Utah Man Claims Self-Defense After Shooting Another In The Back

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Contrary to what some people believe, you can’t just claim self-defense after a shooting just because it’s convenient. There has to be a reason for you to feel your life is in danger. More specifically, there has to be a reason that a reasonable person could look at and think, “Yeah, I can see why they were in fear for their life.”

What you can almost never get away with, except under some very extreme circumstances, is shooting someone in the back and calling it self-defense.

A 19-year-old man accused of shooting another man in the back near a Cedar City motel early Wednesday claimed that he acted in self defense after being punched.

According to a probable cause affidavit filed in 5th District Court, Jaxton Joseph Saroff had asked a female acquaintance to drive him to Motel 6 shortly after midnight on Wednesday, where he was to meet up with two brothers, both of whom had reportedly been Saroff’s co-workers at the local Walmart until Saroff’s termination from employment approximately one month earlier.

The staement said that as the driver pulled up along the street just north of the Motel 6, two men came up to the car and started hitting the side of the car. The driver later told police the men and Saroff were yelling names and swear words at each other.

The driver said she started to have a panic attack and was just looking forward when she heard a gunshot.

“The victim said there was an argument and he saw Saroff reaching towards his waistband,” the statement said.

The affidavit went on to say that the victim knew Saroff had a handgun and believed he was reaching for it, so he punched Saroff to distract him and yelled at his brother to run. When the victim turned to run he said he heard the gunshot and felt the impact in his back.

Yeah, that’s not really going to fly.

“Oh, but he punched the guy.” Nope, sorry, that doesn’t fly. That’s an assault, sure, but claiming that the punch followed by the guy running away was a legitimate threat to one’s life is always going to be a very hard sell.

I mean, you can claim self-defense, but don’t be surprised when no one takes you seriously.

Sure, I can come up with a couple of very odd scenarios where you can shoot someone in the back and it still be self-defense, but those aren’t what are alleged to have happened here. This wasn’t a case of the victim backing his car up at a high rate of speed toward the shooter. That I could see. I could see it as not self-defense but the defense of another where the victim is shot in the back, but he’s threatening someone in front of him.

None of those are alleged to be what happened, though. Not even close.

If you want to claim self-defense, there has to be a clear threat to yourself or another. A punch followed by the guy trying to run away is never going to cut it.