Skip to comments.Victims making hardest choice (Split-second decision to shoot back changes, ends lives)
Posted on 09/30/2002 5:11:31 AM PDT by SLB
At Sigma Imports in Little Rock, Chris Gaudet was negotiating the new guys salary one day last month, ignoring the security video he usually watches from his desk.
His office door slowly swung open, nudged by a salesman trying to warn his boss that two gunmen were trying to rob the place.
Gaudet saw someone with a red cloth over his face and a gun in his grip yelling for everyone to hit the lobby floor.
Gaudet grabbed his Colt.357-caliber pistol from the desk drawer. "It was so quick," he said. "It was all reaction."
This is what you carry the gun for, Gaudet thought, images racing through his mind.
His baby daughters faces: Rylee, Ashlyn. His dad, the ex-Marine, and his motto: Be first, fast, hard.
Keep the nose down, he reminded himself.
"Freeze!" he yelled.
Gaudet didnt see the second gunman, who fired from a crouch, sending a bullet streaking inches away from Gaudets torso.
Gaudet shot back, missing the shooter but killing the first gunman, Charles Patillo, 17. The second gunman ran but was later captured and charged with manslaughter.
The Aug. 28 shooting was the latest of several in Little Rock in recent months in which wouldbe victims have fought back. Six such cases in the past six months is more than usual, police say, although most experts do not see a larger trend.
Faced with danger, people dont have much time to weigh their options and consider the consequences.
State law upholds the right to use deadly force to save a life or prevent a violent felony, arson or burglary. But actions tak- en on instinct and in seconds will be scrutinized by police and prosecutors, who decide whether the act was self-defense or a crime itself.
The distinction is sometimes unclear. Even when a victims actions seem in line with the law, he still can be plagued by uncertainty. Taking another life can change his own.
Gaudet said police assured him he had done nothing wrong, but he still worries other people will think of him as a killer.
"I was very nervous about what happened," Gaudet said. "I had made all the decisions. Now everyone gets to second-guess me."
THE LAST OPTION
Officials generally consider victims of armed robbery to be legitimately afraid for their lives. But if an act of defense is deemed out of proportion to the threat, the defender can be charged with a felony.
On July 9, two teens were browsing in Lees Fashion World on Base Line Road in southwest Little Rock when owner Carl Berry accused them of shoplifting, according to court documents.
The teens ran, and one grabbed a handful of clothes, Berry told police.
So Berry followed them, firing his.38-caliber pistol three or four times at their backs as they ran, bullets crossing the parking lot and busy Base Line Road on a Monday morning, police said.
No one was hurt, but Berry, 41, faces an aggravated assault charge. He fired "under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life," according to the prosecutors office.
"Human life, no matter if its a burglars, shoplifters or whatever, is considered more valuable than any property," Little Rock Police Lt. Alice Fulk said. "Deadly force is really the last option that should be used by anyone."
Pulaski County Prosecuting Attorney Larry Jegley said his office typically sees six to 10 cases of armed self-defense each year. Charges are seldom immediate because of the nuances involved in each one. To charge someone who claims self-defense, an investigation must explore not only who did what, but why.
About two weeks after the shooting at Lees, an employee at Popatop Inc. liquor store on South University Avenue in Little Rock thought two men stole a bottle of cognac. He followed them to the parking lot and demanded it back.
The men got in their car and slammed on the gas, almost hitting the employee as they drove off, he told police.
He drew his 9 mm handgun and fired four times at a passenger-side tire. No one was hurt, and he was not charged.
The employee told police he felt his life was in danger. The alleged shoplifters escaped despite their deflated tire, and no one disputed the employees account.
The perception of a threat must be supported by witnesses and forensic evidence to hold up in court, Jegley said.
"There are a lot of variables in the stew when you make the call to use deadly physical force or not," Jegley said. "What the person shooting believes and feels is a factor. Youve got to take into consideration issues of credibility. Is this someone whos been in business 15 or 20 years without being involved in any tomfoolery when some miscreant decides hes going to do him out of something?
"Then, all other things being equal, youve got to take them at their word."
The rate of self-defense shootings fluctuates with the crime rate, experts say.
Little Rock police investigated 555 robberies from January through August 2002, compared with 351 in the same period in 2001, according to the agencys monthly activity reports.
Robberies of businesses decreased slightly, with the increase coming in robberies of individuals. Many of those attacks are tied to drugs or other criminal activity, Little Rock police spokesman Sgt. Terry Hastings said.
Since the national violent crime rate has fallen in the past decade, its "highly unlikely" that self-defense shootings are rising nationally, said Gary Kleck, professor of criminology and criminal justice at Florida State University.
In addition, Kleck said, "The different states have these huge variations in terms of what situation a person has to be in before the use of deadly force is justifiable."
In Florida and many other eastern states, people are required to retreat from a conflict instead of defending themselves. There is no duty to retreat in many western states. In Arkansas, retreat is not required if retreating is as dangerous as standing ones ground.
Kleck said he knows of no group that scientifically catalogs armed self-defense.
A group of more than 200 volunteers called Operation Self-Defense is trying to fill that void. The group, whose members are scattered all over the country, posts news accounts of armed self-defense on its Web site, www.keepandbeararms.com. "The more we look, the more stories we find," said David Miller, the groups assistant director. "The more people hear about armed self-defense, the more people will consider defending themselves."
Gaudet said friends offered so much praise that it made him feel uncomfortable. One stranger sent him a $10 check and a note that said, "Lunch is on me."
"Its really shown me a lot about whats going on out there," Gaudet said. "Theres a lot of angry people out there. Theres a lot of people that feel helpless."
Elsewhere in Little Rock in recent months, criminals found fighters where they expected victims.
One robber was killed and his partner wounded in March when they entered Sims Bar-B-Que on West 33rd Street at dinnertime, waving guns and demanding the bank bag. Owner Ronald Settlers pulled a.380-caliber gun from behind the counter and shot them.
In June, two men burst into the Shell Super Stop at Interstate 30 and Ninth Street. One emptied his gun at the clerks leg. After the gunman ran out of bullets, his partner fled and the clerks brother and a customer tackled the shooter and beat him in the face with his own weapon.
In August, a man with a.45-caliber gun threw open the door at Spot Liquor at Main Street and Roosevelt Road and demanded money.
"The stuff happens so quick youre not really thinking about what youre allowed to do and what youre not allowed to do," said Brenda Gartin, who was working behind the counter with her fiance, Marvin Taylor. "Youre just trying to save your life."
Taylor grabbed a gun from behind the register and shot the robber in the face. The robber was charged. Taylor wasnt.
The prosecutors office has not closed its files on the shootings at Spot Liquor, Sims, the Super Stop and Sigma Imports, although none of the business owners or employees in those cases has been charged.
THE MOST HORRIBLE DECISION
In a life-or-death situation, people dont think they react, Dave Grossman said.
Grossman, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, has developed a field of study called "killology" and directs an organization called the Killology Research Group in Jonesboro.
Under the stress of combat, some senses and physical functions sharpen while others shut down. The heartbeat doubles, even triples. People lose hearing, peripheral vision, depth perception and control over small movements. They couldnt hit the right buttons if they wanted to dial 9-1-1. They cant think, and yet they face "one of the most horrible decisions a human being will ever have to make," Grossman said.
Gaudet never really saw the teenager who shot at him, just heard his fire and saw the swirl of the robbers braids moving for the door. Gaudet said he thought about firing again at the uninjured gunman as he pushed his wounded partner outside.
"It went through my mind, why not just pull the trigger? But I didnt feel any threat. He was running," Gaudet said.
Experts say the only way to make the right decision in a lifeor-death situation is to know the law and have firearm training.
"Before you get a gun, you have got to acknowledge in your mind that [you are] capable of killing another human being," Grossman said. "If youre not able to wrap your mind around that, the odds are your gun is not going to help and may even be harmful."
Twenty-four hours after the shooting, Gaudet sat behind the desk where he fired the shot. He said he felt like an inner tube was tightening around his chest. He checked his hands. Still shaking.
He remembered the gunmens nervousness, the jumpy way they moved, how the guns seemed to hop in their jerking hands, the way the one he later shot came in panting so hard the red cloth covering his face surged in and out.
"Ive always been a guy to say hi and talk to people," Gaudet said. "I never thought Id be a guy that would do what I did."
Four weeks later, Gaudet said he still suffers from anxiety, bronchitis and other health problems he never had before. He wished he hadnt had to shoot the teenager, but said he would do the same thing again. The robbers came to his business threatening to kill him and his employees, and he couldnt let that happen.
"I know Im not a killer," he said. "I felt that when I pointed the gun at that kid well, I didnt know he was a kid, I thought he was a guy I was doing what I could to protect myself and the people in my business, and I did it to the best of my ability."
The British disease is infecting our legal theory.
First (biggest, and could have been his last) mistake. Once I have identified you as intending to do harm to me, family, etc. the only warning I will provide is the muzzle flash from one or both of my .44's, 12 GA, or whatever is closest to me. I am no longer a a combatant goverend by the Geneva Convention nor a member of law enforcement. I see no up side in taking prisoners or of wounding or subduing an assailant. I want you dead, the deader the better. If I could find bullets I could put in you that would kill the she-wolf that birthed you I'd use them.
There, that's more warning than you deserve.
>"It went through my mind, why not just pull the trigger? But I didnt feel any threat. He was running," Gaudet said.
I guess people who carry need training in how to keep these personal reflections to themselves and to say certain stock legal phrases.
I know a fellow who had to kill in self-defense. He was arrested and had no problems sleeping that night in jail. He was ultimately aquitted and has never had any physical manestations of guilt. He says he wishes it didn't happen, but he can't say he would do anything differently.
It depends on the person. Some people walk out of simunition training and throw up, and some want a snack.
I feared for my life.
I just wanted to stop him.
Hit your target, say the right phrases. Practice, practice.
Jeez, what was he using, a BB gun? An air pistol? Believe me, if I shot someone in the face with my pistol, he wouldn't be charged with anything; he would have to be squeegeed off the floor.
Better than being thought of as a corpse.
.357 magnum bump
Gaudet shot back, missing the shooter but killing the first gunman, Charles Patillo, 17. The second gunman ran but was later captured and charged with manslaughter.
This is much superior to British law where the innocent man defending his life and property would have been charged.
Over a bottle of cognac? That seems a bit over the top.
Although the perps aren't likely to target that particular establishment again. Or perhaps they might...for revenge.
Stay well - Stay safe - Stay armed - Yorktown
Those were my thoughts, also.
But (at least here in Konnecticut) we are not allowed to carry into banks - my gun would have been locked in my car, (how insane).
But say this scene played out in a diner instead - when ordered on the floor, would I have drawn and fired?
I say a prayer every morning before I leave the house that God might direct me in the proper use of my firearm that day...
There probably would have been 4 less illegals (excuse me, undocumented workers doing the jobs Americans don't want to do) roaming the streets ... probably would have kept some or all of the victims at the bank alive ... more families with parents at home instead of at the morgue.
I can see no downside to the hypothetical that someone (a law-abiding someone) at the bank was armed and shot back.
I couldn't agree more. Besides the muzzle flash, report, and the sounds made by a deflated bag of guts hitting the floor, the only other sounds I'm going to hear will be the ejected casings landing. Having been on the intended wrong end of a home invasion attempt makes events like this seem crystal clear. There is no time for thought - only reaction. Fire as fast and as accurately as you can. Remember that your weapon goes THROUGH anything in your home - there is nowhere to hide for them. If the criminals were not all armed (as in one out of two had a firearm for instance), be sure to arm the corpses with anything - knife, bat, or even a BB gun. That way you are sure the cops will have no questions.
As I recall, the bank manager shot and killed both the would-be robbers as soon as they presented a threat. We would have fewer bank robberies in Kentucky if more managers responded as did this man.
Yes, it is a sad and rather sick commentary that, as this man said, he had to make his life-or-death decisions in fractions of a second, and now he gets to be armchair-quarterbacked by creatures with mostly political considerations in mind. It would appear that his actions were completely justified and sanctioned by the events he found himself thrust into. I hope his after-effects subside and he suffers no legal consequences.
As for events in Nebraska, it's of course impossible to say. At the very least, it's always good to have some chance versus none, and to go down fighting, rather than die like a sheep.
Huh?? I thought CCW was legal in Florida. When did they do away with the right of self defense?
The moral? Don't work at any shop in the ghetto where the name of the business starts with 'S'.
Seriously, though, a pat on the back is in order for these good clean shoots. This outcome is so much better than catching these little hoodlums and locking them up in prison for a few years, then letting them out again. Good riddance.
Mega-bump. I couldn't agree more.
There is a tendency in the media to blur the distinction between a threat to property and a threat to one's life. For example, an unarmed shoplifter ripping off a store isn't threatening anyone's life, but an armed robber who points a gun at anyone, for whatever reason, even if he "only" wants money, is absolutely threatening life, and a deadly-force response is absolutely warranted. Now and then we hear the uninformed bleating "oh, I'd give him my wallet rather than shooting back, money isn't worth killing somebody over," comfortable in the erroneous assumption that the issue is money. It isn't. When the gun comes out it is ipso facto a direct threat to life, and I wish the media would write from this perspective - it might save somebody.
Worked for me.
It would be nice if everyone felt the same towards the unborn life.
...Not to change the subject, but that phrase just jumped out at me.