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Burden of proving imminent danger on shooter

Posted: May 16, 2010

Burden of proving imminent danger on shooter


A veteran Detroit police officer who trains people to carry a concealed pistol said the man involved in the shooting death of Geraldine Jackson may have disregarded guidelines taught in gun permit classes.

But a former federal prosecutor says the man, who police have not identified but say has a permit to carry a pistol, may be able to prove he felt his life was in danger when he inadvertently shot the 69-year-old grandmother on Wednesday.

Jim Watson, who teaches classes for carrying concealed weapons at Target Sports in Royal Oak and Orchard Lake, said the 65-year-old carjacking victim was blatantly wrong if he was chasing the alleged 19-year-old robber down Pickford Street in Detroit when he fired the gun.

Watson said he teaches his students they are only to shoot if their life or the life of another is in imminent danger of death, great bodily harm or sexual assault.

"I tell students they're not the police, and you don't chase people because it's hard to say you're in imminent danger if you're chasing them," Watson said Friday.

The state relaxed requirements for carrying a concealed weapon in 2001. Since then, a flurry of shootings have focused on the question of imminent danger.

A Macomb County jury ruled a 40-year-old Macomb Township woman was not in imminent danger when she said she felt threatened by a truck tailgating her on I-94 in 2007. Bernadette Headd was convicted of assault and sentenced to 2 1/2 years in jail.

Detroit resident Tigh Croff is awaiting trial on a second-degree murder charge, accused of chasing down and shooting Herbert Silas, whom Croff suspected of breaking into his home in December.

"If you shoot at a bad guy and you miss him and you hit the grandmother, you are responsible for that," Watson said.

Troy lawyer and former federal prosecutor John Freeman, who specializes in self-defense cases involving gun owners, said the man who killed Jackson may be able to defend himself in court if he solely shot at the 19-year-old as the teen got out of the stolen SUV.

"It is certainly possible that that person, upon seeing that person coming out of the vehicle, needed to use deadly force," Freeman said. "Potentially, you're the sole eyewitness. All of a sudden you're in a self-defense situation."

Freeman said ultimately, liability rests with the carjacker.

"What's important to remember is who started that chain of events -- and it was not the person who was lawfully in possession of the gun," he said. "Essentially, that person's victimized twice."


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