The 22-year-old man being hailed as a hero for taking down a shooter at an Indiana mall on Sunday will likely not face any legal issues, even though he was carrying a gun on a property that prohibits weapons on the premises, according to experts.
The shooting occurred Sunday evening when a gunman entered the Greenwood Park Mall with a long rifle and several ammunition magazines and opened fire in the food court.
Police identified the suspected shooter as 20-year-old Jonathan Douglas Sapirman.
Three people were killed and another two were injured, before a 22-year-old armed bystander named Elisjsha Dicken fatally shot the gunman.
“His actions were nothing short of heroic,” said Greenwood Police Chief James Ison of Dicken during a news conference on Monday. “He engaged the gunman from quite a distance with a handgun, was very proficient in that, very tactically sound. As he moved to close in on the suspect, he was also motioning for people to exit behind him. He has, to our knowledge, he has no police training and no military background.”
While many have praised Dicken for being a “Good Samaritan,” others have drawn attention to the presence of guns—by both the gunman and Dicken—and have pointed out that the mall’s property policy actually prohibits weapons.
However, while the rules of carrying a weapon into the mall may have been broken, a number of experts weighed in that it is unlikely Dicken will face any legal consequences.
“Elisjsha Dicken appears to have been legally armed at the time of the attack given the state’s laws that allow a person to carry a gun without a permit,” Michael McAuliffe, a former federal prosecutor and elected state attorney in Florida, told Newsweek.
The law allowing people age 18 or older to carry a handgun in public without a permit in the state of Indiana went into effect on July 1.
“While the mall had a policy not allowing guns within the mall, that prohibition likely does not constitute––alone––a violation of the law. If a business owner in the mall saw the gun, the owner might well have been able to tell Dicken to leave the business. If Dicken had refused, then he could have been trespassing,” said McAuliffe.
“However, what actually occurred was very different. Dicken engaged the shooter within two minutes of the start of the attack and killed him. Dicken was hailed by the local police chief, the mayor and the former vice president as a hero. He almost certainly saved lives by killing someone who was trying to murder many people in a mall,” McAuliffe said.
Indiana attorney and firearms instructor Guy Relford held the same sentiments, telling The Indianapolis Star: “The fact that [Greenwood Park Mall] had a no-gun policy creates no legal issue whatsoever for this gentleman, and it certainly has no effect whatsoever on his ability to use force to defend himself or to defend the other people in the mall.”
Still, McAuliffe warned that the incident at the mall on Sunday should not be the basis for gun reform arguments.
“How often a lawfully armed person successfully confronts an active shooter is far less certain than the conclusion that Dicken acted with courage,” he said. “The statistics simply don’t support the assertion that armed bystanders prevent mass shootings. So while politicians might use the tragedy for their own agendas, it is better to be grateful to Mr. Dicken, but remain skeptical that generally arming citizens is the answer to gun violence.”
Newsweek reached out to the Simon Property Group, which owns the Greenwood Park Mall, for additional comment.