Legal Service Providers Jump In to Defend Those Involved in Self-Defense Shootings

People involved in self-defense shootings find companies can help with expenses, but fallout from incidents goes beyond money and legal issues.
Legal Service Providers Jump In to Defend Those Involved in Self-Defense Shootings
This Ring doorbell image shows an armed robber approaching Prince Riley's house in West Covina, California on Oct. 15, 2021. Mr. Riley has received legal services through the US Concealed Carry Association after he shot the robber. (Courtesy of Prince Riley)
Michael Clements
2/12/2024
Updated:
2/28/2024
0:00

A viral video of a shooting in Virginia recently sparked debate between companies that provide legal services for those who use a firearm in self-defense.

The U.S. Concealed Carry Association (USCCA), one of the largest and most well-known legal service providers, was the subject of online buzz over claims by the founder of a competing company that USCCA refused to cover policyholders in the Virginia shooting and another high-profile case.

Jerry Noskowiak, chief financial officer for Delta Defense, told The Epoch Times that the online stories aren’t accurate.

“There’s a lot of twisting going on in the marketplace. Some are twisting this to their benefit,” Mr. Noskowiak said.

Delta Defense is the insurance provider that covers USCCA members if they are involved in a self-defense shooting, like Allen Colie in Virginia.

Mr. Colie, a food delivery driver, was found not guilty of aggravated malicious use of a firearm and felony use of a gun, on Sept. 28, 2023, in Loudoun County Circuit Court, Loudoun County, Virginia.

Mr. Colie was found guilty of discharging a firearm in an occupied building.

The shooting was caught on video by people who were working with the YouTube prankster that Mr. Colie shot. The social media presenter was holding a phone in front of Mr. Colie’s face that played a recording of a woman’s voice saying, “Hey (expletive), stop thinking about my twinkle.”

Mr. Colie repeatedly told the man to leave him alone and to go away. At one point, he slapped the phone away from his face before pulling a pistol and shooting the YouTuber.

Marc Victor, the founder and owner of the Arizona-based Attorneys For Freedom law firm, which administers Attorneys on Retainer, said it was his understanding that USCCA initially agreed to cover Mr. Colie’s claim but then dropped him as a client.

“Well, USCCA decided, look, we think, we predict this is not going to be a valid self-defense shoot. So, they dropped the guy,” Mr. Victor told The Epoch Times.

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The owner of a shooting range aims his pistol down range in Queens, N.Y., on June 23, 2022. (Ed Jones/AFP via Getty Images)

Mr. Noskowiak denied this.

Mr. Victor expressed skepticism. He pointed to court records showing that Mr. Colie applied for court funds to hire a use-of-force expert in July 2023.

“It is hard to understand why this would occur if USCCA’s insurance company did not deny the claim. While USCCA may not have dropped Mr. Colie, we have seen no evidence the insurance company paid for anything during the trial,” Mr. Victor wrote in an email to The Epoch Times.

According to a press release on the USCCA website, Mr. Colie chose to use the public defender’s office rather than file a claim with USCCA. The press release includes text of an email Mr. Colie sent to Tim Schmidt, CEO and co-founder of USCCA.

“I chose [Public Defense] Attorney Pouilliard because he is a great attorney who believed in me and believed in my case. I am glad that I have the choice and wouldn’t change anything about my representation,” Mr. Colie wrote.

“The USCCA stood by me and continues to stand by me, and I thank them for that.”

He said that, after discussing the matter with USCCA, Mr. Colie decided to use the public defender, Adam Pouilliard.

Mr. Noskowiak said that Mr. Colie was found guilty of a crime but also found to have acted in self-defense. So, the company has paid a claim to assist with Mr. Colie’s appeal. Mr. Pouilliard confirmed Mr. Noskowiak’s account to The Epoch Times.

Mr. Noskowiak said USCCA has never failed to stand by a client who had a legitimate self-defense claim.

However, the company stopped coverage in a case involving Kayla Giles, who was ultimately found guilty of intentional murder.

Ms. Giles was sentenced to life plus 30 years after she was convicted of second-degree murder and obstruction of justice on April 14, 2022. The Shreveport, Louisiana, woman was convicted of killing her estranged husband in a Walmart parking lot in Alexandria, Louisiana, during a physical custody exchange of their child on Sept. 8, 2018.

Ms. Giles’ conviction was upheld by Louisiana’s Third Circuit Court of Appeals. According to the Appeals Court decision, Ms. Giles told people she wanted to kill her ex-husband, planned the crime, and tried to get others to help her hide evidence.

Mr. Noskowiak confirmed that USCCA paid an initial claim of $50,000 in Ms. Giles’s case but stopped coverage as the facts became clear.

Ms. Giles sued USCCA, claiming the company didn’t act in good faith. She lost that case.

“Initially, she was afforded benefits under the policy,” Mr. Noskowiak said. “It was revealed that she didn’t act in self-defense.”

He said USCCA didn’t recoup its money. He said the Giles case is the exception to the rule for USCCA.

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A pedestrian walks past bullet holes in the window of a store front on South Street in Philadelphia on June 5, 2022. (Kriston Jae Bethel/AFP via Getty Images)

Unexpected Consequences

People often don’t realize what is ahead of them if they are forced to use a gun in self-defense. This is especially true when the incident results in a death. From the legal battle that is guaranteed to happen to crime scene clean-up to employment issues to psychological counseling, the financial and emotional toll can be devastating.
As more and more people decide to arm themselves, legal service providers have sprung up to assist those who find themselves involved in a shooting incident. Like other industries, the products provided by each company can differ.
Wisconsin attorney Tom Grieve, who specializes in criminal defense and Second Amendment law, said it’s vital that consumers educate themselves before they choose a company.
“There are advantages and disadvantages to all of them,” he told The Epoch Times.
Mr. Grieve hosts a YouTube channel on which he discusses Second Amendment issues and firearms law.
In one video, he says the companies all have one thing in common: “This is defense coverage, not murder coverage.”
The Epoch Times reviewed three companies’ offerings including the USCCA, Attorneys on Retainer, and CCW Safe, based in Oklahoma City.
All three companies provide legal representation in both criminal and civil court, psychological counseling, bail assistance, firearm replacement assistance, and crime scene clean-up, among other benefits.
Each program has limits and conditions on what they provide, and all stress that they offer coverage for bona fide self-defense situations, whether a gun is involved or not.
image-5579540
(L–R) Kent Brown, CCW Safe president, Stan Campbell, chief operating officer, and Mike Darter, co-founder and chief executive officer. (Michael Clements/The Epoch Times)

CCW Safe was founded by former Oklahoma City police officers Mike Darter and Kyle Sweet. Mr. Darter said the company is modeled on the type of legal protection police officers get from the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP).

Mr. Darter said he came up with the idea after he was sued in federal court over a shooting.

“So, the FOP paid for everything, my attorney, expert witnesses, everything. The stress level with that was amazing, compared to what I would have had [if] I had to pay for that myself. I probably would have gone bankrupt,” Mr. Darter told The Epoch Times.

Stephen, a CCW Safe client in Raleigh, North Carolina, said the company provided more than legal services in his case.

Stephen (who asked that his last name not be used) joined CCW Safe in 2015. He credited the company with not only his successful legal defense but also for preserving his mental health.

When Stephen was found not guilty of first-degree murder on Aug. 2, 2017, he covered his face with his hands, wept, and hoped it was the end of a two-year ordeal. He has learned that the effects of using a gun to defend oneself can linger for years.

During an August 2015 motorcycle outing, he got into an argument with a fellow rider who had a reputation for being short-tempered. Stephen, who is of average height and weight, believes the 6-foot 3-inch man who weighed close to 300 pounds chose him as an opponent for a reason.

“I think size definitely had something to do with it,” Stephen told The Epoch Times.

That night, Stephen was able to avoid a physical confrontation, though there was a heated exchange between the two men. But on October 15, 2015, he was not so fortunate.

Stephen didn’t know that the man had been making threats against him on social media and vowing to friends that he was going to hold Stephen accountable for perceived insults.

His antagonist found him at a motorcycle rally in Wilson, North Carolina, and attacked him in a men’s room. Stephen was able to break free and get outside before he was attacked again. He broke free a second time and was able to get his legally owned pistol and cellphone when the other man found him and attacked a third time.

In the struggle, Stephen fired five shots.

He ran from the scene, calling 911 with his cellphone in one hand and his gun in the other. As he spoke with the 911 operator, he struggled to reload his pistol and keep an eye out for the other man whom he expected to attack again.

He surrendered to the police when they arrived.

During his three-hour interrogation, Stephen told the police he wanted to get a restraining order to protect his family from his assailant, as he expected the man to threaten them as well. The officers told him he needn’t worry about that.

“They [police] said, ‘Well, sorry to say, but he passed away. We’re gonna have to charge you with first-degree murder,’” Stephen said.

Getting Help

Stephen called CCW Safe. A CCW Safe attorney visited him in jail the next day, Sunday, and was at his arraignment the following Monday. One of his jailers told him that he was something of a unicorn.

“He said, ‘I’ve never seen a lawyer that would work on Sunday,’” Stephen said.

Though the shooting was ultimately ruled justified, it completely changed what he said had been an ordinary, even blessed life. According to Stephen, the average person has no idea what life is like after a self-defense shooting.

He spent the first two weeks in jail as CCW Safe attorneys worked on his case. They were able to arrange bail and negotiated with his employer to allow him to resign rather than be fired. Stephen said he spent the next two years mostly unemployed and monitored by the state while he waited for his trial to start.

“There were times that I contemplated suicide during those two weeks [in jail]. And some of the members did talk to me, and they understood what I was going through,” he said.
CCW Safe investigators found errors in the state’s investigation that secured the not-guilty verdict.
According to Stephen, that legally justified shooting contributed to the end of his marriage, nearly cost him his career, damaged his reputation, and negatively impacted his family.
But he kept his freedom.
“But thank goodness I had that membership because it was their experience that helped get ahead of the judicial system and really point out all the errors that were made,” he said.

CCW Safe President Kent Brown said CCW Safe is not insurance. It is a membership organization. Chief Operating Officer Stan Campbell said this means it has more latitude in the services it can provide.

“Anything that’s related to a recognized use of force self-defense incident, we’re gonna take care of them,” Mr. Kent told The Epoch Times.

Mr. Campbell pointed out that insurance companies cannot legally cover intentional criminal acts. So, in cases in which a person agrees to a plea deal, they could be in danger of having to pay back any insurance benefits they received, he said.

Navigating the Aftermath

The USCCA uses an insurance model to allow its customers to select their legal representation and file claims for covered costs, along with other benefits.

“We provide education and training to responsibly armed members who are afforded all the rights and benefits of the [Delta Defense] policy,” Mr. Noskowiak said.

Prince Riley (C), is pictured with his attorneys Damon Rogers (L) and Andy Beltran (R) in this undated photograph. He was able to hire the pair to represent him because he had self defense coverage from the U.S. Concealed Carry Association. (Courtesy Prince Riley)
Prince Riley (C), is pictured with his attorneys Damon Rogers (L) and Andy Beltran (R) in this undated photograph. He was able to hire the pair to represent him because he had self defense coverage from the U.S. Concealed Carry Association. (Courtesy Prince Riley)

According to Mr. Noskowiak, the case of Prince Riley of West Covina, California, is indicative of the majority of USCCA’s cases.

On October 15, 2021, Mr. Riley was an aspiring musician and artist. He and his videographer had purchased dirt bikes to use in their music videos, but the videographer kept getting injured, so they decided to sell the bikes.

They placed an ad online, and that night, Mr. Riley, his brother, and the videographer were to meet with two prospective buyers at Mr. Riley’s home. Mr. Riley said he had a bad feeling about the pair from the moment they arrived.

“I don’t know why that day, I just literally felt off,” Mr. Riley told The Epoch Times.

As they discussed the deal, one of the men went back to their car. When he returned, he was carrying a camera bag with one of his hands in the bag. Mr. Riley said he looked up from his phone and was confronted by a gun in his face.

“And I was like, ‘Dude, whoa, chill,’ because the guy was basically at the point he was, like, waving the gun around,” Mr. Riley said.

He said the robber ordered Mr. Riley, his brother, and the videographer to the ground. When the gunman threatened to kill them, Mr. Riley decided to use his legally owned pistol to defend himself and the other men.

He fired once as his friends and the gunman’s accomplice ran. Mr. Riley’s shot struck the gunman—who had fired several shots by then—in the chest, killing him. Like Stephen, Mr. Riley was taken in by the police. He was questioned for 12 hours before being released without being charged.

Mr. Riley said that as soon as he called USCCA, a representative helped him start the process of hiring a lawyer. He said that he first talked with an attorney recommended by a friend. But he was not comfortable with that person. He then spoke with attornies Andy Beltran and Damon Rogers, who still represent him.

Mr. Riley said he was impressed by their experience and the energy they brought to his case.

“I was like, ‘Alright, that’s who I want to hire,” he said.

In addition to legal assistance, the company provided help with crime scene cleanup, counseling, and other benefits.

Like Stephen, Mr. Riley has struggled with the events of that day. His friends and family have assured him that he did the right thing. But he remembers how it felt when he learned the duo were a father and son and that the man he shot was a 55-year-old military veteran.

“Everybody was like, ‘Hey, you did the right thing.’ But it’s still like, facing the man in the mirror, you still took a life,” Mr. Riley said.

“I guess I’m just getting to that point of accepting, hey, these people were there to cause harm.”

He’s heard that some of the robber’s friends and family have spoken of revenge. Since the shooting and subsequent investigation, Mr. Riley has been forced to take a much lower profile in his community, which is not beneficial for a young artist trying to break through.

Mr. Riley said his attorneys, who sat in on his interview with The Epoch Times, have been available whenever needed. According to the police, that need could arise at any time.

On Dec. 13, 2023, Alexus Napoles, Community Services Officer for the West Covina Police Department, confirmed to The Epoch Times that Mr. Riley’s case is still open. She said it is not clear if any charges will be filed in the two-year-old investigation, but as long as the case is open, criminal charges are possible.

According to Mr. Noskowiak, USCCA will see Mr. Riley’s case through to its conclusion.

Michael Clements focuses mainly on the Second Amendment and individual rights for The Epoch Times. He has more than 30 years of experience in print journalism, having worked at newspapers in Alabama, Florida, Texas, and Oklahoma. He is based in Durant, Oklahoma.
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