You’ve just shot a robber at your convenience store—now what? The decisions you make, and the actions you take over the next few minutes, or the next few hours, may be the most important challenges you will face in your lifetime.
The most dangerous questions often start with the word ‘WHY’? Why did you eat that cookie? Why were you late for school? Why did you go out with that man? Why? Why? Why? Such a tiny word to contain such awesome power. It challenges your intelligence and your integrity, and often implies that you were in the wrong when you decided on one action over another.
When someone asked me, why did I write a computer program in a certain way, from experience I know a criticism is in the pipe-line. I get defensive, because I feel a need to stand up for the decisions I have made. Why do I have to press the Enter key here? Why can’t you just make it work my way? In our old system we did it his way. Why do I have to do it differently now?
Why did you shoot the robber?
Right or wrong, if you are brave enough to answer this last question, even though you may be legally within your rights to perform such an action, the wrong answer could end with you spending the rest of your life in prison. And believe me, our prisons are bulging with God fearing, law abiding men and woman who are just like you and I. The only thing that separates us from them may be because of the way they answered (or didn’t answer) the question that started with WHY.
Why? Because the (insert racial slur of your choice) had a gun and no (insert racial slur again) is going to get away with robbing me.
I’m not here to advise you on what action (if any) you should take in the event you are involved in a robbery
But, I do know that some of you are already armed and prepared to protect you stores, your family, your employees and your customers. No one is qualified to tell you what action you must take in a case such as this. It is more of a personal decision than it is a logical one
But, what I can do is to attempt to advise you as to what actions you should take immediately after you have used a weapon in any self-defense situation. These are things that most of you will not think about until the situation arises, and depending on your state of residence, you may very well be arrested and questioned by the police. So be very careful that you follow these steps in the order they are presented here. Of course, there is no such thing as a perfect order, but you need to prepare yourself now, prior to an incident, because the actions you take, or neglect to take, could end up being catastrophic for you.
But before we get into that, let’s talk about something you should consider
Even if you are clearly within your rights, and you are nevertheless charged with some kind of crime, and even if you are released by the police, or acquitted of all charges in criminal court, there is a better than 50/50 chance you will be sued in civil court. In view of these possibilities, I would strongly advise you to purchase insurance beforehand to pay for your legal defense. It’s cheap insurance. I have a policy myself, and it only costs me about $30/month.
If you happen to be charged with a murder, and it does go to trial, win or lose it could cost you $50,000 or more for your defense. So before any of this happens, buy insurance and contact an approved attorney in your area who will agree to represent you (in court) in the case you are involved in a self-defense situation. Go and meet them if possible, and keep their telephone number on your person at all times in the event you need to use it.
Here are my recommendations for the steps I spoke of earlier.
Immediately following an event
Lock all doors, and render aid to anyone that has been injured
Unless you are in danger, DO NOT leave the scene. Fleeing the scene could be construed as an admission of guilt. By then, most (if not all) of your customers will probably have fled the scene. Take the necessary steps to be certain the crime scene is not contaminated. Try not to move the evidence. If the attacker is still holding a weapon, kick it away from him. If at all possible, do not touch it. Do not attempt to tidy up. Do not allow anyone else to enter the store.
Alert someone to take down all social media sites
This is a commonly overlooked mistake, and it could be something you will later regret. Maybe you have been raving on Facebook about immigration, and you just shot a ‘poor Hispanic kid’. Maybe you have complained about #BlackLivesMatter, and a young black male lies dead at your feet. Maybe you’re a Muslim, and you have just killed a white kid who is known to have harassed you or your family in the past.
Think! Immediately take down those Facebook pages. Alert a family member (or a close friend) to immediately take down any and all social media pages you may have. As soon as the matter becomes public, within minutes the news media is going to start googling your name, and a few minutes later, they will know more about you than you know about yourself. If you have ever posted information that can be used to turn public sentiment against you, they will find it and make it public, and this information will most probably be used against you in court. This may take some planning ahead on your part, because Internet URLs, user ids and passwords can be complicated.
Do not call 9-1-1 in panic. Calm down first. Take some deep breaths and try to relax, then tell the 9-1-1 operator in a calm voice that you were attacked and robbed, you feared for your life, there has been a shooting and you have been injured, and YOU NEED TO GO TO THE HOSPITAL.
If the operator asks you where are you injured. Be vague, unless of course you are physically injured. Know that this tape will probably be played back to the jury during the trial. If the robber(s) has/have fled the scene, or has been killed, tell the operator, “The scene is secure”, so the police will know everything about the environment they will most likely encounter.
Contact your attorney
As I said before, you should already have a practicing attorney who is familiar with your state’s criminal codes and has experience in court. At this point, if circumstances allow, I would call him/her, or you can wait until after you are arrested (and you should expect that to happen), or the police have left the scene. He or she will also impress upon you, “DO NOT TALK TO THE POLICE.”
When the police arrive
Do not go to the door holding a weapon. Put the weapon down, walk away from it, or at the least holster it. Be sure the police can see your hands at all times. This is very important, so that you are not mistaken for the robber and get shot.
Unlock the door, and immediately tell the police that you were attacked, in fear for your life, and the lives of your employees and customers, and you need to go to the hospital. Do not offer them any other information that is not absolutely necessary. Avoid using profanity. Do not say to the police, “I shot the bastard,” or anything of the kind; and whatever you do, avoid all racial slurs. Race could be construed as a motive, and if it doesn’t come up in criminal court, you can bet it will come up later in civil court when you face a wrongful death accusation.
Here is just ONE appropriate response I read recently:
Officer, my gun is laying over there, and that is the gun that I used to shoot my attacker in self-defense, because I feared for my life, and I need to go to the hospital. I do not want to say anything else until I have had time to talk to my attorney. I want to cooperate with the investigation completely, but I’m very upset right now, and I need go to the hospital. I hope you understand.
And then: SHUT UP!
Why would you keep saying, “I need to go to the hospital”? It will help to bring about sympathy from the jury later on. But there are other reasons, the most important one being it will take some time to get you to the hospital and to be examined. It will give you time to calm down and think rationally about what has just occurred. The examining physician may give you a sedative. More than likely, anything you might say after being drugged might not be admissible in court.
The worst thing you can do after using a weapon is to talk to anyone—your employees, your customers and in some case even your friends and family, and most important of all, do not talk to the police.
As a volunteer deputy with our county sheriff’s department, I obviously have great respect for law enforcement officers in any and all situations; but you have to understand, part of the officers job is to collect evidence after a situation has occurred and turn it over to the District Attorney. Virtually nothing of what you say will be used in your defense. It can only be used against you.
Do not fall for the ‘Good Cop/Bad Cop’ routine. You think you are too smart for that. You are not. You will easily fall for a sympathetic ear. An investigating officer may use every trick in the book to trip you up.
The police are officers of the court, and they rarely act in your favor; and even if they appear to be on your side, when the officer is sworn in during a trial, he or she may have no alternative but to tell them what you told them after the incident occurred. Then the prosecution may try to twist your words against you. Words do matter. In court, they matter a lot. These policemen get paid a salary to do their job, but they are judged by the number of arrests and convictions they are able to obtain. Trust no one but your attorney, and do exactly what he or she advises you to say or do.
Avoid the Press
The press is almost always your enemy. They are there for the story. At this point they will probably be your worst enemy. As I alluded to earlier, they will dig up dirt that will put you in an unfavorable light. If there is no evidence of wrong doing on your part, they will probably ignore you, but if they have uncovered anything they can use to turn public sentiment against you, you’ll end up being portrayed as the villain with the robber being the poor victim.
I have heard there is one way to appease the press. Tell them, “I will be prepared to issue a public statement shortly.”
Don’t be surprised to be treated like a criminal
It is possible you will be handcuffed and taken to jail. Expect it. Don’t take it personally. The police are only doing their job. Cooperate fully and just let it happen. Don’t get angry. Don’t resists, and DON’T TALK.
There are plenty of sites on the Internet where you can go and learn more about this subject. I might suggest the official NRA website www.NRA.org, or www.usconcealedcarry.com (this is where I obtained the insurance policy I mentioned earlier), and many others.