The Aftermath of Using Deadly Force

If deadly force is used, do not argue with law enforcement who arrive at a scene where shots have been fired. You will at least be detained until the scene is deemed secure. Photo: author

If deadly force is used, do not argue with law enforcement who arrive at a scene where shots have been fired. You will at least be detained until the scene is deemed secure. Photo: author

At the Concealed Handgun Licensing classes I’ve taught for years, I often throw out the old “What would you do in x, y, z situation?” question to students. And just as often, I’ve been amused and appalled at the responses. I then try to explain that, depending on the situation, what we think we will do and what we actually end up doing may be two totally different things. Simply put, every situation is different. That plus your experience and amount of training will dictate to a large degree the choices made. And the choices made in those critical few seconds have major implications in more ways than people realize. Let’s look at what you will likely have to deal with after a situation where you use deadly force.

Law Enforcement Response

First, disregard what you have seen in the movies or on primetime TV. The image of you having shot someone and the police not putting you in cuffs is nonsense. If you have fatally shot a person, even in self defense, you have taken the life of another human being, which in most states is considered homicide. The determination of whether that homicide is legally justifiable is up to the courts and a jury, depending on where you live. That being said, when the police do arrive, they are going to be ramped up and entering a dangerous environment because they have been dispatched to a shooting with little or no information as to what is going on. In most cases, they are not going to know who is or is not the bad guy. Expect them to come in with guns drawn for their own protection.

A word of advice: do not argue with them. Follow their exact instructions and do as you’re told for your safety. Allow them to de-escalate and secure the scene, and save the arguing for when you’re not staring down the barrel of a gun. Christopher Gray, the head instructor for Combative Weapon Solutions, always informs people that “the Second Amendment does not offer any type of ballistic protection.” You can’t argue your case if you’re dead because you argued with an officer and pointed your firearm in their direction, which resulted in your being shot. This exact situation happened locally just about a year ago. Don’t be that person. At a minimum, expect to be handcuffed and taken to the station for questioning. You may even spend a day or so in jail depending on the circumstances.

Considering the legal costs associated with defending yourself if you have to use deadly force, insurance is worth looking into. Image: courtesy Texas Law Shield

Considering the legal costs associated with defending yourself if you have to use deadly force, insurance is worth looking into.
Image: courtesy Texas Law Shield

Lawyers and Insurance

That brings us to an obvious individual you may want to have access to or the ability to contact when you’re sitting downtown. A good lawyer will be critical if you find yourself in this situation. Picking one out of the Yellow Pages or is not what I am going to do when everything is at stake. And you know what comes with a good attorney — a huge financial cost. Stats vary, but plan on spending $50,000 or more for an attorney to defend you through the entire process, both legally and civilly. This is where having some type of insurance such as Texas Law Shield (for those of us who live in Texas) or USCCA may be beneficial. Check this out if you haven’t already.

If deadly force is used within your domicile, plan on finding a new place to live due to the emotional scars that may remain for you and your family. Image: courtesy author

If deadly force is used within your domicile, plan on finding a new place to live due to the emotional scars that may remain for you and your family.
Image: courtesy author

Financial Stress

Speaking of finances, the monetary stress doesn’t end with your lawyer. What if your dilemma causes you to lose your job? What if the shooting takes place within your home? Do you think little Jimmy or the wife is going to be able to stay in a home where someone bled out and lay dead for hours? Probably not. Not to mention you will more than likely have to move anyway for your family’s safety due to the death threats and protesters who will camp in front of your home. Selling your existing home and buying a new one will not be covered by insurance. Plus, imagine trying to do that while possibly looking for new employment. The financial implications of the expenses alone will be daunting.

Emotional Turmoil

Due to the emotional and financial stress, some type of therapy may be needed. I know, the dreaded “therapy” word that nobody ever talks about. Having worked the streets for over 21 years and seeing the kind of brutal and heartless actions that humans can inflict on one another, I can say without a doubt that therapy is critical to getting back to some kind of emotional normal. It is a fact that emotionally healthy humans are not wired to indiscriminately take a life. You or your family members may have to deal with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). If any family members were involved or witnessed the event, time must be devoted to making sure they get back on track too.

Think of the emotional stress that killing an individual inside your home may cause not only you, but also your family. Shield loved ones from the end result if at all possible. Photo: author

Think of the emotional stress that killing an individual inside your home may cause not only you, but also your family. Shield loved ones from the end result if at all possible. Photo: author

Something I see that infuriates me to no end is when adults allow their young children to view the end result of whatever violence has been inflicted. Whether it’s a violent homicide or a traumatic gory call we’re working, I am appalled that so many people allow children to look at these scenes. If you are involved in a deadly force encounter and your family is present, please do your best to shield them from the end results. Trust me, they simply do not need to see it.

Time Lost

Lastly, let’s look at time. What is your time worth? The whole process, from the actual event to the court (legal and civil) proceedings, to emotional healing and eventually getting back to some sort of normal life is going to be measured not in months, but likely years. And those are precious years that you and your family will not get back. Now, don’t get me wrong. If my family or I am in a life-threatening situation that leaves me with no other option than to use deadly force, I will defend myself and my family, knowing there will be a long road ahead and many issues that will need to be dealt with. This is where good diversified training and being prepared can help. If you are thinking “Should I?” in a situation, then you probably shouldn’t. And if you did, it may very well be used against you. Proper training and education can help in making the right decisions when things go bad. And since bad things happen in mere seconds, making the right choices can mean not only the difference between life and death, but also what quality of life you will have after the event.

Proper and relevant training can prove to be an important factor that determines your actions when you are involved in a critical incident. Photo: author

Proper and relevant training can prove to be an important factor that determines your actions when you are involved in a critical incident. Photo: author

Summing Up

I want to leave you with some ideas to contemplate and prepare for in case you are confronted with that life-altering situation:

• Training, training, training. Continue to learn so you are better prepared to make the right choices when things unexpectedly go to hell in a handbasket.

• If you use deadly force as a last resort, be ready for law enforcement to take control of the scene. Don’t take their actions personally. They are doing their job and attempting to secure a scene where the information relayed to them is often lacking or wrong. Listen and follow their directions.

• Have an attorney you can call before you need one. Make that one phone call count.

• Have a healthy savings account or at least look at possible insurance options that specifically cover such incidents.

• Be aware and prepared to deal with the emotional and psychological trauma of such an event for both you and your family.

• Be ready to move your homestead, even if just temporarily.

• Shelter family and children from viewing anything that may scar them for life.

• It is a marathon, not a sprint. Understand that this is going to be a long, drawn-out process.

Hopefully this will shed some light on the realities of what you may encounter if you use deadly force. It is not meant to persuade you from not using it if no other options remain. I simply want people to understand that life is not like the movies, where the police show up, pat you on the back, and you are free to go about your daily life as if nothing happened. Every situation is different, but if you’re prepared for the realities of what is to come afterward, you increase your chances of coming out on top.

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30 Responses to “The Aftermath of Using Deadly Force”

  1. Stone

    My last CCDW class had a good instructor. While not actually part of the material he did bring out the topic of insurance for both criminal and civil defense. He, like many others, stressed training is essential, firearm use is the last measure and when used properly the likelihood of being in a criminal case was small, but a civil case could be brought against you even if the police and DA rule the incident a clean shoot. With current stats showing that one in three adults suffer an attack in their lifetime. Being prepared is essential. That includes, skill, mindset and for the aftermath. Thanks for the well written article. As a plug for PDN, it is well worth the $60 to $120 a year for member ship to have access to the many training videos and discounts for the training DVDs. There is a ton of good advice found here.

  2. Rod

    This article is spot on. I’m retired Law Enforcement with 36 years of experience and retired NRA Instructor in 5 disciplines. Resopnding Officers will definitely secure the scene and take steps to keep all present safe. Coooperate because if yours was a justified shooting the evidence will bear that out. Let them gather it and secure the scene. You are going to be pumped up and excited so LISTEN closely to them and do exactly as they say. No surprises or quick moves. Have an attourney you trust available and insurance is a good idea. I recommend using factory loaded ammunition NOT RELOADS. You are going to be accused of making “Killer” rounds etc. Use reloads for practice (maintain skills ). Research the best self defense rounds and stay informed. If you wont afford $20-$30 for self defense how serious are you? some “Experts” will argue but they wont be in front of the judge. Bottom line is CONTINUING EDUCATION, PRACTICE, FINANCIAL RESERVES and COMMON SENSE.

  3. Krismarie

    I knew some of this, but having a lawyer is something I should have thought of here in NC. Back in California I had an awesome lawyer, but there I had the awareness of the state hating guns (you should look into how long, if ever it takes to get a concealed carry in San Diego Co.) and the criminal is the victim mentality. Thanks for the timely reminder.

  4. Stuart Cockerham

    Great well thought through article. The realities of having to live with surviving through just dealing with the violent thugs in today’s society are often not easy and “reality can be painful.” After surviving over a dozen armed-robbery attempts and more than forty attacks by multiple attackers, believe me, I do know. Even with no regrets or major mistakes, the psychological and spiritual aftermath can take a toll on you and some time alone or before God just to sort through mere minutes of having to do what has to be done to save your life or the lives of others. But it’s love of God, and the love for others that compels us to stand for what’s right in the face of an onslaught of evil and un-necessary violence. Thank God, that as in Psalms 144: 1; A psalm of David. Praise the LORD, who is my rock. He trains my hands for war and gives my fingers skill for battle. (NLT)

  5. john reynolds

    It took three years to resolve the civil suit. My wife and I are still in therapy. Its a tough call to pull the trigger. It will change your life forever. To long a story to go into here.

  6. Earl

    Being faced with a life or death situation is something every responsible individual hates to even consider. That said, we live in a dangerous time and there is no substitute or excuse for not being prepared and that includes the aftermath. I am thankful for your words of wisdom in obeying the commands of LEOs. They too are under stress when responding and anything we can do to assist the police in deescalating the situation is a plus for all of us. Just as we practice at the range and in classes we need to prepare for the aftermath. This attitude is paramount to ignoring gun maintenance or refusing to put in the necessary trigger time to remain competent with whatever weapon you choose. Thank you for a tremendous article on an often overlooked or “I’ll deal with that when I need to”.

  7. Sean F.Alexander

    Well said and I don’t trust the media or TV crime shows which sometimes is the same thing.!

  8. Andrew Branca

    “Stats vary, but plan on spending $50,000 or more for an attorney to defend you through the entire process, both legally and civilly.” There are no stats on this, but I can tell you from extensive personal experience that $50k is a gross underestimate (to get through the whole process). Expect to spend ~$30k to get to a pre-trial hearing on a non-killing charge (e.g., aggravated assault). If you’re going to trial on a killing charge (murder, manslaughter) expect to pay $150,000 in PRE-trial expense, and some multiple for trial costs, and that’s just the CRIMINAL trial, not the civil stuff. That is, of course, if you can pull together that kind of money. If you can’t, your legal defense will reflect how short you fall of the optimal defense because of inadequate resources.


  9. dan

    It is easier to be the criminal…all mentioned costs are paid for by the taxpayers and there are no repercussions to his property or family…only to the victims ….deck has been stacked against those that follow and obey the law…..imho

  10. TAC


    You point out some really good information that a lot of people are naive about. I too try, in the limited time available for CHL course, to point out some of the short and long-term issues you’ll face after a self-defense shooting. It’s sobering to think about, but it’s better than the alternative outcome!!

    Good article.

  11. Jim Hawke

    Great article, makes you think. We all need all the training we can afford. Hesitating can be deadly, but over reacting can ruin many lives. I been checking into for legal protection just in case. Should something happen the legal costs alone could wipe you out. Plus it’s good to have someone in my corner.

  12. steve

    great article, i recently made a comment online that i would not try to stop an armed robbery unless they came in shooting or made it very clear that they were there to kill by rounding people up and putting them on their knees or take them to the back room. the internet concealed carriers chewed me up over that remark. i tried to explain every point you’ve made in this article but they fell on def ears. i was told i shouldn’t be carrying since i was worried of possible repurcussions of a missed shot or overpenetration on the 90 pound suspects who simply wanted to rob the register and leave. i carry for self preservation, not to try and stop every crime i come across with deadly force. thank you for this info!

    • Lee Vernon

      Steve, that is exactly what that “line in the sand” that we each draw for ourselves should encompass. It will be different for all of us, but trying to figure that out when things go bad is not the time and will potentially cost one their life. Having worked the street for over 22 years as a first responder, I can’t tell you how many times I have rolled onto a scene and things are not as they seem. The more we educate ourselves with facts, the better prepared we will be in a worst case scenario. There are no rainbows and unicorns in the real world.

  13. Del

    I had a great instructor who told us how it would be. the more I practice, the more I read, the more important this information is because bad things happen. I want to be informed and prepared as much as possible.

  14. Everett Carrell

    You have made a decision to defend your family and those around you with deadly force. you have to make a choice as to what that means. If you think you are going to defend your wallet with a gun, you have made a bad choice. If you are not in a mind set of a person who can and will use a gun and you are carring one. you will more than likely have it taken from you and it will be used on you. You need to make sure that using a gun is something you can do. If you have made this choice make sure you dont go around announcing to the world that you are prepared to kill. Dont load your weapon with some kind of high power killer loads. Consider what a miss of the target you intend to shoot might do. will it go though a wall and hit one of your neighbors or your own child sleeping in their bed. you need to be someone of a meek and mild demeanor not the demeanor of a killer. You don’t want to be seen by your friends and neighbors as someone prepared to kill.

    • John F Nice, Jr

      I joined USCCA shortly after purchasing my pistol for that very reason. My wife and I both are members and they provide an experienced lawyer as well as financial backing for the fallout. Look them up on line.

  15. Stasia

    I have seen many concealed permit classes where they don’t speak about any of this, or they get it wrong.

    Spend time doing research on your instructors’ before you sign up, and also be smart and do additional research on the laws in your state, etc.

    Even the best instructor may make a mistake.

  16. Youngblood

    While I appreciate that deadly force should only be used as a last resort, I’m left with the impression that letting the bad guy go ahead and shoot me may be the best alternative rather than go through years of hell on earth, trauma, and huge expense for the privilege of defending myself. If this article represents reality, then something is seriously broken and the victimhood of the person defending himself and his family is perpetuated ad nauseum by the legal system. Makes me want to take the firing pins out of my guns and frame them on the wall as objects de art.

    • Lee Vernon

      Negative. It is about being informed as to the whole picture or the realities involved if you find yourself in such a situation. If one understands all that is involved, then one can be better prepared to make the decision that is right for them. All of us have a different parameters in which we may decide to use deadly force. Being prepared both mentally and physically means one can have the confidence in making the right decision in which the individual and their family will live with for the rest of their life.

      • Thomas

        I agree with Youngblood. Yeah, sure, consider all of the factors and complications of defending yourself in a “split” second . Hmmm, should I really defend myself and hope I don’t get hurt too badly, or let the perp take my property that I worked hard for? I do not accept the premise that “its covered by insurance” so let it be stolen. I am an ER physician so seeing a dead person,and plenty that have been shot, no matter how sad, doesn’t cause me PTSD.

    • kawika

      I know how you feel. I saw a video once where a grandparent had a home invasion and 3 of the guys took him and his grandchildren hostage, the crooks wanted to rape his granddaughters but he wasn’t going to have any of that and shot and kill the 3 crooks but took some shots himself. After hearing that story and then reading this, I’m like shit you really have to weigh the options and do what’s right. For me if one guy invades my home and I can take him with a knife or ASP I try that unless that one guy is 6’4” 335 pounds. If it’s 3 guys I’m just going to use my handgun.

    • Big sexy

      They don’t use wire ties on you unless there are multiple people to detain.most cops use actual handcuffs and usually have two or three pair of them handy

  17. Dennis

    Your article is very, very sobering. However, it is absolutely necessary for all gun owners to realize that using a weapon must be the last resort! Nevertheless, this article should fortify us to realize how serious will be the aftermath of using a weapon and inflicting harm or death on a threat that comes after you. You article should be mandatory reading for every concealed carry class, and a reminder to us all to respect the law officers who would be involved in a shooting that might involve us. Thanks for writing it.

    • Lee Vernon

      Glad that you found value and the importance in the article. Simply trying to educate so that we can all learn from the mistakes of others and not repeat them.