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Editor’s Note: In yesterday’s related article, “First Contact: An Armed Citizen’s Guide on What To Do When Calling 911,” we touched on what a gun owner or anyone who is forced to defend themselves, needs to know before dialing 911 and how to properly handle such a call so as to avoid saying something that can get them in trouble with police or prosecutors. Today, we touch on what to do and say when the police arrive on the scene.

 

WAITING FOR POLICE

“Keep things as static as you can until authorities arrive,” is the advice Georgia attorney Matt Kilgo says. “Don’t talk to anyone else that you don’t want to become a possible witness. Control the narrative. Don’t make more witnesses who may be un­predictable on the witness stand. Talk to your lawyer instead.”

And no, don’t drag any bodies inside the house or place a weapon closer to an incapacitated attacker, as some people jokingly suggest.

“I don’t recommend touching the body at all,” Kilgo advises. Disturbing evidence suggests guilt and heightens the chances of being charged with another crime. You’ll make a mess of your floors as well as your case.

Some attorneys caution against giv­ing medical aid to the offender. First, because trying to resuscitate someone you just shot may cut against the claim that you felt threatened. But also, a sly prosecutor could suggest it shows consciousness of guilt. And from a practical standpoint, you never know if the perpetrator is alone or if there are others, so staying vigilant until police arrive is critical.

SILENCE IS GOLDEN

It may not feel natural to call for help, and then fall completely silent as a 911 operator asks you for details on the other end of the line. Police, when they arrive, might not be happy about it either, but that’s not your problem. Your job is to look out for yourself, not them. You’re protecting yourself from a future trial, and for that, silence never hurts and talking rarely helps.

Provide 911 with the necessary details and then hang up. David Burnett Photo

There are many reasons for this.

First, because you can. Silence is an ironclad right recognized by the justice system as belonging to every potential defendant. You can’t get in trouble for staying silent. Prosecutors can’t even tell the jury you refused to talk.

Second, because silence is your first weapon in protecting yourself now that you will become embroiled in the justice system. It isn’t sexy and doesn’t come in blued finish or adjustable night sights, but it does provide the time every person needs to process such a traumatic situation and then go through the scenario first with their attorney to make sure their story is accurate and true to the details so the truth can be properly relayed.

Third, you know this from the crime shows, any statement you make can be used against you in court. That’s es­pecially true right after events happen since people in general, certainly ju­ries, assume you’re more truthful when you’ve had less time to concoct a story.

“The only thing you can do is make the facts worse,” says Kilgo. “Silence will make them better. Don’t speak in a way that undermines your actions. The only person you should speak to is the person who has your best interests at heart—your lawyer.” Remember, your right to speak to an attorney and remain silent are not just for criminals. These rights are protected by the U.S. Constitution for everybody.

Fourth, because you are likely to make a mistake, and even an honest mistake could spell trouble for your court case.

“Adrenaline is not a truth serum,” Kilgo adds. “In the heat of the moment, humans experience tunnel vision, memory occlusion and elevated vital signs.” There’s virtually zero chance your perception, memory and recall will all be intact and functional after the most savage and excitable mo­ments of your life.

Don’t talk to police until you have an attorney present. You are more likely to harm your case if you do. Michael Borden Photo

CLOSING ARGUMENTS

Even if you survive a deadly force encounter, the biggest fight of your life may still be ahead of you. Don’t as­sume it won’t happen to you, and don’t assume your wellbeing is the priority for 911 operators, police, prosecutors, judges or jury. Yes, maybe you know your local sheriff and he’s a good egg. But maybe it’s also an election year and maybe you only get one vote.

In the end, there isn’t a universal formula for what to do in a defensive shooting. If there was, you wouldn’t need a lawyer. There’s an infinite number of possibilities, and you can’t what-if them all. Instead, stick to the general principles laid out in this article. Re-read it if you can and share it with members of your household. Train up like you would at the range.

 

RELATED STORY: First Contact: An Armed Citizen’s Guide on What To Do When Calling 911

 

Article courtesy of U.S. LawShield (Disclosure: U.S. LawShield is a sister company of TTAG.)

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21 COMMENTS

    • “have you ever had the feeling that you have never been somewhere before?

      Vuja de?

      George Carlin, R.I.P…. 🙁

  1. “Adrenaline is not a truth serum,’ Kilgo adds. ‘In the heat of the moment, humans experience tunnel vision, memory occlusion and elevated vital signs.’ There’s virtually zero chance your perception, memory and recall will all be intact and functional after the most savage and excitable mo­ments of your life.”

    all part of whats called the ‘stress response’ AKA ‘fight or flight’.

    The stress response, as I have pointed out previously > https://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/guns-for-beginners-never-shoot-to-kill/#comment-6729367

    • Not likely I’m calling 911. My local po-leece AND fire have gotten fairly pathetic. The probably non citizen boy’s next door were burning wood in the backyard & my wife called 5-0(it’s illegal here). They sent TWO firetrucks & an ambulance for some dumb reason next door. 5-0 didn’t believe me when shot’s were fired across the street on a snowy Halloween night 2019. My wife & son also saw it. I won’t go into(a lot!) more but suffice to say I’m on my own🙄

      • Well, I’ve seen some people say they had to use their gun and when they brandished the bad guy ran off so they didn’t bother calling 911.

        But the problem with that is, if the bad guy decides to call 911 first and you don’t. It would go like “I was a mindn my own bizness and dis dude pulled a gun on me.” or say someone saw part of what happened and doesn’t understand the context because they didn’t see everything and their 911 call goes like this “there’s a guy out here that was gonna shoot some guy.” …. and the next thing you know the cops are rolling up guns drawn approaching you.

        Its happened.

  2. “Silence is an ironclad right recognized by the justice system as belonging to every potential defendant. You can’t get in trouble for staying silent. Prosecutors can’t even tell the jury you refused to talk. ”

    It depends doesn’t it?

    SCOTUS In a 5-4 decision in Salinas v. Texas in 2013 the Supreme Court majority asserted that a person claiming the benefit of the Fifth Amendment’s privilege “must claim it” and a person does not normally claim the privilege by remaining silent.

    According to the decision one must ‘speak’ their intent to invoke their right to remain silent to keep police and prosecutors from using the silence as evidence of guilt.

    But in DAVIS v. UNITED STATES, 512 U.S. 452 (1994) SCOTUS held that an invocation is sufficient so long as “a reasonable police officer, in the circumstances, would understand the statement to be a request for an attorney.”

    So a simple statement of “I will be happy to cooperate. But first I need to speak to my attorney.” should be sufficient to invoke your right to remain silent and keep the police and a prosecutor from using the silence as an indicator of guilt, right?

    “I will be glad to cooperate. But first I need to speak to my attorney.” is what I have used in several self-defense incidents and what I’ve been advised to use by attorneys.

  3. When I was teaching CCW classes I would have the students repeat this like a mantra. “Officer, I want to cooperate with your investigation. However, I decline to answer any questions, or make any statements until I speak with an attorney.” One thing to remember. After asking for an attorney LE cannot question you, but if you start talking on your own they can stand there and listen. Anything you say can be used against you.

  4. Deadly Force? Just make sure it’s a clear case of Good vs evil otherwise I.E. you could wind up like the McMichaels and their camera pal or the incompetent clown who killed a woman who turned down the wrong driveway.

  5. Get a lawyer(must be nice)
    Poor people get a public defender(not so nice)
    Rich people can buy their way out of jail( OJ Simpson)
    Poor people can’t(numerous victims)
    And I’ve never been very pleased with the jail house one phone call either. It’s a “Will you accept this call from-possum possum-Fckersville County Department of Corrections.” And only by credit card if the called party does accept. 86% of the time the jail house phone doesn’t work so while the person is trying to enter their credit card number the phone hangs up. That was your phone call.
    Now through some doors. And presto.
    Once in gin pop and if you’ve got a public defender you can forget about him ever answering your (cell) phone calls. Nope, your shts in the wind till court. He doesn’t come visit you like on TV to get your story, he reads the report, maybe.
    Attorney on retainer, uhh yeah, hamburger is $14 a pound.
    Justice isn’t blind nor fair
    $$$$
    Without money I think a being is better off dead then having to go through the hell of a legal system that is bent on convictions instead of justice.
    Remember, even if you shute a bad guy to try and save a cops life ‘they’ still persecute you.
    Kyle Rittenhouse was damned lucky.

      • Rittenhouse: stellar qualities when young, shows great promise of improvement with age.

        Oh, if you’re actually really talking about rye whiskey, let me recommend Willett Family Estate Rye. It’s a bump upward in price but not stupid expensive. Very, very nice for $80 (in Florida).

  6. I’m gonna represent myself if I ever have to. I’ve watched every episode of Perry Mason and Murder She Wrote and I’m workin thru Matlock. I’m good.

    • Can I be a doctor???

      Can, I? Can I ppplease?

      I’ve watched EVERY episode of Doggie Hoser, House, and Quincy ME, at least TWICE!!

  7. It is far easier to invoke your right to remain silent if you never call 911. This is particularly true if the shooting occurs inside your own home. There is no risk of getting videoed on someone else’s surveillance system. Just let the carcass bleed out in the bathtub then haul it out somewhere remote to dump it.

  8. It seems to me that this is largely good advice.

    I have also read other guidelines which encourage pointing out evidence to responding police to bolster your case of self-defense. For example suppose that your attacker had a knife and threw the knife a significant distance after you present your firearm in self-defense and start shooting. It is anyone’s guess how devoted responding police will be to thoroughly searching the area. And even if they are devoted, who knows if they will find a knife 50 feet away in weeds or brush when they have no idea that a knife is over there? Of course in that scenario it is extremely helpful to your defense if police find your attacker’s knife with his/her fingerprints and/or DNA.

    I seems to me that it is kind of a crap-shoot whether or not pointing out evidence or even witnesses would help or hinder your defense.

    • I know of a case in which an older, African American gentleman was accosted by multiple assailants outside of a restaurant. They struck him with a steel pipe, inflicting a significant but not lethal or incapacitating injury. The African American gentleman responded by shooting him. The police were called. Although the injury was obvious, they refused to look for the pipe. The African American gentleman was arrested and charged. Fortunately; the man’s friends searched the area and found the pipe in some bushes. They were smart enough to not disturb it before summoning the police and observed and documented the collection of this exculpatory evidence. Charges were dropped.

      Unfortunately; you might not have friends to ensure that exculpatory evidence is noticed and collected. Given a situation where there are no witnesses or video surveillance, not calling 911 might be the worst choice.

    • Yes, when the police arrive, point out things (evidence) they need to see, and point out which witnesses were there (if possible). Give them a rough timeline – pointing out that it is rough. Give them a tiny bit more than the bare bones you gave the 911 dispatcher.

      BTW, I don’t know how I would handle any video footage under my control (like I own the business or it’s my own home). I’m not sure “Get a warrant, copper” is a good response, nor is “You can have it after I talk to my lawyer.” But I’m also not sure I want to give them a dump that might include all sorts of things outside of the incident.

  9. I believe this article we series should also include advice on what to do with your firearm before the police arrive. As we’ve seen, when arriving on a scene, possibly with conflicting and/or confusing information, police may react in unpredictable and dangerous ways when they see a gun, and may not realize who is the “law abiding citizen”, who is the victim and who is the perp.

  10. After 23 years as a peace officer I assure you that when the police arrive if you do not successfully articulate a reason you shot the person you WILL be arrested. IF you do not choose to speak you will be arrested. Dont make a mistake and say something stupid but outline the events. It is easy not to arrest someone but damn hard to un arrest a suspect!

    On the other hand if you have done something wrong or you are at fault, then yes, keep your mouth shut.

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