Does Shooting Someone In the Back Qualify as “Self Defense”?

A recent shooting involving a Dallas man in a Waffle House parking lot demonstrates how the Texas self defense law can protect a citizen even when the alleged “victim” is shot in the back.

In the early morning hours of July 5, a man armed with an AK-47 entered a DeSoto Waffle House and robbed several customers. As the robber left the restaurant one of the robbery victims followed him outside, pulled out a hand gun and fired several shots into the robbers’ back. The robber survived the attack but is paralyzed. The shooting was captured on video and it doesn’t appear that the robber knew what was coming.

Will the citizen be indicted for Aggravated Assault? Not at all.

Texas’ self-defense law allows a citizen to use deadly force if he has a reasonable belief the person is about to use deadly force against him or a third party. In this case, the citizen told police his wife was about to meet him at the restaurant and he feared the robber would encounter his wife in the parking lot. Texas law requires the fact finder to review the facts from the shooter’s stand point. Knowing all the facts, would a reasonable person in the shooter’s place be justified in using deadly force? Clearly in this case the answer would be yes.

Does it matter that the robber was shot in the back without warning? Not in this case. The robber had just threatened patrons with a deadly weapon. He had that weapon in his hand. The robber was a threat to anyone in the parking lot. Texas law doesn’t require a fair fight when exercising the right to self-defense. The law doesn’t require a warning before deadly force is used.

This particular case is pretty clear cut and the fact that the person shot had just been robbing the shooter and other citizens make this an easy call. However, the same principles hold true in other fact scenarios. The fact that the victim was shot in the back doesn’t automatically mean the shooter will be indicted or convicted. The criminal defense attorney must show that the defendant was acting in a reasonable manner and had no choice. It must be clearly demonstrated from all the surrounding facts that the person who was shot was a threat to others.