A few weeks ago I got a frantic email from a fellow who wanted me to be an expert witness in a gun-related case. He included his lawyer’s phone number, so I gave the lawyer a call to see what happened.
Here’s what he told me: His client lives in an apartment building with underground parking and assigned spaces. For one reason or another, his client decided to park in another person’s spot (We’ll call him Mr. T.). Well, Mr. T. was not a happy camper about this, so he left a nasty note on the client’s windshield along the lines of “never park in my spot again or bad things will happen.”
The client did not appreciate the note so he wrote an even “friendlier” note and taped it to the wall on Mr. T’s spot. To make a long story short, these two very mature adults went back and forth trading nasty notes with each other… until one day, the client caught Mr. T. in the parking garage writing one of these notes.
A verbal argument ensued…
And the client said he turned his back to Mr. T. to read a note which had been taped on the parking garage wall. And that as he was reading the note, he thought he saw Mr. T. raise his hand over his head as if he was going to hit the client in the back of the head. At that moment, the client drew his firearm as he turned around and told Mr. T. to back off. (Mr. T. then called the police and the client was charged with brandishing.)
After this long story, the lawyer asked me if I would be an expert witness and I said: “sure I’ll do it, but you’re not going to like what I have to say”. The reason being, the client should not have drawn his gun, because this was not a deadly force situation.
You see, even though I’m not a lawyer myself (thank goodness) you have to remember that in order to draw your gun you must be in immediate fear for your life. You don’t draw your gun to scare someone off, you don’t draw the gun and shoot to “wound” someone either. If you’re taking out your gun it’s because you need to use it that instant because if you don’t you might end up a dead man.
In the instance above…
The client saying “he thought he saw a raised fist” is not a reason to use deadly force. Had he said, he was sure he saw a knife or a baseball bat or a crowbar, then he would have been perfectly justified in drawing the gun – because those can obviously cause serious bodily injury, and he was 100% sure that’s what he saw (even if he was later wrong.)
As any police officer will tell you, one of the most important things you must be able to do when you draw your gun is to be able to articulate the fear for your life. That’s why in the case above if the fellow had drawn his gun because he saw a knife (which later turned out to be a cell phone) he would have been justified.
Believe me, I know we’d all like to draw our guns at the “jerks” we come across in life such as the guy driving slow in the left-hand lane who we’ve been flashing our high beams at to get over… or the rude person who insults your wife. But when these things happen you must swallow your pride and remember the only time your gun should be coming out of the holster is when you’re prepared to pull the trigger and immediately stop the threat.
By the way, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, I did not end up being an expert witness in the guy’s case and as soon as I told the lawyer why I wouldn’t do it, he said to me “I was afraid you were going to say that.”