In February of 2017, Ashad Russell, a concealed weapons and firearms license holder, made national news when he shot and killed Edward Strother, who was violently attacking a Lee County, Florida deputy, and trying to take the deputy’s gun.
Did Mr. Russell have the right to do what he did under Florida law? What ultimately happened to Mr. Russell? Would Mr. Russell likely get the same outcome in South Carolina as he did in Florida?
A Look at the law
Under Florida law, Mr. Russell was justified in his actions in defending the deputy. The language contained in South Carolina Code Section 16-11-440 (C) is very similar to the language in Florida statute. South Carolina Code Section 16-11-440 (C) states, “A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity, and who is attacked in another place where he has a right to be, including but not limited to his place of business, has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force, if he reasonably believes it is necessary to prevent death or great bodily injury to himself or another person, or to prevent the commission of a violent crime.”
In Mr. Russell’s situation, the evidence, including cell phone videos of Mr. Russell’s entire encounter, supported that it was reasonable to believe that the deputy was in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm. Furthermore, the attacker, Mr. Strother, was in the process of committing a violent felony and refused to stop, even after Mr. Russell told him he would shoot him if he did not stop. The state attorney’s office ultimately did not seek criminal charges against Mr. Russell, finding that his actions were justified under the law.
What happens in this case?
Fortunately, Mr. Russell has not been sued civilly for this encounter. Mr. Russell likely would have had the same outcome in South Carolina as he did in Florida, based on the similarity of Florida and South Carolina law in regards to defending a third person. Although the law allows you to act to protect a police officer in situations like the one described, we strongly advise caution. You may not fully understand the situation. The officer may not want help. Other officers arriving at the scene may think you are the bad guy, and you may get shot.
You can be sued for anything. So even though your actions were justified under the law, that does not bar people from filing civil lawsuits against you and forcing you to seek immunity for your justified act.
If you have any questions regarding use, or threatening to use, deadly force to protect a third person, call U.S. Law Shield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.