Would You Use Deadly Force to Protect a Stranger?

9-16-2016-11-20-45-amThis question has come up several times in my Firearms Classes. It’s a very important question and no, it does not have an easy answer. The question is: “Should I get involved and try to stop a robbery, even though the victim is a stranger?”

Have you thought about what you would do if you walked in on a robbery in progress? Should we use deadly force to save a stranger? I believe that morally we should step in, where possible, and prevent an injury or death.

Many of us might stop when it comes to risking our own life to save a stranger. Before stepping into a situation with deadly force, we absolutely MUST know what is going on. Do we really know which one is the bad guy and which one is the innocent victim? One evening, shortly after retiring from twenty three years of Law Enforcement, I came across a situation, which turned out to be very embarrassing for me.


We were out shopping. My wife had just walked into a grocery store, I decided to check out a hardware store next door. I was just stepping up onto the sidewalk in front of the store, when the door came flying open and a man ran out with another man chasing him, yelling, “Stop, bring that stuff back here and pay for it!”

I grabbed my cell phone and dialed 911. I identified myself along with the fact that I was now retired. I briefly described the shoplifting situation. By now the manager and the shoplifter had stopped near the entrance to another store. I handed the manager my phone and said, “I have 911 on the phone, tell them what is going on.” The store manager looked at me like I was a little green Martian. In an exasperated voice he said, “We don’t need 911, I am training a new man on how to handle a shoplifter!”

I am sure glad it was not an “armed robbery” training session! If the manager had been yelling, “Someone call 911, I have just been robbed!” I might have acted differently and even dangerously by “assuming” it was a real robbery. My advice: ONLY use deadly force if YOU, or another innocent person is in IMMEDIATE danger of death or great bodily harm. That does not include stopping fleeing suspects.

Back when I was a Deputy Sheriff in Florida, a domestic violence incident started late one afternoon right outside my apartment. The woman was trying to leave in her car and the man was standing in front of her yelling obscenities. I called 911 and requested an on-duty Deputy to respond.

Before the Deputy could arrive, the fight got worse. The man pulled the women out of her car and threw her car keys off toward a wooded area. She tried to get a second set of keys from her purse. He grabbed her purse and threw it away too. I called 911 back and asked them to expedite the call, as the situation had escalated and I was going to have to intervene. I grabbed a set of handcuffs, hung my badge on my collar, and went outside. My snub nose 38 was tucked into my back pocket. The man had the woman backed up against the trunk of the car. As I approached, I yelled, “Deputy Sheriff, back off now!” The man glanced over his shoulder at me with an enraged expression. He acted like he didn’t recognize me as a Deputy, even though my marked patrol car was parked ten feet away. He knew who I was.

He was cuffed before he knew what hit him, but at least now he knew for sure who I was. After stuffing the abuser in the back seat, I turned my attention to the victim. She insisted she was OK. Two days later, the “victim” came knocking on my door begging me to drop the charges against her boyfriend. Did I do the right thing? Sure I did. But what if that situation was really something different? Could she have been trying to steal his car? Could she have just stolen items from his apartment? Could he have been the victim?

Unless you are 100% positively sure of the facts, and you personally are in danger, think twice before getting into something you could very well regret later.