The rules surrounding the use of deadly force are pretty clear: You can use your gun to defend yourself, but when the threat stops, you must stop shooting. The situation may be fluid and dynamic, but remembering the rules will keep you out of trouble.

This surveillance video of a fight that ended in gunfire inside a Walmart shows how a woman went from being the victim of a crime to being charged with a crime in just a few seconds. The attack was brutal, and the local prosecutor said the woman had the right to fire her first five shots in self-defense. The two final shots, which she fired after taking a few steps toward her fleeing attacker, put her on the receiving end of a felony charge.

Remember, deadly force can only be used against an imminent deadly threat. Once the threat stops, you must stop using deadly force. If the bad guys run away, let them run away. Your goal is to stop the assault, not administer justice. You can’t keep shooting just because you are mad. You have to be able to reasonably articulate that you were in imminent fear of death or great bodily harm.

What If…

What if the attacker runs away but then comes back? You can’t claim fear of death if the attacker is running away. You can’t claim fear of death if the attacker runs away and stops 20 yards away to curse you. But you can claim that you feared for your life if the attacker ran away, stopped and came back toward you as you backed up and shouted verbal commands for him to stop. That makes a pretty clear case to investigators that you weren’t instigating the violence but rather putting an end to it. Every action will be reviewed by investigators. Be smart. Stop shooting when the threat stops.

About Kevin Michalowski

Concealed Carry Magazine Executive Editor Kevin Michalowski is a fully certified law enforcement officer, patrolling rural Wisconsin in his spare time. A Certified Trainer through the USCCA and the NRA, he has participated in training across the U.S. as both a student and an instructor. Kevin is passionate about the concealed carry lifestyle, studying the legal, ethical and moral aspects of the use of force in self-defense. He is a graduate of the Force Science Institute Certification Course and has worked as a professional witness and consultant.