Forget About The Law. What Are The Ethics?
On Thursday January 5 at about 11 PM at a small taco restaurant on South Gessner, a man dressed in a black hoodie and wielding a gun entered. He pointed the weapon at the few patrons there at that hour and demanded their money. He walked among them as they tossed the cash on the floor and the gunman stooped to pick it up. He then retreated to the entrance with his back turned to those he had just robbed.
One of the patrons was armed. He reached for his weapon and killed the robber by shooting him in the back. The man was dead at the scene, but by the time the police got there, only the owners remained. According to news reports, the citizen shooter has an attorney and has contacted the Houston Police for a sit down. The above report from KPRC’s web site indicates no crime was committed by the citizen shooter.
There’s one more point. The would-be robber was using a toy gun. No one in the restaurant was ever in any danger of being shot by the perpetrator. But they couldn’t have known that. All of this was caught on closed circuit TV.
In a concealed carry state like Texas, it is highly unlikely that the citizen shooter will be charged with a crime although the district attorney may well take the case to a grand jury.
What were the options of the patrons in the restaurant?
Those who were unarmed had few options. As far as they could see they either handed over their cash or risked being shot by the robber.
What about our citizen shooter?
He could have joined the rest of the patrons and watch his money leave out the door and left the robber untouched.
He could have aimed his weapon at the robber’s back as he was leaving and told him to drop his weapon or risk being shot himself.
He could have shot the robber in the legs, but then risked the robber having some time and turning and shooting at him. Remember, the citizen shooter did not know the robber had a toy gun.
Finally, he could have done what he did. Kill the guy. He probably should have stuck around until the police got there, but instead he took his money and distributed the loot back to everyone else who was a victim. The case is still up in the air as to whether or not formal charges will be filed by the DA. It does indeed resemble an episode of Law and Order—the one with Adam Arkin playing the Greek jewelry store owner shot two robbers in the back.
This is a tough one for me.
It may well be that the citizen shooter was well within his rights to kill the robber, but you have to wonder if there was a better way. The problem is that reality edges in when you are in the heat of the moment and you realize that it really came down to getting back the loot or killing the perp. The robber’s gun being a toy was known only by the robber.
This will be a fascinating incident to follow in the coming days. What will the DA do and what are the sentiments of the average Houstonian? I think I know the latter. Whether it was a toy gun or not, the patrons felt threatened by someone who seemed to be willing to use deadly force in the commitment of a felony. The shooting was justified by the law.
We are getting close to vigilante justice here, but my guess is that the citizen shooter will not be charged.
What do you think? Let me know.