If you happen on a situation where it appears an officer is in trouble, you may question if you should step up and help your local law enforcement. But even the best of intentions can mistakenly label a Good Samaritan as the bad guy.

In Missouri, deadly force can only be used to defend a third party if the third party is in imminent threat of deadly force being used against them. Even if you are trying to protect a law enforcement officer, the same standard applies. A miscalculation on your part could lead to disastrous legal consequences.

Concern #1: Your Actions Misconstrued

As a practical consideration, an injured police officer with backup en route may mistake a helpful, armed citizen as a threat. An approaching backup officer who sees you with a gun and an officer down, may mistake you for a hostile shooter. Again, you could be shot.

You could also accidentally distract authorities from a fleeing suspect. If you incorrectly assess the officer’s situation, you could pit yourself against an armed undercover officer or another armed civilian trying to help. A firearm owner can come to the aid of a police officer in Missouri. But, it is not a requirement to render aid under Missouri law.

Concern #2: Lawsuits

In any dangerous situation, you assume certain risks. Those risks may include criminal liability or civil liability. Even the family of a criminal could sue you for wrongful death or other claims following the use of force. It’s generally advisable to let law enforcement handle law enforcement matters.

For questions regarding defending a third party or coming to the aid of a police officer, call U.S. LawShield and ask to speak with your Independent Program Attorney.