We’ve posted this advice many times before: after a defensive gun use (DGU) don’t say anything to the police. OK, you can say “My life was in danger” and “I will be happy to provide a statement after I speak with my lawyer. I want to speak to my lawyer.” And that’s it. We usually come at this topic from the police entrapment point-of-view. In other words, the post-DGU po-po will pretend to be your friends to elicit information, ostensibly to help understand your righteous shoot. But it’s entirely possible – indeed probable – that they’re gathering information to use against you in a court of law. You must assume so. And here’s another way of looking at it: everything you know about your DGU is wrong. And we know that because the cops know it, too, now . . .
In an email blast, the Force Science Institute revealed the memory-related results of an experimental simulation of an Officer Involved Shooting (OIS).
The unique memory component of the traffic stop study involved 24 of the participating officers, sergeants, and detectives–all randomly selected males, ranging in age from 27 to 54, with up to 31 years on the job.
Promptly after they had been “intensely stressed” by being fired on [with Simunitions], each was given a sheet of paper with a diagram of the shooting scene, including the positioning of their patrol car and the suspect vehicle.
During the scenario, most had fled to the rear of the gunman’s car in an attempt to escape. Based on their memory of what had just occurred, they were instructed to draw “as accurately as possible” their path of travel from the instant the assailant drew his weapon until they heard the whistle that ended the scenario. They were allowed “as much time as necessary” to complete the drawing.
Later, the research team made meticulous, frame-by-frame computerized analyses, comparing the officers’ drawings with digital video recordings of their actual flight paths from danger.
And the survey said! . . .
1. the officers tended to recall and draw a much tighter curve of travel around the rear of the offender’s vehicle than they actually made as they ran to their eventual stopping point, and
2. they thought they ran a significantly longer distance than they actually did.
The fact that memory errors occurred was not surprising to the researchers, based on well-documented studies of brain function under stress. “In a life-or-death confrontation,” Lewinski explains, “the brain automatically filters out what it believes to be irrelevant in its laser focus on what is most important–survival. Later, exact details that were subconsciously judged to be extraneous are likely to be impossible to recall with precise accuracy, because they were not imprinted in a person’s working memory.”
That’s one theory. There are others. But the main point remains the same: the memory of your DGU may not match up with the emperical evidence. Prosecutors can use that discrepancy to paint you as a liar. This happens to cops (who are immune from civil penalties) and it could happen to you (who may not be).
There are studies that show that memory of a stressful event improves after a night’s sleep. Regardless, don’t say anything to the police after a DGU, no matter how good their intentions or your own. Even a small mistake in your recollection of events can cost you your freedom. That is all.