Gun Store Employees Trade Gunfire With Fleeing Men. Was It Legal?

By Woody published on in General, Legal

Perhaps you heard what recently happened to our friends at Full Armor Firearms in Houston. After 13 burglaries in five years, including one earlier this month, owner James Hillin asked two of his employees to stay overnight in the store. During the night, two cars pulled into the parking lot. According to the Houston Chronicle, when the Full Armor workers stepped outside with their weapons, one of the five men, who was standing near the employees’ cars, shot at them. The employees were not injured, and gunfire was exchanged as the men drove away.

You can read the whole story, including an interview with owner James Hillin, the criminal backgrounds of the men who were detained, and the likelihood of the case being presented to a grand jury here.

James Hillin, owner of Full Armor Firearms,

James Hillin, owner of Full Armor Firearms, knows it is “my responsibility to make sure we are doing the right thing” when it comes to selling guns. Photo: Jon Shapley, Houston Chronicle Staff

We asked Michele Byington, an attorney at the law firm of Walker & Byington, PLLC, and independent program attorney for Texas Law Shield, for her opinion on the situation and she says the employees were acting legally.

“Here in Texas, both burglary and theft during the night time are considered crimes against which a person may use deadly force. In fact, displaying a firearm to cause apprehension that you will use it if necessary, is considered force, rather than deadly force. So the employees, even though they potentially could have used deadly force, were just using force to stop this situation when they displayed their AR-15s.”

She went on to explain that, while there are very few circumstances where you can shoot a person who is fleeing (and even then, she added, it will be an uphill battle with a jury), the fact that the criminals shot at the employees while running away, justified the return fire by the employees.

“Any time a person has a reasonable belief they are in immediate danger of death or serious bodily injury, they may use deadly force to defend themselves. And someone shooting at you definitely qualifies for that!”

Ultimately, Michele stated, the gun store employees acted well within the confines of the law.

Do you know the laws in your state? How would you have handled a similar situation? Share your answers in the comment section.

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Comments (115)

  • gun-man

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    The Japanese guy that knocked on the door and was killed based on a trigger happy homeowner. The homeowner should have been prosecuted for criminal negligence at the very least to send a message to the public that you can’t just shoot someone at your front door.

    Reply

  • Brian

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    Texas also has the 3 strikes law for violent crimes, kidnapping, sexual assaults…..if the criminals can make it to strike 3. Alot of the time they get dealt with before that

    Reply

  • Brian

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    Well lets see. Texas was kind enough to take in 250,000 refugees from Louisiana. Yalls college and professional football teams. homicide rate in houston increase by 17% by the end of 05. In the first 19days after La ppl started coming to tx there were already 229 arrested for violet crimes in houston. In the 19th district which is made of of mostly Katrina the homicide rate went up 23.6%. So let me know when texans going over to Louisiana make ur murder rate climb 17%. Oh no thats the amount we make ur economy climb gambling in ur state

    Reply

  • Brian

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    Well sounds to me like virgina is the prime place for thieves to be. Since 1. They can break into cars and not have to worry about owner doing anything. 2. With the average police response time the thieves have plenty of time take what they want…hell even ur vehicle. Texas on the other hand is not a thieves paradise. With the castle doctrine the next door neighbor could kill the thief for breaking into ur car. Texas has some of the toughest laws and consequences for criminals. The criminal trash that came here from Louisiana when katrina hit found that out really quick like. I feel sorry for anyone who has to watch ppl take their stuff and their states laws force them to do so. Sure am glad i live in tx. The we don’t put up with bullspit state!

    Reply

    • Nik

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      How many criminals from Louisiana were arrested in Texas? We have here much more trash criminals coming from Texas to Louisiana and they dumb as a rock..

      Reply

    • John

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      You pretty much nailed it. From what I’ve read, it’s like that in most states. About 20+ years ago Virginia passed a NRA-sponsored program called Crime Strike, and applied the Three-Strikes-You’re-Out law that would put away criminals for life if they got convicted of a third felony. It worked like a charm.

      Be safe, and raise a glass to Jeff Sessions, the new Attorney General!!

      Reply

  • Brian

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    Ur dinner sounds off the chain! To correct u i said anybody who is not willing to defend what is theirs from somebody else stealing it, is a coward. In life u have predators and prey. Who do u want to be? Its that simple! As far as old sayings go i would rather be judged by 12 than carried by 6. Tactically speaking it is rather dumb to wait for 5 guys to make it into close quarters with u, even when u have the element of surprise. U have the same element of surprise right before u confront them outside. Except outside in the parking lot u got the advantage of distance between u and criminals on ur side too. Especially when its rifles vs pistol.

    Reply

    • John

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      I remember seeing in the news many years ago a story about a Japanese high school exchange student who was killed by a Texas home owner when the student walked across the lawn to knock on the door for Halloween trick-or-treating. The home owner was not prosecuted. You, my friend, have been conditioned by liberal self-defense laws that say it’s perfectly fine to go outside with a gun and confront and/or shoot people, without first calling the police, if you merely BELIEVE they are a threat to you without any evidence to back it up. If you were to do that in Virginia, you wouldn’t see the light of day for many years because YOU would be considered the aggressor! They could say they shot at you in self-defense because they saw you and your friends come outside and point guns at them.

      There is a difference between “not willing to defend” and “choosing to wait.” That does not make me a coward, nor does it make me prey; believe me, I know how to set up a kill zone where 6 or 7 armed thugs who bust into my place of business wouldn’t stand a chance. It’s just that we have different strategies for the same outcome, based on factors that are different for each of us.

      Texas history has repeatedly and reliably shown that the 12 will let Texans off the hook. Anywhere else, it’s not that way. I would rather take my chances with being carried by 6 (I’m heavily insured) because 1) if I get killed the insurance will leave my wife and kids comfortable, and 2) I don’t trust the jury to let me off the hook. If I go to prison my family will become destitute without my financial support. All because of being too eager to “start” a gun fight when I could have just stayed inside and waited for them – nice and legal.

      Like I said. We all have ROE. It’s for each of us to decide whether or not to follow them; if we choose not to, then we must be prepared to face the legal consequences. That’s not cowardly, just pragmatic.

      Reply

    • A guy

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      YOU sir, are the epitome of what is wrong with America. YOU are yet another that passes judgement with only knowing a portion of a story. No, the story YOU read is not everything. YOU have made yourself look foolish many times in your comment.

      Foolish rambling #1 &2: you compared defending my property to that of the senseless murder of a child by an angry man. By doing this and comments later you lumped all actions in Texas into the same category. I understand you hate everything that isn’t you, but I was 100% in my legal and God given right by walking out the door armed to tell people to leave my property when they are trespassing. Don’t compare my actions to you hiding behind the curtain.

      Foolish point # 3: you telling me what I believe and that I have no evidence to support it. These thugs were watched trying to break into my truck and my coworker’s truck. This is when we decided to chase them off property. I know you said you prefer to wait until that come inside (and that’s perfectly fine for you), but we aren’t as rich as you and can’t afford the premiums to go through the roof for filing. I chose to use my legal right to stop it before it happens.

      Foolish point #4: liberal gun laws don’t tell me to go outside to protect. Liberal gun laws are the tyrannical laws you live under that say you have to hide and hope the police can help you when they get done with the murder case that the criminals now breaking into you house commited an hour ago. Conservative gun laws tell me I am allowed to go out on my property and defend it with my firearm.

      Foolish point #5: you assume the police are going to be able to help you. The average US response time for police to arrive on location is 23 minutes. Good luck with that.

      Foolish point #6: if someone says they shot at me out of self defense, on my property, in the middle of the night, while trying to break in knowing they are all felons and gang affiliated, then not call the police when they run and hide the car for two days, let them. I’ll take my chances.

      I’m sure I could go on, but I’ll let you off the rest for now. I would have let this all go, but when you tell me about what I believe and how I’m conditioned and how I was wrong in this case without knowing anymore than what you read, I will happily drop it all on you.

      If you want to make sensible comments about what you know and NOT compare me to a child murderer all while knowing very little, by all means we can converse. Other than that, please put your Texas law degree back in the box of Froot Loops and throw it away.

      Reply

    • John

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      Oh my God..

      Are you serious, “A guy”?

      I traded insults with Brian a while back, and it wasn’t fun and it wasn’t pretty, and it tired me out.

      First, I never said a single thing about whether the actions that you and your co-worker had taken were right or wrong. I merely pointed out “what I would have done” considering “my own state’s law.”

      I know there is much more to the story than what the article told us; it didn’t say anything about who was on who’s property or anything like that. Once again, I only related what I would have done based on what the story told me, and the reasons why.

      Second, technically speaking that “angry man” is not a murderer because a Texas jury decided that he shot the kid in self defense. I did not compare you to him, I only illustrated that Texas is more lenient.

      To your “Foolish Point #3″: 1. One more time, s-l-o-w-l-y: The story didn’t tell us everything. 2. I am not rich, just heavily insured personally because I’m always going to the wars. If I get killed during the course of violating VIRGINIA law while in VIRGINIA, my income is lost AND insurance won’t pay; where does that leave my family? If I go to jail and lose my income, where does that leave my family?

      To your “Foolish Point #4″: You are confusing “liberal” regarding laws and policies with “liberal” regarding politicians and activists.

      “Liberal” laws and policies allow you to have more leeway, while “liberal” politicians and activists want to force you to conform to their ideas of how things should be.

      To your “Foolish Point #5″: If I call the police, I am not assuming anything. I am just checking off a box to protect myself legally. Average response time does not mean anything in a practical sense, it’s only a statistical analysis. Where I live, response time is usually under ten minutes, often within 5 – but I’m sure we both agree that even 1 minute can mean the difference between life and death.

      Oh my God this is getting tiresome!

      To you “Foolish Point #6″: 1) the story only said they were “standing near the employees’ cars” and never said anything about the particulars you describe. The story never said they were in the act of breaking into your establishment.

      And yes, you are conditioned to act within what you know about Texas law, being a Texas resident, and I do likewise, being a Virginia resident. The only one hating anybody is you, bub. I never said you were wrong. Go back and re-read what I have written.

      Now. Three Cheers and a raised glass to Jeff Sessions, the new Attorney General!

      Reply

  • Brian

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    Im pretty sure our military isnt training the troops to “run and hide” till the enemy up and leaves. Just fyi. Ask a lot of the military personnel and they will tell u the ROE are bullspit. Having to be shot at 1st in order to engage target in a war zone is retarded. Seeing as how the state of texas is one of the states that contributes the most ppl to the military. No the military arent cowards and i never said they were. As texans have proven time and time again. Ever heard of Audie Murphy? U know one of the most decorated soldiers ever, thats from Texas. Maybe u have heard of Chris Kyle as well, a Texan. Like clockwork u have proven your just a person who cant handle the blunt truth. U can call me what ever names u want just dont call me late for dinner!

    Reply

    • John

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      Well, dinner is grilled catfish, a cherry-smoked whole chicken, potato salad, corn on the cob, and sourdough biscuits. You better hurry.

      You are correct that our military does not train our troops to run and hide till the enemy “up and leaves,” but they DO have to wait until they are fired upon FIRST. And in many cases they have to call higher authority for permission to engage! That does not make them cowards, only victims of a stupid ROE that considers the health and welfare of the enemy before our own guys – a concept that is not very different from what most of us around the US are faced with.

      We both agree that the ROE are “retarded” but that is the world we live in – not so much the people from Texas, but I don’t think you want us all to move to Texas.

      Remember when Col. Alan West fired his pistol to get an Iraqi to spill the beans on where an ambush was waiting for his men? There was indeed an ambush and they were able to bust it and save many American lives due to the information Col. West was able to get. BUT, he got fired and had to resign from the military and almost went to jail – for NOT following the rules.

      Our military personnel are definitely heroes, but you clearly said that anybody who follows their state law by NOT engaging with criminals before calling police or waiting until their lives are in imminent danger are cowards. I was using the military as an example to illustrate that it just isn’t so. We all have ROE we have to follow, or pay the consequences.

      Please keep in mind the old saying “Discretion is the better part of valor” when I say this, again:

      I would rather call the police and find a good place inside my house to ambush an intruder if the police don’t show up in time than to skip the call to the police and instead go outside and shoot somebody, and then spend the rest of my useful life in prison. A lot of good that would do my family.

      Reply

  • Secundius

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    @ Nobody In Particular

    Back in 1989, I was a Bonded Courier working for a Law and Real Estate office in Northern Virginia. My last call was to deliver some Real Estate Documents to a Nice Neighborhood with “Virtually” Nonexistent Crime, Until I got to the House of the Delivery. The “Son” was Having his 18th Birthday with Friends on a Friday Evening with both Parents Gone to a party. As I got to the door, the Son opened the door with a Loaded S&W .357 Magnum and Stuck it in My Face at Point Blank Range. I could easily see the Hollow-Points in the Cylinder. The SON and his Friends, thought the Act was the Funniest Thing In the World,and were trying to Gauge My Reaction. I could have Easily have Gone Back to My Car and have Gotten my M1911A1 and Blown Out the Brains of the “Son-of-a’Bitch”, But Didn’t. Instead I Had Him Arrested, in Front of His Friends and Neighbors. And Spend a Long Weekend in Jail. The Parents ONLY Concern was the Future of the Son’s College Education, and NOT the Fact that Their “Precious Little Son” was NOT Going to Go To College, or Go to Prison for Killing Me. He got of Light with a 2-year Probation and BANNED from Every High Education System in the Country. I hope the “SOB” is STILL “Flipping Burgers” Somewhere. Sorry for ANY Grammical Errors, Eyesight isn’t as Great as it use to be…

    Reply

  • Brian

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    Please john inform me what im jumping to conclusions about? Ppl not willing to defend whats theirs? Yep thats a coward. Im from houston tx commenting about something that happened in houston tx. I know my states laws. I really dont give a crap about any others states laws seeing has how this happened in tx. If it happened in Ohio, Virginia, cali, etc… i wouldnt even comment on post talkin about my states laws cuz they are irrelevant. If yall other ppl dont wanna man up and take care of yalls own problems thats fine. Yall can go run and hide and let someone deal with it who will man up (the police) while u try and make urself sound better with the im concealing myself and waiting for them to leave or make it inside my safe place. Thats retarded cuz if ur scared to do death when they are in the parking lot then for sure ur gonna be scared spitless to even move when they are all up inside ur place where ur concealing urself aka hiding with nowhere to retreat to for cover. U think they are gonna let u go when they find u hiding? Nope they are gonna kill u cuz ur a witness. I’m a blunt person no sugar coating here. Sorry if ur feelings cant handle someone being real. Not my problem

    Reply

    • John

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      First of all, LEARN TO READ.

      At the end of the article the question is asked: “DO YOU KNOW THE LAWS IN YOUR STATE? HOW WOULD YOU HAVE HANDLED A SIMILAR SITUATION? SHARE YOUR ANSWERS IN THE COMMENT SECTION.”

      I agree with Jenn – you are a dipsh1t. People are providing their comments in the context of THEIR OWN STATES’ LAWS, in response to the question asked at the end of the article. If you don’t like their comments, then stop reading them.

      Tactics are like a$$holes – everybody has one and they all work to some extent, but when it comes to civil and criminal liability people have to conform to their own states’ laws or THEY GO TO JAIL!!! If I live in a state OTHER THAN TEXAS, how would it serve my family if I went to jail for 20+ years because I was a trigger-happy fool who, instead of calling the police and waiting until I thought my life was in imminent danger, went outside and traded gunfire with some people who I thought were breaking into cars??? I guess you think all our soldiers and Marines who have served and are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan are worthless cowards? Because that has been their ROE for years.

      I think your oversized cowboy hat is making up for something else if you think you have to ridicule and insult everybody who doesn’t agree with you. I think your brain needs a little more sun, I think it is vitamin D deficient.

      If all people from Texas are as rude and arrogant and dumb as you, then thank Christ I don’t live there. Or maybe the laws in Texas are more relaxed so you don’t have to think as much as people from other states before pulling a trigger on someone? (I agree with Texas’ law, by the way)

      Reply

  • jenn

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    It’s the COMMENT section dipsh1t! If you do not want to read about California, then turn your computer off!

    Reply

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