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What Are the Legal Consequences of Third-Party Deadly Force Interventions?

Bang, bang, bang! Imagine you’re at work in a typical large office building on the second floor in a major metropolis like Denver, Colorado.  You were distracted, busy by the job you were working on. The noises came so fast you’re not even sure if it was three bangs or four. You sit puzzled, listening intently for any more information. Then again, bang, bang, bang! Gunshots!

There’s no doubt now; someone’s firing a gun. Your brain screams: Act! People around you panic and run through the halls. What do you do? How can you save your life? What are the legalities of action? What are the legalities of inaction? Well, let’s discuss the issues surrounding this hypothetical.

Before I begin, please understand two immutable truths:

1. A person is four times more likely to be struck by lightning than be killed in a mass-shooting event.

2. If you’re on the receiving end of killer’s weapon of choice, you will not give a damn whether this is an act of workplace violence or terrorism. These are ridiculous terms the media and politicians use to justify gun control.

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You Can’t Know All Variables
To further the point of discussion, let’s assume you brought your pistol into the office with you. For years you’d leave it in the car when you came into the office. Let’s say a few coworkers had their cars broken into, so you thought it prudent to hide the pistol in your briefcase or backpack. This is mentioned because most employers don’t allow firearms in the office. These killers only select soft targets — I have yet to see a mass-shooting event in front of the SWAT team house. So, you sit in your office, retrieve your firearm and do … what? What legally can you do?

Some might say they would take their firearm and proceed to the threat with the thought, “I could save lives.” This Batman-like response is dangerous.

Here’s why: Let’s say you hear the gunshots. You determine that there’s at least one active shooter in your office building. You grab your weapon and head for the hall, running toward danger while others run away from it. You proceed down a staircase, cautiously taking your time and listening. You’re getting closer to the gunfire, obviated by how much louder they are now. By now you’ve heard at least 10 shots.

You open the stairwell door and see total pandemonium. People are running everywhere. The lighting has somehow been shut off. There are elbows and backs everywhere as people cower behind different structures. Since the first shot, it’s been five minutes. You see a man holding a gun 30 feet away. He’s wearing civilian clothes and a ball cap. Between you and him in the low lighting are several victims cowering and crying. You can only see the back of this person. He looks like he’s wearing a tan vest and cargo pants.

You take aim with your weapon thinking you’re going to save the day. You take a sight picture and begin the squeeze on the trigger. A woman stands up unexpectedly between you and the shooter. She’s crying and doesn’t notice you. You’re still 30 feet from the target. There’s a pillar between you and the shooter, and you have to adjust your position to get a better sight picture. All that’s visible is the hat, his back, his vest, and his gun in his right hand. You still haven’t seen him shoot. The adrenalin is pumping through your body. He’s moving menacingly in a semi-crouched maneuver. Do you shoot?

Legally speaking: No way! Were you in imminent danger of a deadly threat against your life? The law would say: no. Let’s further this discussion and show how the law views these situations.


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