What Not to Do

Shooting at fleeing suspects is generally going to get you into a lot of trouble, as this guy in Oregon just discovered. Oregon does permit one to use deadly force to stop a felony, but only while it’s attempting to be committed. Once the felony is already carried out and the perps are fleeing the scene, you can’t shoot to prevent flight unless you’re a police officer.

8 thoughts on “What Not to Do”

  1. INAL, but I don’t think police officers are generally permitted to shoot fleeing suspects either

  2. Depends on the state and circumstances. I looked up Oregon law, which does permit peace officers to use deadly force to prevent escape of someone who has committed a violent felony. That doesn’t mean it’s common practice, and I doubt a police officer would have fired under these circumstances, but it’s there in the law.

  3. This is a bit more complicated than it appears. At one time, just about every state allowed use of deadly force against fleeing felons. The California Supreme Court heard a case in 1974 where a person was robbed by a group of teenagers in a dry cleaning store of a wallet that he knew had only $1 in it. He chased after them, fired and wounded one of them. The Court decided that when the fleeing felon statute was written in 1879, there were not so many felonies as today. (The problem is that robbery was a felony even in 1879, and even for only $1.)

    Peace officers are actually more restricted on this than civilians by the Constitution. See Tennessee v. Garner (1985).

  4. I actually called my county PD and asked if it was permitted to use a firearm to disable a vehicle fleeing a felony committed on my property.

    As noted, they said no.

    They then told me that it was legal to pursue their vehicle in my own vehicle and smash their car into tiny bits by ramming into it.

    Go figure.

  5. Had this discussion at work this morning, since my co-workers know I am intersted in and follow this sort of thing.

    It really gives a black eye to the thousands of people with good judgement. It’s not a situation where the guy was necessarily morally wrong, but he wasn’t within the bounds of the law, and he used poor tactics.

    I’m ambivalent about the prohibition on using deadly force to protect property. People accumulate property at the cost of time (lifespan) that they will never recover. They accumulate property for a variety of reasons, but at the base level, it’s because we need *things* to survive and prosper, to be comfortable.

    When somebody deprives another person of their property, they are in essence depriving them of a portion of their life. When they use threat of deadly force to do so, it becomes a very blurry line under the law about what level of force may be used to defend yourself.

    In this case, the law is clear, that Witter was legally in the wrong (and in order to have received his concealed carry permit, he has to have been exposed to that law at some point, and explicitly told that he needs to be aware of it and changes to it). If Witter had injured anyone or anyone’s property, he should be prosecuted for that. What he
    did was stupid on some (perhaps many) levels, but unless there was a victim (a party truly suffering some measurable damage or injury) I think he should get a slap on the wrist. I would hate to see him deprived of his firearm rights for life based on something like this. It is sad on some levels, that we have come to live in a society where people are forced to stand by while a crime is being commited. It breeds apathy and contempt for the justice system, when the system fails so clearly to contain and prevent crime.

    Studies have shown that criminals have two major factors involved in their calculation on whether to commit a crime. Most important is whether they will be caught, and next is how severe the punishment will be (either legally or the likelihood of being injured or killed in the act.) This is the reason “hot burglaries” are rare in the US, and common in the UK. Burglars are aware that many US home owners are armed and the law is clearly on the side of the person defending their home (Castle Doctrine) in most jurisdictions, as opposed to the UK where the home owner is certain to be charged for injuring an intruder.

    At the end of the day, yes: people will make hay with this incident. On the other hand, tens of thousands of Oregon Concealed Carry permit holders didn’t shoot at anybody yesterday, or the day before, or ever.

  6. If you are a Veteran, maybe you can plead that you are following your training.

    Why guarding an armory or installation, you are required to fire upon suspects IF you believe they are fleeing with stolen weapons or sensitive materials. Otherwise no. (Unless guarding a nuclear weapons facility – in that case light up anyone and everyone in the restricted area.)

  7. Tennessee specifically prohibits citizens the use of deadly force to stop someone from fleeing a crime. Law enforcement may use deadly force but only if they have a reasonable belief the person is a threat to others and no other means of stopping them are available. So they don’t shoot at fleeing felons since the criteria are a tough call.

    Bram, you’ll need some PTSD to go your route since you aren’t actually in the service anymore nor are you performing security/law enforcement duties assigned by that service. Although, if your are a FFL holder and fired to actually stop the theft of FFL weapons, you’d probably get a sympathetic hearing.

  8. Why use a gun?
    Use a car or SUV..and you’d be exempt, especially if the logo on the hood has a T formed by two O’s

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