You live in a borough of Chicago, Illinois. You’re walking back home at 11 at night when three teenagers stop their car next to you. They run in front of you and demand your valuables.
You have your Illinois Firearms Owners Identification card. You own a gun. You also have your Illinois carry permit. This night, your gun is loaded and on your hip. You present your concealed firearm and shoot your attackers. The three teenagers run away after the first shot. You stay where you are and call 911.
When the police arrive, you give them a brief description of your attackers and their car. The police arrested your attackers after they crashed their stolen car a few blocks away. All three of them are in their mid-teens and barely old enough to drive. The injured robber is taken to the hospital to treat his wounded knee.
Our defender went home uninjured because he did a number of things in advance, and in the moment of his attack. He owned and carried a firearm legally in Illinois. That took a considerable investment of time, money, and energy. He walked down the street many times before but decided to carry anyway even though there were many times he wasn’t attacked. That night, he dressed around the gun so he could both carry concealed and have his firearm accessible.
Our defender recognized when he faced an imminent attack. He defended himself while the attackers were far enough away that he wasn’t hit or knocked down. He was able to put shots on his attackers under dim lighting conditions that make it hard to see the sights. He faced multiple attackers and they may have been moving. He should have been moving during his defense. Our defender stopped shooting when his attackers turned and ran. He called 911, and then stayed at the scene. He made a statement to the police. It is hard to improve on that performance.
There are a number of things the news articles seldom report accurately, so we’re forced to speculate on what happened.
There may be other people on the street. We want to shout so we draw their attention. There may also be people who are awake inside their homes who will hear us. We want to create ear-witnesses who can report we said, “Stop. Get back.” before they heard the gunshots. The reason is simple. Good guys and give warnings. Bad guys don’t.
Have you practiced shouting “STOP” as you move and present your firearm?
That said, there is a time to talk and a time to fight. We want to move as we present our firearm from concealment. That movement buys us time as the attackers track us. That extra time is particularly important if our attackers are armed, but it is important even if we are attacked bare handed. Our movement also makes it harder for multiple attackers to coordinate their attack. We want to move back and to the side. We might not be able to move much because we don’t want to trip over things we can’t see.
I wish it weren’t so, but some defenders have been attacked in our failing cities after they defended themselves. You have to know your neighborhood and judge if you should move to safety while you wait for the police. The good news is that you survived the attack. Now we have to win the second fight. Now you have to explain why you were justified in the use of lethal force.
Why were we justified in shooting an unarmed teenager? We faced an immediate, unavoidable, lethal threat. We didn’t start the confrontation, and we only used as much force as was necessary to stop the attack. In combination with these factors, the disparity of force arrayed against us justified our use of lethal force in self-defense. In short, we used lethal force because we were innocent and going to be badly hurt or killed if we didn’t.
What is disparity of force? For example, a woman can say she feared being injured by a larger and stronger man. In this case, our older defender was in fear because he faced three young attackers. The disparity of force often comes down to the attacker’s size, their strength, the number of them, and how they are armed.
The law isn’t a fool. Three unarmed young men with their hands and feet are a considerable threat to a 69 year old man. Three children are not a lethal threat even though one of them is holding a toy gun and the other is waving a stick in his hand. You may have to take a beating and give one if the threat does not justify the use of lethal force.
Perhaps we are facing a larger and stronger attacker, but the threat isn’t lethal or imminent. Simply being a belligerent jerk is not a lethal threat. Walking away with our hand on the pepper spray canister in our pocket should be an option.
When we face a lethal threat, we still want to use the least amount of force and inflict the least amount of damage necessary to stop the attack and escape. Our first shot may be justified. A dozen shots against three moving attackers may be justified. Our shots at the backs of our fleeing attackers may be understandable, but they are harder to explain. I repeat, the law isn’t a fool.
Suppose we did everything right to stop an attack. The attack may start so suddenly and be over so quickly that the surge of adrenaline hasn’t hit you yet. Unfortunately, you’ll probably have the shakes and stutters by the time the police arrive. Now, you have to preserve your mantle of innocence. That is why you say little to the police, at least initially.
The police were not there so they don’t know what happened. Tell them that you called 911 and you were the victim of the attack. Describe your attackers and their car, but only say what you’re sure of. Point out evidence like shell casings, neighbors who witnessed your shouts and shots, or a weapon you think your attackers dropped. Tell the police officer that you’ll testify against your attackers. That is what cooperative witnesses do. Say that you’ll give a complete statement after you’ve spoken to your lawyer. That is what smart witnesses do.
Everything we say may be used against us. Saying that you hope the young men are OK sounds like a sign of compassion to us. To a Chicago prosecutor, that statement can be taken as an admission of regret because your actions were unjustified.
It may sound like a simple emotional outburst when we hear the defender saying, ‘I hope I hurt the three SOBs enough they can’t do this again.’ A prosecutor hears a confession that the defender meant to do harm to others rather than merely use minimal force to stop a threat.
Of course, our lawyer can try and explain why our statements were reasonable in context. We will pay him thousands and thousands of dollars to try and get our comments stricken from the record. Let’s make his job easier by saying little, and then letting the lawyer file the report.
The feelings of compassion and outrage are entirely understandable. So is the desire to tell our story. That is why you want a self-defense lawyer that has seen these reactions before. He or she knows what we are going through emotionally. He can prepare us for what we’re about to go through legally. Your lawyer is paid to listen. The police are paid to collect evidence.
Expect to pay tens of thousands of dollars for your defense. Ideally, you did such a good job that you are not charged. If you didn’t save a large amount of money, then you want to be part of a legal defense plan to help pay the bills and bail.
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