What Will Happen When the Police Arrive?

If you are involved in a deadly force incident, you can bet the police will eventually be on the scene. That’s because YOU should be the one to call them. If you used your gun in self-defense, even if you didn’t fire it, you should call the police. It is a race to 911 because when you call 911, you become the complainant and the other guy becomes the suspect. Are we clear on that?

Now the question becomes: What can you expect when the police arrive? There are a few things you need to know and understand about the police response to a shooting. First up: The responding officers know almost nothing about what is actually going on as they respond to a call. The police are headed to the scene to FIGURE THINGS OUT. Do not assume the first officer on the scene will know what you know or will have seen what you saw.

Ask. Tell. Make.

At the academy, police officers are taught to take control of any crime scene. That means they will be giving commands. Typically the sequence goes something like this: Ask. Tell. Make. The officers will ask you to do something. If you don’t do it, the officers will tell you to do it. If you still don’t do it, the officers will make you do it. At that point, you will have additional problems. Combine this training with the idea that officers only know they are headed to a scene where a gun is involved and you can see that stress is starting to ratchet up.

Taking control of the scene means the officers need to first ensure that everything is safe. That means locating and taking control of any guns and restraining anyone who might continue to pose a threat of violence or escape. That means the police will order you to drop your gun. Do that. Better yet, put it on the ground as the police arrive. Then follow commands immediately. This is no time to debate or try to explain what happened. Save it until after the scene is secured. Remember, police officers are human too. They will be afraid of getting shot, and they have the legal right to detain you and take control of your firearm at the scene. This is no time to be arguing about what you saw on some TV show. Do what you are told. If the cops make a mistake, there will be plenty of time to sue them later, and you will be alive to do it.

Ordered Chaos

Typically, several officers will be dispatched to the scene of a shooting. One will typically arrive first; backup officers will arrive soon after. Ideally, only one officer will be barking commands at the scene. This is the “contact” officer. Going back to the academy training again, the contact officer should be giving the subject commands, and the cover officers should be providing cover and applying handcuffs, looking for evidence and generally working to keep the scene safe. That is how it SHOULD work, but, in the excitement, sometimes more than one officer is shouting commands. At that point, move slowly — keeping your hands visible — and do your best to comply. Cops typically realize quickly if two people are trying to act as the contact officer.

Expect to be handcuffed. If there is an injured person at the scene, expect that after the handcuffing, officers will be dealing with the injured person. Yes, cops will secure the scene first and then administer first aid while waiting for the EMS team to arrive.

Be Cooperative, But Hold Your Tongue

With the scene secure and treatment or transport of the injured underway, officers will then try to figure out what happened. They will likely start asking questions. This is where you need to be careful. Ideally, you can make it clear you were the victim, point out evidence or witnesses, and tell the cops if anyone fled the scene. Then remain silent. I want to be clear that I am not giving legal advice here. Talk to your own lawyer to find out exactly what to say. What I am saying is to be careful with your words and get a lawyer, especially if there is any question about your actions.

The police may question you at the scene or they may question you at the police station. They will likely keep your gun for evidence until they have completed their investigation.

Once the initial shock and confusion of the shooting has passed, my advice is to start talking to a lawyer as soon as you can.