Self defense with deadly force and accidental death.

A recent case in the Phoenix area has me curious about the concept of felony murder. A woman was in a vehicle, fleeing from a police car. Another police officer was on the road attempting to set up a barrier to stop the woman. The woman drove past the police officer, but the pursuing police vehicle struck the officer and killed him. The woman was charged with the murder of the police officer, because his death was caused by her felony activity, despite the fact that someone else’s vehicle hit the officer.

I can understand why that law is proper, and I agree with it. I have some questions about how that applies to ordinary citizens, though. For example, what if I am legally using deadly force to defend myself, and happen to accidentally kill someone nearby? I’m thinking of a scenario like someone walking into a store shooting a gun at random people, and I am legally carrying my own gun. If I fired at the person, it would almost certainly be self defense, right? What if one of my bullets ricochets off a wall and hits an innocent person? Would the original gunman be charged with murder, or would I? If I wasn’t responsible criminally, could I be held civilly responsible?

I’m not asking for legal advice. I am not looking for an attorney, and my question is purely hypothetical and in no way related to any real-life court case or legal investigation.

Didn’t we have a thread about this a few months ago? IIRC a shop owner was defending himself against two burglars, shot at both and killed one. The survivor was charged with the murder of his accomplice.

The gunman would face criminal charges for felony murder.

You could face a civil suit and possibly be found liable for wrongful death.

That’s different from my hypothetical. In my hypothetical, an innocent person is killed, someone OTHER than who the person who pulled the trigger meant to shoot. Does that make a difference? Is there any case in which a person acting in self defense accidentally killed an innocent person, and what was the legal result? (mistakenly killed bystander, which is slightly different)

Defender must exercise some level of care: (man convicted of killing two innocent bystanders despite self-defense claim) (security guard not guilty where innocent bystanders killed in self-defense shooting)

From what I know in this state and a few other states, you could face a wide range of charges from reckless endangerment to manslaughter. A charge of murder could be made as well although I don’t know of any specific example. Once you decide to use deadly force, the responsibility is yours to be sure only the intended target is harmed. Police are under the same obligation for the most part; there are differences but not great differences. Which is why less lethal options are always being developed for them to have available.

The theoretical we were given when I took my personal protection training was.
"You are in a store in downtown (Pittsburgh or Philadelphia) at noon on a weekday when you shoot in self defense - one shot. The perp is standing before the glass window across the front of the store. Your bullet passes through both the perp and the window and kills a little old lady driving by in a Buick. The car then goes into the crowd killing an additional five people.

You can have all the training ever invented and the best lawyers money can buy. But be prepared for some serious hard questions and for a trial or two. Because it will happen."

You are responsible for the consequences of anything coming out of your gun.

That’s not to say someone else is not also liable.

IANAL, but my opinion is that you would be protected from a charge of felony homicide because you did not have the intent to commit a felony. Your intended action was defense.

You could be charged with manslaughter because you took an action which led to the death of another person. The court here would decide on issues like whether your actions were reasonable, necessary, negligent, or reckless. Your civil liablity would also be considered based on these issues.

The original gunman could be charged with felony homicide because his act was a felony and also because his act caused the chain of events which led to someone’s death.

These types of examples were exactly what I was looking for. The debate I’m having with a friend about this was getting quite heated, and I think you might have helped us solve it.