A post-shooting plan


Carrying a firearm for self defense is a potent mixture of freedom and responsibility.

Those who carry a pistol have accepted the fact that there may come a day when they may be forced to use it, to defend their life or the life of another.

If you are carrying a pistol for any other reason, stop now. Lock it in in your gun safe.

Most law enforcement agencies have thorough post-shooting policies for their officers. However, a post-shooting plan for armed citizens is not part of most entry-level concealed-carry courses.

What you do after pulling the trigger is just as important as the circumstances that led up to the shooting.

While this is certainly a far cry from legal advice, here are some things to consider, if – God forbid – you need to use deadly force:

Immediately call 911. Do not call your spouse, your attorney or anyone else. Immediately call police and tell them your situation. Realize that your cell phone records will likely be subpoenaed by investigators. If you call 911 after a half-hour conversations with your spouse or anyone else, it will become an avenue for investigators to pursue.

Photo courtesy Peter Burlingame.

Photo courtesy Peter Burlingame.

Tell the dispatcher your location, that your have a concealed carry license, and that you used deadly force. Describe what you are wearing, the color of your clothes, and give an update of the suspect – to include their medical condition.

Render aid to the suspect if you are able. After a shooting, if you are physically and mentally capable of providing medical aid to the suspect, and the scene is stabilized enough that you can do so safely, render medical aid. Remember the ABCs – Airway, Breathing, Circulation.

Secure, silence and segregate any witnesses to the shooting. Anyone who saw the shooting could become very beneficial, both criminally and civilly. Ask them to remain until police arrive to take their statement. Stress that they refrain from talking about the shooting with other witnesses, lest their recollections become altered by group-think.

Don’t present a target to responding officers. Police officers tend to drive quickly to a shooting-just-occurred call, and their tactical training is maxed-out when they arrive. This is not a good time to be brandishing a pistol. Don’t “tunnel out” and miss a verbal command, such as an order to drop your weapon. When officers arrive, do not present a threat. I recommend both hands up and empty. Follow their commands, even if they tell you to lay down on your belly – even if they apply handcuffs.

Safeguard your weapon. I strongly recommend reloading and re-holstering after a deadly force encounter, but tactical concerns always outweigh legal niceties.  Keep you weapon ready until the situation stabilizes. A holstered pistol is not a threat to responding police officers. Also, realize that your favorite concealed-carry pistol just became evidence. Odds are pretty good you won’t see it for a while. Surrender it when asked, without argument.

Safeguard the crime scene. Spent brass, the location of the suspect, the suspect’s weapon  should all remain unaltered and protected until officers arrive. One minor change could result in criminal charges or civil liability. Protect what is there, and do not alter it in any way. Cell phone pictures my prove beneficial later, if you are able to take them.

Give a brief statement to police. You are not required to talk to police. However, in the real world, if you use deadly force and then immediately invoke your Fifth Amendment protections, you are going to jail, at least for a little while, until things get sorted out. Responding officers are not likely to give you a Miranda Warning. They’ll probably just ask you what happened. Tell them. Keep it brief, but not too brief.

Investigators will seek a more-detailed statement from you later, after you’ve received a Miranda Warning and had the opportunity to consult with an attorney. Your initial statement is just so officers realize that you’re the good guy. This makes a big difference in what happens later.

There is a natural human response to become overly communicative after a traumatic event. And there are few events more traumatic than a deadly force encounter. Be on guard for this.

While there are several schools of thought on how much you should tell police, I’ve always believed that if you acted justly, in good faith and have nothing to hide, there’s nothing wrong with talking to investigators.

Notify your family and attorney. If you’re asked to “come down to the station,” to talk about the shooting, make sure someone knows where you are going.

Admittedly, this is a lot to remember. However, any use of deadly force invokes a homicide investigation – police and prosecutors will determine whether to file murder charges. Therefore, good post-shooting training is as vital as the basic fundamentals of marksmanship.



About Author

Lee Williams can’t remember a time in his life when he wasn’t shooting. Before becoming a journalist, Lee served in the Army and worked as a police officer. He’s earned more than a dozen journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. He is an NRA-certified law enforcement firearms instructor, an avid tactical shooter and a training junkie. When he’s not busy as a senior investigative reporter, he is usually shooting his AKs, XDs and CZs. If you don’t run into him at a local gun range, you can reach him at 941.284.8553, by email, or by regular mail to 1777 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You can follow him on Twitter: @HT_GunWriter and on Facebook @The Gun Writer.

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