Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Huge Victory for Self-Defense

Legal Insurrection is covering all the reaction, but I wanted to make some quick points on the Zimmerman not guilty verdict, which I'll be elaborating on this week's DOWN RANGE Radio.

1) Justice has been done, but George Zimmerman will never get his life back. Every one of us who carries every day needs to understand that. There is a price to be paid, even if you're 100% right! And Zimmerman's ordeal is not over yet. I strongly suggest you read this Breibart account of a worst case.

2) As I said in the beginning, the case pivoted on whether there was one incident, initiated by George Zimmerman and ending in the death of Trayvon Martin, or 2 incidents, the second initiated by Trayvon Martin and ending in his death.

3) The prosecution failed in their blunt attempt to equate the right of self-defense with the extent of injury suffered by the victim. The "reasonable person" doctrine prevailed.

4) What the jury was not allowed to see, the tweets, the social media, from Trayvon Martin showed the 17 year-old to be a wannabe thug, a doper experienced in fighting — including one fight he lost because he was taken to the ground and pounded MMA style — and looking for a gun. Rather than the    "accidental tragedy driven by race" scenario still be presented in the MSM, given all the evidence it is not irrational to speculate that Martin saw an opportunity to "make his bones." And he took that opportunity. The learning point here is that we cannot know what is in someone else's head...the young man walking toward you might indeed be an angelic choirboy...or he may not. This may be the day that angelic choirboy decides to become a full-fledged gangsta, and you're "it." Based on this, do we ever drop our eyes, turn our back, lose sight of the (however remote) threat?

5) As stated by myself, Michael Janich, Mike Seeklander, Marty Hayes and Rob Pincus in virtually every episode of THE BEST DEFENSE, if we are truly serious about our self-defense, we need to get beyond, "When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail." Adding empty hand, improvised weapon, stick/pen/cane, even knife skills to your "tool box," gives you options. Skill buys options! You may indeed end up in the gravest extreme and have to go to the gun, but it will be because all your other options failed.

6) You MUST be able to articulate exactly what happened, exactly what steps you took and why you had no choice but to resort to lethal force. This is not an optional step. The entire remainder of your life hinges on your ability to articulate why you acted as you did. George Zimmerman did a lot of things wrong, but in the end he was able to explain quite clearly why he did what he did, and the evidence backed up his story.

7) As Zimmerman stated, when Martin began reaching for Zimmerman's gun, it wasn't Zimmerman's gun or Martin's gun, it was "the gun." All of us who carry fully understand that in any altercation we are involved in, there is at least one gun present — ours. In my very first formal self-defense course while trying — unsuccessfully — to get a license to possess a firearm in New York City back in the mid-1970s, my instructor, an NYPD detective, hammered away on the fact that if you have a loaded gun on your person, you cannot give up the gun. If you do, that gun will almost certainly be used against you. On DOWN RANGE Radio, I've talked extensively about the concept of "gun sense," being aware of the gun and its position relative to you and a potential threat. The TBD guys have talked about distance between you and the potential threat, and as much as possible keeping or adding to that distance. If you are in arms-reach of your assailant, the hot zone, there is always the risk that your gun is in play! See Point 5.

8) Violence is quick and brutal. We have been conditioned by television and movies (and, yes, some of our own training) to see violence as a sort of step-by-step process in which each step is telegraphed by the previous step...first "A," then "B," etc. We imagine this will give us the opportunity to ramp up our own defenses and be ready to respond. Instead, the first hint you might get that you're in a fight for your life is the punch to the face that drives you to the ground.

9) There are limits to situational awareness. Yes, it is your first line of defense, but no defense is 100%. You have to have a plan, a mental index card, that programs your response when situation awareness is either not applicable (last year's TBD "Restaurant Beat-down," for example) or fails.

10) You must have a plan for AFTER the incidence. You are going to have to interface with the legal system, and that system does not give a damn about you. We've been talking about this a lot, but read this piece from John Farnam on what to say to the police, which is consistent with our teachings on TBD:

So, here is my advice when confronting arriving police in the wake of a lethal-force incident: 

• Palms out at chest-level, no weapons in sight: 
1) "Officers, thank God you're here!" 
2) "I'm the one who called." 
3) "Those men: 
(a) attacked us, 
(b) tried to murder us. 
(c) We were in fear for our lives" 
4) "I will sign a complaint." 
5) "I'm happy to chat with you when my lawyer is present. I absolutely request my attorney, and I am respectfully invoking my 5th Amendment Rights to decline to answer any questions until he is personally present, sir." 

 It is appropriate to call officers' attention to: 
(a) evidence that may not be obvious, 
(b) witnesses who may not be obvious, 
(c) danger that may not be obvious (eg: an armed suspect still in the area) 

Always be polite and non-threatening, but take a deep breath and speak clearly. Don't mumble and don't become chatty. 

Finally, when you are "Mirandized," the officer will probably ask you, "Do you understand your rights, as I've explained them to you?" The best answer is, "Officers, I'm not answering that question, nor any other, until my lawyer is here, nor will I sign, nor initial, any document." We could go on for many more pages, but the foregoing pretty much sums it up. You must protect yourself, as no one else will!

Granted, these are things none of want to think about. We always see ourselves as "the good guys," and we want the other good guys, the cops, to see us in the best light. Unfortunately, that urge for others to see us as "the good guys" is the rope we will use to hang ourselves. As I said on the podcast last week, the heads of the IRS "Took The 5th" before Congress. It is your right! Exercise it!

John, who is a genius on this stuff, BTW, also discusses asking to be transported to the hospital after a lethal force encounter, as I mentioned in last week's podcast. You have just had the worst experience of your life...your heart is feel may or may not know how badly you have been injured...I think the emergency room is indicated. Best case, ask your lawyer to meet you there.

11) Have a lawyer to call! I do, and I carry that number on my person and in my phone. This is going to cost you some money, but so did the gun and the training. Meet with a criminal lawyer in advance, explain your situation as an armed civilian and that you would like to be able to contact him or her after an armed encounter.

12) DO NOT WALK INTO THE FAN IF YOU DON'T ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO! Burn this into your psyche and remember it every time your put your gun on in the morning! You do not have an invincible uniform with a great big "S" on the chest under your street clothes. You do not have a badge nor have you taken an oath to defend the public. You are not a "sheepdog" protecting the flock. Yes, every one of us has read Lt. Col. Grossman's essay, perhaps many times, but think this through. Our "job" is not to protect the public, but to protect those under our "umbrella" and ourselves, first and foremost. There are exceptions, and we've discussed them at length in the TBD active shooter scenarios, but we need to think long and hard about intervening in any situation where we are not in possession of 100% of the facts (which is, indeed, most situations).

If we feel we must intervene in a questionable situation, we need to do so at the lowest possible level. Call the police and pay close attention to everything around you so you can be a good witness; video the situation from a distance; stay on the phone with 911; shout that the police are on the way; in short, exercise all your options before you step into the fray. Because when you commit, you must commit 100%, or you find yourself on the ground with your head bouncing off the concrete.

13) TRAIN! The skills don't come in the box with the gun. The skills don't come from watching TBD or reading what I or Marty or Massad or Rob write. Skills come from your commitment and nowhere else.

Okay...that's all for now.

Oh yeah, we ALL need to be in DEFCON 1 until the fallout from the Zimmerman verdict settles down. To borrow again from John Farnam, don't do stupid things with stupid people in stupid places. Stay safe out there!


Anonymous said...

Thx, Michael. I find no faults in your advice.

_DonWorsham_ said...

And now the Feds prepare to attack George Zimmerman.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, well said. I hope myself or anyone I know ever has to go through what G.Z. had to endure. Obama and his Justice Dept. should go on to other things, leave G.Z. alone. He is innocent of all charges.

Anonymous said...

We may never know what was in his head, but we know what was in his heart.

Anonymous said...

An oversimplification, but trying to include situational awareness and the repercussions of being in a shooting, I began many years ago advising students that the first rule in a gun fight is to not be there ... Obviously there are situations, but try - really really hard - to not be there.


Mike in NM said...

I've survived an attempted home invasion and the subsequent gunfight. I will say that had I not been in a state that is VERY Pro-Gun and had a DA that was very VERY Pro-Gun/Self-Defense I might have spent a lot of $$$ on my legal defense. As it was I had an attorney that I was able to talk to but I was never even arrested or suspect.

A lot of it depends on when and where....but there's a lot of good info in Bane's post here to go by.

Big Walley said...


thank you so much for the great info.
Do you know of a lawyer in Mississippi that would pass muster? If not, how would one go about finding one?

Ursa Ele said...

4) "I will sign a complaint."
5) "I'm happy to chat with you when my lawyer is present. I absolutely request my attorney, and I am respectfully invoking my 5th Amendment Rights to decline to answer any questions until he is personally present, sir."

I really don't see myself saying either one of these things to a cop when I've just had to use deadly force because someone tried to kill me. Particularly #4. That one really sounds planned, like I planned the incident, set the other guy up to look like the bad guy and now I want to put it all on paper and tie it up with a nice ribbon. It sounds like I am a bit TOO familiar with the process for dealing with a shooting. #5 makes sense to a point, but I can't imagine being able to help my own case by not telling the responding police at least some details of what just happened to me. "I'm not saying anything until my lawyer is here" is what criminals say to cops. Plain and simple. It can hurt to say the wrong things to a cop, but it can not help much to appear to be the bad guy.

I think it is fine to talk like that on an Internet forum or a TV show, but in real life, after a real shooting, when my life really was threatened, no, I don't think those words are going to come out of my mouth or anyone else's mouth.

Michael Bane said...

Ursa...your post proves my point exactly..."I'm not saying anything until my lawyer gets here is what criminals say to cops." So let me get this straight...only criminals make use of the rights granted to all of us by the Constitution?

I'd like to point out that when police officers are in officer-involved shootings, they normally do not talk to investigators/Internal Affairs without a lawyer present.

Note that John and TBD suggest you sketch out to the responding officers what happened.

You're afraid that exercising your Constitutional rights — the same thing the responding officer would do should he or she be involved in a shooting — will make you look like the bad guy? The BODY ON THE FLOOR makes you look like a bad guy.

Still, it is absolutely your life and you get to bet it however you would like. The reason we try to evolve these "scripts" is that we have seen what happens when the good guy gets it wrong. TBD's Marty Hayes is an attorney, one of the founders of the Armed Citizen Legal Defense Network, an expert witness in self-defense cases, one of the top trainers in the country and the founder, with his wife Gila, of the Firearms Academy of Seattle. Many of the other people we routinely talk to are expert witnesses, attorneys specializing in self-defense and firearms issues, expert trainers who specialize in self-defense training, which requires a high degree of understanding of self-defense law, and law enforcement officers who have responded to literally hundreds of self-defense calls.

Interestingly enough, the most adamant advocates for keeping your mouth shut and lawyering up are law enforcement officers!


KevinC said...

I'd suggest #13: Be able to bring as many people as you can to testify on your behalf that you know how to safely and appropriately use a firearm for self-defense.

Zimmerman had only one person take the stand in defense of his firearms training,, a Federal Air Marshall. His training was successful, as it saved his life, but when it comes to friendly witnesses, the more the merrier. Having more that one voice available to speak up in your defense gives you options: You can either parade 'em all out in front of the jury and overwhelm them with testimony, or pick and choose the best ones to testify rather than relying on one and only one witness.

KevinC said...

Or 14. Whatevs.

clark myers said...

Truth is that in a great many cases the honest first timer at the scene is more upset frankly scared and less likely to be a useful cooperative witness.

Many times the apparently cooperative witness has been in that position before and associates with criminals who in jail and out share stories of beating the rap.

Once upon a time drivers pulled over were often advised to bounce out of their car and approach the officer. Today drivers pulled over are well advised turn on the dome light if necessary, to put both hands in sight on the top of the steering wheel and sit tight making no sudden moves.

Consider frex the cooperation shown when Amadou Diallo then reached into his jacket and withdrew his wallet. Seeing the suspect holding a small square object, Carroll yelled "Gun!" to alert his colleagues

The advise given here is sound and reviewed by sworn officers and lawyers of many stripes. The decision to follow sound advice is an individual one but the fact is the advice is as sound as can be and still be general.

BBJohnnyT said...

Anyone care to wager that the gun banners next major offensive won't be state's Stand Your Ground and Castle Doctrine laws?

RVN11B said...

Just a minor nit-pick, and I do understand what you were pointing out, but I disagree about the sheep dog comment.

I am, as you eventually indicated, responsible for my own personal umbrella of protection. Being a former peace officer, my umbrella covered a great deal more.

Now a decrepited old phart, I am only able to contend with smaller issues, if you will.

So in saying the above, even though my 'yard' is a bit smaller, my duty to myself and those with me are still the same.

Anonymous said...

A very good friend of mine is an attorney. This friend loves to go deep sea fishing and on the wall behind his desk is a beautifully mounted sail fish which he caught on vacation. When this attorney interviews a potential client the attorney points to the fish mounted on the wall and asks, " Do you know how that fish got up on the wall...? He opened his mouth."

Anonymous said...

One of the advantages of using trainers like Massad Ayoob is that they will testify to your training in open court. That has the advantage that they can essentially train the triers of fact on the dynamics of a lethal force encounter if they weren't aware of them before...


Michael Bane said...

I am a graduate of LFI for exactly that reason...of course, when I went through LFI-1 both Massad and I were young...


Ursa Ele said...

I'm Ursa Ele, the guy who objected above to points #4 and #5. I don't agree with everything that I read or hear, but I do try to listen (and read) and think. I appreciate Michael Bane's reply to my comment. I hear ya. I still think point #4 sounds kind of hokey, I guess I need a little more explaining about that, but with regard to the lawyer thing (i.e., point #5) I definitely hear ya and I think I understand. Sketching out to the responding officers about the circumstances of what just happened is really what I meant. I did not think one should be ashamed or afraid to exercise my God-given, Constitutionally-protected rights. Not afraid to stand up for my rights.

One thing about the "sheepdog" thing: I am reassured when people who I respect, such as M.B., point out that us non-cops can and should be looking out for ourselves and our family, and that we do not have to run into a buzz-saw for Mr and Mrs John Q Public and 10,000 of their closest friends. When bad stuff goes down, we can get the hell out of the area rather than run in to be blown up by the cell-phone triggered secondary bombs. I am not a cop and I do not carry a gun to leap into "hero mode" when TBGU. I carry to protect myself and my loved ones.

But anyway, the sheepdog terminology, that I sense MB and others are tired of hearing, is ms-characterized, anyway. Anyone with any knowledge of dogs and sheep would know that "sheepdogs" are flock-herding dogs and they are most definitely NOT protective. Flock-protection dogs are NOT called "sheepdogs", at least not by anyone in the livestock industries. Flock guarding dogs that protect the flock from wolves, for example, are totally different breeds than the dogs used for flock herding, such as, and to include, but not limited to, the German SHEPHERD Dog, and others. Those dogs genuinely ARE sheepdogs and they have nothing whatsoever to do with protecting sheep or any other livestock.

Rob Drummond said...

I can thankfully say I have never been in a situation anything like Zimmerman's. But back in 1981 was was assaulted by three black guys while getting out of my car. It was a rainy night and I didn't think of any trouble just around the corner. These guys came out and attacked me just as I had a foot out the door pushing back almost back into my car. I was able to kick one down low & got him off me but before I could do anything else I was on the ground being kicked in the ribs eventually breaking two. They left, didn't take my money, car or anything else just left me winded and busted up. It all happened in less than two minutes

Two things I learned:
1) Be prepared as best you can (carry a handgun, training in its use and self defence, be aware of what is happening around you)

2) Things happen quick and when you are the least prepared.

I had a pocket knive on me and if I could have gotten to it I certainly would have used it. If I had a handgun on me I would have used question. But if I were unprepared that gun could have been the tool that ended my life.

So, it is all well and good to try to get away but if like me you can' prepared.
Rob Drummond
Hillsboro, NH

Demonio said...

According to Florida law it went as it should.
But, my personal opinion is that Zimmerman violated every rule in the book. You have a gun and inserted yourself into a potentially dangerous situation.
"Don't go to stupid places with stupid people and do stupid things."
Pincus even said "he should never gotten out of his car."
Report what you see and the general direction the suspect went and don't insert yourself into the situation.
He's not a ninja, did he think Trayvon wouldn't see him following?!

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