Attorney Question of the Month
This month’s column is the completion of a question posted in the past two editions of this journal by a Network member and firearms instructor who asked--
If a Network member is accompanied by a friend or family member at the time of an armed self-defense incident, is it preferable that the 9-1-1 call be made by the associate? Why or why not? What information should the associate provide to the police dispatchers?
Alex Ooley and Mike Ooley
Boehl Stopher & Graves
400 Pearl St., Ste. 204, New Albany, IN 47150
As with most legal responses, it depends. The 911 call is incredibly important as it essentially identifies victims and perpetrators. The law enforcement system typically operates under the assumption that the first person to call 911 is the victim of a crime, and also demonstrates no consciousness of guilt on behalf of the caller. Therefore, as soon as it is safe to do so, it is important that you or your designee call 911 from the scene of a defensive shooting. Only leave the scene if it is not safe to stay.
The question of whether you or an associate should make the 911 call will be dependent upon a myriad of issues such as your medical situation and/or whether you have to continue to deal with a threat from the perpetrator(s). Remember, before you can address the legal fight, you must survive the physical attack.
Assuming there are no obvious medical or safety issues that would have a bearing on who is going to make the 911 call, you should consider the ability, demeanor under stress, and degree of training of your friend or associate. Remember, 911 calls are recorded, and the dispatcher will likely try to illicit as much information as possible from the caller. The public may hear the 911 call through the press, which could establish context for your potential legal case. Also, the recorded 911 call will most likely be heard by the jury if there is a jury trial. As a matter of fact, the 911 call may be a way for you to provide limited testimony to a jury without being cross-examined by a politically-motivated prosecutor.
Given the obvious significance of the 911 call, I would personally be very reluctant to delegate the responsibilities of that call to another individual. Other than my wife and two adult sons who have undergone significant training, there are limited people that I regularly interact with that I would have confidence in to make the 911 call in what would most certainly be a very chaotic situation. The bottom line – I recommend that you plan to make the 911 call yourself and know ahead of time what associates and/or family members you trust if the circumstances dictate that it would be best for someone else to make the call.
With respect to the information you or an associate should provide to the dispatcher on the 911 call, I would suggest you communicate the following information: your name, street address, a request for EMS and police, and establish that you are the victim during the call. For instance, “I was attacked, and had to use my firearm to defend myself.” Also include where you are specifically located at that address (i.e. “I will be standing in front of a 2009 white Ford truck”). Last, and for safety purposes, give a specific description of yourself such as your clothing, height, weight, and age so that the police can readily identify you as the “good guy or gal” at the scene. It is also very important to know what not to say on the 911 call and to limit the information to something very similar to what I have outlined here.
Obviously, although beyond the scope of this question, there are other safety concerns and legal concerns that will have to be addressed as the police arrive. Take a look at ACLDN’s DVDs or look into the concept of the “three rings of safety,” which is the term Massad Ayoob uses to describe the message that needs to be conveyed to police as they arrive on the scene to keep everyone safe.
A big “Thank You!” to our affiliated attorneys for their contributions to this column. Please return next month when we have a new topic of discussion to take up with our affiliated attorneys.
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