Former Oklahoma City police officers start legal defense company to help “stand your ground” situations

OKLAHOMA CITY - It was May 24: Bryan Whittle and his wife were about to get on Lake Hefner Parkway from Britton Road when he saw something disturbing.

"We saw a bunch of people running from the restaurant down to the water. I thought a boat had hit the water or someone was drowning,” Bryan Whittle said.

Bryan carried a first aid kit in the back of his truck he went to help. And as soon as he parked outside Louie’s Grill and Bar, he encountered a man who told him people had been shot at the restaurant.

"And there's a gunman and he's right there and he pointed probably you know maybe 10 yards away."

Bryan`s wife handed him his gun from the truck.

"I knew as soon as I came out of these two cars he was going to be standing there so as soon as I came out I drew my gun on him and told him to get down."

He says the gunman, now identified as 28-year-old Alexander Tilghman, looked at him blankly and fired shots at Bryan.

"It was either him or me. He came there to hurt people and at that time my intent was to go home and the only way I'm going home the only way I want to go home is to take him out,” Whittle said.

So he fired back at Tilghman. Little did Bryan know Juan Nazario was nearby shooting at the suspect as well.

The gunman died at the scene. Moments before -- Tilghman had shot one woman and two teen girls.

This police body camera video shows the moments following the gunfire. Bryan put into handcuffs as police worked to figure out what happened.

"I knew there was going to be an investigation. I knew that they were going to know everything that happened based off the investigation scene anyways,” Whittle said.

Even though Bryan felt justified in his actions, he says the next three weeks were the longest of his life.

"There's always a chance that something that I didn't know at that time could have been relevant and happened that I could have been charged with,” Whittle said.

District Attorney David Prater eventually cleared both Bryan and Juan Nazario.

“It was a thousand tons off my back you know,” Whittle said.

While Bryan Whittle`s situation was cut and dry other self-defense situations may not be.

That`s why former Oklahoma City police officer Mike Darter started CCW Safe with another former officer.

"This whole company was based off my personal experience as a police officer. I was sued in federal court on a police shooting," CEO Mike Darter said.

Because he was a police officer, the FOP paid for his legal expenses.

But when he left law enforcement mike couldn`t find any company offering those type of services. So he started his own legal defense company in 2012 made up of other former members of law enforcement and defense attorneys. Most notably defense attorney don west who represented George Zimmerman.

"Anybody that goes through a critical stress incident, and it can even be a car accident, but especially a self defense shooting it's going to impact your life," Darter said.

CCW Safe has a membership of 40,000 ex-military/law enforcement, and concealed carry permit-holders. They offer training videos and advice on how to get out of a situation first and foremost.

"As a citizen a concealed carrier there's a lot of things you can do to avoid situations. It just takes a lot of planning, preparation and avoidance to do so,” Darter said.

"You're talking about your freedom. You know all shootings are going to be investigated. There's not going to be a self defense shooting or any shooting that's not going to be investigated,”

But if all else fails, CCW Safe sends resources to help.

They defended Stephen Maddox who was attacked by a man at a North Carolina motorcycle convention in 2015. Maddox talked with news 4 last year.

"At that point he had me on the ground, he was actually choking me, and I tried to fight to get him off me and couldn't," Stephen Maddox said.

He says four people pulled the attacker off him before going after him again and again.

"Was able to get me to the ground and I fired my weapon to get him off of me," Maddox said.

That man died and Maddox was charged with first degree murder.

CCW Safe flew an investigator to North Carolina the next day.

"He immediately responds no matter where they are in the U.S. In North Carolina I think it happened at 11:45 p.m. The next day by 1 o'clock we had boots on the ground. We had two attorneys hired on a Sunday,” Darter said.

Two years later Maddox went to trial.

After only an hour and 20 minutes of deliberations -- he was found not guilty.  A big win for Maddox and CCW Safe.

"Stephen had joined for $179 a year and we paid out $350,000,” Darter said.

Mike says they also offer their members emotional support because they know the toll a self-defense situation can have on a person.

"You know taking a life is not natural and if it is natural and you don't have any issues then I think there's a bigger problem,” Darter said.

For more information visit https://ccwsafe.com/.

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