Personal Defense Tip: Don’t Shoot at a Fleeing Attacker

NYPD crime scene

(AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Armed self defense is justified in situation in which a reasonable person believes they’re being threatened with death or serious bodily harm. That’s the general standard by which the police and prosecutors examine self-defense shootings.

Once an attacker starts to leave — whatever he may have said, done or stolen — he no longer presents a threat. And that’s why shooting at a fleeing attacker is a very bad idea.

Take, for instance, this example from Michigan earlier this week:

Police determined the shots stemmed from a incident at the [apartment] complex that had just occurred when two armed men robbed a 19-year-old apartment resident of cash from shoe and drug sales, police said.

As the two suspects were leaving the area, the resident retrieved a handgun and opened fire on the two men, striking several parked cars and an adjacent building, police said.

As soon as the two turned to leave, they were no longer a threat to the un-named 19-year-old. Getting a gun at that point and squeezing off a few shots at them only made a bad situation worse. It opens him up to charges such as negligent use of a firearm or reckless endangerment. And if a stray round hits someone, it only gets more serious.

This was apparently a drug sale gone wrong (what are the odds?). So the 19-year-old here will probably be facing other charges as well. But that’s beside the point. If it had been a garden variety mugging or home invasion, once the attackers left, the best course of action would be to lock the door and dial 911. The freedom and gun rights you risk by shooting at a fleeing attacker may be your own.

 

comments

  1. avatar Specialist38 says:

    Unless they are firing at you ……seen several video accounts of the same.

    1. avatar Rev. Philip E. Evans says:

      Absolutely! Once they point a firearm at you, the situation has changed!

    2. avatar MrMax says:

      If you are armed, chasing them, and they fire at you, I would think you could be looked upon as the aggressor. If there were a video of this happening, I wonder how a jury would view this behavior if you got hauled in. Much as you want to nail the [email protected]@rds for robbing or threatening your life, I think a jury could mess your life up even more later on. And that’s not even taking a financial account of how your defending attorneys will empty your bank account.

      1. avatar Specialist38 says:

        I said nothing about chasing.

        There are plenty of videos where the victim produces a gun and the attacker runs away ……shooting as they go…..while the victim is stock still near their car…gas pump….sidewalk…etc.

    3. avatar LarryinTX says:

      It would be best not to have a gun at all, if you make your living from shoe and drug sales.

    4. avatar Cliff H says:

      Best option: Yell at then as they depart. Something casting aspersion upon the morals of their mothers or the inability to determine the identity of their fathers.

      If they continue departing, DON’T SHOOT.

      If they get annoyed enough to turn around and come back, game on.

      1. avatar Gnur says:

        I like the way you think!

      2. avatar StLPro2A says:

        Liberal jury will believe that your yelling was provocation and escalation and rule against your actions as self defense. Reference Massad Ayoob’s books on self defense and lethal force.

        1. avatar Sam I Am says:

          “Liberal jury will believe that your yelling was escalation and rule against your actions as self defense.”

          Yelling at someone makes them feel bad. Making someone feel bad is violent assault, i.e. “hate crime”. Game, set, match.

  2. avatar Cruzo1981 says:

    In Texas you can still chase an attacker/robber during the act and “stop” them from escaping. Legally…

    1. avatar FedUp says:

      I think that’s limited to felons in the night.
      Don’t try this at high noon.

      1. avatar Steve Eisenberg says:

        What if there’s a solar eclipse?

        1. avatar FiftycalTX says:

          Then your solar cells won’t recharge the batteries in your Prius and you will have to use the gas engine.

      2. avatar FiftycalTX says:

        Rather than “guess” about your states law, YOU COULD LOOK IT UP..
        Texas Penal Code Sec. 9
        Sec. 9.32. DEADLY FORCE IN DEFENSE OF PERSON. (a) A person is justified in using deadly force against another:

        (1) if the actor would be justified in using force against the other under Section 9.31; and

        (2) when and to the degree the actor reasonably believes the deadly force is immediately necessary:

        (A) to protect the actor against the other’s use or attempted use of unlawful deadly force; or

        (B) to prevent the other’s imminent commission of aggravated kidnapping, murder, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, robbery, or aggravated robbery.

        (b) The actor’s belief under Subsection (a)(2) that the deadly force was immediately necessary as described by that subdivision is presumed to be reasonable if the actor:

        (1) knew or had reason to believe that the person against whom the deadly force was used:

        (A) unlawfully and with force entered, or was attempting to enter unlawfully and with force, the actor’s occupied habitation, vehicle, or place of business or employment;

        (B) unlawfully and with force removed, or was attempting to remove unlawfully and with force, the actor from the actor’s habitation, vehicle, or place of business or employment; or

        (C) was committing or attempting to commit an offense described by Subsection (a)(2)(B);

        (2) did not provoke the person against whom the force was used; and

        (3) was not otherwise engaged in criminal activity, other than a Class C misdemeanor that is a violation of a law or ordinance regulating traffic at the time the force was used.

        (c) A person who has a right to be present at the location where the deadly force is used, who has not provoked the person against whom the deadly force is used, and who is not engaged in criminal activity at the time the deadly force is used is not required to retreat before using deadly force as described by this section.

        (d) For purposes of Subsection (a)(2), in determining whether an actor described by Subsection (c) reasonably believed that the use of deadly force was necessary, a finder of fact may not consider whether the actor failed to retreat.

        No duty to retreat and no, you can’t chase a person down. However: Texas law allows justification for the use of deadly force to protect property.

        Sec. 9.42. DEADLY FORCE TO PROTECT PROPERTY. A person is justified in using deadly force against another to protect land or tangible, movable property:

        (1) if he would be justified in using force against the other under Section 9.41; and

        (2) when and to the degree he reasonably believes the deadly force is immediately necessary:

        (A) to prevent the other’s imminent commission of arson, burglary, robbery, aggravated robbery, theft during the nighttime, or criminal mischief during the nighttime; or

        (B) to prevent the other who is fleeing immediately after committing burglary, robbery, aggravated robbery, or theft during the nighttime from escaping with the property; and

        (3) he reasonably believes that:

        (A) the land or property cannot be protected or recovered by any other means; or

        (B) the use of force other than deadly force to protect or recover the land or property would expose the actor or another to a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury.

        So, NO, there is no “shoot a felon at night” law. And you can shoot an arsonist before a firebomb attack, but not as he is fleeing
        and you can’t shoot a thief during the daytiime but after sunset, OK. And grafitti artists are on open season on your property
        I can’t comment about other people’s property. And you have to make up your own mind about shooting a fleeing thief.
        You got insurance? May be worth the deductible to let them go. They are stealing everything you need to earn a
        living and you have no way to replace it? Different situation. Again, know the law WHERE YOU ARE.

        1. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

          “Again, know the law WHERE YOU ARE.”

          Wise advice…

        2. avatar UpInArms says:

          ” (B) to prevent the other who is fleeing immediately after committing burglary, robbery, aggravated robbery, or theft during the nighttime from escaping with the property; ”

          If he’s still got your stuff, it looks like Texas allows you to squeeze off a few rounds in the thief’s direction, as long as it’s after sunset. I guess in the daylight you gotta let him go. Stupid law, at least the daylight part. Can’t see much of what’s beyond your target in the dark.

        3. avatar FiftycalTX says:

          To “up in arms”: And what is the law on protecting property with deadly force in YOUR STATE?

        4. avatar UpInArms says:

          Fiftycal: Not certain of the details, but this is Delaware — discharging a firearm for any reason, right or wrong, will most likely get you f*cked over pretty good.

        5. avatar FiftycalTX says:

          To UPinarms: That’s what happens when you live in a slave state. The only remedy is MOVE. Most likely a majority of the inhabitants have grown used to living off the “free shit” and will continue to vote the fascist/socialists into office. Same same as New York, New Germany, Calipornia, etc. Vote with your feet and leave the politics of slavery behind.

        6. avatar Gnur says:

          Joe Biden said it was ok to shoot off the shotgun to warn them off

    2. avatar gus says:

      that’s a good point. if they just committed a forcible felony (whether on you or somebody else) don’t you have the right to

      a) apprehend them?
      b) with a gun?
      c) shoot them if they continue fleeing?

      1. avatar FiftycalTX says:

        Depends on where you are and what they did.

      2. avatar Hannibal says:

        If your state has a duty to retreat you do not. Once you chase someone you have completely neutered your self-defense claims.

    3. avatar Rand Foster says:

      If they got your stuff you can still shoot to stop the felony in Texas.

      1. avatar I Haz A Question says:

        Remember when the CHAZ/CHOP organizers were responding to complaints of robberies within the zone’s limits as “unexpected transfers of wealth”? I wonder if those mindbrights had thought ahead enough to set up some kind of system to handle muggings and people defending themselves with force.

      2. avatar FiftycalTX says:

        Again, it depends. Can you shoot someone for “felony criminal mischief” during the daytime? How about felony level fraud?

      3. avatar LKB says:

        Nope.

        See the TPC sections FiftyCal quoted above. Deadly force to defend against purely property offenses (i.e., excluding offenses like robbery, where there is also actual or threatened force against a person) are limited to only a few circumstances under Texas law, and in those cases when there is no other reasonable way to protect or recover the property. (In most states, deadly force purely in protection of property is right out.)

        And even if a use of deadly force in defense of property may (after lots of legal fees) be adjudged legal, is it a good idea to light up the thief? Just because something is legal doesn’t mean it’s wise.

  3. avatar seatex says:

    Yeah, they are no longer a threat to you. Just don’t worry about their next victim(s).
    Because you know our judicial system will not handle them properly.

  4. avatar Serpent_Vision says:

    Also a bad idea to chase a fleeing shooter to try to bash their head in with a skateboard.

    1. avatar Angry Dad says:

      Always a bad idea to bring a skateboard to a gun fight.

      1. avatar FedUp says:

        And yet, it happened in Albuquerque and in Kenosha, and in both instances they charged the victim of the skateboard attack with not letting the mob (including board boy) murder them.

        1. avatar FiftycalTX says:

          Yah, and the attackers are still worm food and the self defense shooters are still in jail. You can get out of jail. You don’t get out of the grave. If President Trump wins, they will probably be no-billed by mid Nov. If the fascist/socialist wins, then it may be 2 years. But the prosecutor is not the high, holy emperor that decides. That is still left to a jury, at least right now. Why the lawyers for the self defense shooters don’t demand a speedy trial I will never know.

  5. avatar NORDNEG says:

    To each his own,,,
    “””FREE KYLE”””

  6. avatar Will Drider says:

    What about the likelihood of the attacker to continue the attack on others? Example: the
    Yery short sighted article and it infers NEVER shoot a fleeing attacker. That’s wrong.
    Example : Church shooter that was shot at by a non victim 3rd party with an AR15, then gave chase with a passing motorist?

    How about a jihadi terrorist that just beheaded a teacher, priest or citizen? What if the robber in your example had actually shot someone “then turned to leave”?

    Your context limited to property crime completed with a physical threat but not resulting great bodily harm or death is not the entire scope of probability.

    1. avatar Sam I Am says:

      “…it infers NEVER shoot a fleeing attacker.”

      LANGUAGE POLICE WARNING !!!

      This is a clarification, not criticism. Like many popular terms (unthaw? unloosen? irregardless?), “infer” and “imply” are often used in reverse of the meaning of the words. One makes a statement that “implies” this or that unstated meaning. One receiving an implication “infers” the meaning. “Imply” comes from the speaker, while “infer” is an act of the receiver. Ex: “I observe your statement that implies such and such to be the issue. I also infer from your statement that the words are directed mostly at me.”

      SERMON OFF.

      1. avatar Angry Dad says:

        Thanks for the inside language baseball, and I agree with you, except it you missed a large appointment which was at the Article didn’t imply anything against shooting a fleeing felon, it flat out stated it expressly. So, yes, “infer “ and “imply” are often confused, this article went well beyond that.

        1. avatar Angry Dad says:

          Thanks Apple! You missed the larger point.

  7. avatar Peter says:

    Pull your gun out, point and yell at them to stop, if they pull a gun on you then, you’re good to shoot them. 🙂

    1. avatar FedUp says:

      You better hope you have a valid reason to employ deadly force before your draw down on somebody.

      If Ahmaud Arbery had a gun, he could have lawfully shot Travis McMichaels in self defense when Travis chased him down with a truck and blocked his escape point a shotgun at him.
      150 page dissertation on that subject can be found here:
      https://www.ar15.com/forums/topic.html?b=1&f=5&t=2323168&tl=-Jogger-shot-and-killed-near-Brunswick-GA

      1. avatar George Washington says:

        150 pages or 2000 pages…. still a bunch of garbage…. and joggers still deserve to be shot…. lol

  8. avatar Gliderguy says:

    I seem to remember the words “violent felony” in conjunction with using deadly force towards a departing attacker. If they are making off with misdemeanor levels of theft, it is time to write off the loss and not make it worse. If they are still in the commission of a felony at the time, it gets a lot less black and white. You might legally be in the clear to shoot at a van that is departing with your abducted child, but is it a wise move at that point? Way too situational to make a blanket always/never call. If you think (and can make a damn strong case for that you knew at the time) the fleeing are on their way to do specific, verifiable felony level harm to someone else, then you are most likely gonna be exonerated if charged. Your jurisdiction may vary and don’t constitute this as legal advice. If going to prison is better than what is about to happen if you don’t shoot, then even the worst case is at least personally justifiable.

  9. avatar FedUp says:

    If they drop their weapons and run away, they’re fleeing.

    If they retain their weapons, are they fleeing or retreating so they can attack you from cover? It’s generally accepted in LE circles that turning their back on you with a gun in their hand is still a good shoot (at least if you’re a member of Badge Club).

    If you chase them, you probably just became the aggressor.

  10. avatar Sam I Am says:

    Again, know the law in your jurisdiction, and all the jurisdictions where possession/use of your firearm is legal. The law ain’t “right”; the law is might. Justice is not always the consideration at hand.

  11. avatar Tired of the bs says:

    Property crimes are one thing, Serious assault, rape, murder or attempt at same against me or my family and I will hunt them down and deal with it myself. I say this because I know first hand that chances are slim, even if the police catch them the prosecutor will let them off with a relatively light sentence.

    1. avatar Tired of the bs says:

      That didn’t come out exactly as I wanted it to but the whole story pisses me off. Our county prosecutor is up for election again and she will probably be reelected. A true C¿nt

      1. avatar Chewboxa says:

        Snore….

        1. avatar LarryinTX says:

          Don’t let the door hitcha …

        2. avatar Chewboxa says:

          Piss off, coward.

          Oh, and keep dancin’ 🐵.

          Trump/Pence 2020

  12. avatar Delta795 says:

    In the United States, only police can shoot fleeing people with impunity, regardless of whether they attacked anyone.

    1. avatar LOL @ BOOT LICKERS says:

      Yeah. But be advised pretty much everyone on the site is total 🥾👅.

      1. avatar gus says:

        thanks for the comment. helps me see why ass lickers would hate boot lickers.

    2. avatar gus says:

      think so? you should try Kenya sometime

      1. avatar Old Guy in Montana says:

        Yes Sir…almost any country that has “People’s”, “Democratic”, “Federal” or “Republic” in their country title…a combination of any three of these terms wins the Marxist Trifecta for inHuman Rights!

        Marxism: A two-level system that has a very small “Haves” group and a verrry large “Have Not” group…a modernized Feudal system complete with Lords and Serfs.

        Please reference China and Russia for prime examples of historic and current Feudalism.

        1. avatar gus says:

          yep I noticed that. “people’s republic of…” “democratic republic of…” is always complete bullshit.

        2. avatar Southern Cross says:

          I was joking with my son yesterday that the more prefixes a country has the worse it is.

          More so if the prefixes “Peoples”, “Socialist”, “Democratic”, and “Republic” are used. Doubled again if used in that order.

          Does anyone know if a true Fascist nation still exists? Spain abandoned fascism with the death of Franco.

    3. avatar Montana Actual says:

      I’m not a bootlicker, and I’m not a wing nut, or a fudd. The internet would refer to me as an “extremist” and does not like my choice of shirts. Fact is, police do not operate without impunity, and 2020 is proof of it. Mob justice is far worse than the flawed internal investigations they had before, and now, because assholes are screaming “defund” them, fed bois step in after those who control these groups let the mobs create chaos that now involves innocents trying to go about their daily lives on a regular basis. None of these agencies or gangs operate “without impunity”, there is always someone to answer to. Just depends on how long the crooked ones get away with it. I certainly won’t defend them and I understand there are actually those “back the blue” “just doing their job” boot licking types on here, but when you say shit like you do, you actually come off as a jackass about the same size as the antifa/blm ones. Know the difference between accountability, internal investigations, and actual impunity – like a dictatorship… which lets be honest, they still have to deal with the rest of the worlds watchful eyes. Nobody is operating freely in this world, least of all people who say things like you do. It shows. You come to vent like anyone gives a fuck. You are so oppressed at McDonalds… Boog yourself a case of self die or stfu.

  13. avatar Phantom 30 says:

    Interesting gambit. Rules of engagement questions in the grey are tough and when you throw in lawyers is gets even worse. And if you are engaged in a conflict within a politically correct environment it is unbearable. In Florida we have stand your ground laws, which allows “force on force” as long as it is not “deadly force”. I can use a paint ball gun to provide a non-lethal force to aggressor force or even threatening talk. I’d like to use my BAT FD-12 with rubber buckshot, but it can be perceived as threatening deadly force.
    If the adversary is perceived to be threatening “deadly force” then a like response is legal. What is this perception? If a terrorist, gangster, or simple criminal is the threat there is a difference. The point is people who have committed to use deadly force don’t stop being a threat even though they are running away. Why? Because they are highly likely to re-attack when they think they have a tactical advantage.
    Example: There is a shooting engagement on your property. They start to turn and run. Your gun goes click because you ran out of ammo. They hear and know it. They can simply turn right around and get back at you. The terrorist or gangster will be back most likely so why give up your tactical advantage to terminate the threat instead of saving them for another day when they many have the advantage.
    Terrorists and gangsters who are committed to use Deadly Force against you are always going to be considered bearers of deadly force. Even worse if you let them run away who says they are not going to come back after your family members or relations as a method of revenge. Shoot them while you can.
    That is what the law should be.

    1. avatar Tired of the bs says:

      That’s ” how it should be ” ! Does any sane person think a terrorist, gangster is going to quit being a threat to society because their running away now?

  14. avatar Ralph says:

    In some jurisdictions, it may be legal to shoot a felon in the act of certain enumerated crimes, such as rape or murder, or in the immediate flight therefrom. While it may be bad practice to shoot a felon on the run (especially if you are going to strike several parked cars and an innocent building), legality depends upon state law.

    1. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

      Ralph, in general, how is Mass. law on armed self-defense? Are you saddled with ‘duty to retreat’?

      1. avatar Crickets says:

        *Chirp*, *chirp*, *chirp*

  15. avatar Elmer Fudd says:

    Any one contemplating using deadly force should remember that almost all prosecutors are morally indistinguishable from the most corrupt defense attorney and almost all judges are either criminals themselves or have shit for brains.

    Of at all possible, shoot, shovel and shut up.

    1. avatar FedUp says:

      Good point.
      It’s not that the Kenosha County DA hates people who stand up to rioters, the real problem is that he loves to prosecute anybody, anywhere, who defends themselves from violent attack.

      He apparently missed his calling as a school principal: you shoved that bully away from you after he punched you, so you get a 7 day suspension…

  16. avatar NORDNEG says:

    Just another reason to have unregistered guns with a lot of different finger prints on them, ,,, exactly why I buy & collect weapons.
    Hate to give away info, but catch me if you can. 😏
    “”” FREE KYLE”””

    1. avatar James Campbell says:

      That reminded me of Nelson when Bart asked if he could shoot the BB gun…… “SURE, never hurts to get someone else’s fingerprints on a weapon”.

      1. avatar Chewboxa says:

        You really are a mental midget, aren’t you?

    2. avatar Montana Actual says:

      or no fingerprints… lol

  17. avatar UncleK says:

    But they NEED to be shot at.

  18. avatar Montana Actual says:

    Personal Defense Tip: Don’t GET CAUGHT Shooting at a Fleeing Attacker

    FTFY.

    1. avatar Tired of the bs says:

      Lol that’s the spirit !

  19. avatar adverse5 says:

    As a soldier I trained and fought as a soldier, as a civilian, I follow the law. There is a grey area in both.

  20. avatar Darkman says:

    Depends on what they did before running. Stole some shit ya probable let em run. Then again just shot someone, especially one of mine. Gonna shoot until they go down or I run outta ammo. YMMV

  21. avatar John in AK says:

    Here’s Alaska’s take on the subject:

    AS 12.25.030. Grounds For Arrest By Private Person or Peace Officer Without Warrant.
    (a) A private person or a peace officer without a warrant may arrest a person
    (1) for a crime committed or attempted in the presence of the person making the arrest;
    (2) when the person has committed a felony, although not in the presence of the person making the arrest;
    (3) when a felony has in fact been committed, and the person making the arrest has reasonable cause for believing the person to have committed it.

    AS 11.81.390. Use of Force By a Private Person in Making Arrest or Terminating An Escape.
    In addition to using force justified under other sections of this chapter, a person, acting as a private person, may use nondeadly force to make the arrest or terminate the escape or attempted escape from custody of a person who the private person reasonably believes has committed a misdemeanor in the private person’s presence or a felony when and to the extent the private person reasonably believes it necessary to make that arrest or terminate that escape or attempted escape from custody. A private person may use deadly force under this section only when and to the extent the private person reasonably believes the use of deadly force is necessary to make the arrest or terminate the escape or attempted escape from custody of another who the private person reasonably believes

    (1) has committed or attempted to commit a felony which involved the use of force against a person; or
    (2) has escaped or is attempting to escape from custody while in possession of a firearm on or about the person.

    One CAN, whether peace officer or private citizen, use deadly force to terminate the armed flight from arrest or escape from custody of a violent felon who maintains the ability to commit more violent felonies; The line becomes more blurry with the ‘felony which involved the use of force against a person’ bit. I’d also hesitate to argue the meaning of the word ‘escape’ including mere flight, as opposed to escape from lawful custody, no matter how fleeting. Then there’s the question of ‘constructive arrest,’ which could range from merely saying, “You are under arrest” to an attempt at actual physical arrest.

    Your experience may vary.

  22. avatar Joseph says:

    In Texas it is justified and LEGAL to use deadly force against someone who is fleeing the scene of an aggravated robbery, murder, attempted murder, and several other offenses. This ain’t Michigan or any other yankee state. Know the law in your state – Duh

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