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Recently, news media reported the story of a 32 year old man who was shot and killed by a policeman (video is graphic and tragic) who had stopped his car due to a broken tail light. The man had a legal permit to own and carry a firearm, but it seems a nervous officer shot him as the man was trying to produce to his driver’s license. We still don’t know all of the facts of the case, but there are several things you can do to avoid this type of situation.
Crockett Defense recommends these procedures should you be pulled over by a law officer:
- Be aware of the mindset of the officer. Approaching the driver of a vehicle he has pulled over is one of the most dangerous things he does each day. Not only is he in danger of traffic speeding by, but he never knows the intent of the persons in the vehicle. We have all heard reports of officers approaching a vehicle and getting shot.
- Make the officer feel as comfortable as possible. Open all of your windows so that he can see all of the vehicle occupants. At night, turn the dome lights on. Driver should keep his hands at the “10 and 2” position. Passengers should have their hands in their laps. No one should make quick moves.
- If there is time, have your driver’s license, auto registration and concealed firearm permit on the dashboard. If time doesn’t permit, don’t hurriedly try to locate them. The approaching officer may think you are hiding contraband and/or looking for a weapon.
- Comply with all of the officers requests in a calm and courteous manner. Be truthful. Obnoxious, sarcastic or confrontational remarks may cause him to have unjustified suspicions.
- Tell the officer if you have a concealed firearm permit and/or a weapon and its location. In Utah, permit holders are not required by law to tell the officer that they are permitted, but it is helpful and usually appreciated. Once he checks your driver’s license, he will know it anyway.
- If the officer asks for you to hand over your weapon, politely say you would rather not. It is very rare that this would happen, but if it does, it could turn into a dangerous situation very quickly. If he insists, ask him to call for backup. It would be best if you asked him for permission to exit your vehicle and let him take it from your holster, glove box or wherever it is stored. You will be in a tense situation and may move unnecessarily quickly which could cause him to over-react. You hands may be sweating and should you start to drop the firearm and make a sudden move to catch it, the officer may feel that he is in danger.
- Give the officer the benefit of the doubt. You don’t know but what your description or the description of your vehicle matches that of a criminal that is being hunted. If you remain kind and helpful, the officer will eventually determine that you are not the fugitive and will let you be going on your way.
Most law officers in Utah are fully supportive of your right to possess a firearm. If you have obtained a concealed firearm permit they know you are a background-checked, law abiding citizen. Help them to feel safe and to keep you safe by following the recommendations explained above.
In the case mentioned above, it’s quite possible that even if Castilo had done everything we just suggested, he still would have been shot. While again, we don’t know all of the facts of the case, in this instance it looks to us like a training issue rather than a race issue. Regardless of the actual fault, poor training is no excuse for what happened. That’s a topic of discussion for another day.