About 10:00 PM on a Sunday night, a Harris County Texas husband and wife heard their daughter screaming in her room. She had just spotted a man outside her window doing things 10-year-old girls shouldn’t have to see.
The mom and dad, both armed, hurried outside to confront the man. Both of them ordered him to get on the ground until the police arrived. He did not comply and instead ran across a street toward a gas station. There the mom held the man at gunpoint as the dad went into the store to get someone to call 911.
As the dad left, the suspect attacked the mom, disarmed her, and pointed her gun at her. The dad saw this as he came out of the station and fired on the suspect, fearful he might shoot his wife.
The wife told the local TV news station:
“We didn’t want this guy to get shot. We were waiting for police to detain him because I’m pretty sure if he did this to my children, he’s doing it to a lot of other children out here. We are praying for the suspect and we are also praying for his family.”
The dad told the station that he believed that he shot the suspect four times, but police reported that he shot him three times.
I’m not sure it’s possible for this couple to have made more tactical and legal mistakes than they did. Their actions could have gotten both of them killed, and they still could face serious criminal charges if the local prosecutor’s office so chooses. Perhaps their one possible saving grace is that this happened in Texas.
It’s not hard to imagine the shock and outrage that this couple must have experienced when discovering what had just happened to their daughter. It’s also not hard to imagine that outrage soon turned to anger as this mom and dad armed themselves as they left the safety of their home to confront this man outside their daughter’s bedroom window.
It seems clear that they expected this man to surrender to them and wait for the police to come and arrest him, but he didn’t do that. He instead ran away to a gas station. But what if he had been armed himself? This couple could have been walking into a gunfight by confronting this man outside their home.
But then they pursue the suspect to another location and again attempt to hold him at gunpoint. What they are attempting is essentially a citizen’s arrest. I don’t know of a single self-defense attorney that thinks that’s ever a good idea.
To justifiably use or even threaten deadly force against someone, that person must be an imminent deadly force threat against those bringing deadly force to bear. There was no report that this suspect had any type of weapon. That is until the dad left the mom alone with the suspect to go into the store. Tactically, that was a very bad move. Now the mom is left alone with what is likely someone desperate to escape, and she has no legal justification for shooting this man. In essence, their threat of force is a bluff that this suspect has already called once back at home. What is the mom going to do if he runs away again? Shoot him in the back as he is fleeing from her? Remember, this man’s apparent crime is lewd behavior outside a window. He hadn’t physically harmed anyone.
Also, remember that innocence is one of the conditions necessary to use deadly force in self-defense. That means you didn’t start the conflict, escalate it, promote it or continue it. It never looks like self-defense when you go to the fight, much less chasing someone down to engage them purposefully.
When the suspect takes the mom’s gun and points it at her, he now does become a deadly threat, and the dad doesn’t really have much of an option at that point. He has to act to protect his wife. But what if the suspect had been able to shoot the mom and turn her gun on the dad? The daughter could have instantly become an orphan.
How easy would it be for a prosecutor to argue that the suspect wouldn’t have had to be shot in self-defense if the parents had just stayed in their home and let the police chase the bad guy? The mom’s statement that they didn’t want the suspect to do this to others seems admirable but ordinary citizens do not have the authority of law enforcement officers to chase down criminal suspects.
Besides that, this mom and dad spoke to the local news station (and I also suspect the responding police officers) without the benefit of counsel. Every self-defense expert I’ve ever watched or read after says never, ever speak to the media after a self-defense incident. All of their statements to the media can be used against them.
Even if no criminal charges are brought, what’s to stop this man’s family (or himself if he survives) from bringing a civil suit seeking monetary damages against this couple?
Can you see the risks this couple engaged in by leaving their home and trying to apprehend this suspect? Please remember that your defensive firearm is for only that; defense of innocent life facing an imminent deadly threat that couldn’t be avoided. Be the best witness you can and leave everything else to trained law enforcement officers.