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What should you do if you use deadly force to defend yourself.

In the state of Texas, particularly Fort Bend County, firearms are commonplace in households. You may recall during the historic flooding in Houston during Hurricane Harvey, Ft. Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls stood by the second amendment and the rights of homeowners in response to looting in disaster situations. Nehls was quoted sharing a harsh warning, “The residents of Ft. Bend County support the 2nd Amendment and many of them are armed. My caution to the looters out there…you may want to stay out of Ft. Bend County because there’s a potential possibility you can leave this count in a body bag.”

Sheriff Nehls’ quote raises an important question around what would happen if you were involved in a situation that causes you to use deadly force with a weapon for protection. What should you do? What liability do you have?

Deadly force is the use of force which is likely to cause serious bodily injury or death to another person. It’s an act of recourse chosen when an imminent threat cannot be subdued with means lesser than harming an assailant. Firearms, bladed weapons, explosives, and vehicles are among those weapons the use of which is considered deadly force. The use of non-traditional weapons in an offensive manner, such as a baseball bat, sharp pencil, tire iron, or other, may also be considered deadly force.

SugarLand, TX attorney Shawn McDonald from SMB Criminal Defense Lawyers shares his #1 piece of advice if you are involved in a defense situation. If you are in a scenario which garnered the use of deadly force, it’s probably because the other person is armed and had the intent to harm you.

Here’s what you do:

  • Leave immediately. If you have stopped the assailant (whether injured or dead), leave immediately. Get yourself, your family, or whoever is involved away from the scene. You do not know if the assailant will awake and resume the threat towards you.
  • Call 911. After leaving, call 911 and explain you’ve been in a shooting and you are unaware if the assailant is incapacitated or dead. Explain that the assailant was armed and you had to flee for your own safety.

Despite what you might have learned in gun safety courses, it’s the job of EMS and police to serve as rescue, not yours. As McDonald states, “You are not in the rescue business, you are in the protect your family business.” McDonald also advises resorting to other options besides harming another individual. If there are alternative ways to avoid a deadly situation – do it. You should only choose deadly force as a last resort.