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Shooting Aftermath – How much do I tell the 911 Operator?

December 29, 2009 AZ CCW Laws, Use of Force Issues No Comments

Question:  I am looking for opinions on how much or what type of information should be told to a 911 operator during or after a shooting situation takes place.

Answer: This is a difficult question to answer and how to handle it could vary widely depending on the precise situation.  Assuming that the call is occurring after a justified shooting has happened I would probably recommend the following:

  • First, make sure that you and any other innocent bystanders are safe from any further danger.  Try and remain as calm as possible.
  • Make sure that any weapons that are within reach of an unconscious or otherwise incapacitated attacker have been kicked away and cannot be recovered by them if they regain consciousness.  (Do not touch the weapons).
  • Call 911 and report the basic situational information (someone broke in, manifested a lethal threat, you acted to stop the threat, etc.) and request that they send law enforcement and emergency medical assistance.
  • Identify yourself and describe yourself ( I am Joe Smith, I am the homeowner.  I am 5’10″ tall with short gray hair and glasses.  I am wearing a blue pullover sweater and blue jeans.)  This will hopefully help law enforcement identify you as the ‘good guy’ when they arrive on the scene.
  • Stay on the line with 911 but resist the temptation to give them a full description or statement.  They will try and get you to answer questions since that is their job.  Remember the call is being recorded.
  • Check on your family and keep an eye on the assailant.  They have been known to regain consciousness and attack a second time.
  • When law enforcement arrives, DO NOT have a weapon your hands.  911 will tell you when they are on the scene.  Put any weapon you have down and be well away from it when the police enter.  Make sure they can see your hands.
  • The police will immediately secure the scene and after doing so, emergency medical personnel will come in and start treating any injuries.
  • The police will most likely separate all parties present and begin the process of questioning each person.
  • Consider answering only the most basic situational questions until you have your attorney present.  You are NOT required to make a statement without your attorney present.
  • Understand that due to your adrenalin response and extreme stress you may experience time distortion, sensory exclusion and other sensory anomalies that will make it difficult or impossible for you to accurately recount the course of recent events.  This is why you may not wish to make a statement until you have had a chance to calm down and talk to your attorney.
  • Understand that some law enforcement agencies treat all shootings as a homicide and as a result they may arrest one or more persons that might be involved in the shooting, even though you may be justified.

While all situations can vary, the list above is a pretty good set of guidelines for most things that might occur.  It is a really good idea to have an existing relationship with a good criminal attorney.  You certainly don’t want to be looking for someone in the yellow pages while waiting for the police to arrive…

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