911 Operator – “911… What’s your emergency?”
Unknown caller – (Pause) – Silence on the phone…
911 Operator – “Hello, can you hear me?”… “This is 911, what’s your emergency?”
Unknown caller – Deep and labored breathing heard on the phone…
911 Operator – “Hello, do you need police, fire or ambulance?” “Hello!”
Unknown caller – “911… I… I just shot someone.”
Calls like this happen far too often. However it is an unfortunate but true fact that many of our police departments and our 911 dispatchers will receive calls like this on a regular basis. Actually, almost on a daily basis for some departments. Geographically speaking, large cities, especially cities that tend to restrict certain gun ownership rights seem to be the worst, like Chicago.
As a former police officer, homicide detective and periodic dispatcher for the law enforcement departments that I served over the years, I have personally taken my fair share of these types of calls. None of them are the same, and yet all of them are seemingly alike.
For many of us, we will sign up for a concealed carry firearms course, take a home defense class or even attend a local martial arts school in order to learn how to protect ourselves from the wolves of our society. Either that or we can listen to our “sheep handler politicians” by hiding or cowering in our homes, underneath our desks in our offices, or in a closet within our schools, hoping that the police will arrive in time.
This article, as written, hopefully will help bring us a sense of order and understanding on how to better prepare ourselves for handling, or even responding to a shooting event and its aftermath.
Here are the 15 steps that are designed to get you on the other side of a defensive shooting event:
(1) How Did We Get Here – Preparing To Survive A Defensive Shooting Event
“The only way to survive a potential threat is to prepare ourselves to survive that threat.”
Mind, Body, Training, Tactics, Preparation
Mind: Begin by preparing your defensive and survival mindset. Prepare mentally.
Body: Get and keep yourself into physical shape. You must be physically fit to survive a fight or an altercation with your attacker.
Training: Train with firearms, edged weapons and in self-defense. You can never train enough. Practice often with your firearms, knives and hands/feet for close range encounters.
Tactics: There is no such thing as a fair fight. Use every method and every tactic available to you to survive the threat.
Preparation: Combine the four previous methods, mix generously, and overcome your attackers with determined effort.
(2) Defensive Gun Usage – How To Survive The Threat
“Stand your ground, shooting only when there is an imminent threat against you, or that of others.”
While At Home: Engaging the Threat – Surviving The Encounter
- Harden your home defense with alarm systems, locks and lights. Use them if you have them and get them if you don’t.
- Create a home defense plan. Know the plan. Drill the plan.
- Have a go-to zone / safe room in your residence. Engage your “stand your ground” tactics accordingly.
- Have a safe and loaded firearm ready. Take it with you to the go-to zone / safe room.
- Keep a charged cell phone nearby. Take it with you into the go-to zone / safe room.
- If someone enters your residence, take charge. Think, react and control the situation.
- Work the home defense plan. Rush or retreat to the go-to zone/safe room. Dial 911.
- If threatened or attacked, you must engage your threat. Shoot center mass and continue to shoot until the threat has been stopped. Reload and re-engage your threat again if necessary.
- Stay in your go-to zone / safe room as long as it is safe to remain there.
While In Public: Engaging The Threat – Winning The Encounter
- Know and plan your course of travel.
- Harden your soft target defenses.
- Travel with a friend.
- Everyone should be alert and responsive to threats.
- Wear clothing that creates easy access to your firearm or other carried weapons.
- If possible, disengage from the threat, seek cover and monitor the threat.
- If your attacker is an imminent threat to you or others, if you are armed – engage your attacker by shooting center mass.
- Continue to shoot your attacker until the threat has been stopped.
- Reload and re-engage your threat again if necessary.
- Remain in a safe (cover) area if it is feasible to do so.
(3) Beyond The Shooting – The Immediate Aftermath
“Just beyond the threshold of danger lies the realization of what has just taken place”
- Stay put, unless it is more dangerous to remain in-place. Do not approach the threat.
- Keep a visual of your suspect, in case they are only wounded.
- If your suspect is wounded, keep your firearm aimed at the intruder. Only engage them again if they threaten to harm you or others, or continue their attack.
- Ensure that you have an adequate amount of ammunition loaded into your firearm; reload as necessary, however do not traverse to another area to gather more ammo if doing so will place you into further danger.
(4) Calling 911 – Reporting the Incident
“Calling for help has purpose and meaning. But how you report it may determine your fate”
- Call 911 (if not already on the telephone with them). Do not wait. Call them immediately. Tell them that you just shot an intruder or attacker and that you were in fear of your life.
- Tell 911 who you are and how you are dressed.
- Tell 911 where you are located, and who is with you.
- Give the 911 Operator a description, if available, of your attacker, and their location.
- If your attacker was armed, describe what type of weapon they had, or you observed.
- Tell 911 that you are still armed and that you will set your firearm or weapon down once the police have arrived and when you are safe from the suspect’s threat.
- If requested by 911, stay on the line with them.
- Give no additional statements, admissions, comments or apologies at this time. You are being recorded
(5) Waiting for the Police to Arrive – Securing the Scene
“The wailing of sirens sounds so close, yet seem to take forever to arrive”
- Remain on the 911 call if instructed to do so by the 911 operator.
- Just like law enforcement officers do, and if it is safe to do so, you need to secure the scene to the best of your ability and for your safety.
- Don’t move any evidence and don’t move the suspect’s body. Keep the integrity of the shooting scene intact.
- Remain vigilant for others who may be associates or additional attackers.
- Watch out for crowds forming. They may be friends or acquaintances of the subject you just shot.
- Watch out for onlookers or associates who might attempt to remove evidence, (i.e. gun, knife, weapon) from the scene of the shooting event. Identify them if required.
- If evidence is taken, describe it and its location to the best of your ability to law enforcement officers.
- Upon police arrival, place your firearm or weapon in a recoverable place (such as safely on the ground in front of you), and inform the responding officers of your firearms or weapons location. Identify it to officers without pointing it at them.
- Comply with officers instructions. You may even be handcuffed. They are trying to protect themselves and they do not need to also get into an encounter with you. Remain calm.
- Direct the officers to the offenders/ attackers weapons (if there was one).
- Identify the suspect or suspects as the person or persons who attacked you or threatened you with bodily harm or death.
(6) Talking To Police – To Talk Or Not To Talk, That Is The Question
“Excuse me, but water boarding is illegal here, right”
- It is an unfortunate fact that not all police are helpful. Everything you say can, and usually will be used against you in a court of law. Even if you are in-the-right.
- Advise the officers that the suspect / subject who attacked you or caused you to feel that you or someone else’s life was in imminent danger. Let them know that you felt that you were about to be attacked, or that you were attacked by the suspect or intruder.
- Advise the officers or detectives that you were in fear of your life, based upon the actions of the attacker or intruder, and that you had no other alternative but to use deadly force in order to protect yourself or other’s lives.
- Be careful of your responses or comments to law enforcement officers.
- Once you have given some basic information about yourself and your fear factor of having been attacked or potentially being attacked by the suspects, say nothing more.
- Advise the officers that you are now going to exercise your right to remain silent and ask for a lawyer.
- Do not fall into the Q&A trap with officers or detectives. Remain silent, and again ask for your lawyer.
- You may want to add that once you have spoken with your attorney, you might make additional statements, as per your attorney’s instructions.
- Remain silent until you speak to your lawyers.
- Remain firm, but non-combative.
(7) Know Your Rights – Exercising Your Options
“There should be only one option here, the right one”
- Know what legal and constitutional rights are available to you.
- Know your state laws for self-defense and for the use of firearms or other weapons.
- Exercising your rights may be subject to interpretation by the media, law enforcement officers, the prosecutor’s office and even the grand jury.
- Know the laws regarding search and seizure, your right to remain silent and others.
- Know about your right to counsel (lawyers).
- Exercise your rights, often.
(8) Lawyer Up- A Professional Attorney versus an Ambulance or Media Chaser
“Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law”
- Never make statements to the police without a lawyer.
- With all due respect to the greater part of our colleagues in the legal profession, not all attorneys are ambulance or media chasers.
- There are a great many attorneys out there who have a specialty in armed citizen encounters. Not all attorneys are experts in this area of legal representation or defense – therefore you should seek out the attorneys who are well versed in this type of defense.
- If you do not have a lawyer, or do not know a lawyer, speak with an attorney (who might be on call) briefly, who can give you some legal advice until you can acquire one.
- Hire an attorney who will best serve you and your case responsibly.
(9) Emotional Aftermath – Your Stages of Emotion
“My emotional well-being will sometimes be reflected by the actions of others”
- Although many of my colleagues may suggest several more stages of emotion, and rightfully so, here are just a few that you may or may not encounter following a shooting event.
- As I have been involved to two such shooting events, I only encountered two of those stages. (Elation and Acceptance)
- There are several stages of emotion following a shooting event. Whether you are a civilian or a trained professional, no two people will react to a shooting event the same.
- Here are some emotions that you might encounter, following a shooting event that you are involved in; Elation, Revulsion, Remorse, Self-Doubt, Acceptance and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
- Of all of the emotions listed above, self-doubt, when communicated to others or to the police, may be your undoing. Watch what you tell others.
- Should you be in need of professional help, seek assistance from a medical professional as soon as the need becomes apparent, or under suggestion from someone close to you.
(10) Dealing With The Media – The Social Aftermath
“Lights! Camera! OK, nothing more to see here folks!”
- I view media, especially the main stream media, as either “The Good, The Bad, Or The Ugly.” Most, you will find, tends to fit into the latter when it comes to a defensive shooting event from an armed citizen.
- You will find that many reporters will ultimately invade your space, your property, and may sometimes get in your face, or in the face of your family or friends.
- Say nothing to them. Or if you do, remain calm and ask them to remove themselves from your property, or your face. Do not go “on-the-air” answering their questions.
- Ask your family and friends not to talk to the media. Ask the media to respect yours and your family’s privacy.
- If there is no story, no interviews for the media, then they will leave in search of another story to report.
- Do not ever threaten them. I assure you it will end up on every news station.
- If you continue to get calls on your phone from the media, file a harassment report with the police.
- Call the police if they are persistent.
- Say nothing to them, and just hang up.
- Also, watch what you comment on, or respond to on your Facebook, Twitter, email or any other social media or online forum.
(11) Your Family & Friends – The Personal Aftermath
“My strength and support lies within the circle of my family and friends”
- Your family, in most all cases, will be supportive of you.
- Your friends, well they can be on either side of the gun rights / gun control fence-line, based upon their political beliefs.
- Limit your conversation to only those with whom you can trust.
- Ask your friends and family not to involve themselves in interviews with the news media.
- Do not give any false information to your family or friends regarding the shooting incident. It may get out.
- Do not ask your friends or family to lie for you.
- Ask your family and your friends to help you cope, or help you deal with the aftermath of the shooting event.
- Ask for help, should you require it.
(12) Avoid Your Attackers or Intruders Family or Friends – The Distanced Aftermath
“Steering clear of what could be troubled waters”
- By all means, it is imperative that you maintain distance away from the suspect’s family.
- Be ever vigilant at home or when out in public.
- Do not call them, email them or send them a letter in the mail, asking for forgiveness or to apologize for what took place.
- If you are involved in any legal proceedings, do not engage the family members of the person or persons who attacked you, your family or others.
- Should you be approached by one of them, attempt to avoid them, if at all possible.
- In the event that you are confronted, threatened, or intimidated by one of the family or friends of your attackers, contact law enforcement or the courts for relief or to file a report.
(13) Surviving the Courts – The Legal Aftermath
“The judicial system is never a constant. It ebbs and flows upon the political tides”
- In regards to your shooting event, you were either right or wrong. You were either within the parameters of a good self-defense shoot, or you were outside the scope of what the law allows.
- By this time, you will have obtained legal counsel. Seek their advice and representation on all legal matters involving the courts or law enforcement.
- Always present yourself professionally and ethically. Everyone is watching you now as you are center stage in these legal proceedings.
- Be involved in your own defense, but trust your attorney’s guidance.
- Sometimes remaining silent, even during the court proceedings, may be your best defense strategy.
- Refrain from outbursts in the court. It doesn’t look good on you.
- In the event that the decision of the court does not go your way, appeal those decisions of the court or the jury.
(14) Living Beyond The Aftermath – Getting On With Your Life
“Energize yourself with new hope and new opportunity”
- Wounds heal. So do emotional scars. Think positively.
- This is not the time to dwell on what has happened. Be grateful that you have survived the threat. Move on.
- Getting back into a routine is paramount in your emotional recovery.
- At some point, if not already, you should get back into carrying a firearm in public again, or by having it stored safely and readily available in your home.
- Although armed encounters are not like lightning, it could happen to you again. So be prepared for it.
- Talk in confidence with your friends or family when you are ready.
- Maintain dignity and composure when out in public. You’ve done nothing wrong.
- Smile and start to enjoy life again.
(15) Remaining Vigilant – Always Be On Your Guard
“It is the uncertainty of the next moments in our lives that we should be trained and ready for”
- I have lost several of my friends and associates over the years by being complacent.
- Complacency kills
- Make and maintain a plan of action to protect yourself, your family and others.
- Be ready, be alert and ever vigilant on protecting yourself and others always.
- As you have watched in recent weeks, attacks can happen anywhere. At work, at school, in a mall, on the streets or even in your home.
- Make a plan to survive, then work that plan.
- Be forever ready to survive the threat.
- Continue your training.
- Practice your with firearms often.
- Never give up your will to survive.
Our police cannot be everywhere at every given moment. There is no guarantee that they will get there in time to intervene, or to protect you from harm. Although these great men and women are out there to “Serve and Protect” you, there are just not enough of them around to do just that – protect you.
Disclaimer: The above listed information, details or story are by no means all-inclusive, nor is it intended to be a complete treatise on the subject of defensive shootings, the defensive use of a firearm, or for self- defense in general. This article does not represent any or all legal advice outside the legal representation of an attorney of choice. Consult a qualified attorney, versed on the subjects of self-defense, gun rights and defensive shooting practices.