BANG! BANG! BANG! You’ve just defended yourself from a knife wielding (or any other dangerous weapon) bad guy who was intent on hurting you while you were walking to your car in the parking lot (or possibly even inside your home). Congratulations, you were prepared to do what needed to be done to protect you and anyone who might have been with you. Most likely though, you aren’t prepared for what is coming next.
To begin with, your body has just had what is probably the most intense adrenaline dump it has ever experienced and there are some physiological things that you’re going to notice over the next several minutes to several hours. We may each find that our bodies handle the stress differently, so what I describe here are effects that have been described by different people who have been involved in violent encounters. Your body has done the first part by handling the adrenaline dump and allowing your brain to start the defensive process that allowed you to defeat your opponent. You’ll probably start to feel light headed or as if you are viewing everything through a fog. This can be different from the tunnel vision that you might have experienced during the encounter as your brain kicked in and focused on your opponent and the weapon he or she was intent on using against you. As you start to notice this fog you may begin to feel dizzy and you might even notice that your breathing and heart rate are elevated; you’re possibly even getting weak in the knees and may have the feeling that you need to puke your guts up. These are all normal reactions experienced by many people who have survived an attack.
At this point, you must force yourself to remember that just because you’ve put your opponent down doesn’t mean he or she is completely out of the fight, or may not have friends or accomplices nearby that might continue the assault. You may find that you feel like you need to walk around to clear your head, but this is not advisable under the circumstances. You’ll be better off at this point to put your back to something solid, like a wall or a vehicle. Doing so will ensure that your back is protected and lessen the opportunity for other bad guys to come up behind you. It will also allow you to keep tabs on your bad guy to make sure that he doesn’t get up to hurt you. If possible, sit down, this will help alleviate the weak knee feeling and allow your body to start returning to a normal condition (i.e. breathing, heart rate, vision, etc).
Sitting down also helps you when the police arrive. It is important that you remember, you have no green light showing over your head that alerts the police that you are the good guy. You’re about to be treated like a suspect – that is, you’re about to have guns pointed at you and be placed prone on the ground and handcuffed with your hands behind your back….DO NOT resist this…DO NOT take it personal. The police also have a desire to protect themselves and go home at the end of their shifts to their families. This, coupled with the fact that they have no idea who the good guy is and who the bad guy is, requires that they treat everyone like a suspect initially.
After the scene is secured the police should give you the opportunity to make a statement (more on this later) as they sort out the facts of what happened. You can expect to be taken to the police department for questioning and possibly booked into jail and required to post a bond before you may be released. It is important here that you remember it isn’t the responsibility of the patrol officer to prove your innocence or the guilt of the other guy, rather it’s the patrol officer’s responsibility to gather evidence that supports the probable cause required to make arrests or initiate further investigation. Whether you are arrested or not, buckle down, you’ve got a long night ahead of you.
You’re going to be confronted and questioned by several different police officers who are going to try to intimidate you into saying what they think needs to be said before they can close their case. Unfortunately, there seems to be a disconnect between the responsibility of the police to serve the citizenry and the actions of the police. This is not to say that all cops will act this way but many of them seem to forget that you have rights provided to you by the US Constitution and that the police have the responsibility to protect those rights.
As I said earlier, you’re going to be asked to make a statement. This will likely be when the patrol officer says, “Can you tell me what happened?” You need to take this opportunity to make a brief statement of fact, something like, “he came at me with a knife and I drew my weapon and shot him.” Such a statement is fact and, if true, will not harm your defense, despite what your attorney might tell you. If you simply refuse to speak, you will, in all likelihood, be arrested because all the police have to go on are the facts before them, a weapon with your prints and a dead or severely injured suspect. Remember, however, I’m talking about a brief statement of fact, not an admission of all the details of the case. Once you make your brief statement, invoke your right to remain silent and RESPECTFULLY advise the police that you would like to speak with your attorney before answering any other questions. Keep in mind you will still be required to answer questions that pertain to your personal identification (name, address, date of birth, etc.), but after you invoke your right to an attorney don’t answer any other questions about the case.
If you’re arrested don’t panic, this doesn’t mean you’re guilty, it just means the police where you’re located are doing what they are told by the higher ups. You will be given the opportunity to post bail and after you’re released you can seek out an attorney. The most important thing is that you (and possibly your family) are ALIVE.
In the next post I will talk more in depth on the questioning process and what you can expect. Until then take care!