Special Report: After you pull the trigger

(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
Cpl. Tron Beesley with the Pargould Police Department teaches the CRASE course. (Source: KAIT)
Cpl. Tron Beesley with the Pargould Police Department teaches the CRASE course. (Source: KAIT)
Second Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington explains Arkansas self-defense law. (Source: KAIT)
Second Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington explains Arkansas self-defense law. (Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - With new Arkansas state laws allowing guns into previously gun-free zones like college campuses, bars, and the state capitol, a new question of safety emerges as officers respond to situations in those places.

People who have the enhanced concealed carry permit should be trained to react to an active shooter or similar situation. While many concealed carry classes focus on gun safety, gun laws, and correct shooting techniques, citizens should also consider what happens after they pull the trigger.

"Obviously, if you're a concealed carry holder and you have to be in a situation where there’s an active shooter then you need to be situationally aware of your surroundings," said Corporal Tron Beesley, of the Paragould Police Department. "Are you able to take that shot? You’ve got to think about the concern of after you take the shot, who could possibly get injured from that?”

Cpl. Beesley teaches a Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events (CRASE) course and says everyone who takes the course needs to think that scenario through.

"It's mostly about more laws, where you can carry, where you can't with the enhanced licensing," said Scott Vaughn, a concealed carry instructor.

Vaughn has been teaching concealed carry courses for 16 years and just hosted his first enhanced carry class on Feb. 3.

"And you come out and prove yourself on the shooting because we don't talk much about it," Vaughn said. "Thirty-five out of 50 is the minimum. You have to shoot 50 shots and score 35 at least."

Around 60 minutes of the 7-hour class is spent discussing when it's appropriate to use your weapon in self-defense.

"Justification in deadly force, like out in public and for most all the reasons," Vaughn said. "It's pretty simple in that area, but we do some scenarios to get people thinking."

But knowing the justifications and knowing what exactly is going to happen after you pull the trigger could be two different things.

"You have the legal right to protect yourself, obviously, but understand that whatever actions you take, you have to justify them," Beesley said.

The officer explained that most people don't know what to expect when law enforcement responds.

"One of the biggest things people don't realize is a lot of times, on most of our calls we go on, we have little to no information," Beesley said. "A situation like that where it's going to be chaotic and scary and stressed, you know, the dispatcher might not get all the information or who the bad guy is or what they're wearing."

He said officers have the mindset to expect everyone is an active shooter until they can figure out who the real threat is and who is not.

"We're looking for someone with a gun so if we get there and you're up waving us down and you have a shotgun, you're going to get guns pointed back at you," Beesley said.

What you should do in a tense situation like that, according to Beesley, is to listen for police to tell you what to do next.

"The best thing you can do is show your hands. If you have a weapon, make sure you don't have a weapon on you when officers arrive and listen to all the commands," Beesley said. "More than likely, we're going to tell you to get on the ground, and you're probably going to end up being cuffed, and that's just a protocol for us being safe and you to be safe."

The time it takes for police to secure the scene and investigate could vary as well, depending on the situation.

Beesley said technological advancements with video could help speed up investigations, though. Those involved need to just continue to comply with officer commands during the process, he said.

People also need to understand when you can take that shot in self-defense.

"Someone yelling and screaming is not going to give you justification to pull out a gun," Beesley said.

"If someone comes in and you don't see a knife or a gun or something like that then you should probably use physical force, trying to restrain that person, before actually employing a deadly weapon," said Second Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington.

The prosecutor explained to Region 8 News what Arkansas law says about self-defense.

"If an individual believes that another is about to use physical force or deadly physical force then you are able to defend yourself or another person by using comparable force," Ellington said.

An important part of that definition, Ellington explained, is that like force be used.

"If someone takes a gun to a fist, they'll get charged with murder," he said.

The threat of a violent felony also needs to be immediate.

"It's not a threat like 10 minutes from now, it's not a threat 30 minutes from now, it's not a threat 2 hours ago," Ellington said.

Ellington also pointed out that the initial aggressor cannot claim self-defense, it does not apply when both people have agreed to the fight with weapons, like a shootout, and you do have the duty to retreat if the attack is in public.

"If someone confronts you on the street before you use deadly force, you would have the duty to retreat and try to avoid having to shoot them or use deadly force," Ellington said.

That is also a point that Cpl. Beesley makes during his CRASE training courses.

"The strategy is to avoid, deny, defend," Beesley said. "Avoid the situation, get away from the shooter, use situational awareness to know your surroundings, know where the exits are in the building and get out of there."

If you cannot get out of the building or area, Beesley said to then try to barricade yourself in a room and deny the suspect access. This technique can buy you time until police arrive.

"We don't want you to go after the enemy or go after the shooter," Beesley said. "We want you in more of a defensive positioning and get away and call us. That's what we get paid to do."

But if you are out of all other options, defend yourself.

"Defend yourself when there are no other means of getting away," Beesley said. "That's when you have the legal right to protect yourself if someone is actively trying to kill you."

For more information or to apply to get the CRASE course taught at your business, including schools, colleges, hospitals, and churches, contact Beesley at 870-239-7564 or by email at tron.beesley@paragouldcity.org.

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