In the early morning hours of October 30, 2016, police say that three people attempted to rob a Pizza Hut in Charlotte, NC. Among the alleged robbers was Michael Renard Grace Jr., who reportedly had a gun and was a former employee. An employee is said to have fired his own gun in self defense, fatally wounding Grace Jr. and ending the robbery. What makes this case stand out somewhat is the manner in which a local news outlet has treated the situation, giving the parents of the robber a soap box from which to blame the victim who stopped the robbery. Relevant portions of that article and my thoughts follow.
Police said Grace Jr and two other people tried to rob a Pizza Hut in the 3200 block of Freedom Drive. During the incident, an employee fired his own handgun and killed Grace Jr.
The pro-robber and anti-self-defense bias in that article begins early, not through what is said but through what is omitted. No where in that article is the fact that Grace Jr. had a gun mentioned. The previous article from the same news organization made note of the fact that Grace Jr. was armed with a gun. The omission of that fact speaks volumes about the bias present in that article.
“If there was to be a death, it was not the place of the employee at Pizza Hut. That is the place of law enforcement,” said Hairston.
Here, the robber’s mother fails to understand the basic idea of self defense. It is the right of every person who is facing a violent situation such as an armed robbery to defend themselves. The notion that a robbery victim should wait for the police is simply ridiculous, as the police will take at least minutes (if not much longer) to arrive after being called, while an armed robber can murder their victim in seconds. Self defense is about stopping a violent criminal before that criminal can inflict harm, which is distinct from the punishment of criminals that police and the court system handles. A crime victim certainly doesn’t have to endanger their life by waiting for the police to (maybe) respond.
Hairston and Grace Sr acknowledged that their son was breaking the law by robbing the business, and said they definitely don’t condone what he did.
That statement really should have been the only thing said in the article, as it is the only relevant point. Grace Jr. was committing a violent crime, as his own parents acknowledge. His death was a direct result of that decision that he made, and fault for his death lies only with him.
“It was an act of desperation, but I do not believe that Michael would have hurt anyone,” said Hairston.
Armed robbers are violent by definition. The whole point of a robbery is for the robber to threaten death or serious bodily harm to obtain compliance from the victim.
“Why in the hell did this guy have a gun?” questioned Hairston about the employee who shot her son.
This is perhaps the easiest question of all to answer – for self defense against violent armed robbers and other such criminals. It is the same reason that millions of law-abiding Americans carry a gun, as they don’t wish to end up dead because an armed robber just felt like murdering them even after they complied, or decided to shoot them because there wasn’t enough money to steal. Here, the employee had a gun because there are dangerous people (like Grace Jr.) in the world, and so good people should be armed so that they do not die at the hands of a violent criminal.
She said her son was shot in the head, and she thinks the shooting may have even been personal, citing past conflicts Grace Jr had had with other employees at the restaurant.
“This wasn’t a body shot. This was a head shot. My son was shot in the left side of his head just behind his ear. A headshot is personal,” said Hairston.
When acting in self defense, the goal is to stop the criminal before it is too late. A shot to the head or chest is likely the best way to promptly stop such a criminal. There is no merit in second-guessing a crime victim’s shot placement.
Even though their son was in the process of committing a crime, the family thinks his death was undeserved and unjustified. “Even a criminal has a right to a degree,” said Grace Sr. “I’m not advocating what my son did.”
Again there seems to be confusion between self defense and vigilantism. Self defense is about the right that each of us has to stop a violent criminal who is attacking us before that violent criminal can inflict harm. The purpose of self defense is the protection of the crime victim. Vigilantism is taking the law into one’s own hands to punish a criminal after the crime has been completed and there is no longer any immediate danger. For example, when a robbery victim draws their own gun and shoots a robber during the robbery, that is self defense and is completely proper. On the other hand, tracking down the robber a week later and attacking them would be vigilantism.
Grace Jr was just 29-years-old and leaves behind a young son.
Here we have an attempt by the article’s author to tug on the heartstrings of readers. Fault for leaving Grace Jr.’s son without a father lies entirely with Grace Jr., as he shouldn’t have chosen to commit a violent crime such as armed robbery.