This is why I’ve come to advise Lethal Force Institute students to stick to five bare-bones statements when questioned.
First, “This man attacked me.” It makes clear from the beginning that you’re the Victim and the guy you were forced to shoot was the Perpetrator.
Second, “I will sign the complaint.” You’re speaking the cop’s language, and further locking in the facts of who’s who and what’s what: you are the Good Guy or Gal, and the guy on the ground is the Bad Guy.
Third, point out the evidence. If you don’t, it can disappear or get moved. In Case Eight in Illinois, a gangbanger attacked a cop and tried to rip his Smith & Wesson 9mm out of his holster and murder him with it. The cop wound up having to shoot and kill him in self-defense. Not until I got there to examine the evidence for trial did anyone bother to examine the uniform pants the officer was wearing; they were torn in the holster area, confirming the officer’s version of events. By then he had been charged with an illegal homicide, and had to go all the way through trial to win acquittal.
Fourth, point out the witnesses. Their words may well exonerate you, but the general public fears reprisal by the genuine criminals who attacked you, or their accomplices, and may be reluctant to come forward on their own. The only way to be sure that testimony that may exonerate you will be taken, is for you to point out to police the witnesses who saw you shoot your attacker in self-defense.
Fifth, and critically important, “Officer, you’ll have my full cooperation after I’ve spoken with counsel.” Stick to that like name, rank, and serial number. Experts tell us that it will be a minimum of 24 to perhaps 72 hours before you’ll be in any condition to deal with a full interrogation. And that interrogation (the more politically correct term “interview” is used now) should not take place until you’ve discussed it with your attorney in depth.
Nor should it take place, in my opinion, without the attorney right there with you, and a legal stenographic service’s camcorder rolling to record it for your side, just in case.
Cops are trained to get guilty people to say incriminating things they didn’t really want to say. The same tactics can get innocent people to say things that someone erroneously convinced of their guilt could use against them, particularly when they are interrogated in the hugely stressful immediate aftermath of having faced death and been forced to extinguish a human life.
This is why virtually all of us who are involved in this sort of thing on a regular basis advise that the justified shooter should not submit to a detailed interview until they’ve had time to come down from the stress flood and acquire legal counsel.
At the same time, saying nothing means that your story, the truth, is not being told. Cops see so many criminal uses of force that, when they don’t yet know who’s who, it’s only natural for them to assume that the guy on the ground is the victim and the guy standing with the smoking gun is the perpetrator. That’s why, at this moment, it is wise to get across the five points suggested above, and then shut up and wait for an attorney.