6 Principles For Talking to the Police After a Self-Defense Shooting

Personal safety is paramount, so understanding the intricacies of self-defense is crucial. It's not just about stopping the attacker with well-aimed shots. I mean, of course, that comes first, but there is more, much, much more to consider.

One topic that we don't talk as much about is knowing what to do after the shooting. More specifically, should we talk to the police after a shooting, and if so, what should we say, and what shouldn't we say? This is a very important topic because we need to survive the physical attack by using justified, legal force, and do our best to stay out of court.

Let's look at some advice typically given on the subject and test it to see if it's actually good advice or not. Is there a hard-and-fast rule you can apply to govern how you speak to the police after every defensive gun use? Or is it more nuanced than that?

I hope thinking about these things now will help shed light on what you should, or shouldn't say to, the police after a self-defense shooting.

How to Navigate Self-Defense Shooting Police Questions:

crime scene

Photo grab from KHOU 11 News

The Importance of Post-Shooting Communication:

In the aftermath of a self-defense incident, emotions run high and adrenaline surges. It's hard to remember events exactly how they happened. You might not remember big chunks of the event, or your mind may even remember things differently than how they actually happened.

It's also easy to feel disoriented, but your actions and words can significantly impact the legal outcome.

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When police arrive on the scene of a shooting, there are some basic things they will do. First, they want to secure the area and make it safe. Then they will start a preliminary investigation. Ultimately, police want to gather evidence of any crime, and eventually arrest the lawbreaker.

Since you're one of the parties involved in the incident, the police need to determine exactly what your involvement is. Are you the suspect, the victim, or a witness? And because their responsibility is also to secure the public's safety, police will ALWAYS ask questions.

Let's look at some of the typical recommendations given on how to deal with post-shooting police questions.

post-shooting police questions

Don't Say a Word to Police:

It's quite common to hear someone say something like, “if you ever have to use your firearm, when the police arrive”:

Don't say a word.


Tell them to talk to your lawyer (assuming you even have one).

But is this the best advice?

Police Question to Expect:

When securing the scene, police will ask basic questions like; are you injured? Is the person you shot still here? If not, where did they go, what did they look like, were they alone, and which direction did you shoot? These questions are essentially designed to help them search for suspects, and check the area for anyone injured by errant shots.

If you choose not to anser any of the questions, you risk several things. First, you may be considered uncooperative by police who are trying to help. There is a big difference between an uncooperative subject, and someone who want's to give a detailed statement only after speaking with an attorney. Being uncooperative and refusing to answer even basic questions also makes it difficult for police to catch suspects, collect evidence or contact witnesses.

how you answer police questions after a self-defense shooting has legal implications

There is some validity to the advice of not saying a word, because in an emotional state, you may say too much. I think between saying too much and too little, it's probably better to say too little, but I don't think it has to be an all-or-nothing proposition.

Thinking about these things beforehand will go a long way in having greater command of your emotions at the moment.

This is also an appropriate time to mention that you should consider if carrying some self-defense legal protection. Here are some resources you can use to determine if any of the programs available are right for you.

Talk to The Police:

Within this camp, there are two general ideas. First, is to answer any and all questions. I think this is a very dangerous approach and would advise against it. The police may be your friends, and they also may not be. They may be diligent in how they investigate. They may just want to make an arrest. You don't get to choose which cop shows up. So it's best to protect yourself and not blab about the incident.

As a side note, taking care of what you say also applies to news reporters, or anyone else on scene. Don't speak to these people.

The second thought is to provide some information. This is the path I think would apply best in MOST situations. Here are some guidelines to help walk that fine line of providing just enough information without exposing yourself unnecessarily.

should you talk to police

How Much Voluntary Information Should You Give?

Here are some basic guidelines on providing some information that helps police, but doesn't expose you legally.

  1. Self-Defense, Not Vigilantism:

It is important to articulate you acted out of necessity for self-preservation, not a desire to mete out justice. Without providing details, clarify that the suspect forced you to act and protect your life or the lives of others.

  1. Provide Basic Information:

After ensuring the immediate safety of all parties involved, it's essential to identify yourself and your intention to cooperate with the authorities. Offer your name, address, and any other relevant details upon request.

  1. Invoke Your Right to Legal Representation:

As soon as the police probe for more details—and eventually they will—politely but firmly state that you wish to have an attorney present before providing a detailed statement. This ensures that you have proper legal guidance during the investigative process. Make sure what you say is direct and unambiguous. There is a difference between, “I think i should probably talk to an attorney” and ” I want to cooperate, but I don't want to answer questions before I speak with an attorney”. The first gives room for further investigative questions, the second protects you.

  1. Offer a General Description of Events:

Provide a brief and factual account of what transpired, emphasizing the imminent threat you faced. Keep your statements concise and to the point. For instance, “I feared for my life when the intruder advanced towards me with the knife and said he was going to kill me.”

  1. Highlight Evidence and Witnesses:

If there are any immediate pieces of evidence, such as a weapon wielded by the aggressor, or potential witnesses, mention them. This can bolster your case and corroborate your version of events. Point out if there are security cameras that would have captured events, or if the incident took place in multiple locations. This information can be helpful.

  1. Avoid Speculation or Assumptions:

Refrain from offering conjectures about the intentions or background of the aggressor. Stick to the facts as you know them. Speculation can muddle the narrative and potentially harm your case. A good rule of thumb is that if the statement begins with “I think” consider not saying it, or phrasing it in a way that is strictly factual.


In the aftermath of a self-defense shooting, your words can make or break your legal standing. By heeding the guidance in this article, I hope you can navigate the post-shooting scenario with prudence and clarity.

Each incident is unique, and it's important to stress that these are guidelines or principles to follow. That means you'll have to apply what I presented to your individual circumstance. There may be incidents where an attorney is totally unnecessary, and others where you should be extremely tight-lipped. No one can give a single method that works perfectly in every incident.

Remember, self-defense is a fundamental right, not an act of aggression. By following these principles, you can ensure that you protect your rights, and that justice may be served in the aftermath of a harrowing incident.

So, in answer to the question, “What should I say to the police after a self-defense shooting?” — think, keep answers general, speak the truth, say it clearly, and remember your rights.

What do you think? Leave your comments below.

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About Matthew Maruster

I follow my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ who is the eternal co-equal Son of God. I currently live in Columbus, Ohio with my wife and daughter. I served in the Marine Corps Infantry. I was a Staff Sergeant and served as a Platoon Sergeant during combat in Iraq. After I was a police officer at a municipal agency in San Diego County. I have a Bachelors's Degree in Criminal Justice from National University. MJ Maruster Defense.


  1. Daniel L. Johnson on October 25, 2023 at 5:30 pm

    Dear Mr. Maruster,
    I read, with great interest, your article about post-shooting statements to law enforcement. I agree that refusing to talk to law enforcement all together is not a good path to follow from the onset of a shooting incident. Law enforcement will be interested in gathering some information to ensure they are providing for general public welfare and safety. The gathering of this “basic public safety statement” may be of interest to some readers. In the Los Angeles Police Department (from where I retired), when an on-duty or off-duty police officer is involved in an officer-involved-shooting (OIS), the on scene field supervisor will generally ask the involved personnel some questions related to public safety. In other words, police will try to determine if you, the suspect, or any other persons were injured and need medical care. The supervisor will also determine what crime may have been committed, how many suspects may have been involved, if all suspects are in custody, or if any suspects fled, and police will want a description to put out that information out over the radio. Police will also be interested in identifying any witnesses to the incident so statements may be taken right away. Area ambulance services and hospitals will be asked to report anyone coming in with a gunshot wound as well but this is generally a policy followed anyway. Beyond the basic public safety statement, there will not be further questions asked of those involved in the OIS until a later time when they are interviewed by Detectives from the Officer-Involved-Shooting Team. Members of the Department are also afforded the opportunity to have members of the Los Angeles Police Protective League present during the interview and walk-through (re-enactment) of the scene. This same protocol may very well apply in a shooting situation involving a concealed weapon carrier in many other jurisdictions in that law enforcement will want to ensure some basic public safety measures are taken immediately upon arrival. Once that is established, I know of no officer that would object to your stating clearly that you wish to consult with an attorney from your chosen concealed carry insurance company before answering further questions. Once this public safety measure is taken, this would be a good time to state, “I would be happy to cooperate further at a later time, but I will make no further statements until I have an opportunity to consult with an attorney.” From that point, law enforcement will more than likely ask that you accompany them to the station and in the case of a concealed carry firearm holder, they will ask that you surrender your weapon to them. This is a basic officer safety measure and not reflective of their perspective of your guilt or innocence of any wrong doing. You will be able to privately call your Concealed Carry Insurance Carrier and coordinate an attorney to come to the station. One may anticipate this taking some time to accomplish and meanwhile, law enforcement will be processing the scene of the shooting. This may include taking a photo of you and your appearance at the time of the shooting, particularly if you have any injuries or other indications of having been involved in an altercation. The forensic firearms personnel, photographers, and other forensic evidence technicians and specialty teams will be processing the scene as well. The main point of my comment was that of the public safety statement law enforcement is obligated to obtain so they can do their jobs properly at the scene. With crime and the number of concealed firearms carriers steadily increasing, I am grateful to you for addressing this very important topic!

    • mcchief4 on November 5, 2023 at 11:47 am

      Good discussion on the issues. A few comments from another retired LEO. Respectfully, the recommendation by the author is not consistent with the Legal training section offered by Concealedcarry.com. Doug Richards, the lawyer interviewed for the American Gun Law training course on this website, recommends that you ONLY give your name, location, description of what you are wearing, and say “I’ve been the victim of a crime, send police (deputies) and an ambulance,” then hang up and don’t say ANYTHING ELSE. You are then going to demand that YOU are transported to the hospital. Listen to it and you will understand why. I also belong to USCCA and Law of Self Defense. They all say pretty much the same thing. Be the first to call 911 and ensure they know you are a victim. Second, a very interesting and thorough explanation of what the LAPD does but we are a much larger audience. Good, bad or indifferent, the attitudes about guns, training, experience, processes, technology and resources of the LAPD may be vastly different from the ones available where most people reading this live. There is also the political leanings of the prosecutor’s office and their investigators to consider. My ONLY advice is to join a CCW insurance program that pays for your attorney, find out who that will be and meet with them BEFORE an incident occurs and get their best advice. Why not follow the advice of the person who will actually defend you? This website offers insight into how to choose that attorney.

  2. Paul Jenkins on October 25, 2023 at 5:56 pm

    With respect, I think advice on what to say to the police is best left to highly qualified and experienced defence lawyers. You are not qualified to give it and your background as a cop makes you biased.

    • Clark Kent on October 25, 2023 at 9:48 pm

      ‘Biased’ against or for what? What about ‘biased’ defense (not ‘defence’) lawyers?

  3. Red on October 25, 2023 at 6:40 pm

    As similar techniques provided me many years (30+) and miles (500K+) as a safe motorcycle operator I find the information very similar!
    I had only relatively small incidents in all those years and NO major accidents or problems.
    Basically go over and over any situation that you may encounter in your head and determine the proper outcome. And as you do this it will become more and more intrenched in your mind so that adrenalin and excitement, which is inevitable, will be less affecting of your responses.
    I know for a FACT that adrenalin WILL come into play at some point, but the longer you can hold it off the better.
    And the same applies to a shooting incident I am sure of that!
    But the more you “train” your mind to say and NOT say the right things the better off you will be in the long run!
    Thanks for your fine article!

  4. Jack McDermott on October 25, 2023 at 8:15 pm

    One human who shoots another in sef defense is quickly in a wildly emotional state. Your premise is to have that person answer JUST a few questins from the police. It is unlikely that a erson in such a state is going to be able to figure which questions to answer and which to not answer.
    It is far better to stay with what we have been taught for many years and say , “I felt threatened and defended myself and will not answer any questions until my lawer is present”.

    • Chris Miller on October 26, 2023 at 11:14 am

      You are absolutely correct! The author of this story, as well as other people, ASSUME that most people will be able to remember this “Check List” after a near death experience! The only things you should do is state that this person attacked you, point out witnesses and evidence, request any necessary medical care, and ask to speak to a lawyer, all of which require NO QUESTIONS to be answered. I have never seen anybody talk their way out of being arrested but I have seen people talk there way into a jail cell. DON’T ANSWER QUESTIONS!

  5. Darkwing on October 26, 2023 at 8:21 am

    You NEVER talk to the Gestapo EVER, you tell them you want a lawyer present before you say anything

    • James Cooke on November 6, 2023 at 6:30 am

      Gestapo? Well, that’s a loaded term, Darkwing! But, too close to the truth to be quibbled about! Since my grandson’s have reached the age to get and use a driver’s license, I have told them that the police are NOT their friend. Even in a “simple” traffic incident. From personal experiences (note the plural), they are looking for somebody to blame the matter on. Mark it down, neighbors, ALL police officers live and breath the “Us versus Them” attitude.

  6. Pat on October 26, 2023 at 10:16 am

    The retired L A. Officer makes some valid points, but I’d point out that when the police read you your rights itheybtell you, to paraphrase, “anything you say can and will be used AGAINST you”….it doesn’t mention using your info to YOUR advantage and there is no requirement to share that info that may exonerate you. So, IMO, the less said, the better.

    • Clark Kent on October 26, 2023 at 4:00 pm

      Hate to burst your bubble, but the police don’t collect a bonus if someone is not exonerated.

  7. Pat on October 26, 2023 at 6:13 pm

    My point was not actually about the police activities, but a commentary on what the legal system requires them to say. I find it interesting that the language only addresses using what you say “against” you and says nothing about using anything you might say in your favor. It bewilders me why the word “against” just isn’t removed from the verbiage

  8. Richard on October 27, 2023 at 10:08 am

    Both Ayoob and Branca have very similar advice. I will try to follow their advice should I ever find myself in such a situation.

  9. Jacob Paulsen on October 31, 2023 at 8:23 am

    Stepping in as site admin. There have been some less-than-kind comments on this post which I have removed as they don’t comply with our guidelines. For more information about our guidelines please read here: https://www.concealedcarry.com/community-guidelines/

  10. Blane Kelly on October 31, 2023 at 12:45 pm

    thanks for trying to help ….good article …

  11. Agent $/&aom on November 5, 2023 at 8:43 am

    I’ve about decided all cops are crooked. Either they actively do things against the law, lie, threaten/intimidate; or they know a colleague that does and fails to take action to report or stop the actions.

  12. James Rooth on November 5, 2023 at 8:54 am

    Ater reading your article and the comments so far, I have a few things to say. First, thank you for having the article printed. There are several points made that I feel should be followed. Secondly, for the naysayers, all police are not out to get you. They have their job to do and they do not get bonus points for arrests. That being said, police are made up of individuals. No two are alike and not all are honest or dishonest. They are human. You are human. Whether to tell your complete story while under duress should not be questioned. Don’t. Identifying yourself, surrendering your firearm, and calling your attorney are given practices you should follow. Keeping your ideas about why or what happened because of the why is better left to your attorney. Which direction you shot, the “victim” shot, how many times shots were fired, and any witnesses are questions that are vital to the investigation and your defense.

    I pray to God that I will never have to take another human life for any reason. However, I hope that if ever I have to, I will have the fortitude and skill to do it without resolve. I have taken lives before in my life as a two-tour Viet Nam Marine. I still have nightmares…

  13. Erick on November 5, 2023 at 9:03 am

    A couple thoughts as a retired cop who has been to and through a couple events …
    – if you are going to give a general description (say, equivalent to an officer’s Public Safety Statement, do that before you bring waiting for counsel to talk further;
    – rather than saying “I feared for my life …” one might consider “when he did X I thought he was going to shoot me so I …”
    Just a couple thoughts.

  14. Kendahl on November 5, 2023 at 10:47 am

    Daniel Johnson: Regardless of its validity, your advice is too complicated for someone who has just survived a life or death encounter to employ effectively. Break it up into discrete paragraphs. Branca’s five elements of a self defense claim are a good example. Keep it simple.

  15. Dave Barker on November 5, 2023 at 4:06 pm

    I had a career in law enforcement. I have a law degree and often was dispatched to the scene of shootings by agents of our agency. I always instructed my agents to be cooperative and give very basic information in my presence. Then we politely told the local police that we would be willing to give a full statement the next day after our agent had the opportunity to unwind, collect his thoughts, and rest. I would discuss with him, as his attorney, the facts of the incident. I would give him legal advice and then I would accompany him to the PD and give a full statement. This same procedure is what I would recommend to anyone involved in a self-defense shooting. Even seasoned law enforcement agents are traumatized when they have had to take deadly force against someone. No matter how clean the shooting, you will be traumatized and in no condition to make any statements, other than very basic information, at the time of the shooting.

  16. James Cooke on November 6, 2023 at 6:23 am

    Part of my training related to being the first to call 911. Evidently the first to call 911 is considered the victim and the aggrieved party. So, before calling your wife or the folks with whom you missed an appointment or, yes, your lawyer – call 911 and as clearly as possible give the information requested by the 911 operator and get a clear and recorded time hack. Does this make sense? ‘Cause I am a rank amateur in this matter.

  17. Tony L on November 6, 2023 at 8:35 am

    “advanced on me with a knife” and “said he was going to kill me” may be too detailed and specific, such that you may be remembering incorrectly, or the evidence is more ambiguous, and a DA or prosecutor will use it against you. Better to keep it more general, like “he threatened my life” and “I had to defend myself.”

  18. Kevin Sweeney on November 6, 2023 at 9:44 am

    How do you pick a good defense lawyer?

  19. Charlie Hoell on November 6, 2023 at 3:14 pm

    Deadly actions are only taken during a time when no other form of defense will save life, it’s a sad situation to be in but with our governments failure to stop the madness of potential criminals, terrorist and other bad actors invading America plus the homegrown criminals who are taught life is not important we need all the help we can get.
    Please pray for America.

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