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Thread: When is it appropriate to use deadly force?

  1. #1

    Default When is it appropriate to use deadly force?

    OK, serious question. Over the past year or more, I've thought about this issue more than ever due to law enforcement/military shootings, training, news, and even the computer game SWAT 4.

    When it comes down to the last judgement--after the chief/commanding officer, and the prosecutor, the shooting will be judged by a jury of peers. I will never be on a jury for a case like this, but some of you may be.

    Does a person HAVE to have a weapon for shooting him to be legal?
    Does a person have to be in the process of using the weapon?
    Under what circumstances, if any, may a Law Enforcement Officer (or soldier) shoot a person(s) believed to be unarmed?--Think about fighting near high speed traffic, deep water or a cliff. Think about multiple suspects and a single officer/soldier. Think about whether a suspect is going for the officer/soldier's gun or not.
    Which weapons would justify a shooting and which would not? A stick or rock? A glass beer bottle?
    What if the LEO/soldier claims a car was being driven at him or his partner?
    What if the car nearly ran over a LEO/soldier but is now driving away?
    What if the LEO/soldier says he thought the person was drawing or holding a gun but it later turns out there is no gun?
    What if the person is running away with a gun in hand (he hasn't fired)?

    Is it criminal negligence if a LEO/soldier shoots at a hostage taker or active shooter and hits a bystander or hostage?
    If someone is standing with a gun pointed towards the ground, can the LEO/soldier shoot? Or should she wait until the gun starts to be raised?
    Is a LEO/soldier required to give verbal warnings to surrender before shooting?

    I am familiar with the law and policy of my agency and with past shooting precedents, so my question is designed to assess other's opinions and how they might judge a LEO or soldier on trial, civilly or criminally. I realize there is a major difference between LEOs and soldiers, but that gap seems to be shrinking during police type operations in Iraq. Some soldiers have been condemned or brought up on charges for shootings that aren't clear cut situations. Others were killed because they didn't shoot soon enough.

    Thanks to all the responses. I'm specifically not looking for LEO/soldier responses (though they are welcome), but citizens over the age of 18. It goes without saying that nobody will be in perfect agreement with anybody else. I don't want this to be a debate because there is no right answer, just people's opinions on the questions and their overall philosophy that they would bring to a jury. Please do not argue with others, just post your own views.

  2. #2
    Flashaholic* Planterz's Avatar
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    Default Re: When is it appropriate to use deadly force?

    I can understand the desire to qualify "reasonable force", but the problem is you can't apply a blanket qualifier to specific instances, not to mention that such qualifiers vary state-to-state, country-to-country, etc. Mainly though it's because each situation is unique.

    Deadly force against unarmed opponents? What if there's 3 and you're cornered? What if somebody says "I'm gonna kill you, reaches behind his back, and pulls out a cell phone? Do you wait to see if he's actually got a weapon, or do you shoot him first?

    The main qualifier is imminent danger to your life or somebody else's. Beyond that, you have to look at each case individually to be fair.

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    Banned AshA4's Avatar
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    Default Re: When is it appropriate to use deadly force?

    Whatever your Lawyer can agrue in court I'd say.

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    Flashaholic* ACMarina's Avatar
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    Default Re: When is it appropriate to use deadly force?

    The question is also regionally dependant, too. In some states there is a "Castle Doctrine" that says that deadly force is authorized in all kinds of situations - for example, you hear glass breaking and look out into your driveway to see somebody breaking into your car. You can shoot them. In Ohio, however, you have what is called a "Duty to Flee", meaning that they will judge weather or not you had a chance to escape yourself..
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    Default Re: When is it appropriate to use deadly force?

    "When is it appropriate to use deadly force?"

    When you have NO OTHER OPTIONS and your life or the life of your loved ones are in jeopardy. If you have no other options (including running away) there are no ifs, ands, or buts about the use of deadly force in many jurisdictions.

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    Flashaholic*
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    Default Re: When is it appropriate to use deadly force?

    OOOPS, read the question wrong.

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    Flashaholic* Manzerick's Avatar
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    Default Re: When is it appropriate to use deadly force?

    It's as easy as AOJ lol

    The person(s) attacked must believe the perpetrator possesses the following:

    Ability to cause harm

    Opportunity to cause harm

    Jeopardy - your life needs to be in jeopardy

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    Default Re: When is it appropriate to use deadly force?

    No answer would fit in every situation or even every state. I am not a lawyer, so it's just my opinion.

    Any time you shoot, you should shoot for center mass, don't shoot to kill or injure, you stop when the threat is gone. Meaning if they drop the weapon, fall down, you don't continue to shoot, just becuase the adrenlin(sp) is running. On the other hand, if you shoot 5 times, they are still coming, you keep shooting.

    Q. Does a person HAVE to have a weapon for shooting him to be legal?

    A. If they don't have a weapon, is anyone in imminent danger?

    Q. Does a person have to be in the process of using the weapon?

    A. so you would shoot someone who is open carrying ? Or do you mean they already used the weapon on someone and are prepared to us it again ?

    Q. Under what circumstances, if any, may a Law Enforcement Officer (or soldier) shoot a person(s) believed to be unarmed?--Think about fighting near high speed traffic, deep water or a cliff. Think about multiple suspects and a single officer/soldier. Think about whether a suspect is going for the officer/soldier's gun or not.

    A. You would shoot /kill someone to keep them from falling off a cliff ? If yo believe they are unarmed, I don't see any reason to shoot. Again goes back to imminent danger. Is anyone in danger of losing their life ?

    Q. Which weapons would justify a shooting and which would not? A stick or rock? A glass beer bottle?

    A. Again, do you feel like a beer bottle can kill you? Maybe if it is broken, but is a jury going to believe you if you kill someone when they had a beer bottle in their hand ?

    Q. What if the LEO/soldier claims a car was being driven at him or his partner?

    A. when people direct a car at a LEO, my understanding is they can be charged with assualt with a deadly weapon. (4000lb+ car)

    Q. What if the car nearly ran over a LEO/soldier but is now driving away?

    A. Nearly ran over someone, so you want to shoot them? Get the plate #, let someone pull them over. Then let the courts do it's job.

    Q.What if the LEO/soldier says he thought the person was drawing or holding a gun but it later turns out there is no gun?

    A. Are you sure it was a gun, maybe they were pulling out their cell phone, or a card saying they are deaf. Who knows. You don't really want to wait until they are shooting at you until you draw and shoot back. But if you are a LEO you probably already have you gun drawn, which would give you an advantage. But if their is no gun, what kind of danger are you really in ?

    Q. What if the person is running away with a gun in hand (he hasn't fired)?
    A. If he is running away, he doesn't really pose a danger to you, but maybe he is putting others in danger ? Depends on the state, but you might be in the clear if others were in danger.

    Q. Is it criminal negligence if a LEO/soldier shoots at a hostage taker or active shooter and hits a bystander or hostage?
    A. Hard question. I believe that eveyone should be responsible for evey shot they take, LEO or not.

    Q. If someone is standing with a gun pointed towards the ground, can the LEO/soldier shoot? Or should she wait until the gun starts to be raised?
    A. If you are LEO, they have a gun in hand, it is pointing down, the officer tells them to drop it, they don't listen, a shooting would probably be justified. Again depends on the state, laws etc.

    Q. Is a LEO/soldier required to give verbal warnings to surrender before shooting?
    A. Think this would depend on state law, department procedures. It would depend on the circumstances, where is the weapon pointed, is it holstered etc, is anyone in danger.
    As for the soldier, it would depend on the ROE (rules of engagement). for example when I was in Iraq, the ROE was no warning shots, you shoot to stop the threat, not waste bullets on warning shots, firing in the air.


    Again I'm not a lawyer, this is just my opinion.

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    Flashaholic* Unicorn's Avatar
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    Default Re: When is it appropriate to use deadly force?

    Based on the information the person had at the time, and the circumstances at the time, if the person reasonably believed that he or she was in danger of losing life or limb. A stick is a deadly weapon, as is a gun or knife.
    Looking back in the calmness of hindsight is not fair to the person who had only seconds to make the decision.

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    Flashaholic* gorn's Avatar
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    Default Re: When is it appropriate to use deadly force?

    Bottom line in California anyway is if you are in fear of your life or the life of someone else. Also in this State, if a criminal enters your house you have the presumption of fearing for your life.

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    Default Re: When is it appropriate to use deadly force?

    The use if deadly force is justified where a "REASONABLE" person believes that is there is "SIGNIFICANT" risk to life of yourself or another non aggressor.
    Unfortunately, "reasonable" and "significant" are judgement calls that are made by the authorites after the fact.
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  12. #12

    Default Re: When is it appropriate to use deadly force?

    Exactly my point! We are judged on the frantic actions that last seconds by people whose values and definitions of "reasonable" "significant threat" and so on may differ from ours--especially when the "serious risk" is to us and not them. People are also naturally angry when an innocent person is killed--in the crossfire or by mistake.

    A society cannot exist without making these judgments on its members--LEOs and soldiers not excepted, so I do not say it is bad to society as a whole.

    D_clark, to answer a few of your questions:
    Is there imminent danger? During questioning/arrest, the suspect suddenly lunges at officer (hands are empty). Officer is alone, no witnesses.

    Would I shoot someone who is open carrying? Actually, more like a guy in a ski mask running out of a gas station holding a handgun pointed at the ground--he is not ready to shoot at that moment, but I am.

    You would shoot someone to keep them from falling off a cliff? No. I mean we are both near the edge of a cliff and the (adult male strength) person is wrestling/pushing/punching me. Towards the edge? I can't tell in all the confusion and it is dark.

    Do you feel like a beer bottle can kill you? Even if full of beer, probably not. Could do real damage, though. A trip to the emergency room if it hits my head--assuming I survive the rest of the attack.

    Car driving away after attempting to run over person? Officer jumps out of the way of car. Partner shoots and wounds driver as he passes by--argues continuing threat to public, other officers. Now officer is being sued by driver--a convicted felon. You're on the jury.

    What danger are you in if no gun? Angry person just pulled over for speeding screams at officer then suddenly reaches towards glove compartment and opens it--officer didn't ask for license or insurance and claims he thought gun was in the compartment, so he shoots. Silver cell phone in compartment. No danger.

    Others in danger if man runs away with gun? Nobody else around. Business district at 2 AM. Unknown why he ran or what he is suspected of.

    Criminally negligent to shoot bystander or hostage? Responsible, as in go to jail, lose job, sued for $25 million? Or responsible, as in, one week of additional firearms training?

    Thanks, d_clark for taking the time to answer the questions. I really appreciate it. It helps clarify how another person defines these concepts--imminent jeopardy and so on--in real life situations. You aren't a lawyer, but in these situations, it is jurors who will decide people's fates.

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    Flashaholic* Pellidon's Avatar
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    Default Re: When is it appropriate to use deadly force?

    Go to Packing.org and check out the CCW section for your state. They should have details on links to your state's views on deadly force. Most of the time it is when in fear of your immenet danger ie. loss of life or severe injury. Some jurisdictions have "Home is your Castle" protection also.
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    Default Re: When is it appropriate to use deadly force?

    Check the Bernie Goetz shooting many years back in a NYC subway...

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    Flashaholic* Cliffnopus's Avatar
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    Default Re: When is it appropriate to use deadly force?

    It has to be "reasonable" that you were in fear for your life. Just remember, every bullet has a lawyer attached to it. Even if your shooting was justified, you are going to go through a criminal trial and probably a civil trial as well.

    However, the trials are still better than being dead before your time.
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    Default Re: When is it appropriate to use deadly force?

    D_clark, to answer a few of your questions:
    Is there imminent danger? "During questioning/arrest, the suspect suddenly lunges at officer (hands are empty). Officer is alone, no witnesses. "
    So the officer shoots becuase he can't get a handle on a suspect with no weapons? Getting your ass kicked is not grounds for shooting anyone. Now if he tries to disarm you, then it's a whole different issue.
    Would I shoot someone who is open carrying? Actually, more like a guy in a ski mask running out of a gas station holding a handgun pointed at the ground--he is not ready to shoot at that moment, but I am.
    A. I think a case could be made that a shooting was justifiable. But it goes back to circumstances.

    You would shoot someone to keep them from falling off a cliff? "No. I mean we are both near the edge of a cliff and the (adult male strength) person is wrestling/pushing/punching me. Towards the edge? I can't tell in all the confusion and it is dark. "
    A. that's a little different. In the first post I thought it to mean that you were trying to stop two people from fighting and falling off a cliff, so you decided to shoot one or both. If the case was that someone is wrestling with you, who knows. I would probably shoot, if I could.

    Do you feel like a beer bottle can kill you? " Even if full of beer, probably not. Could do real damage, though. A trip to the emergency room if it hits my head--assuming I survive the rest of the attack. "
    Again, an ass kicking is not grounds to shoot /kill someone. Where you draw the line at an ass kicking and possible death is a good question.

    Car driving away after attempting to run over person? Officer jumps out of the way of car. Partner shoots and wounds driver as he passes by--argues continuing threat to public, other officers. Now officer is being sued by driver--a convicted felon. You're on the jury.
    If I was on the jury, would depend on the issues/circumstance and if it was a civil or criminal case. The fact that the driver was a convicted felon, shouldn't have any weight in a civil case. But you might be able to prove that he was trying to avoid arrest and going back to jail, would do anything to avoid it.

    What danger are you in if no gun? Angry person just pulled over for speeding screams at officer then suddenly reaches towards glove compartment and opens it--officer didn't ask for license or insurance and claims he thought gun was in the compartment, so he shoots. Silver cell phone in compartment. No danger.
    I'm on the jury, its a civil case, LEO loses. criminal case, probably LEO not quilty of murder.

    Others in danger if man runs away with gun? "Nobody else around. Business district at 2 AM. Unknown why he ran or what he is suspected of."
    If I'm on the jury, a LEO shoots someone just becuase they had a gun, nobody else around, Don't see why a shooting is neccessary. Why not get a discription, get backup, start a search? Who knows, you could be shooting the good guy, somebody tried to rob /kill him/her they defended themselves, now are trying to get out of the area before the bad guys friends show up. He can't hear you because his ears are ringing.

    Criminally negligent to shoot bystander or hostage? Responsible, as in go to jail, lose job, sued for $25 million? Or responsible, as in, one week of additional firearms training?
    If I was on the jury, and the LEO was criminally negligent, it would probably be jail. Depends on the circumstances. IE the bad guy ran into a big group of people the LEO opened fire on the bad guy just as he reaches the group, the LEO, shoots multiple times, hits everyone but the bad guy. I say criminaly negligent, straight to jail. Which then would open the LEO up to being sued.

    While I own /carry guns, I feel like we have a responsibility to make sure we don't put innocent people in danger. Plus, a loto of people already think guns should be banned, they freak out, use it as proof of their cause. Granted hindsight is always 20/20.

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    Default Re: When is it appropriate to use deadly force?

    AOJ's are pretty much it. At least as the basis for self defense.

  18. #18
    Flashaholic* Manzerick's Avatar
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    Default Re: When is it appropriate to use deadly force?

    Administration

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    Quote Originally Posted by VWTim
    AOJ's are pretty much it. At least as the basis for self defense.

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