The US Law Shield people have sponsored a number of free legal seminars in Illinois and I attended one last week. It helped that I knew the attorney delivering the presentation and who went into detail regarding the legal standard for justifiably using deadly force. However, some of his words seemed to go right past at least a few in attendance.
Steve Davis told the fifty-odd people present that he strongly recommended never using deadly force to defend property. Even if your state has a provision allowing the use of force to stop certain property crimes, it may be a violation of federal civil rights laws and court precedent (Tennessee v. Garner in particular).
Besides, he pointed out, from a social morality point of view, how will it look to a jury – or a skeptical prosecutor – that you shot someone over a radar detector or an old Craftsman lawn mower?
Davis urged people not to confront suspects in property crimes but to instead “let him go.” He even had those present repeat after him several times. “Let. Him. Go.”
Attorney Davis did a good job explaining the laws on the justifiable using deadly force. As I expected him to. After all, years ago I recruited him and his wife to join our GSL Defense Training team not only as outstanding firearms instructors, but also as one of our attorney legal instructors.
Davis has also been published here at TTAG, including Beware of Gun Signs: The Law Has No Sense of Humor.
Yet despite all this, when it came to the question and answer segment of the seminar, one concerned guy raised his hand with a sincere question.
“I live in the country and have a long driveway. If I see a suspicious vehicle there as I come home, would it be considered brandishing a gun if I parked in my driveway to block them from leaving while I go investigate with my gun in my hand?”
“Why would you park to block them from leaving?” Davis asked.
His reply: “Because the sheriff will never get there in time. And I don’t want them to get away.”
Davis emphasized using restraint instead of confrontation, urging him instead to call the police from a distance and watch and report to dispatchers any updates until deputies arrive.
“And if they try to get away?” the man asked, seriously troubled by the idea of allowing burglars to flee, especially if they have some of his stuff when he could slow or stop their escape.
“Let them go! Try to get a license plate, but let them go,” Davis counseled
Davis then reviewed some of the common post-defensive shooting issues people face, but rarely consider. From Lethal Force Institute (MAG-40, we are both alumni) here are a few we’ve seen first-hand in local cases.
- Profound Sleep Disturbance – this one is present in 100% of self defense shootings – the hangover from the adrenaline dump during the violent event makes it hard to sleep in the immediate aftermath. After that, nightmares and insomnia set in, further exacerbating some of the other symptoms.
- The Mark of Cain Syndrome – present in 100% of self defense shootings – the sense and/or reality that every one (including strangers) is seeing you differently after you kill in self defense – guilt is almost never the operative dynamic in post-shooting trauma, unless one did, in fact, fire wrongly. But having killed a man makes people look at you differently: your parents, your children, your spouse, your peers on the job, your neighbors. People no longer look at you as Mr. Friendly, but as he who killed. They treat you accordingly.We all know that if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s safe to assume that it is a duck. But we never think that if we were treated like a duck (killer), talked to like a duck (killer), and forced to go through life as if we were a duck (killer), we would start to feel, and maybe start to believe, that we were a duck (killer). The person who has justifiably used deadly force will often be treated by society as if he were a murderer, and this inevitably makes him feel the symptoms of guilt he does not deserve to bear.
- Depression – from just feeling lousy to becoming suicidal
- Appetite Disturbance – loss of appetite – or overeating.
- Social Withdrawal – One is often socially ostracized (see Mark of Cain syndrome).
- Sexual Dysfunction – 30% chance of impotence (but they’ve got a pill for that, right?), loss of sexual energy and interest – or a period of promiscuity (usually a passing phase).
- Pharmacological Cascade – use of drugs to function, then drugs to sleep. The use of drugs for the relief of symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress gets out of hand as more prescription drugs are needed to counteract the bad side effects of other drugs.
- Financial ruin / loss of assets. Lawyers aren’t cheap.
- Loss of job. If your job considers your absences or simply finds the public fallout from employing you too much to bear, they will let you go.
- Retaliation threats. The injured/dead party’s family, friends, fellow gang members will have it in for you. You may have to move to deal with the threats.
- Fallout for family members. Everyone in your immediate family will suffer some degree of Mark of Cain as well. They have to watch their backs too.
- Prison. There’s always a chance your lawyer doesn’t do a good job in the high-stakes game known as a trial.
- And then there’s Survival Euphoria. The person who successfully lives through a violent attack becomes euphoric. This happens not because they have killed, but because they have lived through a near-death experience. Unfortunately, this euphoria can be misinterpreted by others who don’t understand as being an emotion of joy or happiness about killing someone. But Survival Euphoria is really a profound happiness that they are still alive.
Is it prudent to risk any or all of that over someone stealing your new big screen TV or a chainsaw? Or maybe even a nice 4-wheeler? Captain Obvious says, “no” rather emphatically.
The same goes for observing someone breaking into your car parked in your driveway or on the street in front of your house. Don’t leave the house to confront the thief. Don’t even stick your head out of the front door to issue a challenge. Because if things go south and the assailant has a gun, you could end up dead.
Yes, you might have your Garand trained on the bad boys as you confront them from your front door, telling them to “Get off my lawn!” and dust them after they present a gun. Suddenly you’re back to killing someone because you escalated the situation by confronting some poor, misguided future brain surgeon or rocket scientist when all they wanted was to steal your car stereo.
While most people would agree with me that we shouldn’t simply allow evil to go unchallenged, how will that argument play out to a jury with a Moms Demand Action member or two present and a grieving family in the back of the courtroom sobbing periodically through a trial? Just play it smart and safe. Observe discretely and call 9-1-1.
Arson or attempted arson of an occupied dwelling would probably be one of the few “property crimes” where deadly force would be justified. But then, someone attempting to set fire to an occupied dwelling isn’t an attempt to damage or destroy property, but to kill those persons inside using fire and smoke as the weapons.
The bottom line: play it smart and play it safe. Don’t use deadly force over property crimes. It’s just not worth it.