When the police arrive at the scene of a self-defense shooting, it is important for those involved in the incident to remain calm and cooperative. The responding officers may have very limited information from the dispatcher. It is likely they are simply responding to a “person with a gun call” and will not know who is the good guy versus who is the bad guy.
When Police Arrive at a Self-Defense Shooting
Upon police officers’ arrival, be sure to put your firearm down and your hands up. Make it very apparent that you are not a threat. Then inform law enforcement you were being attacked. Once police have control of the scene, officers will need to ask questions about what happened during the altercation and may need to take statements from everyone who was present.
It will be necessary for the defending shooter to explain why he or she felt that using deadly force was necessary and to provide evidence it was, in fact, in self-defense. However, you can be cooperative with police and still invoke your rights. Be sure to clearly state that you will cooperate with the investigation but would like to wait to make a statement until you have spoken with your attorney. It is important for those involved in a self-defense shooting to understand their rights in regards to interacting with law enforcement.
What Happens to Your Gun?
Police may also take possession of any weapons used in the altercation, including those belonging to the defending shooter. Depending on state laws, the police may be required to hold onto these weapons until a court has decided whether or not criminal charges should be filed against the defending shooter.
In some cases of self-defense shootings, no one will be charged with a crime and all weapons used will be returned accordingly. In other cases, the defending shooter will be arrested and charged with a crime. If this happens, know that the USCCA can have your back. Check out the Attorney Network on your Member Website for legal defense.
The aftermath of a self-defense shooting can be difficult for all involved parties. It is important to understand how law enforcement interacts with those involved in such incidents to minimize any additional distress or confusion during an already trying situation.
So, what happens when the police arrive at the scene of a self-defense incident and think you are the criminal? We’ll talk about that in just a minute. I’ll teach you how to navigate that situation.
Okay, so understand that in most self-defense incidents (I’m going to say 99 percent), the cops are going to show up, and all they’re going to get over the radio is the fact that there is a self-defense incident. And if they hear the numbers 10-32, they’re coming to a gun call. So, they’re going to be amped up, they’re going to wonder what’s going on, and they’re going to have very limited information from that dispatcher. And a lot of that information might be wrong because eyewitnesses are calling it in, they’re talking to the dispatcher, they’re giving their version of events, sending cops scurrying (and yes, I like to use the word scurrying; we, as police officers, scurry often) scurrying to this scene.
The first thing they’re going to do — every one of us is taught at the police academy — is to take control of the scene. Get everything settled down so that there is, I’m not going to say no danger, reduced danger when the officer arrives on the scene. They’re going to take control of that scene. And they might treat you — who, you know you’re the good guy; I mean, you were there, you saw it all play out — but they might treat you like the bad guy. They might think that you’re the criminal. They showed up, you’re standing there with a gun. “Hey, all we know is that guy’s got a gun, and I don’t want him to shoot me.” That’s what you should be thinking too when the police arrive.
The cops show up, you want to make sure that first of all you don’t get shot by the cops. That means follow all the instructions. This is not the time to try to explain anything. In fact, it’s best for you not to speak to the police until you speak to your attorney. But there’s going to have to be some level of interaction when the police arrive, especially if they confuse you for the bad guy. You’re going to want to at least clear that up a little bit.
Put Your Gun Down
So, when the red and blue lights arrive, and the sirens get really loud, and you can hear the footsteps of the cop — maybe put your gun down immediately, but certainly, when the cop gets there — you put your gun down and you show your hands. And then, “That guy attacked me,” there. Point out who the bad guy really is and say, “Those people were witnesses over there; they saw it.”
And then, when the cops start asking you questions, then you can get to the point where you say, “You know what? I would rather not make a statement until I speak with my attorney. I will give you a full and complete statement after I consult with my attorney.” You’re going to need to raise your rights to make sure that you protect yourself because you don’t just need to protect yourself in the fight, you need to protect yourself in the legal aftermath. Okay?
But if the cops show up, and they think you’re the bad guy, you need to try to clear that up immediately by cooperating to — I’m going to say, you know — to a certain extent. You don’t want to be talking too much, but you at least want to identify who attacked you. You want to identify if there are witnesses and if there’s any evidence at the scene. You want to be able to point that out. “Hey, there’s the screwdriver he was using to try to stab me” because they might not think that that screwdriver was the weapon.
So, understand all of that and then follow those instructions. And if you get handcuffed, just get handcuffed. Don’t argue. It’s not time to be going crazy out there on the street. First thing you want to do is make sure that you’re safe, make sure that the police officers feel safe because they’re coming into a call with a gun and they don’t know what’s going on. They’re just trying to sort it all out.
And you might be shocked to understand that lots of people lie to police officers, so they might not believe the first few things that they hear. They’re going to be asking questions; they’re going to be giving directives, lawful orders, when they get there to the scene. They’re taking over. Please do what they say and you can straighten it all out later. I just want to make sure that you don’t get hurt after you’ve defended yourself and police are arriving on the scene to take control of it and start the investigation.