Thee…”Sam Elliot Decision” To Treat or Not to Treat?

Years ago, I saw a western with Sam Elliot. I can’t remember the name  of the western. Two guys came to kill him at a cabin. He shot them. One survived and Sam immediately hauled him in the cabin and started treating him for his gut-shot wound. A shooting aftermath element all gun people need to consider more and more these days…


Former Dallas PD officer Amber Guyger, came home late at night from a 12 hour shift, drove into and walked through her dark apartment building, a place where some 15% of residents have reported going to the wrong apartment. She entered an unlocked door, saw a guy in “her” living room and shot him dead. Its a big deal in Dallas. A big deal because the the poor victim watching TV on his couch was by all accounts, a terrific young black guy. And we are smothered with Black Lives Matter agitators here. So, its a terrible mistake, and she paid. She was eventually found guilty of murder and got a ten year sentence.

She testified! Under prosecution questioning and in her testimony was the fact that she did not apply any tactical medicine methods to the guy. And she had some very handy too in a police backpack she was carrying. She did call 911, etc but didn’t do much for dying right away. This received many grimaces in court. It suggests a negativity. An uncaring intent. A secret racism. It fortifies a guilty verdict.
Trouble for an on-duty and off-duty police officer. At very least, it is unprofessional. How can that be? And then, what about for a citizen? Aside from off-duty Amber, it is becoming more and more apparent through the years that if you shoot someone in self defense, the “law” – civil or criminal, the carefully selected jury, is going to wonder and ask you why you did or did not jump in and save the life, right away after you shot them.

Police, citizen or otherwise.  Even military. Think about the Navy SEAL recently accused of war crimes and killing a wounded teenager-combatant for one example. One of the contentions was he did not treat the wounded teen properly.

Nowadays, serious gun owners spend a lot time on tactical medicine, but for whom exactly? Back in the 1990s one of my early gun course levels was “tact medicine,” taught by an tactical ambulance EMT, years before the training trend developed around 2010-ish?  Medical technology improved so much we had to drop the old 1990’s film. But think about it for a moment. The general thrust of these courses has been to heal yourself, family and co-workers. Not the criminal.
Training was, that the bad guy had to be handcuffed, dead or not. His weapons collected. An ambulance was called. Not much medical attention, if any, is given to the grounded, dying criminal. In a way, in a biological, psychological way, I think we can understand how people shooting a robber/attacker, are reluctant to help them. The “SOB” might get kicked rather than get a tourniquet! 

The first I heard of this concern, this “no treat decision,” was during the infamous Los Angeles bank robbery decades ago, in the 90s, by the two guys tacted-out, vested and with machine guns. When the second robber was shot, there was news footage of the aftermath.  The cops stood around. The family of the robber sued LAPD for ignoring their son’s treatment after being shot. Due to the carnage they wrought, there wasn’t much sympathy. But, of course, LAPD settled.

So, years ago, I saw this western with Sam Elliot. And I thought, you know, that’s what a really cool, good, “put-together” person does. It was a role-model message to me wat back then, and it started me to thinking about this. Is it safe to move in, kick the bad guy’s gun away (or pick it up) look the bad guy over, and maybe…do something? Do nothing? Too scared to? Don’t care to? Too scared to look? Don’t care to look? Mad, scared or cared? Think about it.

Anyway, my message is even if you shoot anyone, least of all kill Hannibal Lector himself, someone, somewhere will be looming around – prosecution, defense, lawyers, families, political groups – torturing you for not immediately performing a heart transplant to save him. I don’t think this reality has fully hit total ground zero with all the gun people in USA just yet. Just calling 911 may not be enough. It’s situational.
Some of my gun trainer friends say they teach rescue care. As far as medical treatment, they suggest –

* treat yourself first, then, 
* family, comrades, friends, then,
* third, take a look at the shot bad guy.

So in modern lists, the wounded criminal is on the list. You have to monitor him anyway. You have to get the firearms away from him. If in enforcement, we have to have cuff him. Again, that’s situational. I am not laying out a mandatory list. I am just making a point for people to think about.

To treat or not to treat? This is a big legal question. Lots of my friends and police say this emergency medical treatment is too dangerous. I don’t think that is going to work much longer in our legal systems. no matter how you feel personally, the system is going to expect an attempt to save a life or have a real good reason not to.

Citizen, police or military, be able to articulate why you did or did not choose to treat the shot person. Don’t just say, “Well he was trying to rob me, so F____ him.” That works at the bar, or the buddy BS session.  And I do really appreciate gallows humor, but It might not hang well in at the Grand Jury, the criminal court, or the civil court. Each case, each shooting is different.

What I am saying is, is this one…your first one? Your next one? What of a “Sam Elliot Decision?” You will have to articulate at some point, with understandable, common sense, why you did or did not do something.  There will be situational reasons for or against. But, better think about it, this… “Sam Elliot Decision.”

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Hock’s email is HockHochheim@ForceNecessary.com

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