Written by attorney Jeremy S Geigle

Arizona Self-Defense Laws: Use of Deadly Force

A dispute between neighbors isn’t a new thing; in fact it’s extremely common. 57-year-old David Cockerham was walking his dog past the house of his neighbor, John Gallik, when the path became obstructed by a sign in his neighbor’s yard. Cockerham attempted to move the sign out of the way when Gallik stormed out of his house and began screaming and cursing at him.

Gallik then displayed a butterfly knife and threatened to cut Cockerham’s throat. Gallik charged towards Cockerham; Cockerham then drew his concealed pistol and shot Gallik once in the upper torso, killing him. Cockerham called police and waited for them to arrive on the scene. Cockerham has not been charged with a crime.

The reason Cockerham hasn’t been charged with a crime is because police believe he was acting in self-defense when he shot Gallik. The self-defense clause under Arizona law outlines when a person is free to use physical or deadly force against another person.

A.R.S. 13-404 justifies the use of physical force against another person when a reasonable person would believe physical force is necessary to protect themself against the other person’s use of physical force.

A.R.S. 13-405 speaks towards the justification of using deadly force against another person. Deadly physical force is justified if it is used as defined in A.R.S. 13-404, or when a reasonable person would believe deadly physical force is necessary to protect themself against the other person’s unlawful deadly physical force.

Cockerham used deadly physical force to protect himself against his neighbor’s unlawful use of deadly physical force. If the State Attorney’s Office determined that his use of deadly physical force was unnecessary, he would be charged with a crime, most likely manslaughter or second degree murder.

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