When you see that a law enforcement officer (LEO) is in trouble, is it against the law to keep going and not help?
You cannot be arrested or indicted for failing to help rescue a police officer who is in trouble. But, if a policeman in trouble asks for your assistance, and you fail or refuse to assist, then charges may be filed by the policeman for your refusal to aid the police.
Let’s say you’re driving, and you see a police officer get into a fight, getting knocked down by a person.
How should you react? If you stop to render aid to the police officer, make sure you can handle the situation, and not make it worse by becoming a victim yourself.
You should immediately call 911 to advise authorities as to the police officer’s situation. Try to be a good witness and remember details of how the assailants were dressed, color of clothing, what kind of car, license numbers, and other details. Photos and videos are good as well.
What does the law say?
Does the law allow you to use deadly force to defend a third-party? Oklahoma law authorizes the use of deadly force to defend a third-party when they are in danger of imminent death or great bodily harm.
Just remember that using your handgun to defend a police officer has its dangers. Another police officer might see you point your gun and think you are the bad guy, resulting in a tragedy for yourself at the hands of the police. The law says you may use deadly force to protect a third-party who is about to be killed, but that is a last resort. You must use the force necessary to negate the threat. However, unless you know the police officer is about to be killed or seriously injured, you can only use reasonable force to help the law enforcement officer.
What Not to Do
Don’t use your car to run over somebody who has pushed a police officer to the ground, and don’t shoot somebody who is arguing with a law enforcement officer. Using excessive force to protect a police officer could get you arrested or sued by the injured party. People sue the police all the time for using excessive force during a legal arrest, and the police have governmental immunity. The layman does not have governmental immunity, so watch out.
So, Can You Defend a Law Enforcement Officer?
Is it legal for a gun owner to come to the aid of a police officer in trouble? Yes, it is legal. But, be aware that you should not interfere with the police. That is an offense. If the policeman says, “stay back,” follow instructions. A non-policeman can always be sued by an injured person for actual, imagined, or arguable misdeeds, civil wrongs, or just for being present.
If you have questions about assisting a police officer in distress, please call U.S. Law Shield and ask to speak to an Independent Program Attorney.