Written by: Greg Ellifritz
Read the short article linked below:
In today’s world, being a hero often comes with a very costly price. This woman saw a criminal attempting to kill a police officer. She righteously shot and killed the criminal attacker to help the injured officer. She was not criminally charged and actually received a commendation for her selfless act.
None of that really matters in the end. She’s being sued by the estate of the criminal attacker (2019 update- The lawsuit was later dropped). Guess who pays the legal fees for her defense? It isn’t the police department. It isn’t the cop she saved. It’s totally on her. Even if she wins in court, she’ll still have to pay upward of $100K in legal bills if the case drags on (like they always do).
I’m grateful for people who have the courage to help out in dire situations like this. I’m also fearful that they might not truly understand the negative consequences of their actions. Your gun is for you and your loved ones. It isn’t for a random stranger’s defense, even if that stranger is a cop. Before you pull that trigger, you need to ask yourself a hard question: “Is saving this person worth potentially a lifetime jail sentence or hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees?”
If you screw up, you go to jail. Even if you do everything right, you get sued and have to pay your life savings to an attorney to defend you. That’s the reality when you come to someone’s assistance in our current political climate. You need to do some hard thinking about who you are willing to defend and when you should walk away.
As much as I appreciate this woman’s actions in saving the officer, I can’t advise that as a good strategy for my students. The consequences are simply too great. John Mosby’s words “Not my people. Not my problem.” keep passing through my thoughts as I write this.
You’ve undoubtedly read my advice in other articles I’ve written. I’m constantly advocating that my students learn to become proficient in empty hand fighting skills. I also encourage my students to carry a less-lethal weapon like pepper spray as well. In situations like this, when the bad guy is unarmed, a skilled person could intervene without using deadly force.
Do you think she would be sued if she kicked the criminal in the head as he was rolling around on the ground with the officer? Would she be sued if she incapacitated the criminal with a face full of pepper spray? What if she choked the guy out? All are options here. I would postulate that she wouldn’t be defending herself in court if she used one of these lesser options and helped the officer gain control of the suspect without shooting him.
There’s a reason I am in favor of my students learning both empty handed and less lethal weapons skills. They may keep you out of jail and far away from an expensive civil suit.
Your tactical homework for today is to think hard about who is worth fighting for. Who are you willing to risk lifetime imprisonment or financial destitution to save? Once you’ve figured that out, commit to exercising that discretion in any defensive situations you encounter.
Being a hero isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
* Editor’s note: This lawsuit was ultimately dismissed. It led to a new law in Indiana that provides civil lawsuit immunity to people who harm another person while executing a justified use of force.