I was discussing a scenario with a friend the other day and wanted to get the varied opinions this forum is sure to produce. I will thank you all in advance, so please consider yourself so thanked if you contribute to this thread.
You're eating in a fast food restaurant when three armed robbers come in and proceed to do a take-down robbery. They are demanding wallets and cell phones from the customers and the cash from the register. One robber is by the door, so that he can act as a lookout and assist the other two as needed. One is at the cash register and the third proceeds into the dining area voicing his demands.
You have on your person, besides your gun, something you are unwilling to part with, as it is a medical device. Said medical device often gets mistaken for a cell phone, and is in fact carried in a cell phone holder. The baloon has gone up and you fire and score a solid hit on the one demanding the wallets and cell phones from the paying customers.
To get to some semblance of cover you have to close distance and also engage the "lookout" by the door. To do so you have to step over the body of the one you just shot, thus having an armed combatant behind you.
All three are actively engaged in the commision of an armed robbery, which is a crime that you can use deadly force to stop in the jurisdiction that this takes place in. By closing the distance you have gained some cover from the one acting as a lookout and eliminated the one at the cash register from being able to fire at you effectively until he moves to a better position, thus buying you some precious time.
Here's the $50,000 Question:
Eventhough the first one is down, you cannot guarantee he is out of the fight. Do you put a bullet in his head as you step over him to get to that precious cover that you so desperately need?
Think of things with an eye to tactics and legalities, as the legalities will play a big part if your tactics are right.
Getting out maneuvered is one thing. Out maneuvering yourself and allowing an attacker behind you is another. In this case I see no option but to apply the final tap to the downed attacker since he may still pose a threat.
I'm not certain I'd be able to survive it in court, but at least I would be able to present an argument. There would most likely be a number of reasons for that final shot and if articulated well to the right jury, I might be able to explain why I did what I did so as to create reasonable doubt. I would have a 1:12 opportunity to convince them of the necessity of my actions. All I would need is one.
I'm not advocating summary executions or dramatic self sacrificing misplaced heroism. I'm saying that in this particular situation I would feel that neutralizing that threat could be necessary and justifiable to ensure my own safety and the safety of those innocent persons around me.
Since you're passing over or moving immediately around the downed robber, you're "safest" bet legally speaking would probably be to kick the robber's weapon away. In the scenario, it sounds like you would be able to keep a visual on the downed robber while positioning yourself either defensively or offensively....even if it's peripheral vision. If you kick the weapon far enough away, then you would be able to pick up the gross movement should the downed robber make a move.
The courts have ruled that YOU determine when a person is no longer a threat to you. Look it up. Once the shooting starts, you don't stop shooting an armed or dangerous suspect until, in your mind, he's not a threat. If I go to shoot Johnny Dirtbag and, if I think he's a threat, I will not hesitate to put one in his head, step over him and do whatever I need to do. Keep in mind, not all head shots are fatal but most of them are incapacitating. There are numerous reports of felons being shot in the head only to have the bullets go under the skin and slide around the outer bone of the skull. Most people who get shot in the head and don't die from the penetration of the bullet end up out of action with a very serious concussion. More than likely you're probably going to kill the suspect but not every time. So a head shot has too many variables in it but your survival doesn't: Take out the bad guys as effectively as you can.
The jury will deliberate based on the police reports and RO's testimony, as well as what the prosecution, coroner and defense tell them. The 1st shot is far less important than the shot which actually ends the subject's life. Unless they are one in the same.
SD shooting is about shooting to stop the BG from doing the bad thing. It is not about killing. Killing is a by product associated with the use of deadly force, but it is not a certainty. If a person applying deadly force has been known to spout bravado filled statements or has a history of aggressive or violent behavior they could face a more difficult time in court. Something the jury will certainly be made aware of by over-zealous, ignorant or unscrupulous prosecutors.
Surviving the deadly force encounter is certainly the primary goal. However, it can be done in such a manner as to be able to survive the criminal and civil liabilities as well. I'm not advocating a compromise of either tactics or the aggressiveness of one's actions. What I am saying is that it is important to balance what we do before and after the DF encounter with what we do during the encounter.
Things like finely tuned or specialized trigger mechanisms, excessive use of force or braggadocio will certainly come back to haunt a person should they find themselves in an untenable courtroom situation. My question here is why compound the situation? Why talk smack? Why do things to your weapon that would be difficult for a layman to understand?
i.e., A person changes the grips on their sidearm to make it more controllable...Easy for the layman to understand.
Alternatively; A person installed a trigger mechanism which give the shooter better feel for the reset and reduced the amount of pressure required to activate the mechanism...What the layman may hear with help from the prosecutor, is that the the trigger was altered to make it lighter and thus more dangerous. They could even go so far as to say the end user did so with malicious intent.
Why make things more difficult for yourself when you could do many things to mitigate your risks while still being able to effectively defend yourself?
Certainly a person should exercise their best judgement while in the moment. That person should also be ready to justify every round discharged from their weapon(s). The police, the lawyers and the media will demand that you articulate why you pressed every shot. If a shooter fails to do so, no matter how well justified in the criminal courts, they may still pay a dear price in the civil courts.
Be ready to use as much force as you deem necessary while in the moment, but be prepared to answer to all the Monday morning quarterback's questions.
One last point: The old time bravado filled statements may have been acceptable in the time when they were coined, but contemporary society is far less willing to accept them as anything but "gun-nut," rhetoric. We can thank the "evolution" of our society as a whole and the media for that one.
FWIW: Use such statements at your own risk and peril.
I'm more fond of..."it is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt." Information which is not provided cannot be used against you.
Heads: If you train well, practice, learn to function under stress, you will have a much better chance of surviving any lethal force encounter. This is no exception.
Tails: If you train well, practice, learn to funtion under stress, the DA, if he's a jerk (and what DA isn't) will try to paint this activity as "extreme, gun-nut, desire to fight, practicing at killing".
I would say that the courts are one thing, and real life is another. You have to survive each in its own way. To do that, you need to apply appropriate "weapons & tactics" to each. In the latter, this scenario, leaving a potential lethal opponent behind you isn't really smart. If you attempt to kick the weapon away, you must spend a significant amount of real (gunfight) time co-ordinating such an action, and make sure that you kicked the weapon far enough away so that the BG can't readily get to it. THAT takes your attention away from the rest of the fight, and that can be lethal - from one of the other guys. How well you might be able to "pick up gross movement" - from behind you, especially with bullets flying at you, - is open to lots of serious question.
In the former situation, it means being very careful about what you say when, and finding a really quality lawyer.
I didnt know what to expect as a LEO joining this forum. What a great scenario you have posted.
Personally, in lieu of giving the subject a "coup de gras" as you step over him, make sure you in fact put at least two in him from the get go. Preferably in the head to insure he is no longer a threat...or citizen for that matter. As with everything we do, shot placement is key. Front sight, smooth trigger.
Now, if you only got one shot off and are unsure of his demise, then yes, hit him again after he's on the deck. Is he still a potential threat? Kick the gun as you go by as well. If you can remember all this with a 200 bpm pulse and adrenalin, good on you.
In the end remember the old saying, "its better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6."
I remember a story of a pharmacist who shot 1 of 2 armed robbers a year or so ago. He hit one (who was down) and proceeded to chase the second out of the store. Upon returning, he shot the first again. His legalities were hellish.
I'm not saying that situation is the same as this, nor are the legalities identical. However, coup de gras shots are definitely a hotbed of debate in the legal community.
For me, assuming my initial hits were enough to *really* put him down, I would kick the gun away and move on to the next threat. It does leave somewhat of a tactical liability, more so if the first perp has a backup, but it would be FAR safer for me in the aftermath, especially as there would be security cameras and multiple witnesses.
Simply put: disarm him, move on. Initial shot placement is the critical thing, just like it is for #2, and #3
I would think that two bad guys would be looking for you immediately and your need to pursue them would be moot. As said, if I had presence of mind, I would skip a couple more rounds into the downed bad guy while looking for cover.
To really second guess you, I would not have acted unless the robbery went south. If one of the BGs had started spraying the place after hearing your shot, you would have caused death and injury. Shooting one of three BGs in a crowded restaurant would not have been my free chioce. They would have to force my decision.
As a banker, I have been robbed. Put down on my face. Like your scenario, there were three. One stops at the door with his sawed off pump. The second vaults the teller line and the third comes for me in my office. I could have taken him but I would have got killled by the guy at the front door and/or the guy behind the teller line. And I would have endangered my employees. The two were not in my line of sight.