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Instructors explain responsibilities after armed citizen stops mall shooting

HAMILTON COUNTY, Ind. (WISH) — Firearm instructors on Thursday praised an armed citizen’s handling of Sunday’s mall shooting, but cautioned not every situation is the same.

When a gunman opened fire in the Greenwood Park Mall food court late Sunday afternoon, armed citizen Eli Dicken fired shots that killed the suspect. Greenwood police hailed Dicken’s handling of the situation and the aftermath, saying his actions saved many lives.

Firearm instructors Jonathan Tindal and Song Kang said situational awareness is the biggest factor if you carry a gun, and Dicken did an exceptional job at this. Tindal and Kang, both career police officers, teach a variety of shooting classes for civilians, along with related topics including active shooter response and basic emergency medicine.

“As someone with years of training and someone that seeks training, gives training, I would only hope and pray that I would react that way someday,” Tindal said. “From what I have heard, I don’t think you could ask for a better response from anybody. (Dicken) has done something to prepare himself for that day.”

The instructors said nobody can predict what sort of situation they will be in. An armed citizen might have to make a shot up close or at long distance, at home or in a crowded store. Kang said you should pay attention to your surroundings at all times. Not only does this help you identify potential threats, it gives you information you might need when seconds count.

“In the food court, where there are a lot of people still sitting around eating, or walking and moving around, there’s a lot of moving parts, being able to understand and get a clear picture of what’s in front of you,” he said. “Take a panoramic view and assess everything.”

Carrying a gun for self-defense brings with it a thicket of legal responsibilities. Ben Jaffe, a defense lawyer who specializes in firearm cases, said state law requires you to use a level of force that’s proportionate to the threat. Simply feeling threatened by erratic behavior, for example, does not justify using deadly force. You also have to stop shooting as soon as the danger has passed, even if it’s simply because your attacker is running away. Additionally, Jaffe said hitting an innocent bystander carries significant potential civil or criminal liabilities.

“Especially if there is some question about whether you needed to use deadly force, you could find yourself with a reckless homicide charge or an involuntary manslaughter charge,” said Jaffe.

Tindal and Kang echoed that sentiment.

Tindal said the four basic firearm safety rules–keep the gun pointed in a safe direction, treat all firearms as if they are loaded until ready to use, keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot, and know your target and what lies beyond–are essential if you have to shoot in self-defense.

“I can’t run for cover with my finger on the trigger and become startled or fall and accidentally shoot my gun or negligently shoot my gun. I’m responsible for that,” he said.

Tindal, Kang, and Jaffe all said training will help you make critical decisions on when or whether to shoot. Tindal and Kang said it’s a good idea to train with a variety of instructors. They said look over the instructor’s resume, talk to them ahead of time about your needs and ask them for a demonstration of the things you want to be able to do.