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How many cops does it take to charge an innocent man with murder? (courtesy

Over at, Dan Meadows of The Shooting Channel has plenty of advice for armed Americans who find themselves involved in a defensive gun use (DGU). It’s all solid, reliable stuff. Except for this. “Advise the officers that the suspect/subject who attacked you or caused you to feel that you or someone else’s life was in imminent danger. Let them know that you felt that you were about to be attacked, or that you were attacked by the suspect or intruder. Advise the officers or detectives that you were in fear of your life, based upon the actions of the attacker or intruder, and that you had no other alternative but to use deadly force in order to protect yourself or other’s lives.” Yes, well, no. Last week, I spoke with a Texas cop at Starbucks about this very issue . . .

“The homeowner said ‘I was in fear for my life’ just like he’s supposed to,” the officer told me, sipping on a half-caf double-something with something else beverage. “I just looked at him and asked why. The whole story came tumbling out.”

See how that works? After a defensive gun use you’re in an altered mental state. Surrendering control to an authority figure is the default option. If you give the responding officer the smallest opportunity to engage in what seems like a conversation about the DGU you will be hard-pressed to stop yourself from sharing.

Make no mistake: you must share NOTHING about the incident with the police. Nada. Niente. “I want to speak to my lawyer.” That’s it.

Massad Ayoob's five-point plan for talking to the cops after a defensive gun use. (courtesy

Gun guru Massad Ayoob has a five-point plan for talking to cops after a DGU. In a video on the subject Ayoob tells a chilling tale of an armed American who didn’t point out empty shell casing evidence that blew away in an icy wind. Bummer. But the danger of giving the cops an opening to discuss the DGU is too great. “How do you think that got there?” “Is that your shell casing?” Same with pointing out witnesses. “Where was he standing at the time of the shooting?”

Besides, five things to remember is two too many at the best of times. The human mind works in multiples of threes and sometimes fours (hence U.S. telephone numbers). So unless you’re sure you won’t blab under pressure here’s three things to say when the gun is hot but the perp is not: “I want to speak to my lawyer,” “I want to speak to my lawyer” and “I want to speak to my lawyer.” Sure, this silent approach pretty much guarantees a ride downtown, most likely in cuffs. Take it with pride. You did the right thing. The right thing to do after a DGU: STFU.

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      • Are people so paranoid of the police that you need to consult a lawyer (isn`t that one of the professions conservatives like to piss on and complain about, until they use them?). Tell the truth, don`t hid information.

        • Mike, do as you want should you ever be in this terrible predicament. You have the information at your disposal. Do what you feel is right.

        • > Are people so paranoid of the police that you need to consult a lawyer

          There are good cops and bad cops. Some cops are smart, others are idiots. Some care about truth and justice, others care about bonuses and promotions.

          How do you know what you are dealing with?

          It’s their job to put people in jail. You do not want to go to jail.

          > Tell the truth, don`t hid information.

          Except you can’t. You don’t know everything that happened, even if you witnessed it. You will be wrong about how many shots you took and about what happened. Your neighbors will be wrong about what they reported.

          It’s the police’s job to do investigations. Let them do their job. Your job is to stay out of jail. Do your job.

          Talking to the police means you are giving up your rights. These rights exist for your protection. Don’t be a moron. Get a lawyer.

        • How do you know that the cop is sympathetic to gun owners? You let him do his job without your help… period. You can say nothing that will help your case if the cop wants to get you. It is your constitutional right to remain silent. Everything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law… and the police are aloud to lie in order to get you.

        • I know this is an ancient thread. But lawyers are like congressmen. Nobody likes them. But everybody likes THEIR Congressman or lawyer.


        • I used to think like that. Why would you plead the 5th? That immediately makes you look guilty. Just tell the cops what happened and if you didn’t do anything wrong they will understand and that will be that. Logically that makes sense. Unfortunately, once you understand how police are trained and how the law actually works in practice you realize how it can all go wrong. The best explanation of all of this is in a combined lecture by a law professor at Regent University School of Law and a veteran detective of 20 plus years who is earning his law degree.
          It is very thorough and conclusive and explained there much better than I can in a short post. Essentially it boils down to this. They prove in the video that even if you are 100% innocent of the crime, have no knowledge of the crime, were not even in the same area as the crime, the interview questions and answers are videotaped, and you are guaranteed not to make any mistakes in your statement or say anything false or incriminating (essentially an impossible scenario), it is still probable due to the number of laws on the books that you may say something that could be used against you in a potential future investigation that may not even be related to what they are questioning you for at the time. While this is unlikely, they show that you really have no reason to tell the police anything without a lawyer even if you are 100% innocent. Especially not if there was a potential crime you are being interrogated for and you are actually involved, even if justifiable. In a DGU, they will always take you into custody to investigate, no matter how obvious it is that you were defending yourself or your family. You won’t be able to just answer a few questions and then go back inside and continue with your life, even though it seems it should be that simple. So you need to do it right. You may not necessarily be placed under arrest, but they are going to do everything they can to get you to talk to them without a lawyer while you are in an emotionally excited state and likely to slip up, just in case you actually did do something wrong. The detective in the video discusses actual police training and why they are trained to do this and assume everyone they are investigating is hiding something. So it is best not to gamble with your life in a situation like this and let them know you will gladly answer all questions once you have your attorney present to make sure everything is done correctly. In the video they recommend saying literally nothing, but in my personal experience I will talk to them as human beings just so they understand I’m not a complete asshole and give them the basic information they are asking for. But once they start asking for details about exactly what happened, who was standing where, what time this and that happened, what position were you in, did you have the gun holstered or in hand, how many shots did you fire, etc. you absolutely do not want to be answering those questions on the scene with adrenaline pumping through your veins and blinding flashing lights everywhere. It may seem like they are just getting info but they are actually collecting evidence that can really be used against you if they get even the slightest flicker that something isn’t right. So it isn’t actually paranoia that the police are out to get you, just using correct procedure the same as they do, based on education about the law.

    • While I’m no particular fan of police, body armor is not worn for it’s slimming-of-appearance properties. Most police who look overweight are not, or at least not nearly as much as they appear, once they take off all their gear.

      Like any subject, let’s critique for real things, not make crap up and use it as a stereotype.

  1. Also, assert your 5th Amendment right. According to a recent SCOTUS decision, your silence can be used against you unless you specifically assert the 5th Amendment.

    • No, they determined that once you begin talking, mere silence (without an assertion of 5th amendment rights) was withholding. So don’t tell most of the story and suddenly shut up when you’re asked if you have other weapons, or knew the perp. Just don’t talk in the first place, except to say “I would like to speak to my attorney”.

  2. Here’s the video that will certainly drive home the point……Keep you mouth shut.
    My wife and kids know the simple line ==> “I’m in shock and I can’t talk”

    • I LOVE this video! It should be a required component of ANY basic handgun/CCW class. Actually, it should be the FIRST thing shown to the class before getting on to any other topics.

    • Probably one of my the most shared internetz, and for good reason… IT’S GOOD ADVICE!

      No offense to TTAG readers who are cops, but talking to you doesn’t help me or my constitutional rights. That’s what a lawyer is for.

    • When he talks about that woman who pled the 5th, is he talking about Lois Lerner? I think she waived her right to do that in two ways: One, she’s working for the taxpayers. Two, this wasn’t a criminal trial, it was a Congressional Investigation of misbehavior while on the job.

      In a private company, if the boss called an employee into his office and asked if the employee has been misappropriating company funds and the employee pleads the fifth, do you think the boss would have any compunctions about summarily firing the guy on the spot?

  3. I’m sure Mr. Ayoob will be/has been a great deal more composed after a DGU than most of us could hope to be. Five points from him seems like good advice, and I usually defer to his advice, but I recall reading a statement by a Massad Ayoob some years go in which his advice was more along the lines you espouse: 1) “I was in fear for my life!” 2) “I want to speak to my lawyer.” 3) “Shut up.”

    When he added the other two I’m not sure. I like the shorter version.

  4. “I’ll talk to you in a couple of days. I’ll present myself with my lawyer” guarantees you a trip to the cop shop in handcuffs.

    “I’m too shaken to talk right now and I don’t feel well. Please take me to the hospital” guarantees you a trip to the hospital in handcuffs. At which place you will call your attorney and get your injuries (if any) documented.

    • Let me be clear: there is absolutely nothing wrong about being hauled to a police station in handcuffs. Nor is being arrested. The reason you shut up, is to not avoid this, it is to avoid the STUFF that happens after all this.

      • there is absolutely nothing wrong about being hauled to a police station in handcuffs. Nor is being arrested.

        You shouldn’t post when you’ve been drinking. As a lawyer, I can tell you that being cuffed, arrested and kept in a small cell away from family and friends when you need them most absolutely and totally blows.

        • It also blows to be placed into a situation where you need to kill another human being in self defense, but sometimes that has to happen.

          Pretty much you have two options: Talk to the police and get arrested, or don’t talk to the police and get arrested. One of these has a higher chance of biting you in the ass later.

      • The criticism of the advice given is misplaced for residents of some (many?) states. You can and should voice your self-defense claim. You absolutely can point out or describe the perps and assert their aggression, your absolute need to respond with lethal force. You can and should point out evidence which may disappear. You can, in other words, say just enough to avail yourself of the SYG and Castle Doctrine laws in your jurisdiction. THEN you should rightly point out that you fear you are having a stroke or heart attack, as the case may be, and request transport to the emergency room….

        If you cannot stop after saying these brief memorized things, what makes you think you are cool enough to pull the trigger only when absolutely necessary? If you think you can’t stick to the basics and keep the focus on your well-being, by all means insist on the right to silence and the advice of counsel, because you’ll need it. This is not legal advice, and is intended only to encourage you to learn in detail the self-defense law of your own jurisdiction.

  5. When police show up after a shooting, they have one job: to gather evidence, including physical evidence AND what you & other witnesses, if any, say. If you don’t say anything, they can’t gather your statement(s) as evidence. But they will nonetheless try, and like the cop told RF, it will seem like the natural thing to do, but resist the urge. If someone has been shot & injured or killed, and you’re the shooter, investigators will likely presume that a crime has been committed. That presumption can be overcome, but don’t make the presumption tougher to overcome than it has to be.

      • …or feel they’ve got a solid case against the perp if he is still alive, close the case on him if dead. A bad arrest takes a lot of time and doesn’t bring (at least in my town) a promotion. The correct response definitely depends on the jurisdiction, the state, the county, the township. All law enforcement, like the politics it flows from, is local. Or such is my experience.

      • Looking at actual cases, what you should do depends very heavily on whom you just had to shoot. If it’s a guy you never saw before or a known bad actor, briefly assert your self-defense claim. If the guy on the ground is your business partner you’d better shut up and go to the hospital.

  6. I was told by my lawyer here in Texas is to give only the very basics and let them know you are not feeling well…who would be…and they have to call you an ambulance. You will be escorted to the hospital but it will give your spose time to call the lawyer and sure beats sitting in the back of the police car for several hours while it all gets sorted out.

    • I think that advice is excellent, provided you form a concrete and fenced list of what is “basic.” Who was not astounded by GZ’s failure to get to the ER after claiming self-defense? (Now, of course, nothing would surprise me.) The need to go to the hospital is not, BTW, some mere tactic. The need for medical attention at that point is the rule, not the exception. The stress can lead to a stroke or heart attack, and only the hospital can forestall that, or treat it quickly if it occurs.

  7. A police officer involved in a shooting will have the benefit of his union representative and possibly a lawyer too. They are also warned to STFU until they have representation. Best reason I can think of why we should do the same.

      • Everyone gets this. One thing we’re taught is to get medical attention. You will not be questioned while you’re being treated at the hospital. This will delay questioning for 24 hours and more if you’re admitted for observation.

  8. Sound advice.
    I would suggest this; have a laminated card with the statement asserting your 5th amendment right, along with the statement that you will not be talking without an attorney present. Keep this with your drivers license or ID. You’ll likely be asked for ID.

      • Pre-planned? Isn’t that the whole idea behind training and having a loaded gun for self defense in the first place? 🙂

        But you’re right, the filthy prosecutor will likely play it that way to the 6 to 12 fools…errr, I mean “jurors”…who will decide the defendant’s fate.

  9. This all seems like sound advice, and I hope to God I never have to use it. I have a question, though: I don’t have a lawyer on speed dial. I might know a guy who might know a guy…but that seems tenuous at best to me. Are state-appointed lawyers any help after a DGU?

    • I wonder about this every time one of these discussions comes up.

      Call your lawyer, they always say. But I’m neither rich enough to keep one on retainer nor connected enough to know one. Nor would I be able to pay one if I found one.

      So what happens then?

      • You need to talk to attorneys on the phone find one that has a history of taking self defense cases and be prepared to bend over if the time comes. If you can’t afford a lawyer, you can’t afford to keep your job, your home, or your freedom.

      • If ever there was a time for a credit card, this would be one of those times…

        Ask around about lawyers now while it is easy, someone always a good lawyer. Keeping numbers in your phone or wallet is free.

      • If you are concerned about the costs… look into the USCCA. A membership can buy $500,000 in self defense insurance. I have been thinking about it.

    • Ralph is the expert on this bit. In my jurisdiction, county and township, you can demand a court-appointed attorney and get one, often a decent and earnest one. You’ll have a chance to clear it up a day or two later. You’ll be billed if you actually have means. I tell friends to make sure “their attorney” has a partner that will help if your main person is in Barbados that week. Jurisdictions vary tremendously on the availability and quality of court-appointed counsel.

      I can also say, from experience, that there is nothing worse than getting a call from a non-lawyer friend saying their teenager has just been locked up in the worst district (precinct) lockup in my nearby city. It means going to a dangerous neighborhood in the middle of the night only to hear arrested thugs screaming threats at each other like animals. Unbelievable. Living in a decent town is a blessing worth paying for, especially if through bad luck you get in trouble.

    • No Talk is much better than Stupid Talk.
      It isn’t paranoia if your suspicions are based on local police conduct reports. Justice Jackson wasn’t paranoid when he advised shutting up. “Nothing you can say can help your case.”
      However, one of the few exceptions to that flows from the specific structure of self-defense law under SYG or Castle Doctrine provisions. The exception is limited and specific. If a person can’t stick to that, then they should clearly shut up and get the medical treatment they need.

  10. Your wife, husband, etc. should be calling the lawyer while you are on the phone with 911. That is why you have two cell phones.

    • If you have two people with two cell phones, have the other person call 911 while you call the lawyer. Everything you say on 911 is recorded and can be used against you.

      Alan Korwin reports an estimate that half the people who get in serious legal trouble over clear self defense shootings do so because of things they said under great stress in a 911 call.

  11. My only question would be that if this went to trial, would be the prosecution jump on and manipulate the fact that you would not speak to police until you spoke to a lawyer as being the actions of someone who had something to hide? Someone who needed to get their story straight?

    Everyone here knows that is not the case in truth, but a prosecutor skewing facts to a jury made up of people who aren’t as well enlightened as us is a scary future to look at.

    • A prosecutor can’t do that. It’s anything that you SAY that can be used against you. Your refusal to answer questions cannot be used against you.

  12. Re: The advice to ask for medical attention, keep in mind George Zimmerman asked for medical attention and was denied. And he was actually injured and bleeding. If you tell the cops you need to go to the ER for shortness of breath or whatever, they are more likely to toss you in a holding cell.


    • “George Zimmerman asked for medical attention and was denied.”

      Got a source on that? My recollection is that paramedics treated him at the scene and asked him if he wanted to be transported, and he declined.

      Let’s not just make stuff up because it sounds good.

    • I don’t believe that is true about Zimmerman. In fact my memory is that it was the opposite, that they inquired whether he had been concussed, and he answered ‘no.’ The correct answer is ‘yes.’ Oh, but do have good health insurance. It can get very expensive at the ER fast.

      • I have good medical coverage. Ambulance included. I’d much rather spend the night in the ER than the lock up. Beds are more comfortable. And having a nurse tuck you in is better than Big Bubba trying to tuck into you. IMHO.

  13. In SC, my next door neighbor was a county LEO, and fishing buddy. To be brief, he told me something I already knew, the LEO is not your friend. Nothing personal, more than often, they just do not know you. You do not know them. Keep it brief, do not fall for the question and lag time. Criminals have rights, so do you, use them.

  14. The last part of Mas’s 5 things is to say you’ll have my full cooperation after I have spoken to my attorney. It is not that hard to say that when questioned. If you don’t think you can do that then perhaps you should follow Robert’s advice but personally I think Mas’s advice is better.

  15. I testified in a murder trial today – there is no perfect answer to this situation. Medical treatment is definitely a good option, as is requesting an attorney and asserting your 5th Amendment rights. We are trained as police officers to give general statements about the number of suspects and their description, number of rounds fired, and the direction in which the rounds were fired. After that, or even during that time, we get representation.

    My current plan is to do the same, provided I am not injured. Officers, your safety is important to me, and there are some things you need to know. Here is the intruder and his weapon(s), I fired several shots in this direction, their doesn’t appear to be anyone else (or a detailed decription of the fleeing suspect to alert nearby hospitals). I am fully prepared to cooperate with your investigation, but I need medical care to ensure that I am Ok and need to speak with my attorney.

    The things that matter most, other than survival, are that totality of the circumstances regarding the shooting and the quality of the investigation done by the police department. X factors are political issues, race, etc. Those things are totally unpredictable. See the Zimmerman / Martin trial.

    I’ve not heard a perfect defense to a justified shooting in an imperfect world. We also have murderes that go free due to incompetent juries, procedural errors, and cunning killers.

  16. IMHO: If the dead/injured guy is positively ID’d as a convicted felon and the guy who did the DGU isn’t one= case closed. Return the good guy’s gun and bury/bandage the bad guy. If any other persons are injured or killed or property damaged 100% of legal/civil liability goes to the bad guy, who’s actions necessitated the DGU, no matter who’s bullets did the damage. In nearly all cases police are given the benefit-of-the-doubt following a DGU so should all citizens be given the same unless they are convicted felons.

    • George Zimmerman was a law abiding citizen and Treyvon Martin was a 6’2″ thug with a face tattoo. $500,000 in legal fees later… Georg Zimmerman won… or did he? The jury and America, only saw the 14 year old picture of Treyvon… not the 17 year old picture.

  17. Regarding those saying that they do not have an attorney on retainer, well I am no expert, but here is my understanding:

    1) After a DGU, the police will probably want to question you. You can refuse questioning and should do so in a polite way by saying something like, “I understand you are just doing your job officer, but I can’t answer any questions right now…” something like that. Always be polite (especially since the police wear cameras nowadays). Yes, on paper, you should be able to be nasty to an officer and be fine, but if the officer is a bad person or just in a bad mood, they could stretch things some way in order to make your life much more difficult than need be.

    2) The police may or may not arrest you, depending on what the situation is. If you are not arrested, great. Don’t answer any questions. If you ARE arrested, well you can only be held for a certain amount of time before you have to be brought before a judge and the charges, if there are any, will be read against you.

    Now the police do not bring charges against you. Anytime an officer says, “I am charging you with this or that…” it’s a fiction. They can recommend charges, but the only one that can formally bring charges against you is the prosecutor. And one of the main things the prosecutor will go by in deciding this is, “What things did you tell to the police?”

    And if you have some evil prosecutor out to make a name for themselves who doesn’t care if they wrongly ruin someone’s life or not, that is all the more reason to keep quiet.

    3) Now the police, contrary to how the movies and TV show, do not have to read you your rights upon arresting you. They only have to read you them before questioning you. At the police station/jail, if/when they take you into the interrogation room, you need to assert that you are exercising your right to remain silent and wish to see a lawyer.

    Do not talk about anything else. Don’t just remain completely silent, make sure the police know you are exercising your right, but otherwise, STFU about anything else.

    If you have a story to tell, WAIT FOR A LAWYER. If you don’t have a lawyer on retainer, then you might be stuck in the jail for a few days, but when you get brought before the judge, if you haven’t said anything to the police, you have made it MUCH harder for the prosecutor to charge you with anything. You should be appointed a lawyer in the court if you do not have one. Tell them your whole story about what happened.

    Your refusal to talk to the police can not be used against you in court or a trial. Anything you say, however, can be used against you.

    • You are distributing false information or, at the least, information which is not valid throughout all the states. I can tell you right now, where I work, I can charge someone. The state’s attorney can then decline to prosecute, but the charge occurred and does not go away.

  18. Agreed, having dealt with incompetent biased LE personally, they take anything you say and twist it in their reports. The GZim case should be all the proof you need! Speak not without an attorney present.

    Also, be tight lipped in lockup, do not start confiding details of the DGU event to cell mates no matter how sympathetic they appear, they will use any info to their advantage to get out of jail against you.

    • …you think George Zimmerman would have been better off by “lawyering up”? You’re nuts or ignorant of the case and how he was found ‘not guilty.’

      • In one of the Zimmerman accounts that I read, the cops initially didn’t even arrest him. They were satisfied on the scene that it was self-defense. It was the hoplophobic DC interlopers that raised the stink.

  19. Don’t give signed statements.
    Don’t say, “I’ll be honest with you officer”.
    IF you say you were in fear of your life say NOTHING more until you lawyer up.
    Better that one should not resort to the prior sentence.
    If you have a compulsion to talk the words should come out, “I do not wish to talk to you until I have had an opportunity to speak with an attorney”.
    Don’t give signed statements- oh wait I already said this. Cannot be emphasized enough.
    If possible, shoot, shovel and shut up.

  20. If i’m in a DGU… I’m calling RALPH. I’m sure he would come out of retirement just this one time for a pro-bono case for me.

    Right Ralph???

  21. The police WILL consider your silence as a sign of guilt, even if it is not admissible in a court of law. An innocent person can very easily regret that they appeared so guilty. Want to know why Zimmerman was released without being charged initially? The police believed him. In fact, the video interrogation of him helped the jury believe him too.

    Do what you want, YMMV, etc, but most of the internet lawyers know nothing about police work…

    • Saying nothing is more preferable than opening your mouth and giving them an avenue of attack. In the aftermath of the event it is difficult to say what will come out of someones mouth regardless of how well intentioned. It is not our job to make the investigative duties of the police easier. Remember, what you say will flow to the prosecutors and to the grand jury where the state only has to present its side of the case and you will have to pickup the substantial tab of defending yourself. I really don’t care if the investigators infer guilt or not. Belief in the concept that “I did/do nothing wrong therefore I don’t care” is a potential recipe for disaster.
      Yes I have police experience so your last sentence does not apply.

  22. If It is a clear cut self defense shooting then talking may be good, in your own home against an armed intruder.
    If it is questionable, your ex wife, your lover, business partner, mayors son you may want to plead the 5th.

  23. IMO – if this is clear and obvious self-defense, you can state the clear and obvious facts, but you’ll have to be disciplined and focused not to say anything more than the facts. Don’t give opinions. Don’t speculate.

    “I was woken up by the sound of my door being kicked in.”
    “I asked my wife to dial 911 and I grabbed my gun.”
    “I yelled out that the police are on their way.”
    “I’ll be happy to answer more questions when I’m not in shock.”

    “How many shots? Let me recollect myself and I’ll get back to you.”
    “Do I know the intruder? If you show me his ID and give me some time, I can check and get back to you.”


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