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Gene Hackman allegedly slapped a homeless man in Santa Fe, N.M.
Police say the 82-year-old actor was acting in self defense, so it's unlikely that Hackman will face criminal charges.
The Academy Award winning actor reportedly owns a home in the Sante Fe area, and the homeless man had become aggressive towards Hackman and his wife, writes The Associated Press.
New Mexico has a "Stand Your Ground" self defense law which states that a person generally does not need to retreat first if threatened with physical harm. So if someone is faced with a reasonable threat, that person can respond with reasonable force.
However, the response must be proportional: The use of self-defense must match the level of the threat in question. In other words, a person can only use as much force as required to remove the threat. If the threat involves deadly force, the person defending himself can usually use deadly force to counteract the threat.
But if the threat only involves minor force, the person claiming self-defense cannot combat it with deadly force. For example, you usually can't shoot someone who only threatens you with a punch.
In addition, to claim self defense, the threat of harm typically needs to be imminent and reasonably perceived as a threat. So, Gene Hackman could not have slapped the homeless man simply because the homeless man was standing too closely or smelled bad. Instead, the homeless man must have said or did something that would have reasonably been perceived as an imminent threat.
The police did not release additional details related to the incident. However, given Hackman's response, the actor likely faced a reasonable threat of physical harm for the police to dismiss his actions as self defense.
To learn more about self defense, you may want to ask a question on FindLaw Answers where you will typically receive a response within 24 hours.