep his gun on the criminal so long as the perp’s hands are full and he is walking away from the clerk, with full hands.”

      Could be, for you young operational operators operating operationally. For OFWGs like me, firing a gun designed to be effective at very close range, drawandfire is one word. In the above description, the second he turned (assuming he is right beside me) I would pop him instantly, a couple of times center mass, with the alternative of not presenting at all, just let him go. Hoping, of course, that he did not then enter the business next door and murder my friend there.

  4. An iffy shoot. A citizen should probably get a pass. A cop should spend the rest of his life in prison for a shoot like this.

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