Fighting back: Lethal responses to predatory attacks

Academic Article


  • Each year millions of Americans become victims of predatory crimes. The way victims respond to these attacks varies from complicance with offenders' requests to physically challenging offenders. In some cases, the physical defense of self and property has lethal consequences for the initial offender. While much is known about felony murder victims and typical homicide offenders, little is known about individuals who fight back against predatory attack by using lethal violence. In this paper, we use data from the Homicides in Chicago, 1965-1995 study to describe the characteristics of defensive homicide offenders and to determine how they compare with felony murder victims and defensive homicide offenders. Our results indicate that defensive homicide offenders are more similar to typical homicide offenders than felony murder victims, and are even more likely to have violent criminal histories and to use firearms than typical homicide offenders. Our results challenge the common perception that individuals who fight back against predatory attack are simply "law-abiding citizens." We conclude the paper with a discussion of the implications of our study for additional research and police practice. © 2002 Society for Police and Criminal Psychology.
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Kerley KR; Copes H; Hochstetler AL; Carroll A
  • Start Page

  • 52
  • End Page

  • 64
  • Volume

  • 17
  • Issue

  • 1