In this episode of our weekly News/Q&A Show we covered the confrontation that occurred yesterday in Lake Orion Michigan between an armed white woman, the white man with her, and two black women, as reported in the Detroit News: Angry exchange on video shows gun being pulled on mom, teen in Lake Orion
NOTE: There is a transcript of the show below my signature for those of you who prefer to read rather than view.
Relevant statutes mentioned in today’s show:
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Today is our News/Q&A Show for July 2, 2020. And we have a video that of a confrontation that occurred in Lake Orion, Michigan. Just yesterday I believe of a woman who ended up deploying a handgun, pointing it at two other women with whom she was having an argument and, of course because the races of the parties involved are different, we have allegations of racism. We are looking at a use of force event brought to us out of Lake Orion.
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Okay, so we have this confrontation that happened out in Lake Orion, Michigan, between a white woman, a white male, they were together in a confrontation, with a mother and daughter, both of whom are apparently black. And this conversation escalated to the point where the white woman whose name I don’t know, it’s not reported in the papers, pulled the gun, in apparently what she thought was self defense, and has now been arrested.
I have a video of about three minutes long of their confrontation. There is audio in the video, folks, there’s a lot of cursing. I think I bleeped it all out. I tried to be as careful as I could. But if you’re sensitive to the possibility that I might have missed a curse, then you can mute your sound while the video is playing. I do have kind of closed caption text of the legally-relevant portions of the exchange. So you’ll see that on the screen, you don’t necessarily need to hear the audio. But I think the audio was sufficiently relevant in a general totality of the circumstances sense that it was worth including.
So what I’ll do right now is play that video for all of you. So get ready. Again. I think I got all the curses. You’ll hear lots of beeps, but it’s always possible I might have missed one. So, fair warning. Here we go with that video.
Okay, there we are that was the confrontation and I think we can all agree probably that there was. This was not adult conduct by any of the people involved, probably. That doesn’t look like there’s any righteous heroes here. Everyone could have made better decisions, certainly. Now I’d like to step through how the news is covering this, in particular, the Detroit News story that was sent my way. Thank you very much for the person that did that.
So we’ll step through the new story and one interesting facet here. And we’ll step through several things. First, how the news is choosing to cover this event. And then we’ll step through some of the I think, perhaps non-obvious, legal aspects of this confrontation. And again, no heroes here, not trying to say anybody’s in the absolute right.
And of course, there’s information, there’s facts we don’t have that could be relevant. So we’re going to hypothesize a little bit about how things might turn out of this fact where the case or the alternative fact were the case.
So here is that Detroit News story, angry exchange and video shows gun being pulled on mom team in Lake Oregon. And there’s the woman we just saw in the video, obviously. This is from the story now i’m quoting the news report Takelia Hill, who is black said her daughter, who’s Makayla Green, I’ll just refer to them as Hill and Green, was allegedly bumped into by a woman. This would be the woman who would later display the gun, who was white.
Before entering the fast food restaurant in Orion township about 8pm the daughter that would be green said she asked the moment for an apology and said the woman began yelling at her.
Well, okay, maybe. I saw the video that later part of the confrontation. It’s possible the woman began yelling at Green earlier before that video started, but there’s certainly nothing about the woman’s demeanor that suggests to me she was yelling at anybody. She seemed pretty calm at the earlier stages of that video shoot if anything was being talked over. But in any case, the story continues.
Makayla Green: Before I could walk into Chipotle this woman was coming out and I had moved out of the way so she can walk out said Michaela green, she bumped me and I said, Excuse you. And then she started cussing me out and saying things like I was invading her space.
At one point, the woman pulled the gun. The woman who pulled the gun listens to the mom and teen, one of whom repeats that the woman is ignorant and racist. A man from the vehicle exits asked the pai, who do who the F*** do you think you guys are? And helps the woman into the SUV. He and Hill exchange angry words, Hill being the mother, before he walks back to the driver’s side of the car.
The woman rolls up her window and Hill is seen stepping back as the SUV starts to drive away. Hill then said she thought the driver was going to hit them as the driver back out of the parking space. So she hit the back window of the SUV to stop it.
And at that point in the video, everything becomes very blurry. So that’s part of the fact pattern that we don’t have. I’ll talk about that more in a moment.
And then the Detroit News wraps up with just the reporting that the woman who displayed the gun ultimately was arrested now, we don’t know what she was charged with. I still don’t know what her name is. It’s not really important, I guess.
But the charge she could be facing is a very serious charge under Michigan law. It’s felonious assault. That’s § 750.82. Felonious assault; violation of subsection (1) in weapon free school zone; definitions. I’ll show you a relevant portion of the statute. Felonious assault is essentially assault with a firearm. Here’s the relevant part of the statute.
A person who assaults another person with a gun revolver pistol Other dangerous weapon without intending to commit murder or to inflict great bodily harm less than murder is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than four years, fine, if not more than $2,000, or both.
So that’s what the woman who pulled the gun is looking at if she does not have a legal justification for display of that gun, a four-year felony sentence.
Now, part of the news reporting here, the news reports Green saying, and then this woman started cussing me out and saying things like I was invading her personal space. Again, I don’t get the sense that this woman was cussing and yelling early in the video. Maybe that happened maybe didn’t but we certainly don’t have any evidence of it absent Green’s own statement, and it’s not really consistent with what I’m observing in the video.
That said, the woman does engage in a lot of unproductive behavior. This exchange through the car window, wildly unproductive. This is not an interaction among reasonable people, folks, emotion are high, people are angry, they’re threatening. Reason is not going to unwind this interaction. No one’s going to change their mind. No one’s going to stop calling someone else racist in the parking lot because suddenly the conversation became a reasonable conversation.
The only thing that’s going to unwind, de-escalate, this is separation of the parties involved. There should be no lowered windows, there should be no conversation happening. There should be, if you have a way to escape from the confrontation, take the opportunity to escape from the confrontation. And then it was just an awkward conversation in a parking lot, instead of a potential four-year felony sentence, and maybe had things gone further sideways actually having shot someone perhaps killed them.
So keep your head folks and use some common sense and don’t do this dance if you don’t need to be doing the dance.
There’s other interesting facets here at one point, the mother, Hill, is telling the woman “Do it. B****, do it, I want you to do it.”
You know, asking someone to engage in physical violence for the purpose of then having an excuse to use force against them is what’s called provocation with intent. It loses you any justification any claim of self defense, for that use of force, and in many states, it does it permanently.
Now, generally speaking, even if you were the initial aggressor in a fight, you may be able to regain your innocence, regain your privilege of self defense, if you withdraw from the fight, communicate your desire to withdraw, and then the other party pursues you and essentially initiates a second fight. You’ve regained self-defense as a legal justification for our use of force in that second fight.
But if you provoke with intent, you lose self-defense period, folks, because you’re trying to game the system, you’re trying to make something look like self-defense that was not self-defense.
We have another example of this kind of contact conduct by Hill, telling the man, “I will do something, put up your f******* hands up, please.” Again, classic provocation with intent, it’s like telling someone go ahead and throw the first punch, throw the first punch. It’s not because you want to get punched. It’s because you want an excuse to use force against them and try to claim your use of force with self defense. Classic provocation with intent.
We also have we know also from the news that although it’s possible Miss Hill might try to say that the car tried to hit her or that she was struck by the car. We know that’s not true because she told The Detroit News that perhaps she thought the driver was going to hit them but the driver never did and she hit the back window of the SUV to stop it. So She was the initiator of force, actual use of force in this confrontation above and beyond her earlier threats of force. One example of which is here, a little bit earlier. Hill tells the man “Yeah, I said it, you say something, I’ll beat your white a***” This makes Hill, the initial physical aggressor, the only person to threaten violence prior to the gun being pulled is Hill.
And she’s threatening physical violence with racist animus. There’s no reason to say you’re “white” here unless she wants to bring race into the confrontation. And she does in fact, bring race into the confrontation. Just imagine if you will, if this statement had been made by the man to her and he had told her he was going to beat her black a**.
Would there be any question that that was a threat of physical violence with racist animus? Would there be any the that such a statement if made by him to her, would constitute a hate crime? So why would her statement to him not constitute a hate crime and I’ll come back to Michigan law on hate crimes in just a moment.
So we have this display of the gun, display of a gun would normally be unlawful unless there’s a legal justification, one of the possible legal justifications would be self-defense. And there are of course, five elements of a claim of self-defense, or at least up to five innocence, imminence, proportionality, avoidance and reasonableness.
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But I’ll step quickly through these five elements now, innocence, imminence, proportionality avoidance and reasonableness.
Innocence, meaning that in order for you to be justified in having acted in self defense, you cannot have been the initial aggressor and the confrontation.
Imminence, meaning that the threat you’re defending against is not some past threat or some prospective speculative future threat. It’s a threat that’s either occurring or immediately about to occur.
Proportionality, that if you’re using deadly defensive force, that you’re facing a deadly force threat.
Avoidance. If you’re in a jurisdiction where you have a legal duty to avoid a fight if you safely can before you can be justified in using force himself defense that will not apply in Michigan, by the way Michigan’s been a standard ground state since 2006.
And reasonableness that you’re you have a genuine good faith belief in the need to act in self defense and a reasonable and prudent person in your circumstances would have shared that the So a subjective component of reasonableness and an objective component of reasonableness.
Now, a straight up self defense analysis of this confrontation might make display of the gun rather problematic. I think it’s clear that Hill was the initial aggressor here. She’s the only person up to that point to threaten physical violence. But arguably, she’s a non-deadly force aggressor, and one could make the argument that escalating to the gun was inappropriate that touches on the element of proportionality, that deadly force defensive force should only be used to stop a deadly force threat.
So arguably, even if Hill was the initial non-deadly force aggressor, perhaps the woman with the gun was the initial deadly force aggressor in the confrontation, so she’s vulnerable on both innocence and proportionality.
If there was a threat, it was probably an imminent threat, probably not much difficulty there.
Avoidance, again, not required under Michigan law, but even if it were required It’s a little more complicated than it may look here, the woman was in a vehicle, but she was not operating the vehicle. So it was not up to her. Whether or not the vehicle fled the scene, for example, certainly prudent if you can, obviously, if you can avoid a fight and not have to engage in a confrontation, consistent with safety, it’s always more prudent to do that. But on the facts of this case, not only was avoidance not legally required, I’m not sure it was practically feasible for the woman with the gun, under the circumstances in the moment of crisis.
And reasonableness was her perception of the need to act in self-defense, held in genuine good faith, and was it a reasonable perception of a threat.
So that’s the basic analysis there. And it’s not a it’s not a great argument for classic self defense on the facts of this case. Probably mostly based on the vulnerability here on proportionality, going to the gun.
But things get more interesting than that superficial analysis might suggest because We have some Michigan law here on defense of highly defensible property that could potentially dramatically change the legal analysis. In this case, the relevant statute here is § 780.951 Individual using deadly force or force other than deadly force; presumption; definitions
For purposes of keeping things concise. I’ll share with you just the immediately relevant portions of that statute. But what this statute does is it creates a legal presumption that a defender had a reasonable fear of imminent deadly force attack if the conditions of the statute are met. And the conditions involve the context of highly defensible property. So we have least defensible property, which is just like personal items or open land. Then we have highly defensible property for use-of-force law purposes.
The definition of highly defensible property varies a bit by state, it always includes at least your home, may include a place of business, may include an occupied vehicle. And we’ll be looking at this in the context of Michigan law right here, obviously.
So if you’re in the context of highly defensible property and the necessary conditions are met to trigger this kind of legal presumption, then essentially what the statute does is give you most of what you need to justify a use of deadly defensive force.
So let’s look at the actual language of the statute here.
So the statute starts, it is a rebuttable presumption in a civil or criminal case that an individual who uses deadly force or force other than deadly force, under section two of the Self Defense Act, that’s simply the Michigan self defense statute. They refer to it as section two. It is a rebuttable presumption that a person who uses deadly force or force other than deadly force, non deadly force has an honest and reasonable belief that imminent death, sexual assault or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another individual will occur if both of the following apply. And those are the conditions that must be met in order to trigger this and we’ll look at those as well.
Before we get to the conditions though, it’s important to understand what’s actually happening here, we’re being given most of the elements required to justify a use of deadly defensive force. And of course, here we don’t actually have a use of deadly defensive force, we have a threat of deadly defensive force. But wherever you’d be privileged to actually use force you’d also be privileged to merely threaten force.
So what’s actually happening with the statute? It’s creating a legal presumption that the defender had an honest and reasonable belief of imminent death, or great bodily harm.
Well, let’s look back again at those elements required for self-defense, innocence, imminence, proportionality, avoidance, and reasonableness.
Avoidance is taken care of already because Michigan’s a Stand-Your-Ground state.
Imminence is presumed to exist if the conditions of that statute apply.
Proportionality is presumed to exist, it’s presumed you’re facing a threat of death or great bodily harm.
Reasonableness is presumed to exist because it’s presumed you have a good faith and objectively reasonable belief in the need to act and self defense.
And innocence is kind of baked into the cake, as we’ll see if the conditions are triggered for this statute.
So what are the conditions, much of the statute applies to dwellings like your home, but part of the statute applies to occupied vehicles. That’s the part we’ll focus on here.
And that part of the statute, the first condition that has to be met to trigger that presumption of a reasonable fear of imminent death or serious bodily injury is that the individual against whom the force is used is unlawfully attempting to remove another individual from an occupied vehicle against their well.
Now, the key portion of this confrontation is when the mother, Hill, hits the back of the vehicle as it’s backing up. By the way, at the moment she hits it, the vehicles stopped. If you look at the video again, you’ll be able to see that, but she hits the back of the video and then the camera footage gets all very shaky, so we can’t really see what’s happening, until suddenly, the woman who was in the car is now out of the car. She’s got her gun displayed.
So what did happen there? Well, if Hill opened that car door to get at the woman in the car, can a reasonable inference be made, given her previous threats just moments ago of physical violence–with racial animus, by the way–would it be reasonable to infer that she’s going to subject that woman to a beating, attempt to remove her from her car to do that, it’s hard to beat someone up inside a vehicle.
So if we had another camera angle that showed Hill opening the car, well, that I would argue would trigger this condition of § 780.951 Individual using deadly force or force other than deadly force; presumption; definitions.
Now if the woman got out of the car on her own, that’s a completely different matter. If she got out of the car, displayed the gun, simply because Hill hit the back of her car, that would be a much more problematic analysis for the woman with the gun.
But if there were to be footed showing Hill opening the car as an act of violence, breaching that car for the purpose of removing the woman from the car and carry through with her earlier threats, that would meet this first condition of the legal presumption of a reasonable fear of eminent deadly force harm.
And the second condition that has to be met is that the person using the deadly force this would be the woman in the car had a honestly and reasonably believed that the car was being opened in order to remove her from the vehicle against her will.
So if those two conditions are met, and we don’t know that they’re met, right, because that part of the video is shaky, but if those conditions, if there’s evidence to support those two conditions, then there is created this legal presumption that the woman with the gun had a reasonable fear of eminent deadly force harm from Hill, and that would give her most if not all, of the required elements to justify her display of that gun. So, again, we don’t know if that those facts exist, we don’t have evidence that would determine for us one way or the other, and we don’t know what the woman herself has said, I’ve seen no statement by her. Presumably she’s got legal counsel at this point.
But if she says that tequila Hill opened up her car door to pull her out of the car, that’s going to really strengthen her legal privilege for having displayed that gun in self defense against a presumed reasonable perception of an eminent deadly force attack.
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Okay, so now we talked about the defensive property aspects of this case, but I’d like to come back to this racial animus aspect of the case. Here’s that screen cap whereHill is telling the man “Yeah, I said it you say something, I’ll beat your white a**.”
Again, up till the moment a gun is pulled the only people making threats of physical violence is Hill, and she’s making threats of physical violence with racial animus. Is this a hate crime?
Would anyone doubt it’s a hate crime if the parties were reversed? If he was telling Hill that he was going to beat her black a**? I don’t think there’s any question about it.
But we don’t really have to wonder, we can look at actual Michigan law on hate crime.
Michigan calls it ethnic intimidation. It’s not a new law, been on the books a long time, I think from the 1980s, it’s § 750.147b. Ethnic intimidation, if you’d like to read the statute in its entirety, which I always encourage you to do.
So here’s the relevant part of the statute, ethnic intimidation: A person is guilty of ethnic intimidation if that person maliciously and with specific intent to intimidate or harass another person, because of that person’s race, color, religion, gender, national origin, origin does any of the following.
So what are the conditions that trigger this statute? Well, they cause physical contact with another person they damage destroy, or to face any real or personal property, or they threatened by word or act to do either of those things to cause physical conduct contact or damage property.
So when Hill tells the gentlemen, “Yeah, I said it, you say something I’ll beat your white a**, too.” Is that a threat of physical conduct with racial animus, based on his color? I would suggest explicitly it is, or she would not have mentioned his race, because it would not have been relevant to the confrontation.
And what’s the punishment for ethnic intimidation if those conditions are met? Well, it turns out under Michigan law, this kind of hate crime is a felony, punishable by imprisonment for not more than two years or by a fine of not more than $5,000.
And again, if the position of these parties had been reversed if the male had been telling Hill that he was going to beat her black a**, is there any doubt in anybody’s mind that he would be vulnerable to an ethnic intimidation felony hate crime conviction under Michigan law?
I think not.
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Okay, let’s pull me back up, nice to see everybody again, and scroll through these comments on Facebook. Thank you everybody.
By the way, if you joined late if you could please in the comments, if you haven’t already, leave a comment with your city and state. That’s very helpful to me, it provides me with some geographic context for where everybody’s from.
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Stephen Pella says I’m sure she asked, presumably the daughter who claims she was bumped into asked for an apology calmly and politely. It doesn’t seem likely, given the later behavior that is caught on camera. But of course, that would be speculative on our part. In any case, I’m not sure it matters.
Again, we’re going to go through life and occasionally bumped into unreasonably angry people. Our mission is to survive the day, our mission is to not get pinned down in conversation by angry people. We should do everything in our power to, as politely as we can, however much we may not mean it genuinely, as politely as possible to disengage, remove ourselves from the immediate proximity of that angry person. Being around angry people is not a productive activity. It’s not going to end well. We want to separate ourselves, however right we may actually be in our conduct.
Brian says, seems like OC spray would have been appropriate here after the woman tried blocking the SUV from backing up. Yeah, I mean, in fairness, we don’t know that Hill was trying to block the car from backing up. I mean, that’s possible. But I’m not sure we can know that from the available evidence. Hill may have just been walking to her own car. She’s angry. She’s not, you know, maybe greatly aware of what’s happening around her. At the same time, the little SUV or minivan, whatever it is, is backing up. It could have been completely accidental on both their parts. That part of the interaction, at the very corner of the vehicle, there should be hard to see from inside the vehicle.
So I certainly don’t believe the people in the vehicle were intentionally trying to hit her. I’m not sure we can presume Hill deliberately positioned herself behind the vehicle to be to be struck by the vehicle.
On the other hand, she’s already engaged in provocation with intent kind of conduct. And this would be similar, right, if someone positions themselves behind a vehicle to be struck, so that they’ll have an excuse for now using force against the parties in the vehicle, that again, would be a form of provocation with intent.
Larry asked if she says the person opened her door, does she have to prove that? Well, you know, proof is a loaded term. It’s all a matter of whether anyone’s convinced that the claim is true or not. That’s going to be in the province of the jury.
We rarely have absolute proof that gives us truth with a capital T. We have claims by people, we have video that may or may not accurately portray what happened. If the woman claims that the door was opened against her will, and there’s video footage of that not being the case, no one’s near the door when it opens, and therefore she must have opened it herself, well, that would weigh heavily against any claim that the door was opened unlawfully.
So, though you want them as much evidence in support of the claims, you want to convince the jury as much as you possibly can. But the jury is free to simply believe her statement that the door was opened against her will or not believe her statement, that the door was opened against her will, based on what they perceive as the credibility of the reasonable inferences from the evidence that’s available to them in court.
Cody asks have all go over this St. Louis lawyer property incident? Yes, I did that yesterday for about an hour. So, unfortunately, that’s not going to be up on Facebook much longer. But that video that show yesterday is after action analysis show covering the St. Louis lawyers is available for our members on our blog.
So you might consider becoming a member. It’s only 99 cents folks for two-week trial, and if you decide to stay, it’s only about 33 cents a day. So, something to think about. And you get, of course, not just that one particular show, but all the shows that we have done for at least the last month available to our members. That’s a lot of content available.
Alright, folks, I think I scrolled through all the comments. I have some pressing client matters I have to deal with today, which is why this show took place at something other than the normal hour.
We normally have our News/Q&A Show at 2pm Eastern Time, live, every week. I will continue to do that on Facebook. Moving forward as well as if we can figure out the technology in our Member Area. And so I look forward to seeing all of you again Thursday next week.
You might also join us for our Tuesday, our Cases of the Week Show, again 2pm Eastern Time, and our Wednesday After Action Analysis shows also 2pm Eastern Time.
With that out of the way I will wish you all a happy and safe July 4 weekend please be safe out there folks, as always, and I remind you: if you carry a gun for self defense, if you carry a gun so that you’re hard to kill, you also owe it to yourself to make sure you know the law so that you’re hard to convict
Attorney Andrew F. Branca
Law of Self Defense LLC
Law of Self Defense Platinum Protection Program