Where Do YOU Sit?

Just wondering how many of us actually strategically pick a “good safe spot” when seated in a public place? What constitutes a good one? What do you look for?

Personally, I always sit with my back to the wall, I keep an entrance or exit in plain sight, and always monitor what is going on around me. I am very particular that my body is positioned in such a way that I can draw unrestricted if need be, typically meaning that my strong side is opposite any potential threat area. I’m interested in what others do.

Looking at the FBI Uniform Crime Report, most police officers are killed at a distance of 0-5′, and the great majority of them are no more than 10′. Plus, most civilian confrontations occur at similar distances. Seeing this, why is the ‘7 yards for training’ still being used? Why is a lot of the training out there so focused on yards, when the reality is most bad guys will be within feet of us? I think it boils down to this:

-We’ve always done it this way, why change?

-It’s too scary to think about the fact that they’ll be right there in our face, instead of a comfortable distance away where we can take our time and make perfect shots.

-Along with that, it turns it into a ‘fight,’ instead of a gunfight, and a lot of folks get too wrapped up in what gun is best, what caliber is best, what holster is best, etc., instead of looking at the hard things, i.e. maybe having to use empty hands, knife, one handed shooting, unsighted shooting, etc. It’s easy to be gun-centric, not so much to be fight-centric.

I don’t want this to denigrate into an argument, but when I see those numbers, and see how a lot of training is conducted, it’s got me a little bothered.

In the last week, on two separate and unrelated incidents, men with their wives, just walking the street from one bar to the next or hailing a cab, were beaten by thugs, in downtown Philadelphia. One man died and the other is in serious condition and possibly paralyzed.

I understand that in that situation I could legally use deadly force if they were attacking me and/or my wife. But, what should I do if I witness this type of attack? While waiting for a 911 response, I could draw my weapon and insist they stop, but what if they don’t and continue the brutal beating. What then?

Reply:

Under most state laws, you can defend an innocent third party with deadly force if they are at risk of grave bodily harm or death; that is, if the person would have been justified to defend themselves with deadly force.

After that, it gets fuzzy.

First and foremost, you should never draw your weapon and use it as a threat to back up verbal insistence they stop what they are doing. If using that force is not justified at that moment, then leave the gun in the holster.

If you determine that only deadly force can stop the attack and that the attack is likely to result in grave bodily harm or death, you could be justified in drawing and firing as best you can do so safely – to yourself, the person being attacked, and anyone standing by. However, at least in Ohio but also in many other places, there are three conditions that must be met for defense to be justified.

  1. The person being defended must not have started or aggravated the situation.
  2. The person must have a reasonable and honest belief that they are at immediate risk of grave bodily harm or death.
  3. The person must retreat if it is possible to do so safely.

The last one is easy – someone being beaten is already trapped and cannot retreat. It is the condition of the person being defended that matters, not your condition, if you are defending a third party.

The next one is also pretty easy – you’ve already determined that the person is at such risk or you wouldn’t be considering this question. However, change the scenario slightly and it could be very different – for example, suppose the person was a cashier being threatened by a supposed criminal with a gun, but it turned out that the cashier was the perp’s girlfriend and was joking – sounds stupid, but it’s already happened to someone in this community. If you shot that person, you could be arrested for defending someone who was not at risk, even though it was reasonable for you to believe she was, because she knew she was not in danger. It is not what any reasonable person observing the situation would agree was necessary; it is what the person being defended believed was necessary. Unless you know everything that person knows about the situation, defending that person using deadly force could put you in jail.

In this scenario, the first condition is perhaps the most ambiguous. Unless you saw the situation start and what led up to it, you may not have enough information to determine whether defense using deadly force is justified. That doesn’t mean you should just stand by and let it happen, but using deadly force to stop an attack on the original attacker will cause you many problems in the long run.

As is true in Ohio, the law where you are may place a heavier burden on the defender of a third party than it does on those defending themselves. The question of “what then?” is much more difficult to answer because you can’t possibly know everything the person you are defending does.