Can police shoot someone to stop them committing suicide?

If the police were chasing a suspect, and he pulled out a knife and was about to kill himself with it, could the police shoot his hand or arm to make him drop it?

I don’t think police, armed with handguns, can realistically aim to shoot someone’s had or arm. They aim for the centre of the body and hope to hit something.

So your question really is this; can the police use deadly force to prevent you from harming yourself?

And the answer, I’m guess, is “no”. Self-harm is not an offence, generally speaking.

Police only shoot to kill

“Shooting to wound*”, let alone “shooting the gun out of someone’s hand” are definitely NOT standard police procedure.
But every once in a long, long while: Sniper shoots gun out of hand

*ETA: It’s not so much “shooting to kill” as it is “shooting to stop the threat”. But that typically means “shooting at the center of the target”–i.e., the torso of the person who is considered a threat–which tends not to produce Hollywood-style “flesh wounds”.

Can you provide a cite for this?

It happened in Knoxville once too.

In neither example was the person shot, just the pistol. It’s rare that such a shot would be possible and even more rare with a knife.

This might help. It not only says, yes, they are trained only to shoot to kill, but it also goes into some of the reasons why.

(Article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, from December of 2014.)

Shooting the knife out of someone’s hand and them being OK after is Hollywood BS, like hitting someone on the head and having them quietly pass out with no permanent damage. In the real world, accurately hitting just a person’s arm is very difficult, especially when you’re using a handgun and they’re not sitting very still. And hitting an arm can still result in death. And regular cops don’t train for any kind of precision accuracy with a handgun. On occasion there might be a police sniper in position to do something like this, but it’s not going to be any kind of standard procedure.

The law generally considers shooting at someone to be use of deadly force, so even if you think you’re a super marksman you need to be justified in killing the person to fire at them. Generally if you think that the situation is safe enough to try for a trick shot, it’s safe enough to try something other than deadly force, so ‘shooting to wound’ actually tends to undermine your case that a shooting was justified.


“In the hand? Not in the face, or the chest? I don’t like the idea of being shot in the hand.”

learn french fast here
with trial


learn french fast here
with trial

Every single State Attorney General’s guidelines on use of force. Shooting someone is deadly force. Even shooting someone in an extremity could be fatal and bullets don’t always stop when you want them to. You don’t shoot unless it is a deadly force situation. Harming himself does not call for deadly force even if you have the intention of not killing him. If he turns the weapon on you or another than it becomes a much different situation.

Not exactly. They are trained to shoot to stop, that is to instantly render the suspect unable to continue to be a threat. That does not mean shoot to wound.

Should we have the death penalty for attempted suicide? :smack:

Suicide is a crime, that’s why attempted suicide is a crime.

I have heard several stories of officers who “shot-to-wound” received a reprimand: if you don’t want the target dead, you don’t use your gun.

For that reason, I suspect the police would almost never consider shooting an attempted suicide.

HOWEVER, if the person might be a threat to others, that changes things. If the suspect who is threatening himself with a knife is near some other people, the officer might shoot if he thinks the suspect might abandon suicide and attack someone instead.

Depends on the jurisdiction, obviously. Suicide was an offence at common law, but in a great many common law jurisdictions the offence has been abolished by statute.

He’s have to have some valid reason for thinking that, though. The mere fact that someone is distressed and is contemplating self-harm does not, in itself, suggest that they are any more likely than anyone else to become aggressive and inflict violence on anyone within reach.

In general, a police officer can’t shoot someone just because he decides that the someone presents a threat to others. He has to have some objectively valid reason for coming to that conclusion. “He presents as suicidal” would not, in itself, look like much of a reason.

When I was in hospital, I was bumped down in the emergency surgery queue for someone who had been shot in the leg by a policeman. While trying to attempt suicide.

–While trying to attempt suicide by attacking a policeman with a knife.–

I don’t know if or when it changed in my state but it’s never been an offense here. I would suspect in most jurisdictions where it is still in the books they would deal with it as a medical call.

Yes belief isn’t enough. It has to be an objectively reasonable belief. Many statutes have a reasonable person threshold. Police officers are held to a reasonable officer standard where their belief has to be reasonable to someone of their training and experience.