Last updated on October 20th, 2019
If you are ever involved in a legitimate shooting, you will most certainly be affected by physical and emotional effects that may alter your decision-making process. Even if you don’t realize it. You should certainly consider this regarding what to do after a self-defense shooting. Here is a concise list of the most important points, tips and notes.
Its goal is a document you can review one or two times a year, to keep the information fresh. Furthermore, if you’d rather save the PDF version instead, that’s also included.
I am not a lawyer. This is not legal advice. This document solely represents my opinion. Every situation will necessarily vary, and so should your actions. This is not a substitute for proper legal training and does not necessarily reflect the laws in your state. There is no guarantee of veracity or appropriateness whatsoever. Neither is it guaranteed that any information is up to date. In the case of any doubt, always consult an accredited firearm instructor or lawyer in your state.
A few presumptions and remarks
The info below makes a few reasonable presumptions that you should take into account when reading.
- You are a legal firearm owner legally carrying a permitted weapon in your state.
- You’ve had to legitimately defend yourself with lethal force against a valid threat of death or great bodily harm. If that doesn’t apply, neither does anything herein contained.
- That the situation takes place in a location where you are legally allowed to be, and while not engaging in unlawful behavior.
- The content is written from the perspective of a Florida citizen. Some best practices may vary for other states with different laws or regulations.
- I don’t subscribe to the “shut up and don’t say a word” philosophy. If you do, then that’s your choice, but many experts would agree it isn’t wise. Even if it’s just for the initial 911 call, you’re going to have to provide some degree of information on what happened. The key is not giving out counter-productive information.
- This content is formatted as a semi-linear list, to make it easier to quickly review every once in a while.
- In case of any doubts, consult an accredited firearms instructor or attorney.
Things to consider after a self-defense shooting
- Immediately secure yourself from any threat. That includes those that may not be readily visible (tunnel vision). Unless the scene is manifestly unsafe, do not leave the location.
- Remove any weapons from the perpetrator’s reach, in case they recover. Besides that, do not approach or move the perpetrator. Presume they are still dangerous. Keep an eye on them from an advantageous position. Don’t touch any evidence.
- Check yourself for injury. You may be hurt and not realize it due to adrenaline.
- Reload or leave your firearm in operational condition – the threat may not be over. Then, if safe, holster it in a concealed but accessible position to avoid accidents or misunderstandings when law enforcement arrives. If kept in hand for any reason, as soon as you hear or see the First Responders, holster or drop your firearm.
- Be the first to call 911 once it is safe to do so – The 1st caller is the presumed victim. Provide location first – the call might disconnect – and then report the attack. Inform them that you feared for your life and had to defend yourself or others. Give your physical description. Request medical services for the perpetrator. Remember that your 911 call WILL be recorded. If excessive questions are being made, don’t stay on the line and directly call your attorney. Dispatch operators are trained to keep you on the phone and try to extract as much information as possible. That is a de facto statement, which you would be in no condition to accurately provide.
- Call your Concealed Carry Insurance, if applicable. Retrieve your State ID, Carry Permit and insurance membership card. Keep them readily available – in hand, if possible.
- When police arrive, comply with all commands in a neutral, non-threatening manner. Keep your hands clear and visible. Identify yourself as the 911 caller and victim. Be polite but serious. Realize that the police may not immediately recognize who is the victim or perpetrator.
- Make clear that you were just trying to stop the threat and acted in self-defense. Point out any witnesses (before they leave), evidence (before it disappears or is destroyed), weapons used by the aggressor, or accomplices (if any have fled, let them know).
- Give the officers only as much information as they need to start their investigation based on you being the victim and acting in self-defense. Let them know that you will sign the complaint against the aggressor. Explain that you understand the seriousness of the issue, and as such would like to give a full statement and interview after being checked by EMS and having consulted with your attorney. Don’t demand an attorney, simply let me know that you wish to talk to one first.
- Only answer questions once – to avoid contradicting yourself – and be careful with different phrasing of the same question. Also, speak in non-specific terms. Say you had to shoot, but don’t say how many times (you will be incorrect). Likewise, don’t judge distances numerically.
- Do not refuse medical treatment and ask to be checked out, even if there are no visible injuries. Your self-evaluation may be impaired. You were just involved in a critical incident, so you are likely in shock. Make sure any injuries are documented prior to cleaning them up, if not life-threatening.
- Do not speak to the media. Remember they have no authority. And do not talk to anyone about the matter until the police interview is complete.
- If you are asked to accompany law enforcement, comply. However, do not make any statements until you have consulted your attorney.
- Contrary to popular belief, saying absolutely nothing is generally not to your benefit in a self-defense case. Be truthful, albeit briefly, about what happened, why it was necessary to act in self-defense, and any other relevant details to start the investigation on a good foot. But don’t give more details than that.
- Self-defense is an affirmative defense. In order to establish it, the defender has to first admit being at the crime scene, with a weapon, which they used to intentionally harm the aggressor in a justified way. Therefore, you admit to the shooting and claim it is justified. That is one reason why not saying anything at all to the responding officers can be unproductive. If you claim that it was an accident or deny responsibility, you cannot claim self-defense. If self-defense is invoked in Florida, the person is immune from criminal or civil prosecution if found legitimate.
- Self-defense has to cover every wound inflicted on the aggressor. You cannot inflict any damage once the aggressor is no longer a threat. Such as if they fall unconscious, move after succumbing, surrender or begin to flee. Generally when self-defense is justified, you are not required to administer first aid to the aggressor, for your safety.
- Be the first to report the incident to 911, and do so immediately. If you don’t report it, or if there’s a long delay, you may appear to have a guilty conscience. When calling 911, say statements such as “I was forced to defend myself”, “I was in fear for my life”, or “I was attacked”, as applicable. Opposed to phrases such as “I just killed/shot someone”.
- During the immediate aftermath, including the 911 call, you will have a great physiological need for someone to say you did the right thing. Do not get too involved with this call and say too much. There will be plenty of opportunities for you to articulate your actions to the police when you are in the presence of your attorney. 2nd guessing your own actions is a perfectly normal and frequent reaction, which should be expected.
- Do not try to convince officers of your story. Simply state the basic facts. Try not to answer any question more than once. Especially if it is stated in different ways in order to probe for an inconsistent response. If you try to add or change anything in your statement later, you will be accused of lying. Remind officers that they themselves are given 24-48 hours before being questioned for shootings they are involved in.
- Do not make jokes or cute remarks. They may be used against you. Be serious even if officers or bystanders act more excited, indifferent or casually. The officers may know the perpetrator (repeat offender) and may view the situation in a different light, either positively or negatively. Similarly, phrases such as “yes sir” and “no sir” will go a long way towards showing responding officers that you are a respectable citizen.
- Do not lie about feeling poorly health-wise if you don’t, but recognize that just as you are not qualified to judge whether the perpetrator is okay, you are likely not in a position to judge yourself accurately.
- In Florida, they cannot arrest you, by law, unless they have a reasonable belief that you acted criminally and not in self-defense. That said, if they want to arrest you, they will. If you are read your Miranda rights, then stop any and all talking. Say “Officer, I don’t want to speak to you anymore until I’ve had the chance to speak to an attorney” and all questioning MUST stop, and your silence cannot be used against you.
Given how most people will hardly remember half of this a few weeks after reading, it’s a good idea to keep a copy nearby. That way you already have it if you ever want to review it. Or you can send it to a friend if they’ve never looked at the topic before. In most cases it’ll be a lot easier to find than a long-lost bookmark.
If you’d like to download a copy of the points included in this page, click ‘download’ below.
Consider legal protection like CCW Safe
Preparing for a shooting can only do so much. Sometimes the situation is messy, or the responding officers just aren’t sympathetic to civilian self-defense. If it’s within your means, few things can calm your nerves as much as already having a lawyer on call for a situation like this. And thanks to the recent popularity of CCW licenses, self-defense insurance is becoming an affordable commodity.
Personally, I use CCW Safe for firearm-related legal protection. The price is right, and the protection confidence-inspiring. All I want is a simple plan with decent coverage at an affordable price. There are other good options out there like USCCA, but they focus more on premium service at a premium price – which means high-price tiers or newsletters and instructional material I’d rather get elsewhere. After comparing all the options, CCW Safe was the most compelling. I’ve been a paying member for over four years and haven’t regretted it since. And as far as credibility goes, they’re the only “CCW insurance” to have successfully defended a self-defense murder 1 case, so it definitely helps me sleep better at night.
Shooting to defend your own life and limb is something that you should hope you’re never involved in. Nonetheless, completely eliminating that risk is incompatible with living a fulfilling life. That’s why anyone who legally carries a firearm should be familiar with what to do after a self-defense shooting. Hopefully the information here has helped shed some light on the topic.
Also, if you’d like a distilled version of the information above in a credit card-sized document to keep in your wallet, click here. I keep one next to my concealed carry license.
What do you think. Is there anything you’d do differently? Do you have any tips of your own? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear them.
Anyway, thanks for reading! Hopefully you found this enlightening. If you did, consider subscribing for similar content in the future. In the meanwhile, here are a few other posts you might find interesting:
- Free book to help you teach friends to shoot
- Compact, comprehensive life-saving First Aid Kit
- Emergency Food Supply – Augason Farms 72 Hour Survival Kit Review
- Portable vise to take your AR-15 to the range
- Phoenix Arms HP22A Upgraded Safety DIY
Sources & Good Reads
Here are a few references or other points of view for the guidelines detailed above. If you would like to see more, please check the PDF version for additional information.