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One of the most vexing questions facing a concealed carrier: when should I pull my gun? Too early and you’re looking at a brandishing charge. Too late and you’re dead. Same goes for firing your firearm – except the penalty for early withdrawal would be jail time. Generally speaking, you can threaten or use lethal force when you or other innocent life face an imminent, credible threat of death or grievous bodily harm. “Death” is death. “Grievous bodily harm” means serious injury; not a slap in the face. But what do the words “imminent” and “credible” mean? This you need to know . . .

The common definition of “imminent” is “about to happen.” It’s better, safer, to think of “an imminent threat” as a bad guy in the process of trying to hurt or kill you or other innocent life. If someone threatens to shoot you in an hour, that’s not an imminent threat. Then again, what if you’re being held hostage? What if the person has tried to kill you before?

The word “credible” is equally troublesome. On the face of it, the term refers to a “genuine” threat, such as a bad guy holding a knife to someone’s throat. Sure, but what if we’re looking at a confused octogenarian waving around a kitchen knife in a nursing home? What if you’re not a strapping TTAG reader but a fellow oldie confined to a wheelchair who’s called for help, to no avail?

There are dozens of variables involved in any defensive gun use (DGU): your age, your attacker’s age, the number of attackers, your physical condition, your attackers’ physical condition, your history, their history, where the deal went down, why you were there, why they were there, why they attacked you, who else was there and so on. When deciding whether or not a DGU was lawful self-defense, the police, prosecutor, judge and/or jury look at “the totality of circumstances.” Taken as a whole, was the attack imminent and credible?

This is an entirely subjective process. For example, a large, young, strong, male attacker threatening to beat a smaller, older, female person to death probably poses a credible threat. But who decides how much larger, younger, stronger the attacker has to be – or how small and old the potential victim has to be – to constitute a credible threat? A cop? An older person? Nope. It’s a “reasonable person.”

Self-defense laws vary from state to state, but most states ask the police, prosecutor, judge and/or jury to apply the “reasonable person” standard when deciding if a DGU was lawful. Would a reasonable person have reasonably believed that they were facing an imminent, credible threat of death or grievous bodily harm?

This is important: the reasonable person is NOT the person making the judgement whether or not the threat was imminent or credible. It’s the police, prosecutor and/or judge and jury’s idea of what a reasonable person would do in those circumstances. So a cop has to think, “If I was a small, old woman facing this potential attacker, would it be reasonable for me to believe that I was facing an imminent credible threat of death or grievous bodily harm?”

Note: this assumes that the police, prosecutor, judge and/or jury considers the defender a reasonable person. If the person who brandished or shot their gun wasn’t reasonable, say, if the old woman in the wheelchair was delusional, if the facts show that she wasn’t facing an imminent, credible threat, all bets are off.

So the trick to avoid being prosecuted for a DGU is . . . be a reasonable person. I know that sounds a bit silly, but it’s true. If you are confrontational in the run up to a DGU, you’re far more likely to be charged with a crime. If you were looking to score some crack in a back alley in the run up to a DGU, you’re far more likely to be charged with a crime. If you’re a member of a biker gang, you’re far more likely to be charged with a crime.

Wait! That’s not fair! Drug users and biker gang members have just as much right to defend themselves against an imminent credible threat of death or grievous bodily harm as a 21-year-old mother breast-feeding her baby at home! Maybe so. But you don’t get to make that decision. The police may be sympathetic but decide, for career reasons, to arrest you and let the prosecutor make the call. The prosecutor may have political ambitions and figure that pot smokers aren’t reasonable people. The judge may agree. The jury may agree.

In the example in the video above, the woman’s claim that she was in “genuine fear” will be examined under the “reasonable person standard.” If the woman posted racist comments on her Facebook page, for example, things will not go well for her. If the man asking for the light has a criminal record, her odds of walking away are significantly better. If the deal went down at night in a lonely parking lot, same thing.

In case you haven’t realized it yet, the reasonable person standard is subjective; there is no “check list” determining whether or not your DGU was lawful. It’s not a perfect process. You could be facing Jack the Ripper and still go down because you live in an anti-gun city or state. You could happen to be a white hispanic attacked by a black teenager in a city where racial politics trump your right to self-defense, for example, and end up behind bars.

In short, the reasonable person standard isn’t perfect. But it’s not bad. And it’s all you’ve got.

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  1. Use of Force was the most interesting and enlightening subject when I took my CCL class. The main instructor was local officer who was loaned out to the state police with 10-20 years (I honestly forget the exact number).

    Of course, all I heard in that class was thrown right out the window for the Micheal Brown shooting.

    • You mean that if a young guy capable of playing college football tried to crawl in the driver’s seat with you, your CCL training would not have you disengage your sidearm from your level III holster so he could try to use his superior strength to grab it from you?

      Or do you mean your CCL training would not have you roll up on a couple of youths, one of them big enough to play college football, and yell obscenities at them out your car window, even though it would be a good idea for them to quit walking down the middle of the effing road?

      (My opinion: Michael Brown was a good shoot, but that doesn’t change the fact that Darren Wilson is an idiot as well as a dangerous escalator of violence)

      • And here we have why cops shouldn’t bother anymore. Someone robs a store and you see them? Let em go. Let “FedUp” deal with them, he knows what to do!

        • A lot of cops have taken a serious look at reality after the Travon and Brown shootings. A lot of folks think body cams are the answers. That’ll be helpful, but having an unbiased media and populations capable of intelligent thought would be even better.

        • Darren Wilson didn’t see them rob the store, if I remember correctly. He just happened to stop them for being idiots in the street at the moment just after they had robbed that store.

          Brown escalated most likely because he thought they were caught for the theft. Wilson escalated because Brown was acting combative in his stop.

          Could Wilson have approached them differently than parking in the middle of the street and lighting them up, possibly keeping the tension level below the point that Brown went ballistic, maybe? All the armchair quarterbacking we do without real world action means nothing though, we weren’t in that situation, we don’t have Wilson’s training and experience – I mean specifically what drove him to those decisions, not generally like “cops have better judgment” – so we can’t recreate the situation and see what works better.

          It was a perfect shit storm that was bound to happen to someone, statistically speaking.

        • The downside of body cams is that it takes discretion away from the officers. If an officer is being recorded, then he can’t decide to let something slide be it a traffic citation or letting some kid go with stern lecture.

          When I was in college I used to hitchhike a lot. One day I got picked up by a couple of sleazy looking guys. A couple of blocks later they picked up another hitcher. Shortly thereafter we get pulled over by a patrol car. Guess what? The car was hot. So there the two us were looking at a trip down to the station. Eventually some detectives pulled up and after a few words with the uniforms they took us aside rather roughly and then proceeded to tell us how stupid we were and told us to get the hell out of there with admonition “that the next time your buddies start talking about the pigs tell them about this.” This was in the summer of 1969 in the Chicago. If cops had bodycams back they would have had no option but to bring us in and book us letting the DA sort it all out. There is a tradeoff between watching your back and intelligent policing.

        • Not quite when it came to Darren Wilson and Big Mike Brown. When Wilson first talked to Brown and (I think) Johnson, he did not know about Brown’s strong armed robbery, and that was when he told them to get out of the street. And, where there was apparently a bit of cussing going both ways. But, then, he heard about it over the radio, and wanted to ask the two of them about it. This is when he backed up and blocked them with his Tahoe. His window was down, probably from earlier. And, this is when Brown reached into Wilson’s vehicle and started whaling on him. And, tried to get Wilson’s gun – which is what turned this into a true self-defense situation. I would suggest that once Brown touched Wilson’s gun (and probably when he was going for it), would have put almost anyone in reasonable fear of loss of life or great bodily injury – and there was trace DNA evidence of Brown on the gun, as well as the reality that Wilson’s gun wouldn’t fire because it was out of battery. Should Wilson have gone for his gun, when being pummeled by Brown? It was really all he had, and was apparently procedure in that police force. He couldn’t get to his collapsible baton at that point, nor to his mace (and most of that would have incapacitated him, and not Brown, if discharged in the vehicle). Presenting his firearm was next on his department’s use of force decision tree or progression. Note, Wilson described it as presenting the firearm, not using it. That was only after Brown had grabbed it and was trying to lever it away from Wilson.

          BTW – this also probably constituted attempted murder on the part of Brown, which made him a dangerous suspect, and would have legally justified the use of deadly force to prevent his escape, if Wilson couldn’t have claimed self-defense on their last, fatal, interaction. But, the pattern of blood and spent shell casings made clear that Brown was advancing, despite taking hits from Wilson, while Wilson was retreating, which, given Brown having tried to take the gun away from Wilson, was most likely sufficient, in itself, to justify the shooting as self-defense. (I.e. the shooting was most likely legally justified as both self-defense and by a police officer to protect the community from a suspect known to be dangerous – which Wilson knew because of Brown’s assault on him).

        • At Robert W.

          I believe, ultimately, the record showed Wilson knew about the robbery before he made contact, and suspected that Brown and the other kid were the suspects. Someone correct me if I’m wrong.

        • Body cameras won’t solve everything, but they’ll help. If they remove any discretion from officers, it’ll generally be to the public’s benefit. Cameras cannot capture every single scene, sound and element of an event, but they are at least a third party of sorts. We’ve seen their benefit in dash cams for twenty years or so.

          With body cams, no longer will it be purely a case of the word of the officer, with his shiny badge, freshly pressed uniform with knife sharp creases, and authoritative demeanor, against…….some regular guy, who may or may not be alive to tell his side.

          I don’t see D.A.s and P.D. higher-ups poring over thousands of hours of footage on some second guessing fishing expedition as a matter of routine. Sure, if something specific comes up, they’ll review the recording of that event. That kind of situation-specific review would’ve happened anyway, since there’s typically already a record of the citizen contact.

          Most of all, rather than “keep cops honest”, body cameras are more likely to keep cops safe from the slanderous accusations of race baiting hucksters. There are two Corinth, TX police officers who can thank their dash cam for exactly that, after their encounter last month with Professor “walking while black” Bland’s lies about them.

      • My point is the way a police officer, who I was paying to train me, explained use of force, if a person is unarmed then shooting them will likely get you charged. Two or more unarmed against you then you have a better chance of proving that pulling your weapon was a proper decision. He explained that these situations are fluid, justification for use of deadly force may come and go. But the point is that an unarmed “threat” 135 feet away is not much of threat when you have an SUV to get into and drive away, or call for back up, or whatever.

        Also, Darren Wilson, who is not a small man, arrested a man of similar size to Brown earlier that year, I believe, and no shots were fired.

    • Don’t see why the shooting of Big Mike Brown would not be considered self-defense (but, as I point out elsewhere, MO has a statute that may have also justified the shooting as incident to the arrest of a suspect known to be violent).

      Much of what went on that day between Brown and Wilson can be separated into the first shot while Brown was partially inside Wilson’s Tahoe, and the rest of the shots while Brown was advancing and Wilson was retreating. Much of the runup to the first shot is essentially irrelevant, in terms of legal justification for the use of deadly force.

      Brown threw the first punch, and then a couple more, at Officer Darren Wilson, while the latter was seated in his police vehicle, a Chevy Tahoe. The window was open at the time (no broken glass). Brown, of course, had no legal justification for throwing those punches at Wilson, and by doing so, arguably committed a violent Class B felony (probably under several different MO statutes, including assault on a police officer). At this point, keep in mind that Brown was big enough not only to be playing college football, but to be playing line – 6’3″ and almost 300 lbs. For most of us, merely being hit a couple times by someone of that immense size would have been sufficient to justify the use of lethal force in self-defense, because he was more than capable of causing death or great bodily injury with those punches. Wilson though was also a big guy – just not as big (probably 230 lb vs. 300 lb) , so it might not have been as clear cut. Still, Brown had the advantage over Wilson of both size and being better able to swing, given the positions of the two, and so could have theoretically permanently injured Wilson. So, what does Wilson do to protect himself? He claims to have run through his department’s use of force progression, and the next plausible thing he could do was to present his firearm. Not shoot Brown, but rather, to merely present it. He couldn’t use his collapsible baton because he was essentially sitting on it, and ditto either his Taser and/or mace. He couldn’t discharge mace inside his vehicle, since it would disable him more than Brown, given the closed area and wearing contacts. The only thing available to get Brown to stop pummeling him was to present his firearm. Which he tried to do – but Brown grabbed it (this has been corroborated by Brown’s DNA on the gun and its failure to fire because it wasn’t in battery). Brown tried to take the gun away from Wilson. That is arguably attempted murder, and at a minimum, legal justification for the first shot, with Brown partially in the Tahoe. The first shot was to Brown’s hand that was in the vehicle at the time. Brown then pulled his body out of the Tahoe, and started to run away.

      The problem though is with the next segment in their interaction. Darrel Johnson, Brown’s accomplice in the strong armed robbery, and the guy who facilitated Brown’s attack at the Tahoe by taking the stolen merchandise from Brown so he could use both hands attacking Wilson, started the rumor that Brown was trying to surrender, and saying Don’t Shoot, etc. Of course, by then, he was probably on the hook for felony murder (of Brown), and this false narrative probably kept him out of prison.

      In any case, what happened next was that Wilson started to follow Brown, Brown turned around, and started to “bum rush” Wilson. All 300 lbs of him. Wilson would then shoot Brown to try to stop him, hitting him (probably in the arm), Brown would stop, shake it off, and start accelerating towards Wilson. Wilson, retreating, then shot Brown again (probably in the chest), who then stopped, shook it off again, started to attack again. Wilson, still retreating, fired twice more, hitting him in the head, and then as Brown toppled forward, in the top of his head – both shots apparently fatal. Wilson ultimately hit Brown 6 or 7 times with .40 S&W rounds, in successively more and more potentially lethal locations. This was all mostly corroborated by the autopsy report (showing the wounds), the advancing blood pattern on the ground, and the retreating spent casings. Brown never appears to have tried to surrender. The wounds to his arms were to the fronts, and not backs, and, thus were not raised at the time. The points to keep in mind though here is first that Brown tried to take Wilson’s gun from him, which makes him extremely dangerous, and would justify the use of deadly force, if, as was the case, Brown advanced on Wilson. And, absent that, Brown was big enough to potentially cause death and/or great bodily injury to Wilson if he was able to complete his rush. Wilson didn’t have time to use less lethal means of defense, and was under no legal duty to retreat.

  2. Aggravated assault? Who the hell did she assault? OK I am a smoker, and have had to ask someone for a light in the past. I have also had thousands of people ask me for a light. However I tend to lean toward the 67 year old woman’s fear not my own. But, her startle response is a bit much.

    • Again, the law varies from state to state, but under the old “common law”, and still typically, an “assault” only involves initiating an attack, not necessarily completing one. The old illustration was that, when you swing your fist at someone, that is an “assault”; once the fist connects with the other guy, it becomes a “battery”. Under modern law, waving a knife or a club or a gun at someone in a threatening manner might well be taken as an “assault”.

      • OK waving a “weapon” around may be “assault”, but, drawing your firearm and pointing it a pressed threat does not pass my personal “assault” belief. If it were the same everywhere I could have been arrested a bunch of times. As I have in the past had neighbors just walk in unannounced into my home, and I have pointed my firearm at them, until I realized who it was. Like I said if this 67 year old women felt threatened, then she was, in my book. At least she didn’t pull the trigger.

        • As to your first point–well, that’s what the court system is now going to sort out. As to your last point–I agree completely. If the woman was such a loose cannon/bloodthirsty zombie/racist vigilante/take your pick as some folks are trying to make out, why isn’t the black guy dead? Or at least wounded? Or at even less “least”, traumatized by a near-miss? The bottom line, as far as that crap is concerned, is that no one was killed, no one was wounded, and no shots were fired. She is supposedly the poster child for restricted-issue permits, but no one got hurt.

  3. Something seems off in this situation. Why would a man approach (even within 10 feet) an elderly woman to get a light? Like Frank Masotti above, I’ve asked and given lights thousands of times when I smoked, but never approached an elderly woman for that purpose.
    Don’t they give matches with cigarette purchases anymore?

    • Give matches? No, they try to sell you a lighter. At least that’s what I see at the c-store across the way from my shop.

    • What if he was not displaying any aggressive behavior? (as the prosecutor said and obviously came from the police report)

      What if he was never 10 feet away? (as was reported)

  4. It would be interesting to see an analysis and comparison of the application of reasonable person standards by state and by population density (city vs suburb vs rural). Too bad such data aren’t included in real estate and job market searches.

  5. No reasonable person would ever approach some older woman loading groceries in her can to bum a light. I’m sure it can happen in theoretical land, but in reality, it’s always the pretext to a car-jacking or mugging.

    Her reaction was over-the-top, but her gut was spot-on.

    • The question wasn’t whether his actions were reasonable, but rather whether hers were. And, yes, she probably was actually in fear. But, the fear has to be both subjective and objectively reasonable to qualify for self-defense. She passed the first prong by being actually in fear. But the latter? Should a woman of her age, frailty, strength, etc. have been in actual fear of of loss of life or great bodily injury by the approach of this guy? The police/prosecutors are saying “no”, which is why she was arrested. I think that they may be right. We shall see.

  6. Good primer for those new to carrying. And it is definitely not to be taken lightly.
    The last place you want to be is the morgue. The second to last place? Sitting in a courtroom having an attorney explain your actions.

  7. Clearly the woman was in fear, and I hope the judge takes that into consideration. In a crowded parking lot, I doubt a criminal would attack, and him calling 911 indicates he probably wasn’t a criminal. With seniors being victimized by cowards on a daily basis though, they walk around with a heightened sense of fear, which is justifiable. Maybe the judge will sentence her to more training and not take away her gun rights, since nobody was actually hurt.

    • “In a crowded parking lot, I doubt a criminal would attack, and him calling 911 indicates he probably wasn’t a criminal. “

      The calls for “SWATting” and similar tactics by the anti-gunners is a bit of a game-changer here, though.

      Now, I’m NOT saying that’s what this guy was doing…but as a hypothetical, what if he WAS approaching her to get a response so that he could then claim to be the victim?

      This probably does not apply to THIS case, but it’s an added danger we have to factor in. That is, there are other possibilities, and “reasonable” may not enter into it. (That is, most reasonable people would not assume a SWATting is occurring; it’s just not mainstream enough. Few potential jurors have likely even heard the term, much less know that it’s an organized strategy of the anti’s).

      • The number of attacks in Walmart parking lots that do not hit TTAG would argue the lots are not “crowed” with observers and helpers. My experience is there is plenty of open space (except pre-holiday) and at most times very little foot traffic among the cars. On another note, my local big box grocery store had a woman attacked and her purse taken in a run-by committed by a teenage boy and girl. That parking lot is always crowded and trafficked. The woman was the only person who reported the attack.

    • As I point out above – actual fear is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for self-defense. If you don’t have fear, you don’t have self-defense. It doesn’t need to be panic level fear, but you do have to believe that your life is in danger, or you are in danger of great bodily injury. If you don’t actually believe that the person you are about to shoot poses this sort of danger to you, then you don’t qualify for self-defense. Thus, most of us could probably claim self-defense when attacked by a black belt in a martial art. But, maybe not another black belt in that martial art.

      But, as I said, the fear also has to be objectively reasonable. The standard isn’t what the trained police officer would fear, but rather, whether another woman of the same age, strength, training, and experiences would reasonably fear.

      Which may be a long way of saying that the legal relevance of the woman being in actual fear for her life and/or of great bodily injury is that the court can now look to the objective reasonableness of that fear.

    • A good common sense answer. In countersurveillance training they teach you “to comb out” potential trailers by making obvious moves that will force the person(s) following you to keep pace. Since most of us will not be under surveillance from a covert intelligence or law enforcement organization movement away from a potential threat in an obvious fashion should reveal whether someone is a threat or not.

    • She’s 67. I’m almost 66, 6’3″ and about 275 pounds. I would find it difficult to move rapidly away from a perceived threat and I suspect she would as well, one of many reasons why we feel the necessity to carry a pistol. In my case, probably because of my size, I have the advantage that most bad guys would hesitate to approach me at all – she does not have that going for her.

      Point two – ever watch America’s Funniest Home Videos? They routinely have segments where people have identified someone with an over-active startle reflex and seem to find it amusing to jump out at them from unexpected places and times just to get a chuckle out of scaring the crap out of them. IMO these pranksters SHOULD be shot, but it does illustrate that not everyone reacts to surprises the same as everyone else.

  8. Far harder, though perhaps a better option, would be to remove “brandishing” as a crime. Takes a great deal of the subjectiveness out of the equation.

    If a person could draw when he or she wanted without fear of legal assault, then the only decider would be the actual discharge of the firearm, not merely the placement on the body (i.e. hand)

    • As I understand it, she went beyond drawing her firearm, to drawing it, pointing it at the guy, and threatening repeatedly to shoot him. As I pointed out above, Officer Darren Wilson was attempting to present his firearm when Big Mike Brown grabbed it, and tried to take it away. If she had merely drawn her firearm, presenting it, but not pointing it at the guy, and then told him to back away, then she would probably not have been charged.

  9. I can relate to her, as someone approaching 65. You don’t know how react unless you were there, but I do visualize different DGU scenarios. I’ve had someone ask for a light (fire for cigarette) my standard answer ” no I don’t and you need move along” while having my hand on my LCR in my right pocket.

    Live in a college town so being asked for the time or a light or money for gasoline is not uncommon. Look I smoke, always have a lighter with me, always have a watch on me, always fill up gas tank when low fuel light comes on. Was she unreasonable to pull her weapon on the guy 10 feet away? Don’t know but do know that it’s very possible someone is making a request in order to use a distraction, 10 feet is seconds away. You have the right to not be accommodating to anyone who approaches you.

  10. My $.02 is that although she was armed, she was in condition white and totally oblivious to her surroundings. When she finally became aware of the individual, it scared the crap out of her.

    • After watching the video, I don’t see how you can say that. It seems to me it was just the opposite. She was in condition red. Someone approached her and she immediately went to guns.

  11. My thoughts are: unless you see a weapon of some sort, or the suspect seems impaired/crazy and is threatening you, you don’t draw your gun. I don’t care how old you are. She obviously got scared and panicked, now she probably realizes what she did and has to keep up her “I don’t understand why I’m being arrested” facade so she doesn’t seem stupid to the media.

    • Bad guys- carjackers, muggers, and the like- depend on speed and surprise. If you let them get right up on you without drawing your gun because you don’t see a weapon you might find out why most assaults and robberies are easily perpetrated without one. Let’s hope it’s a carjacker and not a rapist or psycho. Ted Bundy managed not to look like a threat until he struck.

      • Most people, including those with a fair amount of training, don’t have an intuitive feeling about how fast things happen. You can see that in some of the comments to yesterday’s “cop almost gets nailed by car” video. At 10 yards you have about .03 seconds to react to a threat from a slow round like 45 ACP. That is why SA is so important. If you are aware you can buy time to make a more rational use of force decision.

    • When I was in high school, I got stuck in an elevator late at night in an otherwise near-empty building with a guy who started asking if I had any money on me. I was kind of undersized, but I played football and was counted as one of the better blockers and tacklers–but I started thinking, if that guy had had a knife in his pocket, I could be in deep doo-doo. If I had had a gun in my pocket, you can be damn sure I would have been ready to pull it if he had kept up much longer. I dunno how reasonable or unreasonable I was being, but it’s pretty easy to get scared in the right circumstances without necessarily being a hair-trigger wacko.

  12. I bet that this goes right to the “I feared for my life, and I want to speak with my lawyer before answering any questions” statement. Lawyers can twist and argue the meaning of your words for months making mother Theresa look like a hardcore murdering drug dealer to some jury who cannot tell the difference between a slick prosecutor working on his political career and an honest man/woman. Even if you know you are right, that you followed the law, leave it up to the professionals to speak for you.

  13. Good reason to carry one of those pistol-shaped cigarette lighters (except where they’re banned.) You could always claim that, “Hey, I was just getting out my lighter!”

  14. “Reasonable” is fun.

    RF points out several reasons why you may be arrested. His noting the ulterior motives of authorities should be considered very carefully. Just know that being a good guy is worth virtually nothing after a shoot.

    As to “reasonable” applied to the actual trial, in some states the standard is whether the person claiming self-defense was reasonable, based on the facts facing the defendant at the time, not some theoretical notion about a generally “reasonable” person. Most other states, the standard is, “you, the juror, being a reasonable person, taking into account how you approach life, your experience in the world, your political beliefs, you religious beliefs, would you react the same way as the defendant?” Herein lies the problem. Most “reasonable” jurors cannot imagine themselves using a gun for any purpose.

    Just know what you are up against, because the nightmare starts after the DGU.

  15. “Sure, but what if we’re looking at a confused octogenarian waving around a kitchen knife in a nursing home?”

    Judging by one incident in Chicago, if you’re a cop, you get to kill the confused octogenarian with impunity.

  16. She was alarmed and had she misjudged could have suffered injury property loss or death. He was alarmed as were the other bystanders. Being there would still have given each of us different impressions.

    I was walking in a grocery store. I was moving quickly to get to the frozen foods. I am walking past the cashiers in that large isle. The store was full of 6 pm shoppers. A woman in front of me began to glance over her shoulder. She kept glancing back and made the right turn into the frozen food isle. She kept glancing behind and speeding up. She stopped right where I was going. I said excuse me, reached past her and got the item I was seeking.

    I’m sorry she was frightened. She could have been raped before. This fear could caused her to think she would be attacked in a crowded grocery store. I couldn’t turn around or leave the store or lurk around as that would have looked suspicious. She could have called the police or the manager. Only my absence of any record and reputation in the community would have supported me. I made no threatening moves. Regardless of her fears I have the right to shop.

    My take. We can’t know what’s on people’s minds. We can try to be nice while keeping SA.

  17. The concept of reasonableness pervades the judicial system. For example, a jury is charged to determine whether a defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt rather than any possible doubt. Preponderance of force can be a factor. In a confrontation between a big, strong person and a small, weak one, the bigger one is armed with superior size and strength. That gives the weaker one more latitude in his or her response.

    A shrewd attacker has the advantage. He can get within range of his victim without committing an overtly hostile act. Until he does, the victim cannot claim self defense. What this woman could have done was grab her gun without drawing it and loudly tell her potential assailant that she couldn’t help him and that he was to stay away from her. If he did intend harm, that would be enough to warn him that he had picked the wrong target. It would also attract the attention of witnesses who could testify against him if he persisted. If he was really innocent, the worst would be that he thought of her as a racist bitch.

  18. How much of her fear was of being startled? I’m talking like the kind of thing where someone sneaks up behind you and goes boo!

    What if she was severely startled and her reaction was mostly to her own state of having been startled?

    Maybe she had her back to him when he approached. What if she saw him approach from afar, would she have reacted in the same way?

    Just asking…

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