Lots of Commentary on Use of Deadly Force on Unarmed Attackers

Especially in the comments over at Above the Law, many of whom are obviously lawyers. Massad Ayoob has some worthwhile things to say about defense against unarmed opponents. I don’t think it’s a situation you ever want to be in, and is one reason I’ve been convinced of the utility of carrying a defensive spray.

Multiple attackers is a tough situation, however. And it wouldn’t do much good to spray one guy only to get rushed by others. The advantage of spray is you can employ it much much earlier in the confrontation than you can deadly force. It is a step above verbal commands on the force scale. A good strategy would be, early on in the encounter, before it escalates, to spray the most aggressive member of the group and run like hell, while drawing your firearm. If you’re pursued by the remaining meatheads and end up trapped, your use of deadly force is going to look a lot more reasonable to police, prosecutors, and if it goes that far, to a jury.

Ung’s situation is far from good, however. DiDinato’s group was five strong. Ung had two other people with him, including one female. We don’t know yet whether Ung or any of the people in his group were intoxicated. Even if Ung wasn’t, it could complicate his retreat options if the others are. It could complicate his options if any of the members of his party were running their mouths off.

But generally speaking, if you shoot someone who’s unarmed, you can probably expect a trial, unless it was so clear cut (like a group of men surrounding a sixty year old man) that no prosecutor would risk it. Whether or not Ung acted reasonably, or not, will be up to the jury to decide. Once you’re in that situation, in a lot of ways your life is already ruined.

9 thoughts on “Lots of Commentary on Use of Deadly Force on Unarmed Attackers”

  1. Call me crazy, but I can’t help believing, in Philly, if it had been DiDonato who had the gun versus 5 black men, this wouldn’t be in a court room.
    DiDonato admits on the stand that he stepped toward an armed man while the man was backing away.
    DiDonato admits he had his arms up in the air. That seems threatening to me.
    Even 5 to 2 odds, males to males, seems like this is SD.

    I hope the jury is listening closely!

  2. You could have your female counterpart carry a firearm instead. Common law generally recognizes a disparity of force between most women and most male assailants.

  3. So now comments about DiDonato’s race? The last time I checked, being a Caucasian was not a status crime in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. He is entitled to all the protections of our laws no matter what his race.

    The blockbuster news is that Ung was apparently in a highly agitated state from the beginning of the encounter, starting when the girl in Ung’s group decided to join the chinup fun. Why would Ung have been so agitated when there was no contact between the two groups at that point? Sounds like jealousy, doesn’t it? Whatever the reason for Ung’s rage, his initial agitated state will go a long way for the jury in establishing holes in Ung’s self defense claim.

    The jury will also be curious about Ung’s background and the circumstances which led him to carry a loaded gun into a bar. It is not typical for students, particularly law students, to walk around with loaded guns, whether they are legally permitted or not. Ung was a part time, night law student. Virtually all part time or night students have jobs during the day. What’s more, Ung was no babe out of college trying to find his way–he was 28 at the time of the shooting. What did Ung do during the day, and how did he support himself? Did those activities have any connection to his carrying around a loaded gun? The jury is going to want to know more about this guy and why he had the gun that night.

    Loaded guns, drinking, a girl. A toxic combination I’d say.

    When we see what happened to DiDonato, we can all say “there but for the grace of God go I.” The lesson for our kids is that you never know what strangers will do. Best to swallow your pride, back off and walk away; otherwise you might just get blown away.

  4. @JMan –

    You seem hysterical about the gun. Try a though expeiment – what if UNG trained in MMA as exercise instead of carrying?

    Nothing that happend to DiDonato would be different if he refused to stop menacing the retreating Ung and wound up with a head injury from a single strike or takedown, but your BS about the gun and Ung’s character wouldn’t apply.

    You are right about the basic rule. “Don’t mess with strangers”. A**holes only get to be that way because most people, in most situations, will let them. MMA fighers and CCW holders are equipped to hold a-holes accountable.

  5. And here is what an independent witness testified to yesterday:

    “Zeina Al-Shaid, who was walking with three friends, said she was alerted to a dispute when she heard Ung say, “Do not piss me off or I’ll shoot you,” shortly before shots rang out.”

    Self defense? Sounds more like the “Pissed off defense”.

    What a complete joke. Doesn’t look good for your man Ung. He will get 20 years in Graterford for attempted murder. And I hope he likes his new roommate.

  6. That’s probably true.

    The thing that bothers me is that I don’t think Ung is a good poster boy for the right to bear arms movement. There are others, but not him.

    Ung testifies today, so this will be the pivotal point in the trial. The jury is supposed to start deliberating Monday.

  7. Who’s making him a poster boy? I’m highlighting the case because the circumstances are very unusual, and there’s lessons to be learned by people who carry guns, such as not saying “Don’t piss me off or I’ll shoot you!”

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