Thirty-year-old Stephen Holguin was shot and killed in early August on a hot Phoenix day at a local Walgreen’s as he held people at gunpoint. He was trying to steal Oxycontin.
A customer, in the right place at the right time, pulled a gun on the assailant and delivered what would eventually be a fatal shot. That customer has been interviewed and released pending further investigation and has declined to be identified or give media interviews.
Arizona law allows someone to use deadly force against another person who is threatening or injuring a third person. It’s called the Defense of Third Person Law.
“Based on what the witnesses are telling us, you know, people have a right to defend themselves and defend others especially when we’re talking about serious physical injury or death and at this point it seems to be a case of a good Samaritan in the right place at the right time,” said Phoenix police Sgt. Jonathan Howard to azfamily.com.
After the police arrived at the scene, about a dozen customers and employees were found hiding in the back of the store. Police described the scene as “full of chaos.” Two guns were found on the suspect and it is believed he acted alone.
Arizona opioid-related deaths spiked in 2016 with 790, a 16 percent increase from 2015. In some states there are limitations on Third Person Defense of Others:
- A few states require that the defendant have some special relationship with the person he was protecting, such as being related by blood or marriage. But most states allow the use of force to protect any third person if the circumstances are right.
- As with self-defense, defense of others usually isn’t available if the defendant provoked the combatant. Words can constitute provocation in some states, but other states say that provocation requires physical aggression.
- The general rule is that a jury or judge may consider only what the defendant knew at the time she used force. So even if “the bad guy” turns out to be a serial killer, if the defendant didn’t know that fact when she used force, the jury can’t consider it.
- The defense usually won’t apply if the defendant was committing a crime at the time he used force. So, if Rich and Chris are robbing a bank, and a guard aims his gun at Rich, Chris can’t shoot the guard and claim defense of others.
- Some states require that people try to retreat before they use force. But the duty to retreat may not apply in a person’s home or workplace in even those states.
As always, become familiar with the laws in your states.