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Asked how the citizen can communicate that he is not the aggressor, Furhman advises, “Immediately disclose that you are the owner or legal occupant of that house and the victim of a crime. Say, ‘I live here and I am the victim. He tried to kill me or hurt my family,’ whatever is the case. You need to say that you are the good guy very quickly, right at the outset,” he stresses.
That is even more critical if the incident occurs outside the home. “The lines aren’t drawn as clearly when you are out in public and a lot of people are around,” Furhman emphasizes. “In Connecticut, you DO have a duty to retreat outside your home, and that has a lot of impact on somebody using deadly force. You can use deadly force if you have no other options to protect yourself,” he instructs. “When it comes to any use of force, it is going to be investigated to make sure that you had no choice but to shoot that person, that you absolutely were in a corner.”
Initially, police will attempt to establish those facts at the scene. “Police officers are going to try to research and extract that information right then and there,” Furhman explains. Will that entail being taken in for an interview? “Some will be taken down to the police barracks. Most of the time, though, the police officer at the scene or detectives from the homicide unit will start the interview process at the scene. They’ll want to try to get as much information as possible while the incident and the crime scene is fresh.
“Now we get to what you should and shouldn’t say if you’ve gotten involved in a gun fight,” Furhman continues. “A good citizen who believes that they exercised their right to self-protection will WANT to express themselves to police. ‘I’m not the guilty person! It is not my fault he came to me. I had no choice but to fire. He tried to kill me.’ But the reality is that stress is very, very high and the citizen may not be thinking clearly,” Furhman acknowledges. He endorses the five-point checklist taught by Massad Ayoob on the Network’s second educational DVD, noting that he would say, “That person broke into my house. That person tried to kill me. I’m the victim of this incident. I can’t talk right now. I don’t feel well. I will have to get back to you once I have had the opportunity to think about what has happened to me.”
Will law enforcement push harder if the armed citizen declines to answer detailed questions? “An experienced police officer is going to know that [declining] is the smart thing to do,” Furhman replies. Police unions require that an officer is put on administrative [leave] after a shooting or other situation. We all say the same thing, ‘I will have to get back to you after I speak with my attorney. I am invoking my rights.’”
If pushed by an aggressive investigator to answer questions, Furhman suggests replying, “‘I can’t talk. I feel nauseous and dizzy. I can’t talk to you right now. In fact, I need to go to the hospital.’ The police officer is duty-bound to call an ambulance for you,” he continues. “Then you or a family member is going to call an attorney. Hopefully you have already scoped out an appropriate attorney who deals with criminal law and Second Amendment rights and they will be able to go on from there.
“You need breathing room after a shooting,” Furhman advises. “Police investigations don’t happen in two hours like on TV. It takes months to put a case together. Just because you’re not talking at that moment, that doesn’t mean anything! There will be forensics work done, there will be interviews of witnesses, there is going to be background investigations done. There are a million things that are going to transpire.
“The most important thing for the victim to know is that time is on your side. Don’t blow it by giving out information that you cannot retract later on. You may not be using your best judgment at that time, in fact you probably will NOT be,” Furhman concludes.
BIG CITY CONCERNSNew York City with its 35,000-40,000 officer police department is a world unto itself. The largest police force in the United States, NPYD serves a city in which gun ownership is tightly restricted, and legally carrying a gun outside the home is not a right many New York citizens can exercise. I was a bit surprised, then, when police procedures expert Edward Mamet did not find the concept of armed citizens carrying guns for self defense irregular.
Though referred to me by a New York City Network Affiliated Instructor, Mamet was the only retired police officer interviewed for this study who is not a member of the Network. I appreciated his “outsider’s” perspective.
Mamet recalls that when responding to a “man with a gun” call, “the first thought we always had was, ‘Is this a police officer?’” As early as the 1970s large numbers of anti-crime units served in every precinct, wearing civilian clothes and driving taxis and non-descript vehicles, he details, “so they blended with the neighborhood. The very first thing on a police officer’s mind in a big city where they have these units is, ‘Are we dealing with an off-duty police officer or are we dealing with an on-duty police officer in civilian clothes?’” Codes assigning a color of the day were established and broadcast for officers to avoid mistaken identity shootings. “Civilians don’t have a color of the day, so they have to be extra vigilant,” he notes.