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I think it is asking a lot of a person using a knife in defense to make a reasoned decision about whether the wounds they are inflicting need to discourage continued attack, or if they need to injure a high-value target to stop the attack more quickly. I have deep reservations about being asked to make decisions to use force intended to only deter further attack when we believe we are in a fight for our lives. If the knives come out, are we not in a lethal force confrontation and committed to stopping it as quickly as possible?

Bunke: As far as the law looks at it, once you have placed a blade on a body and made a significant cut you are facing a minimum charge of assault and if that injury produces death, you are looking at criminal homicide, so whether that is produced by one cut or by many cuts, I am not so sure it matters, at least in how the case is charged.

I think that I would prefer, from my point of view as a knife-carrying guy as well as an investigator, to make one significant cut and stop the threat. Then when it is done, we are only dealing with the one major injury. If we can articulate our knowledge and training to say that this is why I went this way, granted the end result wasn’t good, but like we are trained to shoot to the center of mass when stopping a threat with a handgun, my training with a knife is to stop the life-endangering threat as quickly as possible, to stop this lethal-force confrontation.

eJournal: When the investigators are looking at the wounds, is there any attempt to make value judgments about peripheral wounds to extremities versus wounds inflicted in an obvious attempt to damage major, vital organs?

Bunke: As an investigator, I would like to think that it is evaluated. I know because of my background, training and knowledge that I do it that way, but I am not so sure that it is always done that well in law enforcement. Once an injury has taken place whether it is produced with one cut or ten, we still have this level of injury that either killed or severely wounded somebody.

The end result is that this person is either in the morgue or in the hospital.

eJournal: You mentioned earlier that it is almost automatic to identify the survivor as the bad guy and the deceased as the victim. Do you see that holding true for people defending themselves using other means–fists, feet or firearms?

Bunke: Many times! The only times I do not see that happening is when someone who has had some training and background so they can really articulate why they did what they did: someone who can tell about Ability, Opportunity and Jeopardy, and explain deadly force concepts. When they can tell the investigator those concepts and they can tell it well, they seem to be the ones who are not charged. Armed individuals need to be able to explain the circumstances of the lethal force event, how they responded to it, and most importantly why they did, what they did.

eJournal: When and where is that information being articulated? To responding police, police detectives, to the prosecutor prior to a charging decision? When and where is that vital information being transmitted?

Bunke: That information is being transmitted prior to the charging decision. Whether it is told to the line officers or the detectives, it is being documented and the prosecutors are reading it in their reports and they are saying, “OK, this seems like self defense.” Typically gun people who can articulate well, will make the first phone call to 9-1-1, reporting the crime, and becoming the complainant. If you can be the complainant, you almost automatically become the victim. By default, the person who has not called becomes the suspect, then most likely the defendant.

eJournal: You have used the term “articulate” several times and stressed the need to be able to define what you did in self defense and why you did it.