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So the worst-case scenario just played out. You’re still standing, and the bad guy isn’t.
You were just attacked, and were forced to use your gun to defend yourself. But what happens after that? Will you be let go scot-free because you were in the right? Would the cops consider your position strong enough to declare you innocent then and there? Also, are you sure that you will be in full control of yourself when talking to the police? Well, the answer to these queries is a “maybe,” a “don’t count on it,” and a “probably not.” Here’s what I mean.
The reason why you should keep your mouth shut in the immediate aftermath of a shooting in self-defense is that the cops aren’t interested in knowing how heroically you fought the bad guy. Their job is to arrest criminals and shooting a person is a crime, even if it’s defensive gun use. Understand that this experience is likely to be a difficult and heart-wrenching event for you, so the most important thing to remember as the smoke clears and you pull out your phone to dial 911 is that the police don’t know what happened the way you do, that they will investigate this incident as a crime, and that you are a potential suspect. You see, if your attacker dies as a result of the shooting, what has just happened is considered homicide, and you are admitting your guilt right off the bat. Right now, the burden of proof is on you to establish that your actions were justified (e.g., justifiable homicide).
Remember that the episode of CSI that you watched doesn’t exactly show how cops work in real life. But one thing is always the same in both real and fictional law enforcement, and that is that “anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.” When a cop says that to you, believe them!
Speaking of TV, they rarely depict what it’s really like to have to shoot another human being in self-defense. People who have been through this often require psychiatric treatment for the trauma.
Clearly, a person who has just been through such tumultuous events is in no state to make a legal or formal statement. Even if you feel relatively composed as the cops arrive on scene, you may be in shock and that composure may be very fragile.
To further prove how talking to the police right after a defensive gun use can do more harm than good, below are a few examples of the things people sometimes blurt out in such situations—and it can hurt them later:
1. “Yeah, He Had It Coming”
Many people, when questioned after a defensive gun use incident, are heard giving statements like “He deserved it.” They don’t mean it an evil manner, but say so because they’re still trying to work through what just happened…all while dealing with the potent neurochemical cocktail their adrenal and pineal glands just served them.
Since it is most likely that you are still under that adrenaline rush when the cops arrive, it is suggested to keep quiet and not display hostility. Avoid swearing and indicating any sign of personal animosity towards the other person. It is important that the cops see you as someone who had no choice but to shoot someone who wanted to kill you.
2. “He Was Standing There and I Shot him Twice or Thrice”
Of course, the cops are going to ask you questions like “where the shots were fired,” and “how many shots were fired.” These questions are asked as a routine interrogation. But you need to be very careful when answering them. Since you have already been through such chaotic circumstances, it is most likely that your memory is blurred and unreliable—a state of mind that defensive experts call “tachy psyche.” Reports show that many people try to describe the whole series of events such as “He was there, he attacked me and then I shot him three, maybe four times.”
Thanks to “tachy psyche,” it’s entirely possible that you’re wrong about these details. It’s very common that even trained professionals empty their magazines without realizing it—they were simply so stressed and focused on their own survival that their immediate recall of what happened might not be 100 percent accurate.
So, when asked about the incident, it is recommended to only tell the police that you are the victim and point to any evidence or witnesses that you’re aware of.
3. “I Have Years of Experience in Using Guns”
After reporting the defensive gun use, you will be asked to provide your ID and (probably) your CCW license. But your skill and experience in actually using the weapon is irrelevant to the investigations. Therefore, you should never tell the cops that “I have been practicing for years and know for a fact I was in the right.”
The statement above might make a certain breed of law enforcement think you’re someone who was just itching for something like this to happen.
The most important thing to remember after a defensive gun use is to immediately ask for an attorney and refrain from answering any further questions after the initial inquiry. Repeat after me: “I will cooperate with your investigation, but I am very upset and my lawyer and I will work with you I’ve had some time to calm down.”