By Mike Sherman
Dealing with a shooting brings forth an abundance of emotions. Having dealt with this subject in the past, some readers advocated you keep your mouth shut when law enforcement shows up. Thus starts the game … attorneys, prosecutors, evidence technicians, insurance companies, witnesses, media. Suddenly your world has become very complicated. We failed to focus on this topic in prior articles. Allow me to advocate why you should talk.
Sooner or later, you will make statements, submit to DNA and BAC (blood tests for alcohol/drugs) and, of course, follow the advice of your attorney. If you think you can turn the event into a chess game and win, you would be a fool. Yes, I know you have the right to remain silent, but is that in your best interest? Yes, the burden of proof is on the prosecutor if you are charged in a shooting. And yes, you are innocent unless proven otherwise in a court of law. You do not have to take the stand and testify.
But if you stand there saying nothing from the beginning, demanding an attorney, you might be creating problems for yourself. If you are being honest and truthful, you don’t need an attorney unless you end up in the back of a patrol car.
Here are some things to think about:
1. Pulling the trigger will set off a chain of events you have not experienced. Assuming you came under attack and defended yourself, you are now probably going into shock to a degree. The big bang, the smell of gunpowder, a bloody mess, the wounded lying there, possibly dying a slow death right in front of you.
2. Neighbors approach – their observations and statements will be recorded by the responding officer(s). Dozens and dozens of photographs will be taken. Entered into the records are facts, not opinions.
3. Your statements should reflect the “facts of the matter.” Things you say can be used against you, or they can help you. A cop showing up and asking you “What happened?” does not automatically activate your right to remain silent because at that point, you may not be a suspect. The cop is merely trying to determine the basic facts. Your initial statements will be entered into the report.
4. This is where the truth becomes critical. You are going to be excited, probably sweating, thirsty, and eager to tell that officer what happened, and why you felt you had to fire. The officer will not only record your statements, he/she will make note of the condition of your speech (fast, excited, slurred due to intoxication) and the condition of the scene. He will be doing an assessment of your state of mind, which is very important. He/she is not trying to determine guilt or innocence.
5. The officer is like an author or an artist. He’s writing a story, drawing a picture. He/she is listening to you. You are making statements and answering questions. Basic in nature at first, but if you end up handcuffed, you are a suspect, regardless if you have heard your rights or not. If you have answered truthfully, try to relax.
6. You are going to have to repeat your story several times. You will be repeating your initial responses to “What happened?” and you will be repeating finite details that you have already told investigators and your attorney. By being truthful, you guarantee a consistent replay of events every time you are questioned. That consistency – coupled with the physical evidence, test results, state of mind – will go a long way in determining whether or not you will be prosecuted.
7. Finally, put a little faith in your fellow man (and woman). Like I say, better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6. The jury will have the final say if charges are filed against you. Your honesty and sincerity (along with the evidence) will go a long way in helping a jury determine the facts and the truth.
I realize this is a simplified overview and there are dozens of factors we can discuss, but I hope I’ve made my point. If you are innocent, and the evidence backs up your constant truth from the beginning, then you will be okay. Besides, the odds of a shooting incident are virtually nil, nada, while camping, and this conversation is for the “what if” file.
Enjoy your journey; always be safe.
Note: We know what we discuss in this column may be controversial. While we invite your polite, constructive comments, inflammatory remarks will be immediately deleted.
Mike Sherman is a retired street cop and investigator with 30+ years of RV experience as a traveler, camp host and all-around advocate for the joys of living on the road. His articles are for general discussion purposes only – you should always consult your local authorities or legal counsel for specific answers if necessary. Write him at MikeShermanPI@gmail.com if you have questions, or leave a comment below.