Saturday, January 11, 2014

FL:Thoughts on Warning Shots From a Police Firearms Instructor

Even a small gun can deter an attack  A friend said that they had to fire their mini-revolver to convince an attacker that it was a real gun.

Florida is moving toward a "Defensive Display" law that includes the possibility of a warning shot or shots being acceptable as a part of self defense, if no innocents are injured.   Arizona passed a similar law several years ago after the aggressors in self defense situations were using the criminal justice system to have the defenders arrested on aggravated assault charges.  Arizona's law does not include warning shots.

In the case that I know of, the aggressors were following the defender in a "road rage" scenario.  At one point, they pulled up along side of him, while traveling, and threw a beverage container at him with enough force that it cause a small cut.  When he stopped at a light, boxed in by traffic, two of them got out of their vehicle and started running toward him from a couple of cars back.  He held up his defensive sidearm for them to see, and they quickly stopped their aggressive actions and ran back to their vehicle.   Then they called 911.  He was also on  the phone to 911.  The police came to his house, and eventually arrested him (he thinks that it was because, under stress, he made a bad joke that offended the investigating officer).  He was going to trial, when the prosecution informed the defense that there was a third 911 call that confirmed the defender's version of events.   The case was dismissed, but there was tremendous stress and expense involved.  The aggressors were never arrested or charged.

With the Florida law, the most contentious issue is that of "warning shots".  Here is a discussion of the issue from a retired State Patrol firearms instructor.  I have edited it a little for spelling, with permission of the author:
I think defensive display can have a place in a self defense situation.

More then one criminal assault has been stopped when it has become know that victim is armed.

Warning shots are a lot tougher because of the high probability of some thing bad happening.

When I was on my Department's firearms and use of force committee, we had a long discussion on warning shots. Some were for forbidding them all together, some were for a more modest policy.

We were trying to determine if the policy should allow or forbid them. We decided the policy should read, that they should be RARE and INFREQUENT, based on the facts at the time they were used.

This was decided mostly on the facts of two situations where warning shots were used and the suspects were taken into custody after the warning shots without harm to the officers or suspects.

Having read the use of force reports and interviewing the officers I truly believe without the warning shots the officers would have ended up shooting both suspects.

It seemed clear that both of these suspects were trying to commit suicide by cop and the warning shots jarred them out of that line of thought and they surrendered because of the warning shots and not pressing forward with their attack on the officers that would have forced the officers to shoot them.

One was armed with a baseball bat the other was not armed, but kept making threats saying he had a gun and making movements like he had a gun and was going to use it.

Both warning shots were fired into good bullet stopping areas and there was no one else around.

Warning shots good, bad, or other wise, I guess one would have to take the totality of the situation into account before determining if they were justified or not and safely executed.
This summation of warning shots seems well thought out.   I have always taught a policy of *not* firing warning shots, but with the caveat the every policy has exceptions.   The idea that warning shots should be rare, but that each circumstance should be considered in the totality of the situation, appeals to me and to my understanding that each defensive shooting is unique.

In most situations, it is a better resolution to a situation if it can be resolved without having to shoot someone.

©2014 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
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Unknown said...

"The case was dismissed, but there was tremendous stress and expense involved. The aggressors were never arrested or charged."

this is backwards. if someone had to defensively display a concealed gun, then there should be an associated charge for the assailants. otherwise, it is less hassle to wait until your life is in jeopardy and actually kill the aggressors, and have a clearcut case of self defense.

Uno Hu said...

I lean against "warning" shots. At most in some cases a drawn weapon held in the index position and aimed at ground between the assailant on the armed citizen may be reasonable. There's also a lot to be said for the policy that if you are armed, an assailant should not be made aware of that fact until he hears a sudden loud noise.