Something that happens all too often is a justifiable/lawful shooting/killing, but of an innocent person. Now you might be wondering, how can anyone ever lawfully shoot and kill an innocent person? Let’s hope you never get to find out in person.
The most common scenario relates to a person at home hearing an intruder, going to investigate, and then shooting the intruder. But, as subsequently found out, after the shooting, the intruder was someone with a bona fide and/or innocent reason for being in the house.
Typical examples include family members who came home unexpectedly, or sometimes neighbors in the wrong home, or friends of family members (particularly a teenage daughter’s boyfriend, it seems!) who were not expected to be in the house.
Here’s the most recent example of someone being shot due to mis-identification.
What can you do to prevent such a tragedy occurring in your home?
Firstly, you should not go looking if you hear an intruder in your house. If you are sure there is an intruder, call the police. If you are not sure, listen very carefully and intently, maybe turn security lights on and off, maybe even call out. But don’t leave your (hopefully safe and optimized for security) bedroom. If you have no contact with the intruder, there’s no way you’ll accidentally shoot them, right?
Unfortunately, there are occasions when you’ll need to leave the safety of your bedroom. Maybe you have other people in other bedrooms (which raises a warning flag – the noise you hear could be them) who you need to protect. Or maybe, as happened in the linked case above, your power goes off and you need to go to the fusebox.
We can certainly understand you being on a ‘hair trigger’ and, upon confronting an unknown person, in your house in a situation where they have not been invited by you and you’re not expecting them, you’re probably going to be quick – and understandably so – to assume they are not there as a precursor to throwing you a happy making surprise party.
However, you know what they say about assuming, don’t you. You must avoid, if at all possible, shooting at dark shadowy figures prior to either identifying and or challenging them. Even if you know there is an intruder in your home who intends you grave harm, maybe someone else is also in the house, present to help you against the intruder. Always identify your target.
You mightn’t want to give up the element of surprise by calling out to people that you’re coming to get them, but you could at least say ‘Who’s there?’ in a loud voice that carries through the house, even from the safety of your bedroom. If you can hear their stealthy movements, they can surely hear you calling out to them. A challenge from your bedroom doesn’t compromise you so much if you then have to leave the bedroom, although clearly the people in the house now know you are awake and alert.
If you are out there, moving around, then if/when you encounter a stranger, you should shine a flashlight on their face to identify them.
It is common these days for people to want to buy the most powerful flashlight out there, and these days with the latest in LED technology, there are some amazingly powerful flashlights out there, with hundreds if not thousands of lumens of light output, tightly focused in a small circle. This power is great if you are using your light as a weapon, or if you’re trying to see who is lurking behind the trash cans on the far side of your house, but is not so great if you are wanting to use it to identify people in a dark house at short-range. Your own eyesight will be dazzled by a sudden bright light and you may not recognize the person you’re lighting up.
You should use a moderate power flashlight for around-the-house work; bright enough to illuminate anything in the shadows at typical at-home distances, but not so bright as to dazzle you from the light reflected off the intruder’s face.
We like the Harries technique for holding a flashlight together with a pistol. It gives you a convenient way to control the flashlight and keeps it pointing in the same direction as your pistol. Note that this must to be done with great care. Your pistol will now be sweeping the room and pointing at unidentified targets, violating one of the four firearm safety rules in the process. It is even more important you follow all four of these rules in a time of stress and pending action than when you’re calm and relaxed on the range. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking they are optional procedures that don’t apply in real-world emergencies. They apply even more strongly when you’re off the range and in a ‘for real’ situation.
In particular, be sure to keep your finger off the trigger and completely outside the trigger housing, until you’ve identified your target and made a conscious decision to shoot. That way, if you are startled, and have an involuntary tightening of your trigger finger, it won’t result in you firing a shot, whether you intend to or not.
To summarize – avoid confrontations with unknown people in your home (and anywhere/everywhere else). If you are forced to confront someone, then you must follow the four firearm safety rules to ensure you only shoot at identified/confirmed threats, not unknown shadowy figures.