Many people today are looking for personal safety strategies. Some spend their time and money developing their physical prowess, while others buy weapons and devices that will “level the playing field.” Some will combine both approaches for a complete sense of personal security. The point is that some people are willing to take active steps to prepare for an event they pray will never happen. The question is, have they ever thought about what they will do after using their selected techniques or devices? Think about it! You bought a handgun for personal protection. You went to the basic firearm safety course and even obtained your concealed weapons permit. Now, you are faced with a life or death situation and you deploy your weapon of choice successfully. Now, what do you do?

Most law abiding citizens will cooperate with everyone. Fact is, they feel they did nothing wrong and that they do not have anything to hide. Police arrive, begin asking all of the right questions and the individual (you) tries to answer them to the best of your ability. During this question and answer session, you realize that you aren’t really sure about the answer to a question being asked. You may be afraid to say that because you do not want the nice officer to think you are lying about what you did and why you did it. You begin thinking, “Why can’t I remember?” “It just happened, was I wrong?” “I have seen the police shows on television and I know that when someone says I am not sure, they are stalling to make something up.” So, you pressure yourself into finding the answers to the questions you are being asked. In other words, your mind creatively fills in the blanks.

Let’s stop right here and talk about what is actually happening. Why can’t you remember? Why are you shaking so bad? Are you lying? Will they think you are lying? Your heart rate is increasing just sitting there talking to the officer; will he or she see it through your shirt and think you are lying? (You know you have seen that on television!) The truth is you were just involved in a life or death situation and you are experiencing the normal psychological and physiological affects of a high stress event.

It is not uncommon for individuals to experience a variety of post event issues. Things like: critical stress amnesia, perceptual distortions, sudden drop in blood pressure, or even passing out are a few examples of what may happen. The point is, your body and mind were just traumatized and you need time to “pull yourself together.” Now is not the time to be answering questions. It may take several days for you to truly remember exactly what happened and some people may never remember everything. Just like you were trained to accept the potential outcome of this life or death situation; you now have to accept that you need help. This may include help physically, mentally, emotionally, and even legally.

Here is a short list of recommendations following a life or death event:

Ensure someone has called 911. When paramedics arrive, they will need to examine you and the person who forced you to defend yourself. If you used a firearm for example, the person who attacked you will require immediate medical attention. So will you!

Let the paramedics examine you and go to the hospital for a complete examination! Even if you do not have any outwardly showing injuries, you may experience physiological responses that may endanger your personal well being.

When police arrive, allow them to safely take possession of your firearm. Provide the officer with your personal information (name, address, phone number etc.) You may also answer questions involving public safety concerns. For example, are any subjects still at large? Did the person shoot at you and if so, from what direction? Questions like these help first-responders identify the threat to the community and the areas to check for other potential victims. As distasteful as this may sound, request the representation of an attorney before you answer any questions or make any statements regarding what happened. Do not discuss the incident until you have had an opportunity to speak with a reputable attorney. This is not about “not cooperating.” It is purely to ensure that you are given the time you truly need to recover mentally and physically from the high stress event you just won. Remember, you may not remember everything that happened right away and you do not want to create an issue where one does not exist.

Do not discuss the incident with anyone outside of your legal team or mental health provider.

Remember, you were able to save your own life or the life of another. Do not place it in harms way only to be seen as being cooperative. Law enforcement has a job to do following this incident and you will not be hindering it by taking the time you need to ensure your physical and emotional well being. Truth is, if you asked a police officer if he or she would give a statement immediately following a shooting, they would answer with a resounding “NO.” Why should you?