On December 16, 2013, Michael Berdahl, 66, shot and killed David Wimmer, 43. Wimmer was visiting Berdahl at his apartment in Enid, Oklahoma. Berdahl fled, but was arrested the next day in Anthony, Kansas. He had a pistol on his person, and admitted to the shooting. He was charged with manslaughter and bond was set at $1 million. Berdahl did not make bail and stayed in jail. The trial took place last week, more than 20 months later. The jury was out for little more than an hour when they came back and rendered a not guilty verdict . . .
Berdahl’s use of warning shots was cited in closing arguments to bolster his self defense claim.
He said Wimmer continued to advance on Berdahl, even after Berdahl fired two warning shots.
“That tells you everything you need to know about David Wimmer,” (Berdahl’s attorney, Greg) Camp told the jury. “Frankly, I think David Wimmer and his actions got him killed.”
It has become an internet myth that warning shots will always be used by prosecutors as evidence that the person firing them was not really in fear of their life. Some prosecutors will, some won’t. Perhaps the prosecutor in the Berdahl case did, but the defense that used the warning shots as evidence of restraint on his part in the closing arguments. A little over an hour later, Berdahl was found not guilty by a jury of his peers.
I don’t recommend warning shots. There are well known dangers to their use. The bullet has to end up somewhere, and you don’t want to harm an innocent person. But in some cases they appear to be effective; and in at least one other case the prosecutor cited them as evidence of restraint.
Berdahl used a Colt Single Action revolver chambered in .22 rimfire. They are usually carried with 5 rounds chambered, for safety. Fire two warning shots, and you only have three rounds left to defend yourself, in a slow-to-reload gun. Wimmer was hit twice. Once in the chest and once in the head.
Berdahl, of course, should have called the police following the shooting. It might have saved him 20 months in jail.
©2015 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.