We talk in the Women’s Firearm Safety Course about the legal responsibilities and burden of using a handgun in self defense. This sad story illustrates the conundrum that happens in violent, split second decisions that are made when using deadly force to defend yourself.
The 80 year old man came home to find his house being robbed for the 4th time in recent years. The robbers, a man and a woman, then beat the old man, breaking his collarbone and causing various cuts and bruises. Despite his injuries, the frail old man manages to get ahold of his handgun and brings it out to protect himself. The homeowner begins to shoot inside the house chasing the felons out and continues shooting as the women falls outside in the alley. She cries out to the old man, “Don’t shoot–I’m pregnant! Under the influence of extreme stress, pain, and possibly anger, the man shoots her anyway and kills her.
Emotionally, we examine the plight of the 80 year old man. Intense frustration upon coming home to find that he was a victim yet again of bums who weren’t taught the basic human decency that it is wrong to steal things from others. Then, once the indignation rises, and he confronts the two, he is then mercilessly beaten and thrown to the ground. He is certainly in fear at this point of great and grave bodily harm, and manages to present his handgun and starts firing at his attackers. Confronted with deadly force the cowards run away, but the woman stumbles as she runs. As a final ploy to escape the consequences of her actions, she lies to the old man and tells him she is pregnant, and going to have a baby, hoping to play upon his emotions. He, however, either doesn’t ‘trust’ her, or is too overcome by fear and anger to stop his self defense actions.
As much as I can sympathize with the old man, when I think of the legal implications, my heart breaks at the further ‘victimization’ he will most likely face against the cold requirements of the law. Self defense law requires that there are four pillars of criteria that must be present at each moment of the time you make the decision to use deadly force;
- You must be in immediate fear of death or great bodily harm for yourself of another person.
- You must be an innocent party.
- There must be no lesser force sufficient or available to stop the threat.
- You must have no reasonable means of escape.
I”m certain the old man met the first three points initially. There was a large disparity of force with two young violent individuals showing no hesitation to attack an innocent, elderly man whom they were already robbing. I seriously doubt, especially after watching him moving around in the interview video, that he has the physical strength to protect himself. The unfortunate development came when he continued shooting after the felons had left his home and were outside in the alley, plus, when the woman had fallen and was allegedly begging for her life. His decision to continue to shoot at this point looks very bad from what I understand as a legal point of view. He could have held her at gunpoint until the police came, or even let her go. Also, at that point it appears that he no longer met the first rule of deadly force, in that he was no longer in immediate fear of death or great bodily harm…I will be watching this case as it develops, and will be interested to see the outcome. There is an old saying, “The young man knows the rules, but the old man knows the exceptions.” Will the prosecutor decide to press charges, or will they decide the 80 year old man has been traumatized enough without being drug through the legal system? Or, would the prosecutor think it is even possible to persuade a jury to send this elderly man to prison?
As you can see, choosing to own and use a handgun in self defense isn’t always as cut and dry and it may seem. You must know all aspects of the law, when you may or may not use deadly force, and when your right to use deadly force ends. I would have a very hard time deciding in this case, and can easily see both sides of the situation with the facts that have been presented so far.
What do you think?