I’ve previously discussed how prosecutors, news outlets, and the families of criminals have a tendency to wrongfully blame a crime victim who defends themselves against a violent criminal. Sadly, there is another such case:
Luke Sanchez, a 38 year old man from Belen, New Mexico and a former US Marine, was driving near his home when he saw a business bing burglarized. As someone who had been the victim of repeated crimes over the last few months, he felt a civic duty to help the business owner. He called 911, and followed the criminal’s van, trying to the their license plate number. The criminals realized they were being followed, stopped their van, and then and approached Sanchez’s truck. One of the criminals, who had a lengthy criminal record that included attacking a police officer, broke Sanchez’s truck’s window, hit Sanchez in the face, and tried to pull him from the vehicle. Fearing for his life, Sanchez fired one shot, which killed the violent criminal. The criminal’s accomplice then fled, and remains at large. Sanchez has been charged with murder for defending himself against the violent criminal, and remains in custody in lieu of a $100,000 bond.
This decision to charge Sanchez with murder is as unreasonable as it gets. Here, Sanchez was not an aggressor, was in a place that he had a right to be, and only used his gun to save himself from an imminent threat of death or grievous bodily harm. In my law school graduate and soon-to-be attorney opinion, this is a cut and dry self defense case.
In this case, Sanchez saw a crime being committed. Apparently understanding that vigilantism is wrong and illegal, Sanchez did the right thing by calling 911 and attempting to get the criminal’s license plate number, so that he could give that information to the police. He was fully within his rights as a citizen to call 911, follow a vehicle, and report its license plate number. Note that Sanchez had a gun this whole time, but did not use it or even attempt to confront the criminals. In short, he obeyed the law and did not try to take justice into his own hands. Upon seeing that Sanchez was recording their license plate number, the criminals then stopped their vehicle and began to attack him. Sanchez showed great restraint in not using his gun after one of the criminal broke his window and begin to beat him about the face. It was only when Sanchez (quite reasonably) feared for his life as the criminal tried to drag him from his truck that he fired in self defense. Sadly, the police and prosecutor have chosen to charge an innocent man with murder. While I’m confident that no reasonable judge or jury will convict Sanchez, he will still have to suffer by being held in jail in lieu of $100,000 bail, suffer the emotional effects of being away from his family and on trial for his life, and endure financially crippling legal fees. Situations like this are why every state needs a “stand your ground” law like Florida enacted.
Predictably, the sister of the dead criminal’s sister has set out to vilify Sanchez for defending himself. She said:
“I’ve had things stolen, I don’t have to go after nobody,” she said. “I don’t use a gun, I don’t carry a gun in my truck.”
Starting with the first statement, the dead criminal’s sister suggests that Sanchez shot the criminal to preserve property. That is not the case, as I discussed above. Instead, Sanchez properly called 911 and tried to get the criminal’s license plate number. That was the extent of his efforts to stop the criminals from stealing, and those efforts were completely lawful – and morally correct as well. It was only when the criminals then attacked him for doing so that he used force to save himself from that attack.
The second part of the dead criminal’s sister’s statement suggests that carrying a gun in one’s truck or on one’s person is somehow wrongful. Instead, it is a wise choice, and a right of law abiding people (such as Sanchez) in most states. Those of us who exercise that right, including this author, carry a gun so that we can rightfully defend ourselves from criminals who threaten our lives. A law abiding citizen has no duty to stand idly by while a criminal threatens their life, or the life of another innocent person. While any loss of life, event that of a criminal, is unfortunate, it is far better that the criminal die than their innocent victim die. Indeed, peace loving and non-violent people including Pope John Paul II, the Dalai Lama, and Mahatma Gandhi have all made statements to this effect. While the sister of this criminal is certainly justified in feeling grief over the loss of her (violent) brother, the fault for his death lies with him – not the innocent victim who was forced to fire in self defense.
My thanks to Anders for pointing out this self defense gun use.