So this is in the interest of storytelling and writing.

So we have cop A who is undercover and acting as mobster B's right hand man.

Then we have bar owner C who closed down the bar, and is alone in it doing inventory 2 hours after closing, all alone.

B and A come in the bar (forcibly, since it was closed, but quietly) and surprise C. B want to threaten C into paying protection money, but C refuses, so B and A (who is undercover) are trashing the place and threatening C with death.

C then quickly pulls out a gun and shoots both of them dead.

Would C be in any trouble? Seeing as how it was self defense and he didn't know that A was an undercover cop.

  • 1
    No. He would likely be able to plead self defense.
    – David Reed
    Commented Apr 24, 2020 at 11:36

2 Answers 2


Laws that add special penalties to killing a police officer require that the accused knows that the victim is a police officer, for example DC 22-2106 (emphasis mine)

(a) Whoever, with deliberate and premeditated malice, and with knowledge or reason to know that the victim is a law enforcement officer or public safety employee, kills any law enforcement officer...

A prosecution would need to show beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused knew the victim was an undercover police officer to convict them under this statute. In the case presented, it seems unlikely that the bartender could be convicted under such a statute, even without consideration of a possible self-defense argument.


I would say that under the rule of law, police officers, even those who are undercover are subject to the law. There may be specific rules about police conduct in the U.S that I am not aware of so bear that in mind when writing.

If it truely was an instance of self-defence, and the reasonable person would have feared the consequences should they not act, then the defence should be valid. For this to be true, the bar owner must have been threatened in such a way that there was no avoidance of the action of shooting the two men dead. For instance, being held at gun point and having no opportunity to call the police or call for help. It might not be justifiable that the bar owner open fire if threatened by the two when they don’t have the means to enact the end, E.g. no gun, knife, no violent behaviour...

It’s possible that the self defence claim could be upheld in this situation as a reasonable person could see the threatening behaviour as a pressure that caused them to act to save their own life. It depends on how you write the story

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