Showing posts with label shoot first. Show all posts
Showing posts with label shoot first. Show all posts

04 May 2014

Castle Defense

by Leigh Lundin

As April ended, two remarkably similar homicide cases created headlines, one ending, the other just beginning. In both situations, men trapped and executed clean-cut teens who’d entered their property. In both cases, the perpetrators claimed they were trapping burglars and doing the job of police.

Except it’s not the duty of police to execute trespassers or even burglars.

Here is where opinions split: Property and guns-rights advocates believe their position trumps human rights including the right to life. The counter view is that human life is far more precious than mere things. Mixed into this madness is Florida’s insane Shoot First / Stand Your Ground law that’s metastasized to other states.

To speak out against the SF/SYG law is to invite challenges that one is anti-gun (and by extension, anti-American). I’m not, in fact, I’m an owner. My father was an incredible marksman and my mother put food on the table with her own carbine. To rural families, rifles were tools, not toys. Happiness wasn’t a warm gun and that’s where I step apart from those who lovingly stroke their weapons. Something’s terribly wrong in our culture.

Lines of Fire

One example: A former employee of mine– a likable guy if he wasn’t such a bonehead– got into a mess with the wives of a couple of his neighbors. (Yep, I said he was a bonehead!) One of the husbands threatened to send around a recently out-of-prison convict who liked to hurt people.

When I suggested he beef up his home security, bonehead said, “Why? I don’t lock my doors, I’m waiting for them. Laid out my trip wires, planned my field of fire, I can cover most of the house from one hallway.”

My jaw didn’t drop, but it wanted to. He absolutely believed that protected by Florida’s laws, if anyone stepped foot on his property, he had a right to kill them. No DA would prosecute him, no court would convict him.

(And indeed, we’ve seen teens shot for taking shortcuts across lawns and a lost man killed for simply knocking on a door for directions. “Fear for one’s life,” that’s the pass-phrase of the SF/SYG law.)

So in a house with three children and usually one or two women (girlfriends, other men’s wives), he could have taken a dozen precautions to avoid conflict, but instead, he preferred to lie in wait, armed and thirsty for blood, convinced it wouldn’t be his.

The sheriff’s department may have had a quiet word with one or more parties, but the drama died down. One of the wives returned to her husband and baby, and the other wife went on to advance her career in stripping and finding a new sugar daddy.

But what if one of those men had knocked on the door one evening? What if anyone, any kid, walked in, tripping the invisible fishing lines? Another death and the resident saying, “Yep, I feared for my life.”

Kifer and Brady
Haile Kifer and Nick Brady
Turkey Shoot I

That brings us to the Minnesota case. Thanksgiving Day, 2012. A man’s home had been burgled. For reasons that aren’t clear, he believed it would happen again. His extensive preparations included setting up a recording system and preparing a hidey-hole (a so-called ‘deer blind’) stocked with a novel, an easy chair, a hunting rifle, a handgun, food and water… and a tarp. Eschewing dinner with friends and family, he made the home appear unoccupied and retreated to his ‘deer blind’.

And then he waited. He waited until 17-year-old Nick Brady descended the cellar steps and, like a hunter, he wounded him, mocked the downed boy, then executed him and wrapped him in the tarp.

And then he waited. He waited until 18-year-old Haile Kifer descended the steps whispering “Nick?” He fired again and his automatic jammed. He cleared it as the girl cried, “Oh, my God,” and shot her, taunting her before and after administering a coup de grâce.

A man who’d seen too many Dirty Harry movies, he recorded a chilling justification, calling the teens vermin. The tape that was supposed to be his saving grace in court, became his undoing. Sympathy for a man with a burgled property became horror toward a man without feeling, without regard for the young lives he’d taken. It’s impossible to say what the verdict might have been without the recording, but the jury took only three hours to sentence Byron Smith to life in prison.

Diren Dede
Diren Dede
Turkey Shoot II

On the night of 27 April, two Montana homeowners 300 miles apart shot teens in their attached garages. One was a house guest and seminary student who stepped into the garage to make a phone call without disturbing the rest of the family. The owner of the house, not bothering to identify his target, brought the boy down with a blast to the chest.

To the west in Missoula, a security specialist and his girlfriend turned his garage into a lethal trap for presumed teen burglars. They activated surveillance equipment and then sat up and waited.

Janelle Pflager had baited the trap with her purse sitting out, left the garage door ¾ open, and switched on a monitor. When a motion sensor tripped, Markus Hendrik Kaarma grabbed his shotgun and headed outside to confront the intruder.

Kaarma shotgunned 17-year-old Diren Dede, a high school junior, talented athlete, and foreign exchange student. It’s not clear why Dede entered the garage. I’ve been known to close my neighbors’ doors, but we don’t know.

But follow this: Kaarma announced in advance he wanted to "shoot some ƒ-ing kid." Although he said he didn’t want the boy to get away, that he wanted him caught and that the police can’t catch burglars in the act, he invoked the magic words of the SF/SYG law: He said he feared for his life and thought he was going to die.

See, Montana aped the Florida Shoot First / Stand Your Ground law, supplanting wording of the ancient Castle Doctrine. Indeed, Kaarma’s attorney announced he’d use those very provisions to defend his client.

As pro-gun lobbyist Gary Marbut explains, the SF/SYG “revisions allow a structure’s resident to be presumed innocent when using lethal force to defend his or her property.” So innocent, in fact, that in the early months of Florida’s law, 100 shooters who would have otherwise been prosecuted and possibly imprisoned were not arrested, not prosecuted, not convicted, or had charges dismissed due to Shoot First / Stand Your Ground.

Castle Keep

Montana State Representative Ellie Hill, a Second Amendment supporter, doesn’t oppose the historic version of the castle doctrine, but she takes issue with the Shoot First / Stand Your Ground provisions added in 2009.

“What the [new law] has done in this country is it has created a culture of gun violence and vigilante justice,” Hill said, “and it’s created a culture that it’s OK to shoot first and ask questions later… What’s missing from the law is common sense.”

And that’s the problem. What are your views?

01 April 2012

Florida's Right to Kill Law

by Leigh Lundin

Three weeks ago, we brought you the story about Trayvon Martin's death when it was an early local issue. Since then the story has made national, even international headlines. The Reverend Jesse Jackson flew in and Friday the Reverend Al Sharpton called for 'action' and a boycott.

Our local NAACP has declined Sharpton's 'action' and boycott, thank you very much. We have a new prosecutor, the 11-month police chief stepped aside, and a majority of folks– including white folks– believe Trayvon Martin was terribly wronged.

Here's what most people don't know: Someone other than George Zimmerman is ultimately responsible.

Trayvon Martin

Shoot from the Lip

To be sure, radio wing-nuts assert we don't know how frightened and brave Ward Captain Zimmerman was to face an unarmed kid, and a gun group is advertising a George Zimmerman defense fund. Zimmerman's father claims we don't know all the facts and Zimmerman's brother made wild accusations that Martin grabbed the pistol and screamed "Tonight you die," which doesn't seem to fit known facts. We learned Zimmerman's magistrate father may have intervened on the side of his son in earlier arrests.

Worse, far-right sites such as StormFront have taken to defaming the teenager, falsifying photos and a police record. Yes, Trayvon was tattooed– with praying hands and a tribute to his grandmother.

In contrast, Trayvon's brother appeared level-headed and honest to a fault, saying he couldn't be certain if the screams heard on recordings are Trayvon or not. For the record, the Orlando Sentinel hired experts who, using two different technologies, demonstrated the screams weren't Zimmerman's.

Trayvon wasn't perfect, but we know that night the teen was innocent. That evening, he did nothing more wrong than buy tea and candy then walk home chatting with his 16-year-old girlfriend on his cell phone. The two had spent 400 minutes (6 hours 40 minutes!) chatting that day before the phone was knocked aside. Minutes later, he was killed mere meters from his house. [Note: We now know Rachel Jeantel was 19 and didn't consider herself a girlfriend.]


I'm not here to demonize the shooter, much as I believe he caused a tragic death. Although Sanford's police department has had problems, I'm not sure we can focus blame on police. Why? If prosecutors refuse to prosecute, how can police jail the accused? And according to detectives, police wanted to arrest George Zimmerman but prosecutors refused.

Certainly investigators made mistakes, beginning with not dispatching a homicide detective to the scene and accepting the word of George Zimmerman without question. They did not test Zimmerman for drugs or alcohol, violating standard procedure. They uncritically accepted recorded screams were the killer's, not the victim's. They stated neighbors' stories conflicted with 'known' evidence. They refused to release the 911 calls until forced to by attorneys.

But in the end, their hands were tied. Why? You're about to find out. I'm going out on a limb and say another man is more responsible for not only Trayvon Martin's death, but the murder of dozens of other Floridians.

Legislated to Kill

This man's name is Durell Peaden of Crestview, Florida, a former state senator, the genius behind 776.013§3 that gives Floridians the right to kill with virtual impunity, a law that tripled the number of 'justifiable homicide' killers set free, jumping from an average of thirty-four a year to more than a hundred. The lobbyist behind the law was NRA's Marion Hammer who argued Floridians needed more than a right to carry a weapon, they need the right to use it pretty much at will.

In 2005, our Sunshine State pioneered a law called 'Stand Your Ground', also called 'Never Retreat', 'Shoot First', 'License to Kill' and, according to Tallahassee State Attorney Willie Meggs, 'that stinking law'. This testosterone-powered statute supplanted the common (and sensible) 'castle doctrine', which gave people the right to defend their homes. Sneering at what they called 'the Brady bunch', the NRA claimed the new statute was needed to prevent authorities from harassing law-abiding citizens with petty arrests.

It's not a 'pro-gun' law nor are the law's opponents anti-gun, although politicos on both sides may argue otherwise. The new statute legalized an aggressive never-back-down philosophy. It says you don't have to walk away from a confrontation. It says you have the right to solve problems with a gun or a baseball bat or a knife or an ice pick.

Applied Murphy's Law

With impunity, it allowed a man to kill another in a playground argument over a skateboard– literally. It allowed a homeowner to legally shoot an inebriated man who knocked on the wrong door and asked for a light. Alcisviades Polanco walked after fatally stabbing another in the head with an ice pick. Numerous avoidable bar fights have needlessly ended in death… and without penalty.

Six months ago, Judge Richard Oftedahl of the 15th Judicial Circuit dismissed all charges against Michael Monahan, charged in a double homicide and facing the death penalty. Monahan walked after shooting two unarmed men from a distance of twenty feet, men who never laid a hand on him.

No Bad Deed Goes Uncopied

This bill was strongly opposed by law enforcement, prosecutors, liberals and conservatives alike, although it appealed to excitable wing-nut elements. Since its inception, as many as twenty-four states copied it.

Its first five years saw nearly a hundred claims of use with more than two-thirds resulting in death. The vast majority of these homicides were excused by prosecutors or, in cases where prosecution actually occurred, given a pass by the courts.

Those favoring the law declare it a great success with fewer people clogging the courts. Victims like Trayvon Martin might argue otherwise. Many of the cases have only two witnesses… one who winds up dead.

Law of Unintended Consequences

Police and prosecutors tried to warn legislators about the predictable effects of the law, but lawmakers blew off their concerns, seduced by NRA donations and that exciting chance to kill a human being. Sadly, they're not the ones paying the price.

For the record, if you think I'm letting George Zimmerman off the hook or if you think I'm opposed to gun ownership, then you've misread the article. What I'm for is common sense which is sadly missing in Florida.

Maybe it's legislative sunstroke.

One more small thing bothers me. In researching this article, I came across two cases in which Florida courts disallowed the Stand Your Ground defense. In both of those cases, the shooter happened to be… black.