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Country Singer Wayne Mills Shot, Killed by Bar Owner

By Aditi Mukherji, JD on November 26, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

"Outlaw country" singer Wayne Mills was killed in a bar shooting Saturday. Nashville police are still piecing together the details of the country star's untimely death, but Pit and Barrel bar owner Chris Ferrell insists he shot Mills in self-defense.

What must Ferrell prove to make a successful self-defense claim?

Self-Defense in a Bar

Self-defense gives a person the justified right to counteract violence or force, to prevent an injury or harm and to protect oneself. Though a bar room brawl seems like a natural context for self-defense, there are a number of circumstances that must exist before self-defense can function as a valid justification for shooting someone in a place of business.

Investigators say Mills and Ferrell were in the closed bar with "a few friends and acquaintances" when the two men, who were friends, "began to argue and the others left," reports CNN.

The investigation is ongoing and details are sparse, but Ferrell may have the ability to claim self-defense if the following circumstances are met:

  • Ferrell was not the initial aggressor;
  • Ferrell had a reasonable and honest belief that he was in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury;
  • Mills never retreated from the fight;
  • Ferrell did not consent to Mills' force; and
  • Ferrell used a proportional amount of force.

Saloon Shootout: Proportional Amount of Force?

It's unclear whether the amount of force used by Ferrell was proportional to the type of force it was meant to prevent. He went for the jugular, so to speak, when he shot Mills in the head, reports CNN. Ferrell won't be able to claim self-defense if the gunshot to Mills' head was excessive.

Killing someone with a gun in response to someone who was verbally insulting you, for example, would never suffice as self-defense.

But if Mills was also wielding a gun, the "fighting fire with fire" rationale may apply. This is a distinct possibility considering Mills was the "average country boy steeped in the Southern vernacular of God, guns and football," his official biography reads, according to CNN.

As more details of the saloon shooting emerge, the circumstances surrounding the death of the self-proclaimed outlaw country singer -- and his frenemy's self-defense claim -- will become clearer.

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