The Cornered Cat
After the shooting…

Okay, so the worst has happened and you needed to defend yourself from a violent attacker. He 1 is down and apparently unconscious. Now what?

That’s a complete conversation I am happy to have with card-carrying good people in class. It’s not one I’m willing to have with the internet at large because there’s just too much room for misunderstanding and foolishness, not to mention criminal misbehavior. However, I can tell you what not to do next.


1 – Assume it’s over too soon. The immediate physical threat is not over until the cops have taken over the scene. The legal threat won’t be over for a long time to come. Maybe even a very long time. Even though you may feel shaky and adrenalized, or hyped up and talkative, or exhausted and ready to shut out the world, or some weird combination of all of these at once, now is not the time to quit. Stay aware of what’s happening around you. Do not relax your physical vigilance until law enforcement takes control of the situation, and don’t relax your personal vigilance until you can turn your legal worries over to a lawyer in private.

2 – Mess with the evidence. Don’t “drag the body back inside.” Don’t “put a knife in his hand.” Don’t rearrange the scene in any way you can avoid. That’s a crime and a stupid one.

3 – Fail to call the cops. If the violent crime being committed against you was serious enough that you needed to pull your gun, it was serious enough that you need to call the cops to report it. What, you think there were no witnesses? Don’t count on that. More likely someone caught the whole thing on video and it’ll be on YouTube before you get home. Besides which, you’re on the side of the angels. You’re the good guy. Act like it and be willing to testify against your attacker.

4 – Leave the scene except to get to a safer location where you can immediately call the cops.

5 – Point a gun at the cops when they arrive. (Hint: this means maybe you should position yourself where you’ll see them arriving and won’t be startled into turning around with a gun in your hand.)

6 – Lie. About anything.

7 – Trust your brain. Be aware that the influence of adrenalin on your mental processing abilities means that you Do. Not. Know. (really, truly, literally do not know) the answer to any question involving distance, timing, or even the sequence of events. Your adrenalized brain will lie to you about what you know, and you may even feel quite confident about it, but that’s not the same thing as really knowing. Which means that you will literally be making stuff up if you answer questions like, “How far away was he when you fired?” or “How much time did this take?” Whether you mean to do it or not, making stuff up is one way to end up in a whole lot of legal trouble. So don’t trust your brain’s ability to answer questions immediately after a shooting.


  1. Or she — attackers come in both sexes and all ages.

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