How does the law define self-defense?

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (WOOD) — Police across the state Wednesday were still looking for the group of men accused of attempting to rob a high-end jewelry store in West Michigan and robbing a jewelry store on the east side of the state.

Around noon Tuesday, four men tried to rob the Medawar Jewelers in Plainfield Township. They ran away with nothing after the owners opened fire, shooting one suspect in the torso.

Paul Medawar Fine Jewelry on Plainfield Avenue. (April 22, 2014)
(Paul Medawar Fine Jewelry on Plainfield Avenue. April 22, 2014)

The store owners likely won’t face charges in the shooting, the Kent County Sheriff’s Department said.

Michigan law states that if someone honestly and reasonably believes the use of deadly force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to themselves or someone else, they have the right to protect themselves.

“If someone has wronged you, don’t have the right to shoot them. Some people feel they have the right to do whatever they want to do. They can’t,” Calhoun County Prosecutor David Gilbert said.

While prosecutors investigate every shooting to determine whether it was justifiable, Gilbert said he has only has four cases in which that was actually in question.

“A party store clerk was being robbed at knife point. He pulled a gun and shot the robber. He believed that the person posed a danger to him, to his life,” Gilbert said.

In that case, the person the clerk shot died. The clerk was cleared.

“When you take the attitude that you are going to carry a gun, then you are responsible for what happens to that gun,” Gilbert said. “If you shoot someone, you are responsible for shooting that person. If it’s right or wrong, that’s a judgment call you are going to make. But then someone else is going to look at your judgment call and decide whether or not, based on their reason and common sense, you made the right call.”

Gilbert said in the clerk’s case, he had to look at the law:

Did the clerk use the deadly force in a place where he was legally allowed to be? Did the clerk honestly and reasonably believe the use of deadly force was necessary to prevent great bodily harm or death?

Gilbert decided he did.

“They (business owners) have the right to defend themselves,” Gilbert said. “You don’t have the right to rob somebody. And if you are robbing somebody, you don’t have the right to feel secure in your person. You have a right to face justice. And if someone believes they are about to be killed or injured by you, if you are stupid enough to bring a weapon to a robbery, like most robbers do, well, you should expect the consequences.”

Gilbert said in order to shoot at someone, you don’t have to necessarily see a weapon. Sometimes what’s more important is your perception of danger.

“The perception is on the victim. What does the victim perceive, and is that perception reasonable?” Gilbert said. “You’re taking your freedom in your own hands when you fire a gun.”

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