When counseling our members on how to prepare for the aftermath of self defense, we tell clients to expect certain things:
Expect the police to treat you like a criminal.
Expect to be handcuffed.
Expect to be questioned at length.
Expect to have your words examined in detail.
Expect to be taken to jail.
It’s not that all these things will certainly happen, but . . .
we recommend that you expect them to happen. Expect the worst so that if it happens, you’re prepared. If things go better than you expect, consider that a blessing.
One other thing you can expect is to have your gun secured by police the moment they arrive on the scene. They don’t know you. They don’t know for sure what has happened or who is telling the truth. And for their own safety, they will almost certainly disarm you immediately.
You should surrender your weapon upon request, following law enforcement’s instructions to the letter.
Remember, all that the police are sure of when they arrive is that something bad has happened. If you have a gun, they won’t know whether you’re the good guy or the bad guy until they investigate. So this is not the time to lecture authorities about your rights or insist that you did nothing wrong.
Police investigations are a step-by-step process. And step one in any shooting is to secure the scene, which includes securing all weapons.
Not only should you surrender your weapon immediately upon request, you should make sure that you do NOT have your gun in your hand when the police arrive. It’s possible, of course, that you have called 911 and are holding a gun on a bad guy, but this isn’t the situation you want to be in.
Unless you are a member of law enforcement or you personally know the responding officers, having a firearm in your hand will put police into “red alert” mode. You will likely face multiple officers with guns drawn and pointed at you. And any misunderstood movement on your part could have tragic results.
Once again, being the good guy isn’t the point. The responding officers don’t know who the good guy is. If you have a gun in your hand, they will only know that they are arriving at the scene of a shooting and see a guy with a gun. You watch the news. You know what can happen next.
So assuming the police have arrived and you have cooperated fully with them as they secure the scene, they now have your firearm in their possession. Will you get your gun back? Maybe. Maybe not.
You should prepare yourself for the possibility that even in the very best situation, where it is obvious that you are the good guy and you have legally defended yourself, the police may seize your gun and not return it to you. Why? Because that is the policy in many police departments.
Consider the case of Cleveland resident Derrick J. Washington. He didn’t even use his gun. He merely reported a shooting. Yet Cleveland police seized his gun and refused to return it to him.
From the news site MediaTrackers:
According to Cleveland Division of Police records obtained by Media Trackers, Washington called emergency responders to report having heard gunshots in the area of a nearby traffic accident.
When police arrived on the scene to investigate, they arrested the witness as well as the individuals involved in the two-vehicle collision.
Incorrectly believing there was an outstanding warrant for Washington’s arrest, Cleveland police searched his car, confiscating his pistol and concealed handgun license without a search warrant.
Washington was held in detention for illegally carrying a concealed weapon and using a weapon while intoxicated, despite the fact that his legally-owned firearm — a Taurus .38 special revolver — was found secured in a gun locker in his car, not on his person.
Washington spent the next 2 days and 3 nights in jail before police investigators concluded, after two rounds of information-gathering and deliberations with the city’s assistant prosecutor, that there was “insufficient evidence” to charge him with any crime.
After Washington was finally released, his gun remained in the possession of the City of Cleveland, with police citing a local law enabling police officers to confiscate any firearm which they believe might be used to cause bodily harm against them, until the item is “released by an order of a court of competent jurisdiction.”
At the time of this writing, Mr. Washington has spent about 9 months fighting the city, including filing a lawsuit, to retrieve his gun.
Is this right? No. Does it happen anyway? Yes.
Expect it. This is the reality of the world we live in today. And this is why Second Call Defense includes “gun retrieval or replacement” as one of our key benefits for our top membership levels. If you’re involved in a self defense incident and authorities won’t return your gun to you when it’s all over, we will either get it back or buy you a new one.
Preparing to defend yourself physically is a very practical endeavor. You prepare to do what you need to do to survive. Likewise, preparing for the legal aftermath is also a practical matter. Expect the worst case scenario and be prepared to deal with it.