Any cases of innocent bystanders being killed in the cross fire of self defence?

Sorry for the title being unclear, I couldn’t figure out a better way to word it.

I was talking to someone about the batman shooting. I said that if the people in the theatre were carrying guns, it could have helped the situation, but I also said that the fact that it was a darkened room, full of tear gas and the confusion and panic meant that guns could have made the situation worse. People could have missed the attacker and shoot someone who was innocent. I said this could have caused the situation to escalate, as people could become confused over who is an attacker and who isn’t.

They replied that there has never been situation like that.

I am quite wary of absolute statements as such. I’m trying to google this, but it seems as though I suck at googling.

So I thought I’d ask these two questions here.

  1. Has there ever been cases in which an innocent person accidentally shot by a civilian trying to take down an attacker?

  2. Has there ever been cases in which someone who’s trying to shoot the attacker ever been mistaken for an attacker?

Not exactly what you’re asking, but I’ve heard of several instances like this:

where a trained sniper, much less a civilian, killed hostages rather than the hostage taker.

A closer example to what you’re asking for is here: , although the reporting sucks.

I also assume you’re not going to accept gang shootouts. Clearly whichever side didn’t fire first could claim “self defense,” and there are a lot of innocent bystanders killed in these firefights.

With such an absolute statment you only need a single counterexample, so I stopped looking after the first find.


Thank you!

Bullets often head off in unintended areas (when shooting at someone, the shooter is usually a bit spooked, and his/her aim is less than stellar). Accidental shootings happen daily.

When in doubt, put the f’n gun on the ground. When in danger, make every round count.

Last month a concealed weapons permit holder tried to stop an armed robbery in Texas and ended up shooting and killing a store clerk by accident -

And there was a man who had a gun at the shopping center when Congresswoman Giffords was shot. He came running over and almost shot the man who had disarmed the shooter -

On the other hand, there is the “greater danger” theory, in that it can be more dangerous to NOT act than to act.
Scenario one: Nutball shoots up a theater, nobody shoots back, total dead=12 innocent, 0 badguys.

Scenario two: Nutball shoots up theater. Kills 4 people before patron returns fire. In the exchange patron hits another patron but also stops the nuball. Total dead= 5 innocents, 1 badguy.

Both scenarios horrible, but which is worse?

Remember that every use of force is different and trying to use one to show what would/could happen in other is useless.

Whether or not an armed patron would have helped in that theater is impossible to know. No matter what sometimes a murderer is going to get his way.

What I find even better is that if a person acting in self-defense actually kills someone, the original shooter gets charged with the murder.

Sure. In some places it’s called “felony murder”.

Wisconsin Statute 940.03 says:  *Felony murder. Whoever causes the death of another human being while committing or attempting to commit a crime specified in s. 940.19, 940.195, 940.20, 940.201, 940.203, 940.225 (1) or (2) (a), 940.30, 940.31, 943.02, 943.10 (2), 943.23 (1g), or 943.32 (2) may be imprisoned for not more than 15 years in excess of the maximum term of imprisonment provided by law for that crime or attempt. *

Now while that doesn’t seem to describe what you posted, a court ruling on it said:
*To prove that the defendant caused the death, the state need only prove that the defendant’s conduct was a substantial factor. The phrase “while committing or attempting to commit” encompasses the immediate flight from the felony. A defendant may be convicted if another person, including an intended felony victim, fires the fatal shot. State v. Oimen, 184 Wis. 2d 423, 516 N.W.2d 399 (Ct. App. 1994), State v. Rivera, 184 Wis. 2d 485, 516 N.W.2d 391 (1994) and State v. Chambers, 183 Wis. 2d 316, 515 N.W.2d 531 (Ct. App. 1994).

An another said:
An actor causes death if his or her conduct is a substantial factor in bringing about that result. A substantial factor need not be the sole cause of death for one to be held legally culpable. Whether an intervening act was negligent, intentional or legally wrongful is irrelevant. The state must still prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant’s acts were a substantial factor in producing the death. State v. Below, 2011 WI App 64, 333 Wis. 2d 690, 799 N.W.2d 95, 10-0798.

In other words, badguy comes into a theater and starts shooting, I shoot back, miss, and kill an innocent patron, badguy is getting nailed for it on top of his other charges. Alpha Mary Foxtrot!

I remember in Crim Law class two specific cases that I don’t have a cite for…In one…Mr. Robber was sitting handcuffed in the back of a police car while the police shot it out with his accomplice. Accomplice gets killed in the shootout. Mr. Robber is charged with the felony murder of his accomplice. That was upheld.

A WV case. Same dumbass type of robbery. All of the suspects are in the car surrounded by police. Three surrender, one shoots himself in the head. The three are charged with felony murder for the suicide of the accomplice. WV Supreme Court holds that is NOT felony murder.

Warning to others: Don’t commit felonies. If people die, you are charged with murder one.

Uh…nitpick but in most places felony murder and murder one are not the same. The penalty for murder one (or here it’s First degree Intentional Homicide) are significantly different as are the requirements for conviction.

You left out scenario three: Nutball shoots up tear-gas filled theater while wearing a mask. Kills 4 people before patron returns fire. Patron shoot 10 innocents, while killer continues his spree. Patron 2 thinks patron 1 is the attacker, and opens fire, resulting in more casualties. Police enter and proceed to shoot at patron 1 and 2 while the attacker continues his rampage. I’m pretty sure there are an unlimited number of scenarios, some of which result in fewer dead, some more.