On March 15th, a shoplifter a Family Dollar in Phoenix was confronted by the store clerk. The shoplifter struck the clerk who responded with a semi-automatic pistol shooting until the magazine was empty. He struck the shoplifter 10 times and was reported to have continued to shoot after the shoplifter was down. At least that is how it was reported.
Many times, a shooting incident is tried in the court of public onion before the fact are known. This is an unfortunate reality in the days of short attention spans and news cycles. Many times, the facts are irrelevant when compared to the emotionally charged first reports.
My interest in this story has only a marginal connection to the shooting. Rather it is what happened afterwards.
In our training we don’t just cover firearms handling and the concealed carry laws. We also cover the personal defense event and aftermath, with emphasis on interacting with law enforcement. The store clerk would have benefitted from the training.
The incident occurred just before 8PM. The shoplifter was known to the clerk to be a serial shoplifter. He confronted the shoplifter and directed him to leave the store. That is when the altercation occurred.
The clerk was young, only 24 years old. The news article does not indicate the age or physical characteristics of the shoplifter. I bring that up to consider a possible disparity of force. If the shoplifter was a larger, stronger, man the force employed may have been easily justifiable. I am not saying it wasn’t, only adding another dimension to the event.
The clerk made two mistakes after the shooting that handed the conviction to the prosecutor. We should all know that statements made before the Miranda rights have been read are deemed spontaneous utterances and admissible in court.
What did the article report that he said that was incriminating? “[the clerk] explained he was struck and decided to shoot but looking back, he realized it was egregious.”*
When looking at the flight or fight response characteristics the clerk was functioning with diminished mental faculties. His body was pumped full of endorphins and adrenalin. His perceptions were altered. He should not have been making any statements to the police.
I don’t know if a prosecutor would have taken the case without that statement. It is possible that the shooting until the magazine was empty (an assumption since the firearm was not identified) alone would have justified charges. Admitting that it was a mistake most certainly severely weakened his defense case.
You might say that shooting so many times should have been enough to justify charges. However, I offer that this young man was not aware of how many times he fired. Many police officers also report less rounds than fired. This is the result of the fight or flight response. It is this fact that led the police union to not allow interviews before 72 hours have passed. Perceptions and memory are altered by the body’s fight or flight response.
The clerk could be said to be in a state of shock during and after the event. In this state of shock, the ability to make judgements is replaced but a conditioned response. Then we have to consider the training the clerk had. I suspect it was little to none, considering the shoplifter was still alive and in the hospital. A good defense attorney might still be able to successfully defend the clerk.
The moral of the story: get training and keep training. With training you will know when you are justified in using deadly force. With training you will know what happens to your body in a defensive shooting incident. With training you will know how your actions after the incident can help your defense or solidify the prosecutor’s case.
*https://www.fox10phoenix.com/news/family-dollar-employee-shooting-west-phoenix - March 23, 2023