First Contact Part II: An Armed Citizen’s Guide on What To Do When the Police Arrive After Calling 911

by Vern Evans
Buzz Hayes Photo

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Editor’s Note: In yesterday’s related article, “First Contact: An Armed Citizen’s Guide on What To Do When Calling 911,” we touched on what a gun owner or anyone who is forced to defend themselves, needs to know before dialing 911 and how to properly handle such a call so as to avoid saying something that can get them in trouble with police or prosecutors. Today, we touch on what to do and say when the police arrive on the scene.

 

WAITING FOR POLICE

“Keep things as static as you can until authorities arrive,” is the advice Georgia attorney Matt Kilgo says. “Don’t talk to anyone else that you don’t want to become a possible witness. Control the narrative. Don’t make more witnesses who may be un­predictable on the witness stand. Talk to your lawyer instead.”

And no, don’t drag any bodies inside the house or place a weapon closer to an incapacitated attacker, as some people jokingly suggest.

“I don’t recommend touching the body at all,” Kilgo advises. Disturbing evidence suggests guilt and heightens the chances of being charged with another crime. You’ll make a mess of your floors as well as your case.

Some attorneys caution against giv­ing medical aid to the offender. First, because trying to resuscitate someone you just shot may cut against the claim that you felt threatened. But also, a sly prosecutor could suggest it shows consciousness of guilt. And from a practical standpoint, you never know if the perpetrator is alone or if there are others, so staying vigilant until police arrive is critical.

SILENCE IS GOLDEN

It may not feel natural to call for help, and then fall completely silent as a 911 operator asks you for details on the other end of the line. Police, when they arrive, might not be happy about it either, but that’s not your problem. Your job is to look out for yourself, not them. You’re protecting yourself from a future trial, and for that, silence never hurts and talking rarely helps.

Provide 911 with the necessary details and then hang up. David Burnett Photo

There are many reasons for this.

First, because you can. Silence is an ironclad right recognized by the justice system as belonging to every potential defendant. You can’t get in trouble for staying silent. Prosecutors can’t even tell the jury you refused to talk.

Second, because silence is your first weapon in protecting yourself now that you will become embroiled in the justice system. It isn’t sexy and doesn’t come in blued finish or adjustable night sights, but it does provide the time every person needs to process such a traumatic situation and then go through the scenario first with their attorney to make sure their story is accurate and true to the details so the truth can be properly relayed.

Third, you know this from the crime shows, any statement you make can be used against you in court. That’s es­pecially true right after events happen since people in general, certainly ju­ries, assume you’re more truthful when you’ve had less time to concoct a story.

“The only thing you can do is make the facts worse,” says Kilgo. “Silence will make them better. Don’t speak in a way that undermines your actions. The only person you should speak to is the person who has your best interests at heart—your lawyer.” Remember, your right to speak to an attorney and remain silent are not just for criminals. These rights are protected by the U.S. Constitution for everybody.

Fourth, because you are likely to make a mistake, and even an honest mistake could spell trouble for your court case.

“Adrenaline is not a truth serum,” Kilgo adds. “In the heat of the moment, humans experience tunnel vision, memory occlusion and elevated vital signs.” There’s virtually zero chance your perception, memory and recall will all be intact and functional after the most savage and excitable mo­ments of your life.

Don’t talk to police until you have an attorney present. You are more likely to harm your case if you do. Michael Borden Photo

CLOSING ARGUMENTS

Even if you survive a deadly force encounter, the biggest fight of your life may still be ahead of you. Don’t as­sume it won’t happen to you, and don’t assume your wellbeing is the priority for 911 operators, police, prosecutors, judges or jury. Yes, maybe you know your local sheriff and he’s a good egg. But maybe it’s also an election year and maybe you only get one vote.

In the end, there isn’t a universal formula for what to do in a defensive shooting. If there was, you wouldn’t need a lawyer. There’s an infinite number of possibilities, and you can’t what-if them all. Instead, stick to the general principles laid out in this article. Re-read it if you can and share it with members of your household. Train up like you would at the range.

 

RELATED STORY: First Contact: An Armed Citizen’s Guide on What To Do When Calling 911

 

Article courtesy of U.S. LawShield (Disclosure: U.S. LawShield is a sister company of TTAG.)

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