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Laying down the law, FR post

Laying down the law

Fed up with crime, 67-year-old man fires on 3 engaged in shootout in his front yard


The last time police came by his Tripe Street home to investigate complaints about drug dealing in the West Ashley neighborhood, William Gates made it clear to them that he had had enough.

"I told the police, 'Bring the coroner and body bags the next time you come out here,' " he said. "Nobody is going to run me out of my home."

William Gates of West Ashley talks about how he fired a 12-gauge shotgun three times early Friday at three men who were having a shootout in his front yard. Gates apparently wounded two of the men, who he said were drug dealers.
The coroner and body bags weren't needed Friday morning because when Gates made good on his statement, he only wounded the men he shot. But it wasn't for lack of trying.

"I shot to kill," he said. "I'm not going to lie to you."

Roused from his sleep by the sound of gunfire about 4:30 a.m. Friday, the 67-year-old Gates took up his 12-gauge Browning automatic shotgun, stepped out onto his front porch and fired three blasts at men he said were drug dealers having a shootout in his front yard.

When the shooting stopped, three men lay wounded. Gates is said to have hit two of them, and the third is thought to have been hit during the initial shootout.

Gates, a semi-retired brick mason who drives a battered blue Chevrolet S-10 pickup truck with an airbrushed tag on the front bumper that says "Godfather," said Friday afternoon that he was only protecting his wife and house from what he describes as out-of-control neighborhood thugs in their teens and 20s who drink beer and sell and take drugs in his yard. He said gunshots fired near his house during drug-related disputes are a common occurrence.

"I had had enough," he said. "If I have to go to jail, so be it."

While police did not publicly approve of what Gates did, they filed no charges against him Friday.

"We have no plans to arrest him," Charleston Police Chief Reuben Greenberg said. "We can't see from where we sit where a crime's been committed. People have the right to provide for their safety, and we believe that is what he was doing."

Greenberg said the decision on whether Gates will be charged will be made by the solicitor's office, a decision likely to come early next week. Meanwhile, Greenberg said police patrols in the neighborhood will be increased.

Gates was born in the house on Tripe Street. It was his parent's house, and they passed it on to him when they died.

Tripe Street was a good part of the neighborhood at one time, Gates said, but began going downhill fast about 10 years ago. The narrow, tree-lined street is home to many houses that have seen better times and, according to police, the area is a magnet for illegal activity, much of it drug related.

"Drugs, stealing, a little bit of everything," said Gates' wife, Yvonne.

She said that last year someone fired a shot through their living room. The bullet hole can be seen in the wall that faces the street.

"The good Lord was with me that day because I had just moved my grandbaby from that couch," Yvonne Gates said. "She would have been killed because the bullet hit the couch."

The Gateses' yard is littered with empty 32-ounce beer cans and other trash they say was put there by the young people who loiter in the area until the early hours of the morning.

William Gates' anger finally reached critical mass early Friday morning when he and his wife were awakened by the gunshots, which police say was likely the result of a dispute over drugs, outside their bedroom window.

Gates said he heard his wife yell and fall to the floor.

"I thought they shot my wife," he said. "I went and got my gun and fired three shots."

Investigators were trying to determine exactly who shot whom, but it is known that Kevin Hazel, 27, was found lying in the bushes in front of the Gateses' house. He had been shot in the back with a 9 mm pistol. Matez Hazel, 24, and Christopher Hampton, 22, both suffered shotgun wounds.

All three were in intensive care recovering from their wounds. Police said Friday they don't know yet whether the three men, all of whom previously have been in trouble with the law for drugs, will be charged with any crimes.

Police found a 9 mm handgun and three spent shell casings next to Matez Hazel, and said he had a small amount of marijuana wrapped in a $5 bill in his sock.

Gates, who is an avid hunter and proudly displays two large mounted deer heads among the photographs of children and grandchildren in his living room, had all seven of the guns he owns confiscated by the police until their investigation is complete. He vows that he will be ready if friends of the three men try to retaliate, and he smiled as he said he planned to acquire a gun to protect himself.

"They better make sure they get me if they come back, because if they don't get me, I'm going to kill all of them," Gates said. "I'm 67 and don't have that long to live anyway."

Gates said all he wants is peace and quiet and to be able to come home to his wife and not see drugs being sold in front of his house. He said he refuses to move.

"Why should I go?" he said. "I'd sooner be dead."
Self-defense at issue in frontyard shooting


Last suspect in fatal holdup is caught

Deputies on Thursday arrested the third and final suspect wanted in connection with the deadly attempted robbery of a Pompano Beach jewelry store.

BSO detectives Thursday arrested Damian Jerome Wilkey, 19, at his home at 1317 NW Second Ave. in Fort Lauderdale. Wilkey and three other men tried to hold up Jewelry Francy's at 231 SW 6 St. on July 30, according to BSO. One of the robbers died at the scene.

During an interview with detectives, Wilkey confessed, telling investigators how he and the others had plotted to rob the store, according to BSO.

Despite their plans, the robbery went bad for Wilkey and his armed accomplices when the store's owner, 40-year-old Meliton Aguirre, pulled a pistol and fired at them.

One suspect, Jamel Shelton, 20, of Pompano Beach, was found bleeding to death in the store parking lot.

Another suspect, Collin Cheatom, 21, of Pompano Beach, was arrested July 31 for his part in the crime. Cheatom had gunshot wounds to his elbow and wrist when deputies found him.

David Spencer Hollis, 22, of Pompano Beach, was arrested Sept. 8 in connection with the aborted robbery.

Wilkey, Cheatom, and Hollis are all being held without bond and are charged with killing Shelton.

The charge stems from Florida's law that a person involved in a crime can be held responsible for any death that occurs during the crime.

Four employees inside the store at the time of the robbery attempt were not hurt.




The life-rendering thud of a heavily tattooed body on the streets of Marda Loop transformed a city shopkeeper into a reluctant folk hero.

It was 2 p.m., Nov. 8, 1986.

A crisp Saturday afternoon forever forged into Steven Kesler's memory. Kesler and his wife had bought the I.D.A. on 33 Ave. S.W. in early 1984 and were no strangers to drug-loving robbers.

This hold-up, however, would turn out to be dramatically different.

Two bandits entered Kesler's store demanding money and drugs. With his two daughters and his wife in the store, a shocked Kesler opened the till and pressed the alarm button.

Then came the moment Kesler has grown to regret. The then-40-year-old Yugoslavian immigrant grabbed his shotgun and chased one of the crooks out the door before pumping 120 pellets into 27-year-old Timothy Smith.

As Smith lay dying on the street, $115 still clutched in his fist, Kesler ran back into the store where he encountered the other robber holding a gun to his wife's head as she filled a bag with drugs.

His daughters, 11 and 13, were cowering under some shelves. A furious gunfight erupted.

Both men ran out of ammunition before Kesler began to beat the robber about the head with his shotgun.

The bandit suffered shoulder wounds and was charged with a number of offences.

Kesler was charged with second-degree murder.

The public was outraged.

Kesler had become the poster boy for every small businessman who ever stared a crook in the balaclava.

More than $40,000 was raised for his defence fund and Kesler became a national celebrity.

On June 25, 1987, after months of hype, 12 days of emotional evidence and 15 hours of deliberation, a jury acquitted Kesler.

His lawyer James Ogle stood outside the steps of Calgary's Court of Queen's Bench and told the country's media there was no message in the ruling.

"(There is) no signal except that this man, in these circumstances, was justified," Ogle said.

The message actually comes nearly two decades after the sensational shooting. It comes from Kesler himself.

"I wouldn't have done the same," said Kesler yesterday, from the same store in Marda Loop he still runs with his wife.

He said he would have suffered the robbery and let police deal with the bad guys.

"I have regrets. A man died," he said.

"We have to consider the mother of that man and her unconditional love for him."

Kesler says he will never get over the events of that fateful November afternoon.

"People say that time heals wounds," he says in a disbelieving tone.

"I am actually amazed at how many people carry the memory of my case.

"It's been more than 16 years and I've been reminded (by customers) at least once a week. It is, in a way, troubling."

Last Sunday in Edmonton, electronics store owner Shand King was charged after a pair of thieves who rammed a stolen truck into his store were fired upon.

They were prying a $20,000 Plasma TV from a wall before the store opened when the shots rang out.

One of the robbers was wounded but will live. The other is at large and, as of this writing, neither has been charged.

Shand's wife Betsy says the store has been robbed four or five times in four years.

Ogle says many of the public emotions that dominated Kesler's case will be revived for Shand's trial.

"If I was the prosecution, I wouldn't be anxious for a jury trial in Alberta," said Ogle yesterday.

So, does vigilante justice pay?

Kesler suffered five robberies in the first two-and-half years he owned his drug store.

Since the shooting, Kesler's been robbed only once.

And even though a jury of his peers acquitted him of any crime, his conscience is serving a life sentence.

Hardly worth it.

9 posted on 12/02/2003 11:09:24 AM PST by Coleus (Only half the patients who go into an abortion clinic come out alive.)
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Laying down the law

11 posted on 12/02/2003 11:17:07 AM PST by Coleus (Only half the patients who go into an abortion clinic come out alive.)
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