A case of suicide by double gunshot wounds to the head: the ability to act after the first shot

Abstract

A single gunshot (or multiple) does (do) not necessarily lead to immediate loss of consciousness or rapid neurological deficits, so the victim may be able to repeatedly pull the trigger before achieving the lethal effect. Despite multiple gunshot wounds can lead to the suspicious participation of other person to the death of the victim, in the medico-legal literature suicides with multiple gunshot wounds are reported, demonstrating the ability of the victim to act after two or more gunshots. In this case, a 47-years-old man was found dead in a pool of blood in the kitchen of his house. According to findings and analysis, the victim modified a single-shot, pneumatic toy gun branded “Condor” Cal. 7 mm (a gun that is made mainly with “ZAMAK” zinc-based alloy, designed to shoot one soft-polymer bullet at a time, with an initial kinetic energy lower than 1 Joule) into an improvised firearm weapon. With this gun, the victim achieved shooting of two bullets into his head, both entering from the right temporal region of his head, with one stopped in the left occipital lobe and the other one in the left temporal lobe. His death was caused by cranium-meningo-encephalic gunshot wounds. The conditions supporting the hypothesis that the victim was able to fire two shots to his head before the onset of incapacitation (the type of bullets used, the location of injuries and their consequences) and the characteristics that typically allow to distinguish the manner of death (suicide vs homicide) were evaluated. Based on all the collected elements, it was possible to confirm that suicide was the manner of death. This case underlines the importance of evaluating all available elements (post-mortem imaging, autopsy and toxicological findings, ballistics and neuropathological evaluations) to distinguish suicide from homicide and to prevent incorrect conclusions.

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Correspondence to A. Verzeletti.

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Maghin, F., Antonietti, A., Farina, D. et al. A case of suicide by double gunshot wounds to the head: the ability to act after the first shot. Int J Legal Med 133, 1469–1476 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00414-019-02085-2

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Keywords

  • Forensic science
  • Multiple gunshot wounds
  • Suicide
  • Ability to act
  • Incapacitation