Situation: You walk out of a gas station restroom to see one individual with a pistol at the register aiming it at the cashier. Neither person is aware you are there but you are carrying a concealed firearm. What is your response?
This is a use-of-force (UOF) question fitted into a “what-if” scenario. An old UOF instructor I had put it this way:
Before we dive into this important information, let me tell you about ‘what-if’s’. You can constantly throw all kinds of variations into these shoot-don’t-shoot scenarios, and we will always find exceptions. But if you’re going to stay alive and out of jail, you have to know the fundamentals!
So, in order to know the right answer to this question, lets agree on a few things:
1. This scenario reminds me of those TEST QUESTIONS at the academy, where 3 out of the four answers are wrong. Each wrong answer has one or more elements within the answer that makes it the wrong answer.
2. You can only answer the question with the information you have, if you are going to get the question right, you can’t add variables to justify a wrong answer. If you get the answer wrong, the instructor goes over why the best answer is A and not D.
3. However, in real life, whether you’re a sworn officer or a novice with your new CCW permit, the decisions you make within the next 60 seconds will stay with you for the rest of your life.
Next, lets go over the question’s parameters, so we all are on the same page:
- You’re coming out of a gas station restroom.
- You see one individual with a pistol. (Larry)
- Larry is at the register, aiming the pistol at the cashier.
- Somehow, neither the cashier or Larry is aware of your presence.
- You are carrying a concealed firearm. (assuming you have a legal permit)
Let’s prepare with a few solid assumptions:
- The gas station restroom is way in the back, and the door opens and closes quietly enough so as the front can’t hear that loud-*ss hand dryer or the woooosh of the automatic flush.
- You are alone and no one is waiting in the gas station for you to come out.
- You come close enough to see Larry, the gun, and the compliant cashier.
- You can tell that neither Larry or the cashier are aware of your presence.
Let’s avoid a few assumptions:
- Larry is a police officer and the guy behind the cash counter is robbing the place. (We know this, because just a few short minutes ago, you walked into the place and you were greeted by Rob, the friendly cashier, you’ve seen there a hundred times before.)
- Larry is a friend, just playing a joke. (The look on the cashier’s face is genuine fear.)
- The gun is a fake. (Fake guns get people dead, a lot, and the courts are unsympathetic.)
- You’re the ONLY three people in this large gas station. (It happens, but not very often.)
Let’s agree on a few more assumptions that focus everything on the thought process of the permit carrier.
- No physical harm is visible on the cashier. Rob is not shot or pistol whipped, he’s just scared.
- Other customers in the building haven’t noticed what’s taking place, yet. No one is close to the register, yet. You have 30 to 40 seconds until that discovery is made known.
- Larry is still looking left and right, nervously, and telling Rob to hurry up and put the cash in the bag.
Now that the stage is set, lets go over the fundamentals of Use of Force.
According to most jurisdictions in the United States, here are the elements that police agencies use to determine if force, including deadly force, is justified.
- Force is typically justified in order to prevent bodily injury or further bodily injury.
- Bodily injury means physical damage to a person’s body. (aka Physical Injury)
- Force can be used in the event a person has a reasonable “fear of imminent bodily injury”.
- People can only apply enough force, to remove the threat. Typically, the standard is “one level above” that which you fear is going to be used against you or to stop any further harm against you.
- Force can also be used to stop someone else from being harmed. The same standard applies. If you fear that old lady would be harmed by that man hitting her, you can jump in and use force to stop any further injury.
- If you are in fear of your life or grievous bodily harm, which includes rape, you may defend yourself with deadly force.
- If you are in fear for someone else’s life or grievous bodily harm, which includes rape, you may defend them using deadly force.
- As you see in most of these answers, fear is a state of mind; if a reasonable person, given the same facts, would likely act in the same manner, you’re covered.
Since this is also a potential deadly force question, we must also define what deadly force is:
- In most jurisdictions, deadly force is that degree of force when so applied, a reasonable person would commonly conclude, it is likely to cause death or grievous bodily injury.
Now, this all being said, what’s happening?
- Larry pointing what appears to be a deadly weapon at someone you know to be the cashier that works there.
- Rob, the cashier, in the way this scenario is being described, isn’t described as doing anything.
- Both Larry and Rob, don’t know you’re there.
This is it, this is all we know. So now what?
Let’s assume that you don’t announce yourself, first.
- If you shoot Larry dead, you’re going to jail.
- If you shoot at Larry, and miss, and Larry returns fire, and someone else gets shot. You’re going to jail.
- If you shoot at Larry, one or more of your bullets hits Larry and Larry lives; Larry will sue you AND you will go to jail.
- If you shoot at Larry and any of your rounds strikes an unintended target, you’re going to jail.
Why are you going to jail? Because you are NOT a police officer and you don’t know what Larry’s intent was. Before you shot Larry, he was just another robbery suspect. After you shot Larry, suddenly Larry invented the cure for cancer, and you are now responsible for killing ¼ of the human race.
This is no joke. Larry’s lawyers and/or his family’s lawyers are going to be on you! IF you want to step up, if you carry because you want to help, then do us all a favor and do it like a pro and not some vigilante who thinks he/she has psychic powers and can read the intent of a guy down on his luck and “would have surrendered his empty gun if challenged”.
Did you see that the hammer wasn’t cocked? Did you see there wasn’t a magazine in the weapon? Did you see it had an orange tip? Did you hear the cashier tell Larry he wasn’t fooled, and that Larry needed to go away before Rob called the cops on him for real this time? Hmmm?
Now, the pro gets into your head and starts talking you through what a pro would do.
- Your first duty is to protect you and yours. IF you have a family, your duty is to go home (sad for others) but you have your wife/husband/kids to answer to first. They need you to come home to them. FIRST. So you shut the hell up and observe what’s going down.
- IF you can, sneak around and get other people to safety, keep people from walking up on Larry and let Larry do his business. (“Shhhh, this place is being robbed. Follow me. Keep your head down. Don’t go near the register. It’s okay. I’m a good guy. Just want you safe. Shhhh.”)
- Rob isn’t dead. Larry just wants the money.
- After everyone is in the back room, tell them to lock the door and have them turn out the lights. Let Larry get his money and you and those other customers, you all get to go home.
- You stay outside the back-room door and you watch who comes around that corner, with your raised pistol, cocked and ready to fire.
- Pretty soon you hear Rob say over the loud speaker, “Everyone who’s in the store, please make an orderly exit. We’ve just been robbed, and the police are on their way. The robber is gone. This store is now closed. If you bought gas, then please pay for it on your way out. If not, then leave your purchases at the front, and leave now.”)
- Everyone is still breathing, no one is shot, everyone is safe.
- 911 is called, the cops come. Larry is arrested an hour later, without incident.
Now lets assume that the stuff turns to sh*t…
00:00:00.0 The Robbery: Larry pulls his gun from his waist band and points it at Rob. “Give me all the money in the register, now!”
00:00:03.0 You just finished in the restroom, you are walking up to the exit doors and you see Larry with a pistol in his hand, pointed at Rob.
00:00:05.0 You assess that Rob looks terrified and doesn’t yet see you.
00:00:07.0 Larry is agitated at Rob, because Rob can’t open the register. Rob has freaked out and accidentally locked the register, requiring a manager’s override.
00:00:10.0 Larry starts yelling at Rob, “Give me the damn money! I ain’t going back to prison, dog, so if I don’t get my money, we all be going home in a body bag! You feel me?”
00:00:15.0 Larry starts waving his gun around, people in the store start running for the exit and Larry points the gun at them and says, “NO F*CKING BODY IS LEAVING TILL I HAVE SOME MONEY IN MY D*MN POCKET!”
00:00:20.0 There is a hysterical young kid near the ATM, has his hands up, Larry looks at him, “How about you?! You got any money?”
00:00:22.0 The kid pulls a crumpled $10 bill out of his pocket and tosses it in Larry’s direction.
00:00:23.0 “Sheeeeeitt, is that all you got!?” Larry bends down to pick it up, gun is not pointed at anyone. Larry’s hood flops over onto the back of his head.”
This is where “opportunity” meets “rationality”.
00:00:24.0 You draw your weapon and jack a .40 S&W Hornady hollow point into the chamber of your 1911 SIG. Loud and clear. You position yourself partially behind the display in aisle 5, to minimize your profile, but just enough so that Larry isn’t fully upright yet, but is frozen at the familiar sound of a large caliber handgun being charged.
00:00:25.0 You yell with a commanding voice, “DROP YOUR WEAPON, NOW! I HAVE A GUN AND I WILL SHOOT YOU. DROP THE WEAPON. PUT YOUR HANDS UP WHERE I CAN SEE THEM!”
00:00:28.0 Larry is contemplating what’s going to happen next. During this temporary reprieve you tell everyone in the store, “EVERYONE ELSE, LEAVE THE STORE! NOW!” Since you are now maneuvered to a place you know, no one can approach you from behind, Rob is on your right, behind the counter, and to your left is the only other entrance/exit to the store.
00:00:30.0 “DROP YOUR WEAPON, NOW! I WILL SHOOT YOU IF YOU DO ANYTHING ELSE! DROP IT! DROP IT! DROP IT!”
00:00:32.0 Everyone you can see is outside the store and running. Your eyes are on Larry, but you see that Rob is frozen and useless. He doesn’t know what to do. “Hey, man, get the hell out of here, take your cell phone, call the cops.”
00:00:35.0 Rob complies and rushes out of the store.
Now it’s just you and Larry. Larry already knows he’s going to die, he’s just deciding how.
00:00:37.0 “DROP IT. DROP THE WEAPON!”
00:00:37.0 Larry is still, not moving. He didn’t plan on this. That skinny dude was holding out on him! It’s a shame. He felt like killing these cheap *ss MF’res was going to be the beginning of a glorious end. It’s a shame it must go down this way. Ah, “F*ck it!”
The security cameras caught it all. Larry, leaned right, bringing his weapon up as he started to fall away from the voice. Not until his hood was back far enough, did he see the muzzle flashes of the SIG. The impacts of the two hollow points made Larry’s body twist around faster than he intended. The first impacted Larry’s left shoulder, making his gun hand instantly useless. The bone shattering like a broken mirror, and the muscle and nerves were shredded like they went through a meat grinder. The second round impacted Larry square in his chest, the fragments of the second shot chewing through his heart and splitting open the back of his chest cavity. The last conscious thought of Larry, was, “F*cked up again…”
Because you anticipated the shot, you ensured that if you had to shoot, your rounds would fly into the ice machine on the other side of Larry. You sigh with considerable relief as the window shattered and your third round, even though it missed Larry, was found in shards, inside the ice chest.
This is what imminent threat looks like. You have all the elements. A deadly weapon was being used as a threat. You challenged the threat, the threat didn’t comply, and then the threat acted in a manner that you knew would likely result in loss of life.
The police will hold you for questioning. I would call my lawyer. I wouldn’t make it adversarial, but I would have a lawyer present.
Here’s what to do when the cops arrive.
Make sure you see a marked unit roll up. Once you see the marked unit on scene, position yourself so you can see yourself on the security monitor, then you start announcing out loud, “OFFICER, OFFICER! In here! I have made my weapon weapon safe, its on the floor in front of me, the slide is locked in the rear position! Magazine is out! My hands are raised! I am a witness! I am not the bad guy.” Keep repeating that, while on your knees in plain view, with your weapon clearly visible on the floor in front of you, where they can see it. Keep your hands held high, fingers spread wide apart. Keep announcing your location and that you are surrendering your weapon. DON’T pick up your gun and HAND IT TO THE COP!
Let them cuff you and make you safe, for everyone’s protection. Let them search and clear the building. Don’t give them any advise or start running your mouth, answer their questions to assist them in ID’ing who the robber is, what’s his status and who else is in the building. Answer their questions, calmly. Be helpful. Comply with everything they tell you to do.
Use something like this, when they start questioning you on what happened. “I realize you need to know what happened. I want to tell you. But I am going to do so with an attorney present. Here’s my ID and my permit. Please let me call my lawyer, so that we get you everything you need, and I can be certain to protect my family and keep everything legal. I will answer all your questions as soon as my attorney shows up. Thank you for coming as quickly as you did. The cashier is a brave young man. I’m sure that guy was going to kill us all.”
Democrats want to remove these options from you. They say, "Let the police handle it."
We all know that the police can't be everywhere, all the time. This is why our founders wisely included the 2nd Amendment.