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CAUGHT ON TAPE: Justified Self Defense, Or A Cold-Blooded Murder?

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A Bearing Arms reader sent us a link to this security camera video, and asked us whether we thought this was a justified self-defense shooting.

 

In the black & white footage, a light-colored Chevy sedan pulls into a parking space, closely followed by a dark-colored sedan. After both vehicles stop, the driver of the dark-colored vehicle opens his trunk and retrieves an object that appears to be a piece of wood or some sort of pipe.

 

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He then advances upon the driver of the light-colored vehicle as he emerges from his car, and swings the improved club at the door of the car.

 

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The driver of the light-colored vehicle ducked back into the car.

 

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The driver of the light-colored car drops back into his driver’s seat and reaches to his right as the man with the club hits the car several more times.

 

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The man with the club strikes the windshield as another man in a light-color tee shirt rushes in from off camera in an apparent bid to diffuse the situation. Before he can, however, “Mr. Club” pulls the door of the car open and appears to verbally threaten the driver, with his club down by his side.

 

The driver of the light-colored car, who punches out with a handgun and fires a shot into Mr. Club from several feet away as the man with the club—who now has the club lowered to his side—starts to turn to address the man in the light-colored shirt.

 

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Oh, dear.

 

 

It would have been a relatively clear-cut case of self defense if the man in the light-colored car fired while “Mr. Club” was still swinging his stick/board/pole, but that’s not when the man sitting in the driver’s seat presented his weapon and fired. He waited until the man in the light-colored short got Mr. Club’s attention, and then he fired after Mr. Club had ceased his attack and his attention was momentarily diverted elsewhere.

 

What we can’t tell from the quality of the video is if the man with the gun fired only this one shot. It appears he fired at least 2-3 more times.

 

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As Mr. Club drops from either being shot the first time or surprise or the combination of the two and the man in the light-colored tee short pulls away, the man in the car emerges and points his handgun at Mr. Club again.

 

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We can’t see any additional shots due the the quality of the video, but know it appears that 1-2 additional shots may have been fired while Mr. Club was doubled-over from the first shot, because at this moment the driver’s side glass on the adjoining car shatters and falls.

 

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The man who was in the light-colored car is no longer defending his life. He’s now the aggressor, and has been since the moment Mr. Club stopped his attack right as the man in the light-colored shirt walked up and Mr. Club turned to address him.

 

A prosecutor or grand jury may view this tape and understand why the driver of the light-colored car took the distraction offered by the man in the light colored shirt to launch his counterattack. Depending on the jurisdiction, they may hold that this first shot fired into Mr. Club from a seated position inside the car was fired in self-defense.

 

Then again, they could just as easily argue that since Mr. Club had lowered his weapon and turned away to address a third man attempting to incede as a peacemaker, that the deadly-force threat had ended and the firing of the first shot was not legally justified.

 

Any follow-up shots are criminal

 

 

Mr. Club had stopped his attack and lowered his stick/pole to turn and address the man in light-colored shirt, and after he was shot in the side by the man in the car, he doubled over. He was no longer an immediate deadly force threat by even the most generous of interpretations.

 

If the man with the gun really did fire 1-2 more additional times when we saw the shattered glass fall in from the driver’s side window of the adjoining car, we’re looking at a clear felony, as he is shooting at a man who is no longer a viable and immediate threat.

 

And now we’re looking at murder

 

 

The man in the light-colored shirt then again steps in between the two combatants. Mr. Club has been shot once, and possibly as many 3 times from the side and back at this point. He’s doubled-over, and no longer a viable threat.

The man with the gun then seems to reach over the man in the light-colored shirt and the gun in his hand and appears to deliver a coup de grâce. Mr. Club then drops to the ground.

 

You’re accountable for every single bullet you fire

 

 

The man in the car was clearly a victim of road rage from Mr. Club. Mr. Club clearly meant to hit the light-colored sedan and cause damage, and clearly meant to intimidate the driver of the light-colored vehicle. After watching this video numerous times, however, I still can’t tell if he meant to physically injure the driver of the light-colored car at any point.

 

The man in the light-colored car may have an arguable case of self-defense if he fired just one shot. It will depend upon the prosecutor and grand jury, as there’s enough ambiguity here on whether the attack was still underway that the call is subjective, and eyewitness testimony and statements from those involved will of course have a significant impact.

 

If the man in the light-colored car did fire the additional 1-2 shots that it appears he may have fired when the adjoining car’s window shatters and falls, then we’re almost certainly looking at a criminal homicide, as Mr. Club was no longer a threat.

 

If there was a coup de grâce fired when the man with the gun reached over the man in the light-colored shirt and Mr. Club dropped, then we’re probably looking at a 2nd degree murder charge. If the prosecutor has the evidence, he might even prosecute a first degree murder case here.

 

There is a lot of bravado/ignorance spouted on the Internet from people who little relevant training and no legal background which suggests that they think that once they have a legal right to fire in self-defense, that they can then keep firing as many shots as it takes to kill the other person.

 

That is not remotely true.

 

You are legally justified in using deadly force as long as the threat of deadly force violence exists, and the moment that threat goes away, you must stop firing.

 

Prosecutors and juries can grasp (with good professional witnesses) if you fire a shot into someone in their side or from behind if it is part of a continuous rapid-fire string.

 

It’s another thing entirely to fire into someone who is turned away, improve your position, fire additional shots at someone who is no longer a threat, move again, and then firing a finishing shot over someone else.

 

Let’s hope for the sake of the driver in the light-colored car that the apparent follow-up shots and coup de grâce were just a trick of the camera.

 

If they aren’t he’s likely facing decades in prison and hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and civil judgments.

 

The post CAUGHT ON TAPE: Justified Self Defense, Or A Cold-Blooded Murder? appeared first on Bearing Arms.

 

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