The Calhoun County Prosecutor has confirmed that he will not be seeking criminal charges after a security guard shot and killed an individual involved in a bar fight. In this case, on Thanksgiving, the guard was providing security at a bar that was extremely overcrowded. A brawl broke out on the second floor, and as he attempted to intercede, the guard was punched, kicked, and pushed to the ground by multiple people. While attempting to get up after being assaulted he was jumped on by the man who was ultimately shot. The security guard pulled his firearm, aimed, pulled the trigger, and discharged his weapon at the attacker, who was taken to the hospital and eventually died.
The security guard was subsequently taken into custody and charges were sought. After two months of investigating the facts of this case, the prosecutor made the determination that no criminal charges would be authorized. He based this decision the facts learned during his investigation as applied to Michigan’s Stand Your Ground laws. Specifically, the prosecutor said “because of Michigan’s ‘stand-your-ground’ law, the security guard cannot be charged unless it can be proven he was not acting in self-defense.” (The difficulty of reading this quote demonstrates why two negatives should not be placed in the same sentence!)
The Michigan Gun Crimes Lawyers at the Barone Defense Firm commend the prosecutor for his decision, but many prosecutor’s do not have such courage. We represent and defend the rights of citizens charged and investigated for crimes involving self-defense and legal use of firearms, so we understand why the prosecutor’s decision was difficult and don’t envy him for having to make it. This is a very complex and sensitive legal topic that has significant legal, political, and public ramifications. This case highlights all of this, and invites a discussion of Michigan’s self-defense laws.
What is Michigan’s Law of Self-Defense?
In Michigan, the legislation passed two laws specific to self-defense commonly referred to as Stand Your Ground and the Castle Doctrine. In this case, application of the Stand Your Ground law was evaluated and ultimately held as the legal reasoning why the Calhoun County Prosecutor did not authorize a criminal charge. (Michigan’s Castle Doctrine does not apply here).
What is Michigan’s Stand Your Ground Law?
Stand Your Ground is a legal defense to an act of self-defense that results in the death or serious injury of another. To be applicable, this defense requires that a few conditions be present, as follows:
- the person that acts in self-defense must not be committing a crime or breaking the law. Note, this does not mean that they will not be charged with a crime, only that they were not in the commission of crime when the defensive act took place.
- the person must be legally permitted to be present at that location, and;
- often the most contentious element, the person acting in self-defense must honestly and reasonably believe that deadly force is necessary to defend against imminent or immediate death, serious injury, or sexual assault will or is occurring.
Why Was Stand Your Ground Applicable in this Case?
From what we know about the case, we agree that the Prosecutor’s decision was the right one. We do think the explanation reported warrants further explanation, however. In many cases, citizens are still charged with felony crimes such as second-degree murder or manslaughter, even where self-defense is applicable. In these instances, a prosecutor fails to determine that the defense of Stand Your Ground will result in an acquittal at trial. This is an important point.
A legal defense does not preclude prosecution! A person can be prosecuted even when all the elements of a successful defense are present. It is important to repeat that even had the security guard been charged he would still have a right to present a defense of stand your ground.
To help explain this, let’s assess the elements of self-defense in this case. First, the security guard was not in the commission of a crime. He was legally permitted to be at the bar. He also had a valid conceal carry license. Generally, a firearm is not permitted be carried in a bar, but an exception to that rule is when an employee has the permission of the owner to carry in a business, in this case a bar, which he did.
Looking at the most contentious factor, whether a person has an honest and reasonable believe that the use of deadly force is necessary to eliminate the imminent threat of serious injury, sexual assault or death. Based upon a dozen witness statements and a couple of cell phone videos, the security guard’s statements that he was in fear of death and/or serious bodily injury were honest and reasonable.
An exception to a valid self-defense case is if the person arguing self-defense, was the aggressor. In this case, it was clear that the security guard did not provoke or create the assault.
Another exception is if the force used excessive based upon the circumstances. Considering the security guard suffered ‘scrapes, abrasions and bruises, blood on his T-shirt and face and possible concussion’ and that he was physically smaller than the attacker, and considering that the assaults were not stopping, his actions of using deadly force, which is any force capable of resulting in death, was reasonable.
Therefore, because the elements of Stand Your Ground are present, and no exceptions are applicable, the decision to not charge the security guard is appropriate.
If the County Prosecutor Decides Not to Prosecute, is that the End of it?
An interesting development in this case is that in most cases the decision of the County Prosecutor is the final word, however, the Chief of the Battle Creek Police Department has sought review by the Attorney General’s office.
We submit that the outcome should be the same because, based on the facts known us, the County Prosecutor made the right decision. However, the fact that the Attorney General will get a bite at this demonstrates the political nature of cases involving firearms and self-defenses.
Additionally, should this case later be charged, the security guard may also to raise self-defense under the common law. To learn more about this, see our prior article entitled: Would Kyle Rittenhouse Been Convicted in Michigan?
As we point out, a significant legal difference between stand your ground and common law self-defense is the (general) duty to retreat under common law, which does not exist under the statutory self-defense of Stand Your Ground.
This case presents the importance of having an experienced and qualified 2nd Amendment lawyer represent you and assure that all of your 2nd Amendment Rights and your freedom, are duly protected.
When you are faced with defending the health and safety or yourself or others, allow us to defend you. The 2nd Amendment and Self-Defense Criminal Defense Trial Attorneys at the Barone Defense Firm are available for a free consultation.