I’ve recently discussed the self defense shooting of Antwun Parker, who was part of an armed robber team that attacked an Oklahoma City pharmacy. I’ve also discussed how the dead armed robber’s family wrongfully blamed the pharmacy worker who acted in self defense. That pharmacy worker, Jerome Ersland has since been charged with murder for defending himself. More information on this situation, and my thoughts about it, are below:
The security camera footage shows two robbers entering the pharmacy. One of the robbers, a 14 year old, had a gun and threatened the life of the pharmacy worker and other innocent people in the pharmacy. The other robber, 16 year old Antwun Parker, pulled a ski mask over his face as he rushed towards the pharmacy worker. The pharmacy worker shot Parker once in the head, and then chased the other robber away. Coming back from chasing the other robber away, the pharmacy worker shot Parker 5 additional times. The medical examiner believes that Parker was unconscious after the first shot, and was killed by the 5 subsequent shots. The pharmacy worker has been charged with murder, and is out on bail. The judge required that the pharmacy worker surrender his guns, and not associate with individuals who have guns. Surveillance video of the robber and self defense gun use can be seen here: http://www.koco.com/video/19584268/
My thoughts, generally
Simply put, my opinion about this self defense gun use remains the same as it was from day one: I believe this pharmacy worker acted in self defense, and should not face any criminal or civil liability for doing so.
The prosecution’s theory is that Ersland pharmacy worker should not have fired after that first shot, which they say incapacitated Parker, but would not have killed him. This theory is rather flawed. Firstly, Ersland cannot know with certainly whether the ski mask wearing robber has been incapacitated, or is about to resume attacking any second. Unlike the medical examiner, who had time to do a thorough autopsy and determine when Parker became unconscious, Erland had only seconds to assess whether the robber who had just rushed at him a moment ago was still a threat. By shooting again, Ersland ensured that he would not suffer at the hands of a violent criminal, as could have happened if Parker had suddenly drawn a gun gun or knife to resume the attack. Secondly, unlike the prosecutor and medical examiner, who could calmly assess the situation from the comfort of their offices the next day, Ersland was in a life and death situation, with his adrenaline going and fearing for his life. That is a tough situation for even a seasoned cop, much less a pharmacy worker who was just going about his lawful business before suddenly being attacked. As such, I believe that the actions of the pharmacy worker should be paid a great deal of deference. Taking any other view will create a situation where crime victims hesitate to defend themselves, fearing that they may face legal consequences for acting in self defense. Since criminals don’t hesitate,such crime victims will be at a potentially deadly disadvantage, which is quite unjust.
I also disagree with the judge’s requirement that the pharmacy worker give up his guns and not associate with those who have guns. This man has just been victimized by a pair of criminals, and then publicly condemned by the family of that dead criminal. If he ever needed a gun for self defense, now is that time. It is just wrong to deprive this man, who has been convicted of no crime, of the right to have a gun for self defense, or to even associate with those who have guns.
My responses to a few comments
I’ve received a few emails and comments from people on both sides of this issue, and would like to take a moment to address some of those remarks. I’ve paraphrased most of these statements, in order to make the statements clearer and more concise.]
[The dead robber was only a 16 year old boy, making this an unjustified use of force.]
It is indeed sad that the dead robber turned out to be a 16 year old, whose accomplice was a 14 year old. However their young ages are irrelevant insofar as the (lack of) fault of the pharmacy worker is concerned. An armed 14 or 16 year old robber is just as capable as murdering an innocent store clerk as a 30 year old man. Indeed, younger individuals tend to have faster reflexes, possibly making them better able to kill. These 14 and 16 year old criminals knew what they were doing was wrong, and chose to do so anyway. A law abiding citizen is under no duty to risk death, in order to preserve the life of a violent criminal who attacks, regardless of that criminal’s age. Also, as a practical matter, even if the age of the robber mattered, it is not reasonable to expect the clerk to quickly determine the age of the robbers as they threaten his life with a gun.
[It was not the place of the pharmacy worker to kill the robber. He should have called the police and let the courts deal with the situation.]
This idea incorrectly confuses self defense with vigilante justice. This article clears up that confusion in more detail, but here is a quick answer to that unfounded assertion: The fact is that calling the police is not an option when a pair of armed criminals are attacking. Even if the pharmacy worker had been able to get to the phone, the police would have taken minutes to get there, while the robbers could have killed him in seconds. As someone who is opposed to capital punishment, I do not wish to see anyone killed for any reason, however it is sometimes necessary to fatally injure a criminal in order to stop that criminal from continuing their attack. In such cases, it is far better that the criminal die than their innocent victim(s), and fault for that criminal’s death lies with that criminal, and any accomplices, not the innocent victim who defends himself or herself.
The dead robber turned out to not have a gun on his person, making the pharmacy worker’s use of deadly force unreasonable.
This statement fails to appreciate the danger posed by an armed robbery, and the inability of an armed robbery victim to thoroughly investigate every aspect of the situation before defending himself or herself. In this situation, the 14 year old robber had a gun and was pointing it at the pharmacy worker. The dead 16 year old robber was rushing the pharmacy worker, while donning a ski mask. In short, this pharmacy worker faced a deadly threat to his life, and it is not reasonable to expect him to be able to figure out which robber has a gun, as his life is being threatened by another robber. Trying to do so could have cost the pharmacy worker his life. Indeed, even if the pharmacy worker could have known that Antwun Parker didn’t have a gun, either in his hand or in his pocket, that doesn’t mean that the pharmacy worker would have been wrong to shoot Parker. That is because Parker could have produced a knife, crowbar, or other deadly instrument and attacked. Parker could also have tried to take the pharmacy worker’s gun, or attack another innocent person on the store. Again, armed robberies are ultra dangerous situations, and it is just not reasonable to expect victims to hesitate, since doing so can be fatal.
[The pharmacy worker is Caucasian, the armed robber was African American, and there is therefore some element of racism in the pharmacy worker’s actions.]
Since race has been brought up, let me be clear that I say the following as an African American, who knows that racism is still a problem in our world, and who has experienced racism plenty of times in his life: It is utterly unfair to try and cast this self defense gun use as a race issue. Here we have a man who was going about his lawful business, when attacked by a pair of armed and violent criminals. Regardless of the race of the victim or the criminals, this is a deadly threat, and a reasonable person of any race would defend themselves. Those of my fellow African Americans who try to cast this as a race issue are doing a disservice to themselves and all African Americans, as racial equality is the goal – not the making of excuses for criminals who happen to have the same skin color.
State Rep. Randy Terrill, known for his tough stance against crime, criticized the district attorney. “This charge is absolutely wrong, wrong, wrong,” he said. “It is Monday morning quarterbacking at its worst. It gives more deference to armed robbers than to the man acting in self-defense.”
I couldn’t agree more, and hope that the voters in that district remember this prosecutor’s actions during the next election.
My thanks to everyone who has emailed me stories and comments about this situation.