Skip to comments.Self-Defense Tip: The Three Rules of a 911 Call
Posted on 03/07/2012 5:46:37 AM PST by marktwain
[Click here to listen the 911 call made from a private residence in Springville Utah where a home owner shot and killed an invader.] This series has long argued that there are two parts to armed self-defense. Defending yourself against a lethal threat and defending yourself against prosecution for defending yourself against a lethal threat. Just as the first rule of a gunfight is have a gun, the first rule for staying out of jail and/or losing everything you own due to defensive gun use is STFU (Shut The F Up). That rule starts from the moment you call the cavalry. Heres the 411 on 911 . . .
1. Make the call as short as possible
911 operators are trained to keep the caller on the line as long as they can, until the first responders make the scene. You are under no legal obligation to remain in contact with the operator.
By the same token, the 911 operators are trained to extract as much information from the caller as possible. You are under no legal obligation to answer any of the operators questions.
Never forget that anything you say on a 911 call can and will be used against you in a court of law. Anything. And the way you say it.
Communicate the basic information necessary: the situation (theres an intruder in my house/theres been a shooting), your address, a description of yourself and the medical condition of a wounded friendly (if applicable). After that? Nada. What else do the cops need to know? Nothing. Not a damn thing.
2. Either hang up or put the phone down as soon as possible
Once youve shared the key info, either hang up or put the phone down. The former is the best strategy if the DGU is done. The latter is the best option if the situation is in progress.
If you throw the phone downan excellent idea from a strategic/situational awareness point of viewremember that youre being recorded.
Use that to your advantage. If its safe to do so, yell a warning to the intruder. The police are on their way. Ive got a gun. Dont make me me shoot you. Over-zealous prosecutors hate that stuff. Juries love it.
Again, its not just what you say, but how you say it. If you start swearing, laughing (even nervously) or go for some Clint Eastwood-like line before pulling the trigger, that will NOT work out well for you.
3. Do not discuss the 911 call with the cops
Police/detectives arriving on scene will try to extract as much information from you as possible. The cops may try and use information from the 911 call to get you to talk before you lawyer up. Lawyer up. Tell them My life was in danger and I will answer all your questions after I speak with my attorney. And . . . thats it. Nothing else.
Dont be fooled by 911 operators good intentions (which are beyond doubt). They are not trying to get you into trouble. But by God they can.
I know its difficult not to tell a helpful stranger anything they want to know in a time of grave danger. But give them the basics and STFU. Dont give law enforcement and the perps lawyer the ammunition they need to turn you from an armed self-defender into a victim of the legal system.
It also helps a very frightened citizen who has just defended themselves with deadly force to know that the next people through the doorway will be the police, not the intruder’s buddy or a wounded intruder. Most folks in that situation are not thinking clearly at all ..... fight/flight instincts & adrenaline are through the roof.
I was a police officer for three decades. I ran criminal investigations for a multi-county area. I handled a number of self-defense shootings and homicide investigations, including those where police officers shot perps. Even police officers are NOT automatically off the hook for a duty-related shooting. In most cases even police-related shootings go to an inquest. I will grant that police officers often get far more benefit of the doubt than what a private citizen may receive.
I will tell you from personal experience that if you are involved in a ‘clean shoot’, barring residency in some deep blue socialist hellhole, you are going to be OK if you answer (carefully) the questions - under guidance of legal counsel - to establish the fact and the perception that you were in reasonable fear for yourself, another person or on firm ground of the Castle Doctrine (if that has been enacted in your locale).
Staying dumb and relying on stupid lawyer tricks is the way to go if your shooting was not justified. But why would you play chicken with a prosecutor and a jury if you could avoid it by laying out the facts? If you didn’t commit any crime, and even if you did, it behooves you to not miss ANY opportunity to avoid a trial. Your perp may look more sympathetic than you do, especially with the passage of time. “He was just a kid! He was a young father who loved his (four illegitimate by four different women) kids! He was going to college! He was just getting his life together!”
I’m not saying that you allow yourself to be buffaloed or railroaded into any sort of plea. If you need to play hardball to clear your name, and if trial is the only way to do that, then by all means go ahead. But I strongly advise not rolling those dice. Without your side of the story, what have I got to go on? Someone is dead and the evidence points to the actor as being you. Maybe there’s clear sign of forcible entry, maybe not. Maybe there’s evidence of criminal intent on the part of the perp, maybe not. Maybe there’s evidence of the perp’s capacity and willingness to hurt you, maybe not. Maybe you were in reasonable fear, maybe not. How do I know? I maintain that the best way is to tell me.
Yes, get a lawyer. Yes, shut up until he/she talks with you and you decide on the best approach. But it is foolish to follow a blanket policy of omerta no matter what.
Oh..I thought it was Dead Guy Up in here.
I was a cop for many years, and I must take exception your generalization. I think I do have some native intellect and the ability to discern and discriminate facts. True, we are not friend or ally, especially in the beginning. That takes time and investigation and gathering of information.
You are correct, that even if you cooperate, that is no guarantee that you won’t be arrested and charged. There are regrettably over-zealous cops and prosecutors all over. But in most cases, certainly the ones I was involved in, people who were defending themselves, especially in the sanctity of their homes, are not. There are exceptions, mostly where you have doctrinaire liberals running the show. If you live in such a place, I recommend moving somewhere else more conservative.
But this is why I do concur that the less you say before getting a lawyer, the better. My officers who got involved in duty-related shootings got counsel before going into details. I have no problem with that, nor if a private citizen does. I am in no hurry to make an arrest, especially if I don’t have reason to believe that there is a continuing threat to the citizenry. I can and will take my time to understand what happened and get it right. But very often, the physical evidence and circumstances paint an ambiguous or incomplete picture of the incident. That is where I need to have the party(ies) fill me in on what happened, what they perceived was happening and how they felt at the time. The elements of culpability are all somewhat subjective (Intentionally, Knowingly, Recklessly, Negligently). They sometimes can be inferred from the evidence and circumstances and sometimes they are best established by the statements of the people involved. This can be for good or ill.
Something never to say: “The gun just went off.” Really? Then you didn’t shoot that guy because you were in fear for your life, but rather because you mishandled your firearm? Another - say there are multiple actors. Maybe the one you shot wasn’t the one who was armed, but he was the first one in through your door - the other guy ran away. Think that’s important for the investigator to know? You saw that the actor had some type of edged weapon in his hand? Maybe I’ll take anther look at the discarded screwdriver lying under the tool bench in the garage where the action took place and see if it has the bad guys’ prints or DNA on it. Yes, some of this can come from your lawyer, without you having to make a (potentially incriminating) statement. But your lawyer’s statements aren’t what are admissable in court, they aren’t evidence. If you want something on the record, you will need to be the one to say it. And if you are ‘clean’ you ARE going to want to be on the record at some point.
Help me out here, throw me a bone. After all, I’m pretty stupid, really, and it would be helpful if you’d point out the exculpatory evidence that would go in your favor.
A narrated account will be compared to the forensic evidence. If they differ in any way, or there is a judgement call as to what may or may not have happened based on the evidence, the evidence will win and it will impeach your recording.
What needs to be on the recording is that there’s an intruder, that you’ve dialed 911, that the police are on their way, and ‘don’t make me shoot you, I have a gun’. If you shoot them, and you are a trained first responder or have a current CPR card, and you are sure they are dead, then begin efforts at resuscitation.
If they prosecute you, then they will ask why a trained first responder failed to try and administer first aid after the danger had clearly passed (’after the danger passed’ is a judgement by the prosecutor after the fact that may or may not work with the jury).
I work with corrections officers that travel everywhere with a concealed weapon. They are EVER vigilant when off duty. They will come after you professionally in a DGU case even if the shooting was righteous by showing that you failed to provide first aid after the fact.
If you don’t have the luxury of 911, and you’ve already shot them, say as little as possible.
I’m not advocating “shooting to wound.” That is silly Hollywood stuff. “Aim for the center of mass and fire until the target is no longer a threat” would be my advice. “2 to the chest followed by 2 to the head” is fine for Baghdad or Tora Bora but in a domestic self-defense scenario is a recipe for 20 to life in the Big House. The prosecutor will characterize a deliberate head shot as an execution-especially if it was not the first shot or if it was administered after the target ceased advancing.
“I can easily establish that you shot someone. That is all I need to secure some degree of criminal conviction. You need to convince the trier of fact that you had good and legal reason to shoot that someone.”
If I’m on a dark street in the city, that is correct. If I’m in my home in Arizona, and the shooting is of a stranger at 1:30 AM, and the door has been forced open, and the bullets hit him in the front or side...you’ll need a lot more than a corpse to get a conviction.
Pointing out a few facts - “I heard the door give way”, or, “When he started down the hall, I was between him and my kids” - that is probably OK. After that, “I’ve been scared, and now I want to talk to an attorney before saying anything else” - and then SHUTTING UP COMPLETELY - makes sense to me.
Better to spend the rest of the night in jail than to say something that can be misconstrued by a liberal DA in Pima County AZ...they cannot use, “He didn’t talk a lot of the cops” as evidence against me. But if in my emotional state I make a comment that doesn’t square with the physical evidence, they CAN argue I lied to cover up guilt!
A couple years ago there was a house party that turned mini-riot a couple houses down from mine. I called 911 when a guy started yelling “I am going to kill you” while holding his arm out, I presumed he had a gun, but at 2am, i couldnt tell for sure. The 911 operator started asking me personal questions, including, are you on drugs? are you in a gang? are there any warrants out for your arrest? before she assured me that the cops were on their way. It seemed to me that she was more concerned that i was involved with illicit activity than the fact that i was hiding in my bathtub hoping not to get hit by a stray bullet. It still took 15min for a squad car to show up even though there is a copshop & donutshop less than half a mile away.
In other words, they are trained that the exercise of the 5th amendment is reason enough to arrest someone.
Huh??? That was not the way I was trained! Despite training, each 911 operator is a human being ... some are smart, some are "street-savy", some are old pros (seen & heard it all), some are wet-behind-the-ears 20 somethings with no life experience. I hate to say it, but it truly depends on who you get. If I had you on the phone & you said someone was threatening you & you thought they had a gun, I would have hit the "send" button immediately .... and asked pertinent questions after. I would say that it is often very difficult for 911 to determine what is going on - folks under stress just do not communicate well & the only way you can figure it out IS to ask a lot of questions (but help should already be on the way) ... and when you answer a 911 call and someone is 'screaming' on the other end ..... it's one of the hardest jobs I've ever had. Unfortunately, 99% of the calls the media plays are the ones that are horrendous .... all the good ones where folks get the help they need as quick as humanly possible and the 911 operators are professional, compassionate, and save lives .... you rarely hear those.
What do you find objectionable about the comment? It merely observes the fact that it is usually best to avoid shooting someone if you can, and that most criminals run off when confronted with an armed citizen.
What do you find objectionable about the comment?
Well, for one thing - you were a hit and run poster. You posted that thread and never replied to it.
But more than that. You were wrong. Everybody took exception to your poor advice.
And if they were wrong, then why didn’t you defend yourself?
But they weren’t wrong. And you knew better than to try and defend that silly comment. I’m surprised you even replied now. Except your reply comes hours after my comment and at the end of this thread, so that no one else will take issue with you.
You said that I did not reply because I was wrong, but you never explained how or why I was wrong.
I did not reply because there was no need to. The comment stands on its own. Refute it if you are so sure it is wrong. To do so, you need to show two things:
1. It is always better for someone to shoot someone than to avoid it.
2. It is more dangerous to let someone know that you are armed than to not do so, so that you maintain the element of surprise.
People can argue about both in certain cases. It is very difficult to argue about them in general.
I am sure that you saw that I did not claim that the woman did anything wrong. I merely observed that she might have avoided the necessity of shooting the intruder if she had yelled at the intruder that she was armed and the police were on the way.
You said that I did not reply because I was wrong, but you never explained how or why I was wrong.
I’ll be sure to explain it for ya there Mark. Some 24 hours from now. After the issue has died down. Maybe on another thread.
That’s how “we” do it, right?
I don’t think we disagree in any important sense. I completely agree that the less said before you get counsel, the better. Especially so in the immediate aftermath when the physical and emotional reaction ‘crash’ is happening.
I’m just saying that some here seem to be advocating a position of NEVER talking to the police. In a case as clear as the one you are postulating, the facts themselves will do the necessary talking. Things are rarely that clear cut. The recipient of self-defense lethal force is often an acquaintence, family member or domestic partner. The door may have been open. It may have been at a reasonable hour. It may have been on a dark street where you really shouldn’t have been. That doesn’t mean that the necessity to use deadly force wasn’t there. It does mean that you will need to paint in the picture of what was happening that led to your perception of imminent peril and your decision to employ deadly force in the defense of you or someone else.
I really dislike absolutism. Many here at FR are so reflexively anti-police that it would seem that they would stay silent (or even maybe lie) when the truth would save them. Whether to remain silent, or to talk (and if so about what and how much) should always be evaluated with your counsel. Talking, however, cannot always be avoided in all circumstances.
Thank you. I will be looking forward to your response.
As a late entrant to this thread, let me just say this. From a factual viewpoint, I agree 100 per cent with your statement above.
From an operational viewpoint, it's not the approach I would take. After making the 911 call, my plan would be to go into stealth mode, with myself between family and the threat, make myself quiet and small, hoping to avoid a face to face confrontation, but ready to do so with my pump shotgun in hand. And in my case, a round is already chambered, and safety is now off. I'm not giving the intruder any knowledge of my whereabouts by noisily chambering a round.
Finally, FWIW, thanks again for all your hard work finding and posting all the articles and info relevant to firearms and 2nd amendment issues. Keep up the good work!
Best I could come up with is Defensive Gun Use.
Never mind...should have read down at least two comments before responding. :)
If its any help, the Thuggees used to cut deep gashes in the abdomen so that the corpse wouldn’t bloat and float back to the top...
Thank you for your kind comments.
It is clear that one size does not fit all situations and individual incidents.
However, we do know that most criminals flee when confronted with armed force, and that some people have been shot as they attempted to break into a house because their brain was befuddled with alcohol or for some other reason. Most burglars make some attempt to commit their crimes when the residents are gone.
I have yet to read of an incident where a homeowner stated that they had a gun, and then immediately received incoming fire.
It may have happened, I simply do not remember reading of it.
I’m with you - I’m not going to fake an illness or lie about anything regarding the situation. I’m going to state that I was in fear of my life (which would be the truth), and that I will not answer any questions without a lawyer (also truth).
Faking things requires skill to keep up the charade, and I don’t think I have it in me. One could cause many more problems for themselves when their false actions are being described - and interpreted - to a jury than if one would keep it short, simple and truthful.
If it’s a fluid situation, the worse thing you can do is tie up one hand and divide your attention with the 911 operator.
I don’t like the idea of a Tox Screen. There is no guarantee you will be able to keep control of the results, and they could show false positives.
I read Alan Korwin’s book (and met him much later. Gentle Giant is the description I’d use), and that is exactly what he says. If you alter the crime scene in the least way, they will catch you and things will go very badly after that, because you will have been caught in a lie.
I think you watch too many movies. If somebody comes in or breaks into your house and threatens you with a weapon you can shoot them til the cows come home in the state of GA and thats precisely what I would do. It would be a clear case of self defense and nobody would try to charge me with anything. When you shoot to kill you either shoot in center mass or in the head. You are not going to be charged with murder for being a good shot. Thats ridiculous. In GA if someone accosts you in the driveway with a weapon you can kill them in your driveway.
Right now there is a post on FR about a guy in Conroy, SC who was approached by an assailant in the parkig lot of his business. The assailant pulled a gun and demanded money. the victim proceeded to empty a 5 shot revolver into the guy and then pulled another gun from his other pocket and emptied it into the attacker. No charges will be filed in the incident. I rest my case.
If someone has broken into my house, why would I want to avoid shooting them?
My experience: Kill the bad guy, call your lawyer (ALWAYS have one on retainer!), then call 911 to come get the body and file the reports. Calling the police usually gets a person into trouble somehow as cops seem to want to make everyone a criminal. Once cops are pumped up and emotional they lose all self control, so don’t call them to catch a bad guy as they will be pumped up.
my only thought is that do to the training i received as a corpsman i was very calm on the phone, perhaps i should have been irrational and screaming so they would be used to it
Some states don’t have the “castle doctrine.” You are expected to escape if possible, unless you have to protect a third party.
I have a question that no one has answered. If someone breaks in my home, and I shoot either my .45acp or my 12ga indoors in order to stop the threat . . . how long am I allowed for my hearing to recover enough to even make a 911 call?
Well .... if I had my druthers as to calm or irrational/screaming, I’d prefer calm. Just glad it turned out all right for you in the end.
one cannot hang up a 911 cell phone call. They have to release you.
I'm going to go by what the lawyer says in the video linked at #29. Nothing I say is going to get the cop to say "Nice shoot, sir! Have a good night." But I might find myself misremembering something, or maybe the cop makes a mistake writing it down, and now I have a hole in my testimony.
It is better to have my lawyer ask the police for their questions in writing, let the lawyer and me discuss the matter, and have the lawyer relay my answers.
I'm sure things were better when you were active. These days, it seems like a lot of cops have an attitude of "My performance rating is based on arrests which result in convictions, and the only person here I can arrest is YOU".
That is a good exception to the rule about clamming up. If the perp shot at you, point out where the bullet likely went so forensics can find it. If he had a weapon, leave it where it fell, do not disturb the prints, and point it out to the police. Beyond that, I'm going to be fairly untalkative.
Having some zip ties large enough to use as handcuffs would be a useful addition to the home defense arsenal. They are relatively cheap and you can keep some here and there around the house. I don't think the cops or DA would cast a suspicious eye on you for using them.
If the bad guy is conscious make him put them on himself, wrists and ankles, while you hold him at gunpoint at a safe distance.
When the perp goes down, I'm going to stay behind cover and not take a chance that he's faking in order to lure me within reach. Let the armed responders deal with him.
You are correct. That said, removing the battery will end any cell call.
Several reasons exist, any one or several of which may apply:
1. A considerable amount of damage may well be done by the shot before or after the projectile(s) enter or leave the intruders body. Bullets seldom only interact with the intruder, and it takes a fair amount of forethought to avoid danger to the inhabitants of the residence or to neighbors.
2. A large number of people, perhaps most, suffer after taking another human's life. This varies from individual to individual. Most people cannot take a human life with indifference.
3. A possibility exists that the intruder is befuddled, or otherwise incompetent. Perhaps it is the rare neighbor kid testing the boundaries, a drunk, or someone who has mistaken your house for another one.
4. If you kill the intruder, there will almost certainly be a terriffic mess to clean up. It is no fun cleaning up after a killing. The resultant mess may likely contain biohazards.
5. The legal hassles that you will likely go through can be very large, and put nearly all of your assets at risk. The castle doctrine may protect you in many states, as long as you are absolutely correct and make no mistakes. The possibility for very large legal expenses are quite real and significant.
Thanks. Those are some very good reasons. I’d still shoot to kill. I don’t make a very good victim.
Thanks for posting this.
Former 911 operator! Wow, MissMag, I bet you’ve got some stories! Thanks for your sage insight here.