Can an “unarmed” attacker be a threat to your life? What is “disparity of force”?

With the recent shooting in Clearwater Florida of an “unarmed” assailant by a concealed firearms license holder many are questioning why was an unarmed man shot, all he did was violently shove the man to the ground? And even looking further, some saying that you are a coward or not a “real man” if you have to resort to firearms if the attacker is unarmed. To those people, as a 35-year veteran LEO (and LEO Instructor) and U.S. Army veteran I say you’re talking about a subject you have no knowledge of or are being purposefully stupid.

There is an adage that I like to use when younger police recruits talk about the physical part of the job, the fights, the “defensive tactics” we teach in the police academy and other things related to defending yourself. I tell them, “at my age, I don’t fight fair I fight to win”. And go on to elaborate that what I mean is I will use whatever I need to end the fight quickly and without as much injury as I can sustain. If that means throat punching someone, gouging an eye, or otherwise fighting “dirty” then I will do it if I am in fear for my life and cannot get to my self-defense firearm. I am older and have had several medical related issues over the years, I am not able to take as much punishment as when I was 20. So enters the concept of what constitutes a serious bodily injury and what is “disparity of force”?

We teach this in the police academy and teach law enforcement officers all over the nation about it because it can be what they come across on the job, but it applies as much to the everyday citizen as it does law enforcement. What is “serious bodily injury”? It is recognized in court cases and case law as that force which is likely to cause severe pain and injury that will require protracted recovery or permanent scarring is considered serious bodily harm. When it comes to the law of self-defense, you have to look at potential injury from the victim’s point of view, not the attackers or their intent. A blow to the throat, eyes or other soft areas of the body. Hitting someone with a closed fist to the side of the head, or base of the skull can be seriously crippling or even deadly. Throwing or pushing someone down hard onto concrete or asphalt, all can cause serious bodily injury or even death.

That is not even adding in the “disparity of force” factors. If the victim is old or physically disabled in any way, their ability to defend themselves may require the use of a weapon or firearm. A large attacker, even if unarmed, attacking a smaller weaker victim causes the danger of serious bodily harm or death to rise. And in the victims mind (remember that the fear spoken of in law is that of the victim, not the witness or the attackers), a small framed, weaker victim being attacked by a larger more powerful attacker may form in their mind a well-founded fear that they are going to be seriously injured or killed.

Let us use an example to explain this. You are an older person who has some issues with mobility. Nothing that requires a cane or wheelchair but you can’t get around as well as you used to. You are walking down the street when out of nowhere you are hit in the chest with a blow hard enough to send you flying backward several feet and land on your butt. Your dazed and your breathing is hard and painful. Your chest hurts as well as your back and legs from the fall to the ground. You realize you were just physically attacked by a much younger and larger attacker. And the attacker is there just a few feet away. You look up and think to yourself that the attacker is going to attack you again and that this time you may not be so lucky as to not be seriously injured or worse, maybe even killed (remember the law does not say only fear of death, but serious injury also, and rightfully so). Do you have the legal right to draw your self-defense firearm to defend yourself from further attack? Do you have the legal right to fire at the attacker to stop him from attacking you again if that is what you think he is going to do? The answer is of course yes. No one should have to just sit there and be seriously injured (or worse). No one should have to wait to be hit several times and just before losing consciousness be able to fight back. No one should be attacked physically or have to be seriously injured in the first place.

This ladies and gentlemen is what happened in Clearwater, Fl.
Would all people react the same way? Probably not. I doubt that I would have reacted the same way as the victim on the ground in this case. But what people seem to be forgetting is that you don’t get to make that decision based on what you would have done and what you are capable of, you have to look at it from the point of view of the person who used force to defend themselves. A disparity of force is what happens when you have factors that make the victim in a self-defense case more fearful of the attacker and the attackers ability to cause them harm. Size, age, physical ability, number of attackers, weapons, all of those things (and more) need to be taken into account when looking at the attacker verse victim issues in any use of self-defense.

So back to the original question. Can an unarmed attacker seriously injure or kill you? Of course, they can. Can you use force including deadly force to prevent an attack or stop an attack if you (the victim) feel that you are in fear of great bodily harm or death? Of course you can that is the way it should be. Did you look at and consider the possibility of things like the disparity of force in this case? Maybe you should.

Imagine if people had to try and run away or flee before they could defend themselves from criminal attacks. Imagine what the criminals would think and do. Self-defense is a right that we have had long before the Constitution and laws. The laws are there to try and explain it to those who are too stupid to understand that if you do not attack anyone else you have no fear of being shot by someone defending themselves then. Pretty simple when you think of it.

And don’t be foolish and try and bring up other cases that have caused media attention to focus. Especially those that have gone through the court system and been justifiable. That’s why we have a court system.

A simple solution to these supposed problems with the self-defense law is to present the case to the Grand Jury and let them decide if charges should be filed. If they do, the person using force still has the court to present their case, if not it has been reviewed by more than your standard Jury and has been put to rest.

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