Law of Self Defense: Was McDonald’s Guard Justified in Going to His Gun?

Le·gal In·sur·rec·tion | 4/13/2019 | Andrew Branca
hey13 (Posted by) Level 4
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There’s a video making the internet rounds of an apparent security guard outside a McDonald’s being attacked by two young black men, and I’m being asked if the guard pointing his gun at the two was a lawful threat of deadly defensive force, on the one hand, or a crime, on the other.

Before we begin with the analysis, here’s the video:

Analysis - Week - Law - Self - Defense

And here’s the analysis as this week’s Law of Self Defense Case of the Week.

As I always tell folks this kind of use-of-force analysis isn’t rocket science—there are only five elements of a claim of self-defense: Innocence, Imminence, Proportionality, Avoidance, and Reasonableness. Every element is required (unless legally waived), and if any required element is missing, the claim of self-defense fails.

Confrontation - Purposes - Discussion - Men - Aggressors

We don’t know how the confrontation started, but for purposes of this discussion, I’m going to assume that the two young men were the initial aggressors, rather than the guard. Check this element in favor of the guard.

A threat needs to be at least imminent, about to happen right now, in order for defensive force to be justified, but a fight that’s actually in progress clearly qualifies as well. Check this element in favor of the guard.

Guard - Men - Law - Guard - Force

The guard ended up threatening the two men with deadly force—his pistol—and the law generally requires that the guard be facing a deadly force threat in order to be justified in using or threatening deadly defensive force. This, as well as the element of Reasonableness, are the key elements of this case, so we’ll cover this in more depth in a bit.

Even in the minority of states that impose a generalized legal duty to retreat, that duty is imposed only if a completely safe avenue of retreat is practically available. The nature and setting of this attack suggest that the guard had no practical...
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