Much has been written over the years about the subject of firearms for personal defense. Articles covering recommendations for weapon calibers and styles, ammunition options, and carry configurations abound, and a great many of these are extremely informative and educational. There is likewise any number of classes, videos, and self-help courses on the topic of when and how best to use a firearm in a personal defense setting. For many Americans, a firearm is like a life insurance policy…we have it while at the same time praying we will never need it.
Unfortunately, up to 2,000,000 times per year, American citizens are forced to use a firearm in a self-defense situation. What happens after these incidents play out? When the smoke clears and the casualties are counted, what can the average citizen expect to endure?
On August 15, 2014, my home was targeted in a home invasion by an armed gang. This resulted in a gunfight in my living room which left one perpetrator dead and my wife and I both fairly badly injured. The fight itself lasted nine minutes, which seemed like an eternity at the time. What followed were three-plus years of investigations, court cases, and public misconceptions that took a tremendous emotional toll on myself, my wife, and our loved ones.
My injuries included several lacerations to the head, one from a bullet graze, and a crushed finger. My wife suffered numerous injuries to both legs that left her in need of a cane to this day.
We were both taken to the local trauma center and were interviewed at length by detectives during our time at the hospital. Thankfully, it did not take long at all for the seven bullets we put in the intruder to be ruled as “justified”.
After we were treated and released, we returned to our home, where numerous representatives of the press were amassed in the street. The news outlets descended on us without hesitation or compassion, harrying us for sound bites or video they could rush to make the afternoon news shows. The remote broadcast news trucks remained in place outside our home for the next day and a half, finally giving up when it became clear we had no intention of speaking with them. That did not dissuade their coverage in any way, though. For a good 2-3 days, the story got heavy rotation on all the local channels, complete with interviews with complete strangers that did not even live in our neighborhood and so many factual inaccuracies that they were impossible to tally. In our case, at least, “fast” took precedence over “accurate” in the reporting of what happened.
Because an organized street gang had been involved, with a large number of members still at large and threatening reprisal, we were advised by the police to evacuate our home for the foreseeable future. This period ended up being a full year. During that interval, the authorities were able to round up all other parties involved in the home invasion…the lookout, the getaway driver, and a fourth perp who was present in the planning stages. These follow up arrests led to three separate court cases which stretched out over the next three-plus years. Where we live, in Florida, the Felony Murder Rule allows for participants in home invasions to be charged with first-degree murder if anyone dies during the commission of the crime, even if it is, as in our case, one of the criminals themselves. In the end, due to a variety of circumstances, the getaway driver and the lookout each plead guilty to second-degree murder and received sentences of 7 years and 15 years, respectively. The fourth gang member, who took part in the planning, was found guilty of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and given a 10-year sentence.
We were fortunate that the circumstances of our case were so straightforward. I can only imagine how much more traumatic the entire process would have been had the incident been the least bit ambiguous in the eyes of the law, the media, or the public.
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