In February, we reported on a man in Las Vegas who shot and killed someone stealing his car that had firearms in it. Carlos Viana was walking out of a warehouse and shot a person as he was attempting to flee with Viana’s Mercedes. It ends up that Viana is a firearms instructor, and he is now being charged with murder.
Viana told detectives the man drove the car at him, prompting him to think, “I needed to do something to stop this guy from proceeding, driving off into the street. And then I will try and stop him.”
He should have known better, and he didn’t follow the instructions he should have been giving every student. The time to talk to the police or anyone except your attorney is not by yourself at the scene.
According to the follow-up investigation, “When Viana discharged his handgun, he was standing on the driver’s side of the vehicle, not in front of the vehicle,” police said. “Viana fired his handgun twice towards the vehicle, hitting the driver’s door window.”
That massive adrenaline dump caused by your body’s reaction to the life-threatening event you just went through has side effects. Those side effects are not limited to physical symptoms like tunnel vision and lack of fine motor skills. Emotionally, you are going to be a wreck!
In high-stress situations, people will say things they didn’t mean, leading to nothing but trouble. For example, the words “I can’t believe I had to shoot him. It’s not something I wanted to do.”
You intended it to mean you had no other choice except to defend yourself, but someone else might hear you saying you had doubt about how you handled it. The detective may respond, “What do you mean you can’t believe you had to shoot him?” To him, you may have sounded like you wondered if you just did the right thing.
If you start talking, you may say something stupid that gets interpreted as entirely different from what you meant. These statements can sometimes be considered “excited utterances” and used against you. We have all watched a court case on TV, and a lawyer has said, “objection, your honor. That’s hearsay.” Under normal circumstances, what a 3rd party heard you say can not be used in court, but if your statement was made when you were still under stress, it might be admissible under the “excited utterance” exception.
“excited utterance”: a statement that concerns a startling event (such as a physical assault) and that is made by a person while under stress caused by the event
You can say things like what the attacker looked like, what they were driving, or what kind of weapon they had, but you should not try to explain why you did what you did. You will want to talk to someone, but there will be plenty of time for that after you have composed yourself and got your head screwed back on straight. Cooperate with the police and be respectful, but do not discuss what just happened. This includes saying anything to friends, family, or bystanders. This will be one of those cases to continue following and watch how it plays out with the attorneys and in court.