Justified Yet Excessive ... How?

Just read a large chunk of a rather disturbing case brief where a citizen defended a store owner during a robbery. One of the pieces of evidence listed the “use of deadly force” as “justified yet excessive” because the “defender” chose a headshot as his first and ONLY attempt. I’m unsure if I’m more angry or confused. How is this possible?

As far as I know, “deadly force” is THE highest level of force which could be used on a person. How is it possible for any action, of this nature, to be excessive if it is justified?

As for the headshot, sure, there are many who believe center mass is THE optimum target. However, there are several reasons why, in MY opinion, it would NOT be optimal. Even so, if the goal is to use deadly force, why does it matter where the point of impact is?

Anyone know of case law or data supporting this odd combination?


Hi Fred.
Sorry I cannot direct you to any case law regarding “first shot placement in a deadly force event”. Such a requirement would be asinine to the extreme. I just wanted to agree with you r view point on the issue.ow many times do reasonably well trained people hit hi, or off of the mark they are aiming for? ALL the time. That’s why we practice, practice and do some more practice. Add stress and fear to the issue and a high shot intentional or otherwise can be expected. I would have no hesitation going for that shot if I were close enough, I was convinced it was needed and confident enough to take it. I think you are right on the money.


Hi @Porter and @FredL, welcome to the group!
We’ve been talking a lot about the headshot, I’ll add the link in a minute. One of the things that became clear on that discussion is that despite the legitimacy of headshots in a self defense situation, prosecutors and jurors may see them as “intent to kill” instead of “intent to stop the threat”. I suspect that’s where the “excessive” comes in. It’s not a logical argument but it still has great influence on the emotions of people who either have to judge it, or are just Monday morning quarterbacking.

This is also where well established training guidelines (center body mass is primary target, groin/pelvis second, head third) help. And it’s where having legal support like USCCA provides it members is important. In a situation where you had to take a headshot as your one and only shot, the prosecutor may see an opportunity to put a notch in his/her belt and go after you, and you’ll need a top flight attorney and access to expert witnesses to put that back into perspective for jurors.

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Here’s the link to the other thread

I’m feeling a “I shot what was available to me at the time” defense. :thinking:


The most understandable perspective yet… and, based on the circumstances, I can see where they’re coming from. However, on the other hand, I can understand the logic of ensuring your first round is as effective as it can be. In other words, glad I have Elite. :wink:


The way I look at head shots is that they are extremely hard to make in a high stress situation and you have to hit the exact right spot to make someone go down. We train for the thoracic triangle because it can stop a lot of threats and it’s a much larger target.

However, if you know the attacker is wearing body armor or is high on meth, a head shot isn’t “overkill”. There are a lot of examples where someone high on drugs was able to continue to attack when they were shot in the body multiple times.

The pelvic region can also stop someone from advancing.

We know any shot we take - thoracic triangle, head, pelvis may cause death, however our goal isn’t to kill. Our goal is to defend our lives and the lives of our loved ones. We need to be able to explain why we took the shot we took and pass the reasonable person test - which isn’t always so reasonable.

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Hi Y’all!

Here in Washington, DC the law states the following:

“You are entitled to claim self-defense:
(1) if you actually believe you are in imminent danger of bodily harm; and
(2) if you have reasonable grounds for that belief.”

What a person believes is subjective, and should be case closed for the good person who defends his/herself (period). The law continues with the following subjective ratification for the use of deadly force:

“You may use the amount of force which, at the time of the incident, you actually and reasonably believe is necessary to protect yourself (or a third person) from imminent bodily harm. This may extend to the use of deadly force if you actually and reasonably believe you are in imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm from which you can save yourself only by using deadly force against your assailant.”

Even though the last sentence is shady, however, it’s objective for the good person to believe that a shot to the torso would not be enough “from which you can save yourself”. This objectivity should be presented in the form of bad people being shot several time in the torso, then to kill the good person who shot them. The law continues again with the following subjective ratification for the use of deadly force:

“Even if the other person is the aggressor and you are justified in using force in self-defense, you may not use any greater force than you actually and reasonably believe is necessary under the circumstances to prevent the harm you reasonably believe is intended or to save your life or avoid serious bodily harm.”

What a human being believes in a case of self preservation in a deadly force encounter should always be considered subjective. 12 jurors in no way shape or form could put themselves in the mindset of a good person defending his/her life against a bad person with a weapon.

“Under the case law of the District of Columbia, the District is neither a “right to stand and kill” nor a “duty to retreat to the wall before killing” jurisdiction. The District case law has established a “middle ground.” You should take reasonable steps, such as stepping back or walking away, to avoid the necessity of taking a human life, so long as those steps are consistent with your own safety. However, you do not have to retreat or consider retreating when you actually and reasonably believe that you are in danger of death or serious bodily harm and that deadly force is necessary to repel that danger.”

What’s my point? With laws such as DC, good people are more inclined not intervene in a third party encounter UNLESS it is family and or friends you’re out and about with. In the case of the store robbery incident, as frustrating it may be, if the bad guy doesn’t shoot the store owner, I won’t intervene. The store is insured for robberies and theft, the owner is alive and I won’t have to deal with the legal system; a win win if you ask me.


Exactly! If there’s an armed robber there for the money, give him the money. It’s self-defense, not stuff defense. And if the robber knows there’s someone armed in the store, it may escalate the situation instead of defusing the situation.