A while back, a reader of this website mentioned the tendency of newspapers to report that charges won’t be filed when a crime victim uses a gun to defend themselves against a violent criminal. His point was that the news media is showing anti gun, anti self defense bias by suggesting that even the most justified cases of self defense are somehow wrongful. A recent case of self defense and the corresponding news story really showcase this problem:
Facts of the case
About a week ago, a Utah criminal ambushed a female convenience store worker as she was taking the trash out. He was armed with a .22 rifle, and forced her back into the store, where there was another female employee. He made one of the women tie up the other, and then tied up that woman himself. One woman was able to get free from her bonds and a struggle for the gun ensued. The criminal was fatally shot with his own gun.
The Salt Lake Tribune story discussing the fact that the woman won’t be charged
The Sanpete County Attorney says he will not seek to penalize the woman who shot Antonio E. Ramos to death using his own weapon.
During the robbery, police said one of the two clerks got hold of the man’s rifle. It discharged and hit Ramos in the head.
County Attorney Ross Blackham said he reviewed the store’s security footage, spoke with police officers and interviewed the two clerks and decided he would not hold the clerk responsible for the robber’s death.
The problem that I see with this reporting is that it starts with the presumption that a hostage who manages to shoot their captor with his own gun might need to be penalized for that action. Then, it goes on to say that the victim won’t be “held responsible” for the criminal’s death, as though to imply that she is getting away with some wrongdoing, rather than having acted in the best way possible.
The fact is that any robbery is very dangerous for the victim(s). Robber often shoot even cooperative victims for not having enough money, not having any money, not having valuable enough property, or just for fun. Those who try to run away from robbers often don’t fare any better.
When criminals start taking hostages, instead of just trying to grab money and run, the situation is much more grim. Such criminals have been known to torture and sexually assault their victims for a long time, before finally killing them. While we will never know for sure what this Utah robber and kidnapper planned to do to these two women, I doubt that he planned to just take money from the cash register and leave, as it wouldn’t make sense to take time to tie up the women if he just wanted to take money and run. Fortunately, choosing to act in self defense saved these women from whatever horrors he would have inflicted upon them, and upon any future victims of his. For that reason, these women deserve a parade down Main Street and an award ceremony – not just the “honor” of not being criminally charged.
For those that think I’m being to harsh on the Salt Lake Tribune, another article which discusses a shooting that was determined to be justified self defense should show a less biased way of reporting the investigation’s outcome. Referring to the self defense shooting of a criminal who broke into an occupied truck sleeper cab:
Deputy district attorney John Gill says the trucker acted in self-defense. “The police did a very thorough investigation, which ultimately showed that the trucker was asleep in his truck when all of a sudden a rock comes through the window …” Gill told Land Line Now on Sirius XM. “He naturally took actions to protect himself, and we determined they were justified.”
My thanks to Don for pointing out the better example of self defense news coverage discussed immediately above.