Maricopa County attorney explains Arizona law on use of deadly force

Apr 20, 2023, 3:55 PM

PHOENIX – After multiple recent national incidents of people getting shot after seemingly minor mistakes, the Valley’s top prosecutor discussed Arizona’s self-defense laws on Wednesday.

“I appreciate news outlets getting the information out about what exactly is allowed in Arizona and what is not allowed,” Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell said during a press conference.

State statute defines when threatening or using deadly physical force, like a gun, is considered justified, she said.

“When you can use deadly physical force is when a reasonable person would believe that deadly physical force … is immediately necessary to protect himself against the other’s use or attempted use of unlawful deadly physical force,” she said.

Mitchell explained Arizona’s laws following three recent high-profile shootings involving victims who came into contact with their shooters by mistake.

  • On April 13, a teenage boy was shot and wounded after going to the wrong Kansas City, Missouri, home to pick up his younger brothers. Legal experts expect the 84-year-old suspect to claim self-defense and cite Missouri’s “Stand Your Ground” law.
  • Two days later, a woman looking for a friend’s house in upstate New York was shot and killed after the car she was riding in mistakenly went to the wrong address. The 65-year-old shooter was booked for second-degree murder.
  • Early Tuesday, a man shot and wounded two cheerleaders in a Texas supermarket parking lot after one of them said she mistakenly got into his car thinking it was her own. The 25-year-old suspect faces a charge of engaging in deadly conduct, a third-degree felony.

Mitchell didn’t directly address how these incidents might be viewed under Arizona law. She did say that while Arizonans don’t legally have to retreat from a perceived threat, charges such as aggravated assault, attempted murder or murder could apply when deadly force is used and the “reasonable person” and “immediately necessary” criteria aren’t met.

“A person who is unarmed and not presenting any particular type of threat, that does not pass this test and that would be a situation where the person could be charged for shooting the individual,” Mitchell said.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Luke Forstner and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

Picture of the Mitsubishi Montero that Phoenix police suspect hit an 11-year-old girl in a crosswal...

Damon Allred

Hit-and-run suspect sought in Phoenix after injuring child walking in crosswalk

Officers are searching for a hit-and-run suspect who hit an 11-year-old girl walking in a school crosswalk on Friday, Phoenix PD said.

40 minutes ago

(Facebook Photo/Phoenix Police Department)...

Police investigating deadly shootings in south Phoenix on Saturday morning

Police on Saturday morning were searching for a suspect or suspects after two people were fatally shot in south Phoenix in the early-morning hours.

3 hours ago

Rattlesnake activity...

Nick Borgia

Warmer temperatures leads to increased rattlesnake activity in the Valley

The Banner Poison and Drug Information Center has seen an increase in rattlesnake activity in the Valley due to warmer weather.

4 hours ago

Housing program...

Nick Borgia

Gov. Katie Hobbs announces new $13M housing program

Gov. Katie Hobbs and the Arizona Department of Housing (ADOH) announced a new housing program on Friday, called "Arizona is Home."

5 hours ago

The Lee Lee International Supermarkets store in Chandler. (Maison Solutions Inc.)...

Brandon Brown/Phoenix Business Journal

Arizona Asian grocery chain acquired by California company

Arizona's Lee Lee International Supermarkets has been acquired by a Southern California-based specialty grocery retailer.

6 hours ago

Deshan Begay, 24, was struck by a vehicle while walking when he didn't have the right of way, polic...

Man fatally struck while crossing I-10 access road at red light in Phoenix

Deshan Begay, 24, was crossing the I-10 westbound access road on Wednesday evening when a vehicle fatally struck him, Phoenix police said.

16 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Fiesta Bowl Foundation

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade is excitingly upon us

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe is upon us! The attraction honors Arizona and the history of the game.


Collins Comfort Masters

Avoid a potential emergency and get your home’s heating and furnace safety checked

With the weather getting colder throughout the Valley, the best time to make sure your heating is all up to date is now. 

(KTAR News Graphic)...

Boys & Girls Clubs

KTAR launches online holiday auction benefitting Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley

KTAR is teaming up with The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley for a holiday auction benefitting thousands of Valley kids.

Maricopa County attorney explains Arizona law on use of deadly force