Letter Re: Shoot or Don’t Shoot–Moral Implications of the Split-Second Decision to Take a Life

That was a good submission by Jeff R.! Here are some things I thought I would mention from personal experience:

I work as a Pharmacist in Philadelphia and was involved in an attempted armed robbery, six years ago. Two armed men came in the store early that morning attempting to obtain narcotics. I was able to see them early enough that they didn’t get the drop on me. (Situational awareness!) The man in front had a .44 Magnum revolver with the hammer cocked. He announced “Get the f*** down, this is a stickup!” as he walked at me. I fatally shot him and wounded the second man (although he fled and was never found). The entire incident happened in about 5-7 seconds and before there was any time to get afraid or ponder the options. My arms were tingling for two hours after though, from adrenaline! It was an instant self-preservation reaction. This is why you must square up any moral concerns well beforehand as there will be no time during. Know what you will do!

I had mentally rehearsed scenarios like it happening and would practice the draw stroke which I think made everything so smooth. My technique wasn’t the best as I shot one-handed and kind of point shot where I knew he was. He was about seven feet away when he was hit. The first shot hit him in the right eye, and the second somewhere else in the face, according to police). He literally died in the fetal position still holding the cocked gun. The entire thing seems surreal, like a quiet dream when I remember it even though I emptied the magazine. I think that mental preparation like Jeff mentioned is so important (in any training) to things working in your favor.

I had to sit in homicide department for about four hours total until our lawyer showed up and we gave a statement. I think it is important to have one there with you before you make any statements. You will be shook up, like Jeff said, and will benefit from having someone there with you. He advised me not to say anything to the media. Even though the police were praising me and saying it was obvious self defense I was concerned about the reaction from his family, et cetera. Supposedly they knew he was into “bad things”.

I had to call regularly to find out information on the incident as nobody ever got back to me. I later found out that I had been exonerated. You think they would have let me know! It took me two years to get my gun back! They kept saying that it had to go through forensics for some reason. I know Philly isn’t the most efficient place in the world and has lots of other crimes to deal with but what the heck? I couldn’t believe it!

Jeff’s advice is important to follow on dealing with the aftermath as you ponder how things could have gone differently and the consequences if they had. James, thanks for all you do! Be aware out there everyone! – S. in Philly