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I have a friend who’s a 911 Operator. That has got to be on the Top Ten list of high-stress gigs, right up there with Air Traffic Controller, Blackhawk Combat Helo Pilot and Joe Biden’s handlers. RF’s latest post got me to thinking about the part right after you scan, and call 911. And I have some interesting intel to share on that front.

Tbere are a number of truisms that apply to gunfights. You must be present to win. The best way to avoid trouble is to not be there when it starts. Fortune favors the prepared. One that you might not have considered is that old radio DJ standby We’ll take the first caller, to win a fabulous… But in this case, it’s the first caller to 911, who wins the fabulous status a “victim,” while the other guy gets the less enviable title of “perp,” as in perpetrator.

It works like this. Police typically show up after-the-fact. Few bad guys call 911 to report shootings. Mostly it’s victims and concerned citizens. And it’s true that the first person to tell their story has an automatic advantage. Combine those elements, shake things up with a little dash of adrenaline, and you have a formula for victimology, namely, “the guy who calls first, wins.” Don’t believe me? Let’s consider the following scenario…

Two guys get into an argument outside a restaurant. Doesn’t matter why. One guy escalates the argument into an armed confrontation by pulling a knife. The newly-minted soon-to-be-victim pulls his concealed handgun. The knife guy is close enough to do a little damage, and he cuts gun guy. Gun guy’s aim is off (hey, he did just get knifed) and he shoots perp in the leg.

Now what?

Well, agressive knife guy is disarmed and disabled. His injuries are not life-threatening. Gun guy does the responsible thing and stops shooting after said threat is neutralized. So far so good. Now somebody calls 911. Depending on who that somebody is, one or both of these guys are going down.

If gun guy calls, he says something like “I need to report a shooting. I was accosted outside XXXX restaurant by someone who pulled a knife on me. I showed him I was armed – I have a concealed handgun license – and he kept coming at me. He cut me, and I was afraid for my life, so I used my gun and disabled him by shooting him in the leg. He dropped the knife. I don’t think his injuries are life-threatening, but please send an ambulance and a squad car. Notify the officers that I’m armed but will surrender my weapon when they arrive.”

Okay, that hit all the high points, and clearly establishes gun guy as victim. (Good luck with getting all that out Most likely all you’d be able to say is “Some guy attacked me with a knife and was gonna kill me! I had to shoot him. Send help.”

If knife guy calls, you can count on the fact he’ll play down the fact that he pulled his knife first, and emphasize the unfairness of it all that he was shot. He’ll portray gun guy as a trigger-happy redneck, looking for an excuse to go all Rambo on somebody.

If someone in the restaurant calls, it’s likely to be reported as anything from a gangland shooting, a gang-banger initialization, or an armed robbery. Remember, you can’t count on any bystander seeing the whole thing. If they only see gun guy shoot knife guy, they are liable to side with knife guy, as they weren’t aware of the initial confrontation.

Bottom line, you wanna be the first one to call 911.

If you’re not, count on a hostile reception from the police. Don’t blame them. They have no idea what happened either, and it’s their job to neutralize any remaining threat, preserve evidence, and get to the bottom of things later.

Also be aware that you likely should concentrate on being cooperative and terse. It’s that everything you say can and will be held against you in a court of law thing.

Your best response to “what happened” is to say, “Officer, I will fully cooperate with your investigation. I’m still in shock, and I want to have my attorney present before I voluntarily answer your questions and make a formal statement.”

This may not make them happy, but it preserves your rights, and keeps you from saying something in the heat of the moment that you will come to regret – in court – later.

So let’s recap: after you are safe, be the first to call 911. Then call your attorney. Be polite and try to keep your yap shut as much as you can. And that’s my two cents from my experience with the other side of the 911 call.

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  1. Excellent advise. One addition, do NOT delegate this call to someone else. If you have to keep it short, then tell the operator your location and what happened and set the phone down.

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