The exact circumstances of this shooting in Anniston, Alabama are a little uncertain. One source says that Malachi Hicks, the robbery suspect, was running away when he was shot by an employee of Betty’s Bar-B-Q armed with a 1911 in .45 ACP. The Anniston Police Chief, Shane Denham had this to say [via annistonstar.com]:
Denham said Hicks was apparently lying in wait as employees were closing the restaurant for the evening. Hicks was armed with a .22 caliber pistol, Denham said.
“He forced his way into the back of the business and got that night’s proceeds,” Denham said.
Denham said that as the crime occurred, one employee ran out the front of the business to where his parents were parked to pick him up. Upon hearing of the robbery, the employee’s father grabbed a .45 caliber pistol, confronted Hicks behind the building, then shot him multiple time [as he attempted to escape].
The legality of shooting at someone running away depends on the circumstances and the jurisdiction. Texas, for example, has special provisions if a theft occurs at night on your own property, where a reasonable person would believe that shooting the thief was necessary to prevent the loss of movable property. In most states, you are within your rights to use deadly force if someone’s in the process of kidnapping an innocent.
Generally speaking, if a bad guy has moved far enough away that they’re no longer a threat, shooting at them is a bad idea. If you’re in a densely populated area, you might hit, injure or kill an innocent bystander. But there’s another situation where juries and prosecutors usually agree that shooting a fleeing perp is reasonable: where the the armed defender has been threatened with a weapon that’s effective at a distance. Such as a gun.
A good guy with a gun cannot know if a bad guy who’s threatened them with a gun who’s moving away is retreating or making a tactical move to get to cover or a better position from which to shoot. It’s not uncommon for criminals to fire backwards toward pursuers, to cover their escape. They are still a deadly threat.
We do not know how the prosecutor in this case will rule. Anniston is a town of about 23,000, home to the Anniston Army Depot, which employs 3,400 people. I doubt that the man with the .45 will be charged.
©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included. Link to Gun Watch