RVer Safety: Nothing but the truth…

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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. 

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22 COMMENTS

  1. Mike, I’m wondering whether, generally speaking, we might expect the human nature of a hometown LEO to likely handle a shooting involving a person defending his home on wheels from another state than he would handle a shooting involving a homeowner in his hometown. Is the traveller more likely to be detained quicker, longer and with a higher level of suspicion?

  2. I’m sorry, but talking to the police is a terrible idea! Don’t get me wrong, I love the police. But you will have more adrenaline pumping through your body than you have ever had before. You have no idea what will come out of your mouth. It could be mis-characterized, misunderstood, or remembered incorrectly. Say to the officer, “I will cooperate fully as soon as I have an opportunity to talk to my lawyer”.

    Watch the movie “My Cousin Vinny”. Gambini is startled to hear the Sheriff say, “He shot the clerk.” Gambini replys with the question, “I shot the clerk???”. When they read it back in court, they read, I – SHOT – THE – CLERK.

    You have a constitutional right not to talk. Use it.”

  3. Hi,i am a Canadian so,we are mostly against gun use or carry
    I was for many years but with the drug use, the illegal gun numbers and the muslim invasion,i am now a pro gun advocate ,you cannot defend yourself with a blanket or a stick …

  4. I do realize the fact of initial emotions being in play but just remember (if you can) that the same cop who is the initial responder is probably the same cop who responded to your last vehicle accident and screwed his report up so bad that pertinent facts were left out and caused all kinds of headaches.
    Since almost all have a smart phone, get a voice recorder app and start it the moment an altercation starts or just as soon as possible to memorialize who says what. I would also ask the cop if he is recording what you say and if he has a body cam on and is it recording.
    I know this may be a lot to try to remember in the heat of the moment but if you do it may keep the record straight.

  5. All of the comments are good points to a greater or lesser degree. My main point, which might have been missed, is to be truthful, regardless of how much or how little you talk. If you invoke your right to remain silent, you’ll still end up talking….to your attorney. Just be truthful, regardless. The truth will set you free, if the shooting was justified.

  6. If you elect to tell your story just answer the questions asked by law enforcement.
    Keep your answers short and to the point…do not elaborate.
    If you shot in self defense say so…indicate you were in fear for your life in response
    to excessive force….try to keep it simple….keep answers brief and to the point.
    Do not argue with law enforcement…if their questions become hostile then indicate you
    May want legal counsel. Once you say that all questions must stop until your attorney
    Is present.

  7. I have to again speak from the other side of the shield, but as someone who has worked with quite a few LEOs. 99% of LEOs are really good, honest, fair people doing a service I don’t envy. They do their job collecting facts, but they really aren’t “out to get you” or trying to frame you for more than defending yourself.

    Unfortunately, there are also that sliver that are NOT wearing a badge for the best reasons. While most are pro-defense, there are some who let political agenda and bad personal experiences flavor their conduct. These are supposed to be weeded out, but not all are. And they are malleable people. I’ve personally encountered a LEO who had lost his mind — while armed.

    • (cont) …The problem unfortunately is that you won’t know which one of those you have. You’ll be stressed and probably not talking at your best/most rational. You’ll say stupid things or phrase things badly, and those things will be set in stone at best and misinterpreted at worst. So yeah, DO NOT babble to the police after an incident. The line I suggest is:

      “I did my best to avoid the conflict, but my life WAS in danger. I WAS unfortunately FORCED to protect my life by force. I would like my lawyer present now.” The words ‘think’ or ‘believe’ do not appear in there anywhere for important reasons.

      • You are correct Wolfe. Unfortunately, there are folks out there that have no business carrying a badge or having that kind of authority. What really gets my goat are the top chiefs and sheriffs that are pro gun control and want us to just rely on the professionals.

  8. I am a member of US & Texas Lawshield. It is legal defense for self defense. Their attorneys ALWAYS say to invoke your fifth amendment right to remain silent and request an attorney. We are trained to call 911, tell the operator you have been a victim of a crime, give the site location, request medical, police, etc. and then hang up. As Mike said, you will be in a very stressful situation and not thinking clearly. Invoke your rights, keep your mouth shut, and protect yourself.

    • Steve, I would never hang up on a 911 operator until they were finished asking questions. They are not investigating, they are trying to determine exactly what resources need to be dispatched and they need to confirm the location. In one’s haste to avoid talking, essential, vital facts can be omitted. If one hangs up prematurely, it can create uncertainty, confusion and delays. Help them do the best job possible.

    • I would NEVER hang up on 911 unless the phone itself somehow endangered me (Maybe if having to stay close to the receiver and not wanting dispatch’s talking to reveal my concealed location? Still remote…).

      NORMALLY, you want them able to trace the call (hardline or cell-GPS), and I particularly want the tape recording myself… I want it loud and clear when I say “I am armed; LEAVE with the TV with my blessing, but DO NOT come upstairs.” Order of statements and broken doors vs shots may save your keister in court.

  9. Hopefully I will never be placed in such a situation but if it should happen I will indeed politely refuse to speak to the investigators. It is my right under the 5th amendment to the constitution and very under-utilized. For those who think they have nothing to hide or are sure they can protect themselves by talking need only to watch the following excellent “Don’t Talk to the Police” YouTube presentation by Law Professor James Duane: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-7o9xYp7eE

  10. I wonder why, when there is a (police) officer involved shooting, the police are advised to keep their mouths shut.

    • My husband and I recently attended a seminar put on by US Law Shield. The cost was only $10.00 and very informative. Their legal protection package is the best we have found for the lowest price. I highly recommend going to their website and attending one of their seminars. http://www.USlawshield.com

    • The employer and the union pretty much demand it. Cops are held to a different standard. They might be on solid legal ground in a shooting, but violated department policy, subjecting the employer to potential liability, costing the taxpayers big bucks. Sometimes they are ORDERED to keep their mouth shut, not just advised.

      • Yes Mike, you are right. Law enforcement has much less at risk than a citizen. When a cop shoots someone, their job may be at risk and their employer is at risk of some liability but the risk of criminal charges or imprisonment is extremely minimal. When a private citizen is involved in a shooting the risks of criminal charges, imprisonment and loss of income are very real. Best not to talk to the cops until a lawyer is present. The cops goal is to find a reason to detain you.

  11. With all due respect to the service of Mike Sherman, not all police officers are so understanding in giving the benefit to the victim. He or she will document what is said by the victim and, in a court room, it is impossible to put it in the entire context of the chaos of the situation. Take the advice of those liability companies that will have to defend you. Because of the stress of the situation you may very well be irrational. What you say will be taken verbatim and used in court.

    • Being involved in a shooting situation will have most anybody in a physical and mental state beyond frazzled. In such a state of mind and body, the perfect words simply can not be expected and no exception for the slightest misstatement will be granted after the fact.

      As most have already expressed, any and all firearm advocacy or insurance companies including the USCCA (United States Concealed Carry Association) STRONGLY suggest and even instruct, take the 5th until later when you are more in control of your faculties and have conferred with an attorney. Short of that and you are most likely asking for trouble.

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