Defensive Gun Use of the Day (Maybe): Lie in Wait in Edition

By Robert Farago

Krick's Korner, scene of double homicide (courtesy readingeagle.com)

“All reported cases of criminal gun use, as well as many of the so-called self-defense gun uses, appear to be socially undesirable.” That’s the bottom line from Harvard’s David Hemenway and Deborah Azraelin their study Violence and Victims. Lumping criminal acts with “so-called defensive gun uses” seems a bit churlish, to say the least. But that’s how our David rolls. After reading and analyzing the literature on DGUs, the Cambridge resident reckons there are “only” 55k to 80k “real” defensive gun uses per year in the U.S. That still works out to 150 per day. I wonder what Davey would make of this one . . .

 

Police said the two suspects, who have not yet been identified, entered Krick’s Korner at Ninth and Exeter streets about 2 p.m., pointed guns at the store owner and demanded cash.

It was unclear if the men got any cash but police said they fled the store with lottery tickets and cigarettes and ran into a man who was leaving an apartment located in the same building as the store.

“He came outside and heard the clerk and knew something was wrong,” said Reading police Sgt. John M. Solecki.

According to the story from PA’s readingeagle.com, the unidentified armed American had cause to think there were crooks in Krick’s Korner. “Carmella Chipperfield, who lives nearby, said robberies are common at the store.” So he called 911 right? It sure doesn’t seem so. Instead . . .

The man noticed that the suspects were armed and wearing masks, so he decided to wait outside the store, police said. When the suspects exited the store the man pulled out his own weapon and shot the two men.

One suspect, wearing black sweat pants, a red sweat suit-type jacket and a tan mask, fell dead in a crosswalk just outside the front door of the store. The second suspect, dressed in all black and still wearing a mask, ran about 20 feet south on Moss Street before collapsing in the street. [Dead.]

Question: was that a defensive gun use? Or an offensive (tactically speaking) gun use?

We can and should debate whether or not the man who lay in wait for the robbers should have been doing so. But the chances are he was in imminent danger of death or grievous bodily harm when the perps exited the Korner shop, guns in hand (presumably) and saw their not-so-neighborly-neighbor. So . . . what?

While you’re mulling that over, riddle me this: what if the good guy—and I’m sticking with that—had shot a clerk or customer who came running out of the store at the same time as the bad guys? What if the cops had shot the good guy?

Quite aside from a not-without-merit charge of vigilantism there are many ways this could have gone wrong. The best thing to do in these situations: be a good, hidden witness. Take careful note of the bad guys appearance and behavior. Call 911. And then, at some point, go home. Otherwise you risk being part of an unacknowledged category of defensive uses I call “unintentional fouls.” [h/t JH]