Justice or Injustice?  You Tell Me!

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A week or so ago, I watched a film clip on YouTube where a masked robber came into a fast-food restaurant at about 11:30 PM.  He pulled a gun and robbed each of the patrons at gunpoint of their meager earnings.  I jumped up and applauded.  “Way to go.  The SOB got what he deserved.  No jury in the country would convict the “hero” who shot him.”

It was a symphony of justice.  The good guy’s win, and the bad guys lose.  One dissonant note was that I noticed the “hero” picked up the perp’s gun and apparently finding out that it was plastic threw it across the tables at the wall.  He then distributed the money taken by the perp back to the diners.  After this generous gesture, he left the diner in a beat up old pick-up truck.  A few days later a lawyer for the “hero” called the police.

Our “hero” shot the perp nine times.  Over the next few days, prosecutors and defense attorneys alike announced that there would not likely be any charges against the “hero.”  It was a plain case of “self-defense.”  I watched the video several more times.  Each time I watched it, I had a sinking feeling.  My initial thoughts over the glamor of a Gotterdammerung experience slowly morphed into a different perspective.  I want to share with you this perspective.  However, before I do, I must give you some caveats.

  1. I am not a pacifist. Never have been and never will be.  You try to hurt me or anyone I love; I will do my best to protect them even if it means hurting you.
  2. I am a gun owner. I collect folding knives.  I love to shoot and there is something magic about guns that I find intriguing.  I love the symmetry of a beautiful knife or an 1858 Remington New Army black powder revolver.
  3. I am not a bleeding heart liberal. I am not a progressive or a conservative.  I belong to no tribe or party.  I think for myself.  I don’t follow any script or drummer.  If you read my blogs, you will find this to be a valid statement.

Thus, very peculiarly, I started to think about the perp in this case.  He was a 30-year-old Black man (Eric Eugene Washington) with a history of jail time and violence.  He had a long record for his age, and it would not appear that he was doing much good for the world.  On the face of it, his death was no big loss for society.  Some might argue that he got what he deserved before he hurt any more people.

I watched an interview with his mother.  She was broken hearted, but she did not really support him with the usual banter of “what a good kid he was.”  She seemed astounded that he did what he did but she did not deny that the shooting was justified.  She expressed forgiveness for the “hero” but questioned why he had to shoot her son nine times.  I wondered this myself.

During the following days new coverage of this event, I watched more attorneys explain that the nine shots were justified because our “hero” had to be sure that the threat was neutralized.  Made me wonder how many bullets it takes to neutralize someone who is laying face down on the floor.  Made me think of the villages in Vietnam that we had to “neutralize.”

I asked myself what I would have done in this situation.  Face it.  The perp’s gun looked real.  It was a combat situation.  Combat is always stressful, and no one knows what they will do until it happens.  If someone had robbed me at gunpoint of my wallet, under stress and being really pissed, I might have unloaded all my rounds into his body.  I can’t say I would not have done exactly what our “hero” did.  However, this is where things change for me.

We could ask another set of questions.  Not what would I have done, but what do I wish I had done if I was the “hero”?  What do I think I should have done?  I give you the following two answers to these questions.

  1. I would have liked to stand up facing the fleeing perp and with my gun pointing directly at him say, “Drop your gun or you are dead.” If the perp did not follow through on my order, I would probably blast him with at least three rounds center target to “neutralize” the threat.  If he dropped his gun, I would order him down on the floor and cover him until the cops came.  I know this sounds like police procedure but that is one scenario I think would have been justified and perhaps resulted in the loss of no life.  Would the risk to my own life have been worth the extra effort?  Maybe that is what a real “hero” does.  In my mind, a “hero” risks his or her own life for others.  Perhaps even when they do not deserve it.
  2. In my second scenario, I do nothing. Not out of cowardice or fear.  I do nothing because I value a human life more than money.  Was this one life worth the few dollars that he robbed from the other patrons?  What kind of a world do we want to live in?  Do we want a world that values money more than people?  If the world is moving in that direction as the case may seem to indicate, it is a sad commentary.  I am not sure I want to live in such a place.  As I am 76 years old, I might not have to worry about it much longer.

So, there you have it folks.  I feel sorry for the mother of the victim and those who loved him.  I feel sorry that the victim did not get at least one more chance.  I am glad that none of the diners were injured and that they got their money back.  I am sure many of these people needed their money at least as much as our perp.

I also feel sorry for a society where money matters so much to all of us that we are ready, willing, and able to kill for it.

You can watch a video of the shooting at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bxKYHntHjAg

Leave your comments.  Let me know what you think.  What would you have done? 

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