In Defense of A Third Party

Should you intervene?

by
posted on August 20, 2021
Sheriff Jim Wilson

One of the greatest pitfalls for the armed citizen is getting involved in the defense of a third party. Things may not always be what they seem to be at first look and assumptions are made that may turn out to be incorrect.

My suggestion is to avoid getting physically involved, especially using deadly force, unless the evidence is simply overpowering and obvious. I am aware of one such case in which a man was summoned to the home of a next-door neighbor and found that a man had the woman down on the bathroom floor, holding a knife to her throat. In addition, the suspect was also holding an infant child under the water of a full bathtub. The citizen first ordered the suspect to stop and desist. When this provided no results, the citizen shot the suspect three times, killing him. The victims lived and the citizen’s use of deadly force was ruled “justified.”

However, many acts of violence that we witness may not be so cut and dried. In my own case, I have decided not to intervene unless I know one of the parties involved. The other area that I would have a tough time just standing by is if a child is involved.

Most peace officers can relate stories about going on a domestic disturbance call and having to deal with the husband, in a physical manner, only to have the victim/wife attack them. Regardless, the officers have a duty to act, the citizen does not.

We may imagine all sorts of scenarios in which we consider going to the aid of a third party. The thing to keep in mind is that, by our actions, we may become the target of criminal prosecution and/or civil prosecution.

If one has doubts about getting physically involved, one might consider that it is also important to just be a good witness. Taking down vehicle license numbers is always important. And making cell-phone videos is of great value. Obviously, if you are properly trained, rendering first aid is always a great contribution.

Getting involved in the defense of a third party can lead to unintended results. The armed citizen is well advised to give this some serious thought, even to the point of seeking legal advice while deciding how to handle such situations. To think, “Oh boy, I’m fixing to be a hero”, is usually a mistake that the armed citizen should not make.

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