by Annette Dashofy
A recent local news story has struck a nerve with me. Maybe it’s because I know the accused. Or KNEW him. I went to high school with him.
A community a few miles from my home has been in the news lately, but that isn’t what caught my attention when I first read the headline in the newspaper. What hit me was the name of the accused. It was a name I knew.
This isn’t the first time I’ve known someone in the news. All too often, I’ve recognized the name of the victim of a crime in the local paper. On occasion, I’ve even recognized the name of the person committing the crime. But usually I see that name and think, well, I’m not surprised. He always WAS a little creepy.
But not this time. This time I read that a sweet, quiet guy that I was friends with in school had shotgunned a teen in the back. My first thought was: something had to have provoked him. He’s not the type to randomly blow holes in people.
I’m not going to mention his name. I don’t want to cause him or his family any more grief. But if you’re in the Pittsburgh area and have seen the news in the last week, you’ve heard the story. Two teen boys in masks confronted him as he returned home from work at 5:30AM. This was the second time. The first time, he’d been able to jump back in his car to avoid them. This time, they had a baseball bat and struck him with it as they demanded money.
My old friend’s mistake was in grabbing his gun and shooting as the teens left. He shot the kid in the back. The other kid took off. Apparently, he didn’t consider his wounded compadre worth the risk of getting a load of buckshot in his own butt. Can’t really blame him. No honor among thieves, as they say.
So because he didn’t go for his gun while under attack, at which point the kids very likely would have taken the weapon and used it on him instead, he is being charged with attempted homicide.
I know, I know. He was wrong. I admit it. Technically, he wasn’t defending himself. But these kids had gone after him before. He lives with his mother. He just wanted to put an end to the harassment.
This guy with the shotgun was not a Rambo or a Terminator. I remember him as a bit of a nerd. Not one of the COOL kids. That was what we had in common that made us friends. Nerds get picked on. Somehow, I suspect he’s still a little nerdy (as mentioned, he lives with his mom). I suspect that he couldn’t take it anymore. Some will call it vigilantism. Maybe it is a little. But in this case, I think more than likely it was fear that drove him to shoot that kid. Fear that it wouldn’t end there. Fear that they would keep coming back. And I’m not so sure that this wasn’t a true case of self-defense. Okay, his life was not in jeopardy at that moment. But he’d already been beaten with a bat. He’d already been intimidated and made to fear for his life. Shouldn’t that count for something?
What do you think? Where do we draw the lines for self-defense and why? Do the laws we have now make sense? Or are changes needed? And should this quiet man who minded his own business and kept to himself until pressed to take action go to prison for attempted homicide? Perhaps most importantly, what would you do in his shoes?