Sunday, December 01, 2013

The nightmare before Christmas.

So, a couple in their 30s rents a home in a subdivision in a tiny town in the mountains of north Georgia, far out past Metro Atlanta's Oort cloud of strip malls and McMansions and actually closer to an exurb of Chattanooga than anything else.

They'd been there a couple weeks when late one night, they realize there's someone outside. A 911 call is placed and two deputies are dispatched to the scene.

While you're waiting on a Crown Vic to come from as much as half a county away, minutes can seem like hours. After nine or ten of those interminable minutes, the man of the house grabbed his .40-cal pistol and, leaving his girlfriend on the phone with the dispatcher, stepped outside to see who was in the yard.
"There was no light except for the front porch light," Wilson said, explaining there are no street lights at The Woodlands, the subdivision off North Marble Top Road west of Chickamauga.

"[Hendrix] gave several what he described as verbal commands," Wilson said. "[Westbrook] continued walking toward him after he told him to stop."
Fearing for his safety, Hendrix fired four shots, the sheriff said. One bullet hit Westbrook in the chest, killing him.
Now, it was dark outside, and in fairness, the light on the mysterious figure's "I'm A 72-y.o. Alzheimer's Patient" sign might have been burnt out, making it hard to read at 0400.

Seriously, though, most people living in the far outer 'burbs of a small city, knowing that someone is out there in the bushes, are probably going to feel completely safe and/or justified in grabbing a heater and going outside to check on the guy in the back yard if the cops don't show up immediately, without ever stopping to think about things like "What am I going to do if I tell him to 'Stop! Don't come closer!' and he does anyway?"

One thing that isn't completely clear from the article is that it sounds like the homeowner grabbed his gat, but didn't grab a flashlight. With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, the latter would likely have been a much better tool to solve the problem at hand.

An even better tool would have been to stay in the house and wait for the guy you called on the phone, the one dripping with qualified immunity, to show up and get the situation spattered all over him instead. Then we could all be talking about the cop who shot the guy for Not Respecting His Authoritah.

From a legal standpoint, this dude may be entirely in the right... which isn't going to buy him a wink of calm sleep in the future.

As Drang said elsewhere, the great warrior philosopher Chef gave us the solution for situations like this:

So, lessons learned?
  1. Never get out of the boat.
  2. If you do get out of the boat, bring a blankety-bleeping flashlight with you. If you are carrying a gun in the dark and you are not carrying a flashlight so that you can see what you are shooting at, you are acting the fool.
  3. You need to understand that when you are holding a gun and you say "Don't come any closer," the person may come closer anyway. Now what? This is a reminder that we maybe want to start thinking about that now while we're warm and dry and it's light outside and we're not all pressed for time or anything.