Hypothetical situation: Do you use lethal force to help a stranger?


Suppose you walk out of a store and see a woman being “assaulted” by a man with a deadly weapon.
-What is your immediate thought process?
-What if it’s a knife?
-What if it’s a firearm?
-Do you engage the situation?
-What would you do if you engaged?
-If you don’t engage, do you do anything at all?
-What’s the best option for deescalating this dangerous situation?

This is a scenario and questions I like to ask my students. I’m curious as to everyone’s thoughts, suggestions and opinions.
In Liberty


In Illinois, the best I can find an interpretation of the law, says that I can use deadly force to defend another human from a forcible felony. So, yes I would use whatever I had available to help a woman being assaulted. Maybe we get lucky and the mere intervention stops the attack. If not, I am fully prepared to use whatever force necessary to stop the perpetrator. My thought process is already one of that is someone’s daughter, mother, sister in need. Call it masculinity, call it old school, call it helping another human in distress, you can even call me a Neanderthal for feeling like a woman might need a “big strong man” to help. I’ll gladly be that Neanderthal.


I’m with 45 here. In AL, as near as I can tell in the laws down here, I have the right to use lethal force in situations of robbery (I’d assume armed robbery or a gang of unarmed men who made me fear for my life), rape, kidnapping or anything similar. And if the individual was actively brandishing a weapon at the woman, then I’d probably give him a chance to stop and walk away. Then give his description to cops. And if he didn’t heed the one warning, I’d most likely shoot him because the situation isn’t de-escalating.
That’s my thoughts at the moment. I’m sure there’s something wrong with my thought process to some people on here. But as far as I’m concerned, if the man is brandishing a weapon at the woman then I have reasonable cause to fear for her life.


Situation depending and only such a decision can be made at that time.

If a person is attacked in a somewhat public area, that is really bold, most generally will be attacked in less populated areas, the attackers generally flee when attention is called to them if people are moving in to assist, the attacker typically no longer has the upper hand on the intended victim.

There are always the exceptions to this…

In general, and depending on the laws in your area, move towards the attacker and look for cover nearby if needed, prep yourself whether its untuck and grip my carry this can be done without showing my carry. Yell out to the attack in the loudest deepest voice you can. Bring attention to what is happening so this isolated attack is now very public.

Your goal should be to stop the attack, draw attention to it, get as many eyes out there on what is happening. If the assailant turns the attack towards you rather than fleeing, depending on the weapon turned towards you, you know the last resort option, the goal should be to never have to use it. A mere display if it were to come to that I hope would be the furthest it would ever go.


Personally I’m not in the habit of inserting myself in violent encounters. Especially when I have no idea how they started. For all I know this woman could have just drowned his children, in which case I wish him the best of luck in his current task. Unlikely, I know but it’s just a point I’m trying to illustrate. If the guy was attacking my loved one I’d start banging away in a second. I’m not saying anyone’s answer if wrong. I’m just advocating for thinking long and hard before injecting ones self into a situation that my end in you being judged by twelve or carried by six.


As always i would approach this with caution, but i would try to verbally de escalate and distract to hopefully buy enough time for LEOs to get there and take control. Hopefully that works out and everyone goes home safe. I do acknowledge that the situation could go the other way and should it go sideways i would use deadly force as a last resort.


I think it would have to depend on the situation. Protecting someone you don’t know with deadly force can have negative consequences that I don’t want to deal with.


I wouldnt use my firearm to engage… but i would start yelling at him first… draw attention to the situation, then would decide wether to dance in circles around him… or straight up pile drive in the concrete… either way, they are both focused on me… and everyone else is watching them… i dont absolutly have to shoot, but i dont havevto fet close either… it that point where im close and far enough away just in case…

1 Like

Here is what I explain to my students. I would like to think think that every red blooded American man would have the immediate desire to save the “damsel in distress”, which would obviously be my first instinct as well. There are things that one would have to keep in mind if every faced with a situation like this. First and foremost, they’re individuals of whom you do not know so anything is possible. Secondly, who’s to say that the woman wasn’t strung out on something and when everything is said and done, she wouldn’t press charges against her male assailant. at that point, should a firearm be used by you, whether you fired it or not, you now have legal repercussions to deal with. Next, what if she was the one that initially attacked him and he was able to get the deadly weapon away from her and was holding her at bay. Another instance of legal repercussions for you, especially if you were to have fired your own weapon. Let’s say that one fired, ended up killing the male and the latter scenario was proven to be what had actually transpired. You would then most likely be charged with some degree of murder. One of the most important things to remember when having to use a firearm, one must remain the innocent party. The best response I have come up with, while working on this scenario with LEO’s, is to be a good witness. Call the proper authorities while talking loud enough to bring attention to the situation. At this point you have not personally engaged and are still the innocent party. You should keep your shooting hand free so you can draw your firearm if needed. Should the assailant turn his attention to you, threaten you to the point you feel that you are in fear of great bodily harm or death, you have now two potential options. One, try to escape or two, defend yourself. This last choice should be made depending on ones laws where they are. (Stand your ground etc) I hope this has helped some think about how many different outcomes could take place when trying to honorably help a person in need. Thoughts and opinions??
In Liberty


It’s a tricky situation, because you could be shooting a person that is defending themselves, but if I can discern what’s going on, I’ll make the call. If the person who needs to be stopped has a weapon of any kind, I’m shooting. I will not try to disarm a guy with a baseball bat or knife with anything other than my firearm. If it’s a fist fight, im definitely not shooting.

1 Like

I’m willing to step in in the event that the situation is still fluid and there is an obvious threat to life. Meaning the perp isn’t running away or attempting to extract themselves from the situation, and IS actually in the act of harming someone, or actively trying to harm someone with deadly intent (ie. lunging at someone with a knife, or holding a firearm to someone’s head). I can’t comment on any derivation of this specific scenario as there are just way too many variables.


You hit the nail on the head. There’s always a bunch of variables to account for in a very very limited time frame. Especially when it’s coming upon a situation that one is not involved in but moralality requires one to take some sort of action.


Looks like I ought to think twice about giving a response. Much that I didn’t give thoughts to.

1 Like

You’re more than welcome to give a response, @luke_ouellette. A great way to do that when you’re not sure what you’d do is ask questions… Something like:

I’d take into consideration a number of things before making a decision to intervene. Do I really know what’s going on? Do I know who the innocent party is? Is someone truly in imminent, unavoidable danger of death or grave bodily harm? Can I call the police and be a good witness? Can I stop the interaction and call the police to sort out the truth with no one getting hurt?

That way you’re showing what you’d consider and can actually strengthen your legal defense as you have shown you’ve given these types of situations thought and training.


I am in Missouri and my trainer told me I better think twice and then two more times before getting involved. But then again, My mother counseled abused women when I was growing up and we had our experience with one of the abusers and I have absolutely no tolerance for that. It would be hard to walk away.

I was taught to walk away as it is not my fight and I am not a law officer and have no right to use deadly force or to even get involved. However, That situation would really spark some emotions in me. I would at least dial 911 and if he had a gun, I would probably take notice as that could put me as a witness in a dangerous situation. My trainer explained to us that if we did act and the person being assaulted decided that they " love" their abuser and take the abusers side, we could very easily be facing jail time. Unfortunately the abused protecting the abuser happens a lot. The best option would be to blow his head off because the world doesn’t need people like that but the best option is not always the right choice.

It sounds mean to say, but the woman should have been carrying and protected herself. We only have the right to protect ourselves or family. But then again, do we let her die ? But then if we jumped in, and she took his side, we could go to jail. I think I would call @Dawn and let her kick his butt, LOL This is hard one and it is easy to say one thing but in the moment when faced with it, I think we would all react a lot differently.

If he had a gun, and my son was with me, what about my son? If I didn’t do anything he could also be in danger of being shot and since we are STILL waiting on our bullet proof coats, it could get scary real fast. Man… I know the right to say is not get involved and call 911. But I am not real sure what I would do if I were actually in that situation. Does the guy tell me to get out of there, does he point his weapon at me , Does he even notice me? The best option for deescalating is to remove myself from the situation. There is no situation if you leave. But then again, what is really going on? Is the guy an undercover police officer fighting this woman for his life ? Is the man actually protecting himself against her? Do we know if it is assault or self defense?

I think it is better to get away and call 911. Maybe snap a pic if you are fast with your phone. There are just too many unanswered questions and you could be murdering a man defending himself and not protecting a woman from an attack .


You’re mom does (did?) awesome work! I cannot imagine the things she helped women through.

What it comes down to in the end for me is - will I be able to live with myself if I walk away? I won’t know until (God forbid) I’m in that situation.

If I ever do encounter a situation like that and my kids are with me - they’re all adults now - one would be getting their phone out to record the situation, one would be calling the police, and the other would be looking around for other threats.

If I was alone, I know I would call 911… outside of that? Take pictures of the alleged attacker and victim? Try to get other, nearby help? There are so many factors to consider.


I’m reminded of something that happened right here in my state, Tennessee. A guy comes up on another guy, holding a knife, blood everywhere and it looks like he’s holding onto a woman who’s screaming. He fired and killed the guy. Turns out, it was his crazy wife, she came after him, stabbed him and he had just removed the knife and was trying to restrain her. The guy who shot was later sued in a civil case filed by, you guessed it, the wife. As a matter of fact, they use that scenario in the Tennessee HCP classes.


The issue for me is that I am a sworn law enforcement officer for the State of Georgia so I have state wide jurisdiction and I’m sworn to enforce the laws of the state and the nation. Additionally, the policy of my agency is that we are strongly encouraged not to intervene but the policy is also clear that if a individual is subject to facing death or great bodily injury in our presence, we have a duty to act. There was an agent who used to work for my agency that did not act when a violent domestic was taking place in his presence and a woman was seriously injured. He received received significant discipline for neglect of duty.

My plan is that if crime is taking place in my presence, I am on the phone with 911, giving the situation, a detail description (to alleviate the possibility of blue on blue) the description of the victim and suspect and WHAT I AM ARMED WITH. As the situation escalates the chance that I will not react decreases. I understand that no scenario is the same however I could not stand there in just allow someone to be seriously hurt or killed in my presence. I also recognize that when the uniform officers get there I am following ALL of their commands.


Perfect example of my post here.


Yes. You have to be careful in such a situation. You do not know what’s happening - not really. I think I’d call 911 and try to distract if I thought the “victim” was in danger. Pulling a gun would only be if they turned and attacked me. I don’t know what I’d do if they cut the victim because I’m not sure who the real victim is without more information. It really just depends on a lot of different factors. The thought of grabbing the hand in which the weapon is held might be an alternate possibility. But that depends on if I think it would make a difference and I could avoid being hurt or killed. Being on blood thinners makes me pause at even doing house chores. I think a lot of people just don’t know until it happens. But it’s good to think about.

1 Like