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Officials explain self defense requirements after citizen fatally shoots suspect during alleged armed robbery

In order to claim self-defense, five requirements must be met: innocence, imminence, proportionality, avoidance and reasonableness

PORT ARTHUR, Texas — Law enforcement officials said it is best to let police handle dangerous situations, after a fatal Friday shooting at a Port Artur Church’s Chicken, between a citizen and two suspects.

The shooting followed an alleged armed robbery attempt on the restaurant by the suspects. Port Arthur Police said a customer intervened and began firing at the two, killing one of them.

Police also released the name of the man who was killed, 33-year-old Port Arthur native Richardo Guient.

On social media, some people commented saying that the customer that intervened was a hero. However, others questioned if the customer was within his rights to take the action he did.

Criminal Defense Attorney Bruce Smith said that if a person finds themselves in a situation where someone is threatening them or someone else with bodily harm, the best option is to call the police and let them handle it.

Related: 1 of 2 armed robbery suspects dead after shootout with armed bystander inside Port Arthur fast-food restaurant

However, Smith said he understands that a person being threatened may not have time to think, so, per state law, if they do decide to defend themselves with a gun or a different weapon, they are justified in doing this.

The defense attorney said he feels the best option is to let police handle a situation. This is because if a citizen does use a weapon against someone they believe is committing a crime and the suspect proves to be unarmed, the citizen could face serious consequences.

“I tell people, ‘Look, if you catch somebody, if they don't have a weapon and they throw up their hands and give up, you don't have the right to shoot them. Black and white letter law maybe implies that but, in my opinion, that's going to get yourself in trouble,’” Smith said.

Stephen Watson, a licensed firearm instructor, said he believes it is best for citizens to not intervene, but if they do, they need to know use of force laws in Texas. 

Watson said not knowing those laws could bring about legal repercussions to people who were just trying to help.

“We do not want to put ourselves in a situation to where we're going to function as a law enforcement officer or a certified peace officer,” Watson said. “Because the risk and liability to us as an individual is tremendous.”

In order to claim self-defense, Watson said five requirements must be met. These requirements are innocence, imminence, proportionality, avoidance and reasonableness.

Port Arthur Police are currently investigating Friday night's fatal shooting.

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