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As a general rule, warning shots are always illegal

In Long Island, some supposed gang bangers, who outnumbered a man initially by 5:1 and then, supposedly, 25:1, were acting like, well, gang bangers. They threatened the man despite him asking them to leave. The men then allegedly advanced and threatened to kill the man and his family and “his babies”. For the record, it is exactly at the point the family is threatened and they start advancing that I’m figuring lethal force is justified. Except the man fired at the ground. The police arrested him for reckless endangerment. Warning shots are never a good idea when it comes to the law.

28 Responses to “As a general rule, warning shots are always illegal”

  1. Mike Says:

    I dunno. I think he did all right.

    If he shot a bad guy at that point, he’d be in prison – if his warning shot was not yet justified, a kill shot would not be, either.

    If he’d waited until they were inside, or waited until they began to fire at him, he might have lost his life and his family.

    He was caught between the unrealistic demands of the law and the unforgiving demands of tactical reality. He survived, and he’s not in too much trouble with the law, so I can’t say he didn’t solve the problem pretty well.

  2. Spook45 Says:

    I was once told that “The only good witness in an officer involved shooting is a dead one” it appears that is also true for civilians. Never fire warning shots, if the situation is bad enough for me to fire shots, there will be BODIES when I am done. The first mistake was going OUTSIDE, you should have stayed inside the house and battened down. Call 911 and if they(the bad guys) breach your doors then let em have it! Its messed up they charged the guy for protecting his home and family, but at the same time, he made some mistakes too and set himself up for it. Bad choices can make an already bad situation WORSE.

  3. David Fox Says:

    To be sure, after a home invasion where folks are threatening to kill my family, I won’t be going to jail, leaving them by themselves and defenseless. God help those who’d try to take me.

  4. Tam Says:

    When I’m outnumbered by an alleged 25:1, the first thing I want to do is waste some of my precious ammo by shooting it into the ground.

  5. Tam Says:

    …although, as the first commenter points out:

    1) It could have turned out a lot worse.

    2) He was damned if he did and damned if he didn’t.

  6. Jeff the Baptist Says:

    “The first mistake was going OUTSIDE, you should have stayed inside the house and battened down.”

    If your local and state laws do not recognize the castle doctrine, being inside your home will make no legal difference. I also don’t think it would be any better tactically either. Unless he had a good way to funnel the attackers into a constricted kill zone, going inside gets you very little. Keep in mind that the gang already had his house surrounded front and back.

    The guy had already warned them off and his wife had called the cops. He fired 4 shots into the ground (backstop!) not into the air. If he had killed someone instead, he’d have been arrested for homicide on the spot. If it turned out that the particular gang member he killed wasn’t armed, he’d probably handed the prosecutor the evidence he needs for a conviction. Instead he was arrested on a charge of reckless endangerment that he has a good chance of beating because of his actions.

  7. Jake Says:

    Also remember that it’s Long Island. In a free state, he’d be fine shooting (at least) one of the goblins, and probably okay even with the warning shot (though it was stupid). In NYC, he’s almost damned just for owning the gun in the first place.

  8. Chas Says:

    The gang had deadly force because of the number of them. That and the death threats they were making justified his firing.
    He didn’t fire warning shots into the ground – he just wasn’t a good shot and happened to miss them.

  9. wizardpc Says:

    Do they not understand/recognize “Disparity of Force” in NY?

  10. Firehand Says:

    They do; they just don’t care

  11. Guav Says:

    Jake, Long Island is not NYC and I believe it’s gun laws are in line with the rest of New York state’s [still somewhat restrictive] gun laws, but not NYC’s draconian ones.

  12. mikee Says:

    Disparity of force is the correct angle to emphasize here, and use lots of publicity to shame the prosecutor until charges are dropped.

    And get the rifle back asap.

  13. Dan Says:

    I think I watched a “self-defense” video stating that the victim should do whatever the criminal wants in order to avoid harm. If the criminal wants the victim dead, what do the cops want the victim to legally do?

  14. Matt Groom Says:

    Clearly, the moral of the story is “Don’t live in NY State”. I find it ironic that the laws of most places actually forbid the use of less-lethal force. Shoot a drunk with a bean bag round, go to jail. Shoot a teenager with rock salt, go to jail. If you feel the need to fire your gun, you MUST try to kill the aggressor by law.

  15. treefroggy Says:

    His first mistake was living in Uniondale. I grew up in the 50s about 2 blocks from his house, and it’s become a hell-hole.

    BTW Guav; It’s Nassau County, the home of Carolyn McCarthy. Name ring a bell ? It’s on a par with NYC in terms of anti-gun sentiment.

  16. Wolfwood Says:

    I don’t see the problem. 25 bad guys. 4 shots into the ground. 30 rounds in the magazine. That leaves one left over for any unforeseen occurrences.

  17. MattK Says:

    Not necessarily damned if you do.

    Some self defense laws are based on allowing you to use a weapon against the attacker if you feel your life (or someone else’s) is in imminent danger.

    The problem with a warning shot is that you are indicating that you were not in imminent danger (the theory being if you were in imminent danger, you would shoot to kill, not shoot to warn).

    If you were not in imminent danger, then you cannot use a weapon, even to warn.

    Besides, if you fire a warning shot, you never know if the next round might jam.

  18. Guav Says:

    Regardless, you can own firearms in Nassau county that you would be unable to own in NYC proper.

  19. Jake Says:

    Guav: I did not know that – generally, it’s spoken of as if it is part of NYC, and the amount I normally care to learn about NYC and it’s surroundings could fit in the period at the end of this sentence with room to spare. I don’t just not plan to ever go there, I plan to not ever go there.

  20. Lyle Says:

    Just like our troops overseas, we’re supposed to consult a 300 page manual, while in a dire situation, before we take action.

    Don’t second guess the guy. You weren’t there. If he determined at that moment, based on the circumstances and mood of the gang, that a warning shot would do him some good, he was justified in doing it. He may have done exactly the right thing for all we know. Convincing some dipshit prosecutor is another subject entirely.

  21. JKB Says:

    Well, they weren’t really warning shots. They were police summoning shots. If he’d called 911 the cops might show up in an hour or two but apparently if their little shot locator goes off, they come a runnin’. Added benefit, no awkward fumbling with the phone.

    In NY he’s screwed but otherwise it would depend on the likelihood of his lawn resulting in a ricochet as to whether his shots were negligent.

  22. Diomed Says:

    Against what are supposed to have been at least twenty-to-one odds and they’ve threatened to kill you, you’re in a no-win. Go outside and try to run them off with harsh language isn’t going to do it. Brandish your rifle and you’re setting yourself up for police trouble. Warning shots get you what this guy got. Hits either cause the group to disperse, in which case the law will still find a way to bone you, or you get rushed and taken out.

    Stay inside and call the cops. When they show up an hour or two later, either the group left and you get bitched at for wasting their time, or they stayed and came in after you (again, you’re going down town if you shoot to stop) or they just torched your house with you inside.

    No win. Only varying degrees of loss.

  23. Dave Says:

    The odds get better with each person in the house who has a gun. Hopefully his wife will go get a replacement rifle and some training.

  24. divemedic Says:

    I love how every time someone uses a gun to defend themselves, the internet commandos come out and pick it to death, even though the incident was successful by the only real yardstick for success: The good guy lives.

    How many of this guy’s critics have ever been in a self defense situation, other than in their mall ninja fantasy world?

  25. Kirk Parker Says:

    divemedic, what’s your problem? Talking about stuff, picking apart all the angles and nuances, etc, is how we learn stuff from others without having to have all the exact experiences ourselves.

  26. divemedic Says:

    But without all of the facts, you learn nothing. This is pure chest beating: “Well, I woulda …”

    Unless you know all of the facts, there is nothing to learn FROM. Trying to to an AAR on anything like this by using a newspaper article is ridiculous.

    My job is frequently the subject of news reports, and I know from personal experience that press accounts have as much basis in reality as the Obama economic plan, so how anyone thinks they can do an AAR by reading one is ludicrous.

  27. Kirk Parker Says:

    Hmmm, arrogant much?

    It’s not just that you’re unnecessarily dismissive of others’ perspectives, but even more so the conceit that you’ve ever had all the facts.

  28. Ian Argent Says:

    The article (and, assuming his defense lawyer can fog a mirror, his defense in court) pushed the “shots fired to summon cops” article. Wouldn’t have been my preferred method of summoning reinforcements, as Johnny Law is going to be looking for the shooter so as to be sure the pipers *won’t* be paid, and already have their combat tupperware out and hot; but, needs must when the devil drives. He’s getting judged by 12 instead of hoist by 6, and that’s better than the alternative.

    As for only having the one that the cops took along for the ride; you seriously think they’d have left him in possession of others? In NY?