Nov 20, 2010

Knock-knock, bang-bang

Over at ArfCom, I stumbled into this thread leading to a thread about the aftermath of a home invasion shooting (on XDTalk). Here's the first couple lines from the first post. Read the original posts; skim the comments as you see fit, keeping in mind that it's on the internet.

We are all ok thanks to my wife. There is no way to prepare for a phone call from your wife while you are at work that go exactly like this:

Me: Hi sweetie!
Wife: I need you home now, I just shot two invaders!
Me: On the way now! (end of call)

Part 1. "Home Invasion in Oklahoma: Mine"

Part 2. "Things we learned from the home invasion in Oklahoma"

Part 3. "I need to vent"

Got that?

One of the local news stations has a portion of the 911 call posted here.

I can not and will not presume to offer legal advice here. From a criminal legal standpoint, they appear to be in good shape. I don't know if Oklahoma precludes civil suits in justifiable self-defense, but it is something to be aware of.

One of the replies in Part 2 is this:
I was not happy with some of her questions to your wife, answers that could be used against her after the fact.
Please understand this: a dispatcher's job is to get as much information as possible. The more information we have, and the more accurate it is, the better-informed the responding officers should be. Our job is not to incriminate you, interrogate you, or judge you. We want to get you the right kind of help as quickly as possible. Giving our responders relevant information is part of that.

Yes, the recording of a 911 call can (and will) be subpoenaed as evidence in a trial. That said:

What you say on a 911 call will not change whether a shooting was justified or not.

Let me state that again to emphasize the point.

What you say on a 911 call will not change whether a shooting was justified or not.

What it COULD change is the perception of a prosecutor or jury (grand, criminal, or civil). Answer the dispatcher's questions concisely and honestly. I understand adrenaline. I know what it does. I've listened to more callers than I care to count with verbal diarrhea. Try to control it; the less filter a dispatcher has to do the better, and the easier it will be for a listener to understand things after the fact.

Either a shooting is justified or it isn't. Period.

Once the shooting is over, though, there's the rest of the situation to deal with. Read the posts up there again. The victim had to pack up their entire life and put it in storage in the space of twelve hours. In his words:

Our Life Before 21 Oct 2010

Two adults, two kids and one dog living in a 1300 square foot, four bedroom, one and a half bath home

Our Life After 21 OCT 2010

Two adults, two kids and one dog living in a 12 foot X 12 foot room.

They've received death threats. They've moved a couple times. The press plastered their names and address far and wide.

An armchair commando posted this about their choice to move:
You have two choices:

1) Refuse to back down, and not let low lifes scare you out of your home.
2) Move out of your home, fall into financial ruin, and vent about it on the internet.

Every man has to do what they think is right. I know what I'd do.
B. S.

He has to keep working in order to live. He can't be awake and at home 24/7. His wife can't be at home 24/7. Short of barricading yourself inside a fortress, there's no realistic way to handle this without moving.

An officer here was involved in a shooting earlier this year. The suspect died. The shooting was investigated and determined to be justified. Ten days later, the officer's house was burned down. He'd already sent his family away, for just that reason. And guess what? This was without the press posting his address and picture far and wide. He made it out with relatively minor injuries.

Trained SWAT officer. Unpublished address. Lost his house and nearly his life.

Relatively untrained citizen. Published address, face, and name. Chose to leave instead of risking more.

I have absolutely no issue with how he is trying to handle this, and I wish him and his family the best of luck.

Jay touched on this with a DGC post a few weeks ago. He also commented, "Instead, we have one dead goblin, one wounded - who if there is any justice will face homicide charges if there's any "commission of a crime" laws in place." Those laws are in place, and there are TWO goblins facing Murder One:

Police said Johnson and Kemp are charged with first-degree murder and burglary. The murder charge is being filed because a death resulted during the commission of a felony. All three suspects have had multiple contacts with law enforcement in the past. [KOCO News]


Shawn said...

That's terrible!

My reason for commenting, though, is to point out that in your writeup you contradicted yourself, and that you're flat wrong about a very important point.

You claimed that what you say on a 911 call will not change whether a shooting was justified, then said that it could change the perception of a jury. Since it's the jury that ultimately decides whether a shooting is justified, something that changes their perception very well may change whether or not a shooting is considered justified.

In this particular case, it's so clear-cut that the contents of the 911 call won't matter, but in a less clear case, the mother's answers on the recording might well have put her in jail.

I teach concealed carry classes, and I teach my students that if they have to shoot someone, their 911 call should contain the minimum information possible. Essentially "A man has been shot at [...]. Please send an ambulance and police." The 911 dispatcher may want a lot more information, but it's not really necessary. The dispatcher knows what kind of help to send.

As I said, in a clear-cut scenario like this one, the justification of the shooting isn't going to be an issue. But not every justifiable shooting is so simple. People who defend themselves with deadly force should understand that the police may NOT be on their side, and that giving the police information may not be a good idea. Let your attorney provide your side of the story.

Shawn said...

You said "What you say on a 911 call will not change whether a shooting was justified or not." This is false.

What you say on a 911 call may be used against you in court, and if you say the wrong thing the jury could use it as the basis for a conviction.

If you had to shoot someone to defend yourself, do NOT give 911 dispatchers any more information than required to get the appropriate emergency services there.

ZerCool said...

Shawn - welcome, and thanks for the insight!

I'm not registered over at UTCC (nor will I, I've enough forums to keep track of already), but I did want to touch on this: "If so, it appears that this 911 dispatcher really dislikes people being told that they should be careful what they say to 911 dispatchers."

You're correct, I am a dispatcher. I actually don't mind at all if people suggest some caution in what's said: I see both sides of the situation. My only counterargument would be a hypothetical attorney saying, "So, Mr. Shawn, if you're innocent and this happened like you're telling the court, why didn't you stay on the line and tell that to the dispatcher?"

It really can turn into a no-win situation in a hurry.

As to the perceived conflict... I don't see a contradiction at all. A skilled attorney can make a jury believe almost anything, and twisting facts or evidence around their goal isn't impossible. If you disagree ... was OJ really innocent? :-)

However, all that said, I will agree: get an attorney, let them talk. And no matter what, it's likely any defensive shooting will have long-term repercussions none of us can foresee.

Again - welcome!