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Gun Store Employees Trade Gunfire With Fleeing Men. Was It Legal?

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Article first appeared at Cheaper than Dirt.

Perhaps you heard what recently happened to our friends at Full Armor Firearms in Houston. After 13 burglaries in five years, including one earlier this month, owner James Hillin asked two of his employees to stay overnight in the store. During the night, two cars pulled into the parking lot. According to the Houston Chronicle, when the Full Armor workers stepped outside with their weapons, one of the five men, who was standing near the employees’ cars, shot at them. The employees were not injured, and gunfire was exchanged as the men drove away.

You can read the whole story, including an interview with owner James Hillin, the criminal backgrounds of the men who were detained, and the likelihood of the case being presented to a grand jury here.

James Hillin, owner of Full Armor Firearms,

James Hillin, owner of Full Armor Firearms, knows it is “my responsibility to make sure we are doing the right thing” when it comes to selling guns. Photo: Jon Shapley, Houston Chronicle Staff

We asked Michele Byington, an attorney at the law firm of Walker & Byington, PLLC, and independent program attorney for Texas Law Shield, for her opinion on the situation and she says the employees were acting legally.

“Here in Texas, both burglary and theft during the night time are considered crimes against which a person may use deadly force. In fact, displaying a firearm to cause apprehension that you will use it if necessary, is considered force, rather than deadly force. So the employees, even though they potentially could have used deadly force, were just using force to stop this situation when they displayed their AR-15s.”

She went on to explain that, while there are very few circumstances where you can shoot a person who is fleeing (and even then, she added, it will be an uphill battle with a jury), the fact that the criminals shot at the employees while running away, justified the return fire by the employees.

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“Any time a person has a reasonable belief they are in immediate danger of death or serious bodily injury, they may use deadly force to defend themselves. And someone shooting at you definitely qualifies for that!”

Ultimately, Michele stated, the gun store employees acted well within the confines of the law.

Do you know the laws in your state? How would you have handled a similar situation? Share your answers in the comment section.

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