Don't shoot a man when he's down?
May 30, 2009 12:29 AM   Subscribe

In a case reminiscent of Bernard Goetz, pharmacist Jerome Ersland was held up by two gun-wielding men, shot one of them in the head, and then, when the other had left, shot the prone man several more times, killing him (store security video). Now he's being charged with first-degree murder, and is the center of intense controversy about whether he engaged in legitimate self-defense by making absolutely sure his attacker was incapacitated or in an unjustifiable vigilante-style execution. Complicating matters is the fact that Jerome is white and the robbers black.
posted by shivohum (178 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
I think the pharmacist had every right to do what he did. They came in waiving guns, it was a high-energy, panic-type situation. It probably would have been wiser to take the gun away, call 911, and keep the gun trained on the wounded gunman while waiting for the police, but if he didn't feel safe.... *shrugs* It sucks that race even has to be mentioned.
posted by Bageena at 12:39 AM on May 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:40 AM on May 30, 2009


The first shot is justified.
The second shot is fear and panic.
The next four are murder.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:41 AM on May 30, 2009 [33 favorites]


Hey, if groups of police need to shoot an unarmed guy face down, handcuffed, clearly civilians need to shoot incapacitated dying post-armed guys. Though I suppose he could just have waterboarded the kid and avoided any legal mess whatsoever, right?
posted by yeloson at 12:41 AM on May 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


Careful, they're also packing in Seattle (local news vid).
posted by fatllama at 12:45 AM on May 30, 2009


I can't make out much on that video, the guy was definitely prone. Whether he was unconscious and/or unarmed is a matter for the prosecutor to prove. I have to trust that a jury of our peers will render a just verdict.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:46 AM on May 30, 2009


If he'd shot the guy in the head and then immediately shot him again after he fell down I could understand it being entirely self-defense.

But he went and got a second gun, and walked right up in front of the prone guy before shooting him despite the fact that he could've kept the counter shielding him. He wasn't being cautious around him or acting like he was dangerous at all; you can see from the video he actually spent some time with his back to the prone guy and didn't seek cover while approaching him. Unless he's claiming that the last four shots were because the guy suddenly moved to attack him again as he approached he pretty clearly made the decision to use (more) lethal force on someone he didn't believe was enough of a threat to take any other precautions around.
posted by XMLicious at 12:58 AM on May 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


I dunno. People are surprisingly resilient to bullets in the body mass. Can't always tell where you've actually hit someone when they go down, either. The whole Mozambique drill was developed to be the most efficient way to incapacitate someone. That move could probably be prosecuted as murder.

Looking at the video, it looks pretty harsh. Dude was confident enough to walk around the counter with his back to the guy. But he's claiming he wasn't confident enough to dial the cops without first shooting him? First degree is ridiculous, I think, but I think they'd get something above manslaughter.
posted by FuManchu at 1:08 AM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I watched the video, it's really hard to tell what's going on.
posted by delmoi at 1:12 AM on May 30, 2009


I think that if you rob someone at gunpoint, you're pretty much abandoning any reasonable claim to a civil, or even measured, response.
posted by spasm at 1:14 AM on May 30, 2009 [41 favorites]


First degree is ridiculous, I think, but I think they'd get something above manslaughter.

As they should. And although I don't believe that anyone should fry for their actions, Ersland should at least bake at a constant temperature for the rest of his natural life.
posted by item at 1:16 AM on May 30, 2009


Mark Shannon, who runs a conservative talk show on Oklahoma City's KOTV, said callers have jammed his lines this week in support of Ersland, who wears a back brace on the job and told reporters that he is a disabled veteran of the Gulf War.

"There is no gray area," Shannon said. One caller "said he should have put all the shots in the head."


Correct. There is no gray area. Shannon's callers are simply bad human beings.
posted by dersins at 1:20 AM on May 30, 2009 [16 favorites]


Sorry, fatllama, that's not loading for me. Was it this?:

Gun-wielding pharmacist responds to drugstore cowboy
posted by twoleftfeet at 1:28 AM on May 30, 2009


I don't have the faintest idea what the truth of the situation is. However. I'd like to just point out one thing: people do a lot of irrational stuff when under enormous stress. You cannot analyze the situation as if the guy is rational at that moment, so all the talk about how he felt "confident" enough to turn his back, to get a second gun etc. - this is a lot of speculation about his psychological state and motivations. Maybe it's as is claimed here. Or maybe the guy was hopped up on a giant surge of adrenalin from having guns pointed at him, and is not, you know, thinking things through. I don't know; I just don't feel so confident speculating here./shrug/.
posted by VikingSword at 1:36 AM on May 30, 2009 [20 favorites]


The fact that he had his back to the downed man, and left the store (weren't there other people in there? The video is very hard to see), returned, turned his back to the downed man again and only then shot him again makes me think there's more than simple self-defense going on here.

I don't know why he decided to leave the store in the first place. Running after a man you just shot, but is still armed and has left your field of view, seems to be all kinds of stupid.
posted by Talanvor at 1:40 AM on May 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


VikingSword, I think the guy definitely wasn't thinking things through when he decided to go beyond defending himself, just as the robbers weren't thinking things through when they decided to rob the place. Perhaps one could construct an argument to say that he was justified or excused by temporary irrationality for his use of lethal force in going beyond defending himself but if he wasn't reacting to anything the guy was doing it seems clear that it was more than self defense.

There's all sorts of other irrational things he might have done due to being hopped up on andrenaline. For example after taking the guy down he could've wildly and blindly started firing in every direction due to the andrenaline rush and hit a customer too, and that would have been irrational and perhaps forgiveable due to the andrenaline rush, but I don't think that the injuries inflicted would be self defense would it? (I don't know the answer to that but it would seem unreasonable to me; I would not expect the andrenaline-irrationality argument to stretch or broaden the definition of what actions can be taken in self defense.)
posted by XMLicious at 2:02 AM on May 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


When you're in a highly charged situation, decisions are made. Sometimes they are not the best decisions you can make.

I don't want to be one to judge his reactions, maybe he wasn't thinking clearly. From the video, he appeared full of adrenaline. When your heart gets to racing, all manner of things kick in and there are just so many factors here.

That aside, despite the slightly startled and worked up appearance, he also appears to be a little more deliberate at times.

The law, I believe, states that you can defend yourself in so far as incapacitating someone, but once they are no longer a threat you cannot do them anymore harm.

Granted, the man was probably very angry. I would have been too.. all of these things put together, I think he should be punished for his poor choice, but I am not entirely sure on how long he should be punished for.

I hope a jury of his peers makes the best decision.
posted by Malice at 2:12 AM on May 30, 2009


The enormous stress defense cannot be so easy to fall back on. If you're going to carry a firearm, then it's your responsibility to know how to use it and to not act like a psycho when you are threatened. If you can't carry a gun without uncontrollably and intentionally shooting an unconscious man multiple times, then you shouldn't be carrying a gun.

I wonder if he had any training at all in firearm usage. Was this really an accident, did he freak out despite some training? Or did he decide, hey, I'm going to be a store clerk, I better cowboy up?
posted by cotterpin at 2:20 AM on May 30, 2009 [12 favorites]


In a more general sense, there's definitely a line between understanding why someone flew off the handle, and letting them avoid responsibility for the consequences.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:27 AM on May 30, 2009 [12 favorites]


If you're going to rob someone at gun point, a gulf war veteran with serious back pain seems like a real bad choice. That guy's day was pretty damn shitty before you even walked in the door, and you've just made it 100 times worse.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:31 AM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I wonder if he had any training at all in firearm usage.

... who wears a back brace on the job and told reporters that he is a disabled veteran of the Gulf War.

I would assume that military training would include something with firearms. Perhaps that is the real culprit (and legal defense?)... his background in the military.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 2:33 AM on May 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


guy deserves a medal, not punishment.
posted by billybobtoo at 3:30 AM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is reminiscent of the Goetz case only if you don't remember what happened back then -- Goetz didn't kill anybody (he made one guy a paraplegic and injured two or three others, I don't remember exactly, which is of course all kinds of horrible but it's not murder in the first degree, neither legally nor morally), it wasn't even a robbery, not in the sense that they pointed a gun on Goetz's face asking for his wallet (they asked if he had five dollars, he pulled out a gun he owned illegally and went to town). Goetz was also a fugitive for more than a week, later surrendering to the cops. He only did time (a few months) because of a technicality (his gun).

So, this isn't really Goetz II.

The video is pretty bad because you know you're watching somebody die but, once you analyze that as evidence, you don't really see many things -- for example, you don't see the kid once he goes down after the first shot. The really bad part -- for the pharmacist and his lawyer -- is that the pharmacist gets a different gun to shoot the fatal bullets -- that's going to be pretty tricky to justify for his lawyer and for whatever psychologist they hire to defend him at the trial. But my point is that, unless this guy has a past history of very bad things, I don't see 12 Oklahoma jurors unanimously sending him to death row-- he is a veteran and he is not Timothy McVeigh, and Oklahoma is a place where they name self-defense laws after Dirty Harry movies. The DA is doing his job but not even the NAACP is ragging on the pharmacist -- they know he's walking.
posted by matteo at 3:33 AM on May 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Voluntary manslaughter? "In order for someone to be found guilty of voluntary manslaughter the government must prove that the person killed another person; the person acted in the heat of passion; and heat of passion was caused by adequate provocation.

"Heat of passion may be provoked by fear, rage, anger or terror. Provocation, in order to be adequate, must be such as might naturally cause a reasonable person in the passion of the moment to lose self-control and act on impulse and without reflection. "
posted by Carol Anne at 4:03 AM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have to trust that a jury of our peers will render a just verdict.

You ever sit on a jury? It's like having a front-row seat to the vindictive follies.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:19 AM on May 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


I think that if you rob someone at gunpoint, you're pretty much abandoning any reasonable claim to a civil, or even measured, response.

Wow. So torture would be OK? And I guess this means they've abandoned their right to a fair trial.
posted by DU at 4:20 AM on May 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


So torture would be OK?

If somebody tried to rob me at gunpoint, I'd feel perfectly comfortable with administering a little retaliatory waterboarding.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:30 AM on May 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


How about maiming? If someone tried to rob you at gunpoint could you cut off his hand?
posted by XMLicious at 4:39 AM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


So, am I a complete idiot for feeling that if anyone ever tried to rob me at gunpoint, I would just give them whatever the fuck they wanted and wish them a nice day?

guy deserves a medal, not punishment.

Yeah, shooting a man on the ground repeatedly is sure heroic. Heroic like a firefigher, man.
posted by Jimbob at 4:54 AM on May 30, 2009 [19 favorites]


We'll never know what was going through his mind but I would bet the pharmacist had planned exactly what he would do if he were robbed, and the video shows that plan playing out.
posted by Enron Hubbard at 5:16 AM on May 30, 2009


FuManchu, I seriously doubt that an instance of the employment of the Mozambique drill could, in and of itself, be prosecuted for murder in the same manner as this case. In the former, the shots are in rapid succession, and hit the victim before he hits the ground. There isn't a moment for reflection between the shots, and as the victim is still standing, he is plausibly a threat.
posted by Tullius at 5:26 AM on May 30, 2009


I guess I should have said that someone who employed the drill, not the drill itself. Man, I should have coffee before I get to typing stuff.
posted by Tullius at 5:26 AM on May 30, 2009


Will no one think of the NRA? if he'd just defended himself by shooting the guy once he'd be a wet dream for them, but he fucked it all up by straight up murdering the dude.
posted by Artw at 5:29 AM on May 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


I think that if you rob someone at gunpoint, you're pretty much abandoning any reasonable claim to a civil, or even measured, response.

Fortunately, civilization, in most cases, disagrees.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:30 AM on May 30, 2009 [17 favorites]


Or did he decide, hey, I'm going to be a store clerk, I better cowboy up?

"cowboy up" is kind of a shitty epithet to use to describe someone who had two men pointing firearms at him; the phrase presumes that his own handgun is a barbaric holdover from a mythical, more-violent past, rather than a pretty reasonable response to a society where people are still regularly threatening to shoot other people in the face to get what they want.
posted by Greg Nog at 5:32 AM on May 30, 2009 [8 favorites]


DEFINING matters is the fact that jerome is white and the robbers black.
posted by kitchenrat at 5:44 AM on May 30, 2009


Well, appeals to racism seem like his best chance of getting off. No doubt we'll be hearing about how pointing that out is crazy mad political correctness gone wrong.
posted by Artw at 5:53 AM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


The first shot is justified.
The second shot is fear and panic.
The next four are murder.


How do you know when his panic and fear stopped? After two shots sounds logical to me, too, but if you're scared, you never know how you may react. How do you know he wasn't in a fugue state at the time? If I were to guess, I'd guess no, that this guy was just looking for an excuse to kill, but what the hell do I know? Who knows what was in his head? Maybe he was racist to boot. But unless you've got psychic powers you're just playing mind police, which is pointless.
posted by zardoz at 5:54 AM on May 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Complicating matters is the fact that Jerome is white and the robbers black.

How does that complicate matters?

Note to robbers: don't hold up a vet, they've been trained to use guns and they've been trained to kill.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:56 AM on May 30, 2009


How do you know when his panic and fear stopped?

To say that the last four shots were murder is not to say that his panic and fear stopped. You can definitely be paniced and afraid and still commit murder.
posted by XMLicious at 6:13 AM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Logic" and "deliberation" are not in play here. You'll notice the one robber is firing away at the pharmacist (watch his gun hand recoil, I count at least 3 shots probably more). This guy is fighting for his life in near hand to hand close quarters. After the one runs away, the pharmacist is still unsure of what will happen next - will the other guy return? Will the guy on the ground get up and start shooting? Pure fight instinct at play.
posted by stbalbach at 6:14 AM on May 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


I watched the video, it's really hard to tell what's going on.

What he said. There are multiple angles being edited together here, we're not seeing everything and it all happened very fast. Come on, y'all; it's a bit early to be certain about much. Anyone who decides what they think about this one before hearing what the "two women working with the druggist behind the counter" have to say in court is being premature.
posted by mediareport at 6:31 AM on May 30, 2009


Oklahoma is a place where they name self-defense laws after Dirty Harry movies.

That was Colorado, according to the link you gave.
posted by mediareport at 6:33 AM on May 30, 2009


Ah, y'know... these 4-syllable states. They're all the same.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:40 AM on May 30, 2009


I don't support the death penalty for any crime, but that doesn't mean I can't mete out some justice of my own. Whenever anyone tries to rob my pharmacy, I open the trapdoor that drops them into the dungeon in the basement. I figure if it's okay for a citizen to exact capital punishment as self-defense, then why should anyone have a problem with me imprisoning folks for 3-5 years by myself? If they behave themselves, sometimes I let them out early.
posted by Legomancer at 6:43 AM on May 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Dude, the fucking guy left the building to chase the one kid down and when he couldn't catch him went back inside to shoot the other kid a couple more times. I can't really see how that decision is driven by panic and fear, panic and fear keeps you running in one direction until you think you are at a safe enough distance to stop.
posted by The Straightener at 6:44 AM on May 30, 2009 [12 favorites]


But unless you've got psychic powers you're just playing mind police, which is pointless.

Well, modelling different motivations and thought processes is pretty much what happens in a courtroom, as the narratives advanced by the prosecution and defence vie for supremacy. I agree that pretending to know in some absolute way what was running through any of the central players' heads at the time is silly, and that it's interesting how people's ideologies act so powerfully to parse situations like this, to the extent where they feel able to confidently reconstruct the thoughts of everyone involved. Film footage was always touted as being the perfect witness, unable to lie and invulnerable to the vagaries of memory, but it's still weirdly Rorscharchian. Throw race and his being a war veteran into the mix (might the defence claim he was jolted into some kind of PTSD-style autopilot?), and you can see how the result of any trial might depend more on the beliefs of the jury before they arrive in the courtroom, than any evidence they hear whilst there.
posted by RokkitNite at 6:51 AM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Too bad for the dead guy. Maybe next time you won't conduct armed robbery. I wish more armed robbers would get killed while doing their thing.
posted by autodidact at 6:59 AM on May 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


spasm: "I think that if you rob someone at gunpoint, you're pretty much abandoning any reasonable claim to a civil, or even measured, response."

Had the robber simply been captured by the police, would you vote to give him the death penalty?

If you wouldn't be comfortable with him being executed after due process, I don't see how you can be comfortable with him being executed without any.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:08 AM on May 30, 2009 [10 favorites]


If the guy had even an ounce of clarity he could be forgiven for thinking that leaving a guy alive just meant a future entanglement at some point. This is a colossal waste of money. He'll be set free for any number of reasons including temporary insanity. It's easy to condemn him, and I think it's despicable, but none of us can come close to being in that guys head after what happened or know his history and what came to the surface in the minutes afterward.
posted by docpops at 7:09 AM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


So torture would be OK?

If somebody tried to rob me at gunpoint, I'd feel perfectly comfortable with administering a little retaliatory waterboarding.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:30 AM on May 30 [2 favorites +] [!]


I wouldn't - and I'm glad that most of the civilized world agrees with me.

I mean, has everyone forgotten the simple moral lessons of toddlerhood? "Two wrongs don't make a right - just one more wrong." It's cliched, but still true.
posted by jb at 7:12 AM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Fuck, that's scary.

So, am I a complete idiot for feeling that if anyone ever tried to rob me at gunpoint, I would just give them whatever the fuck they wanted and wish them a nice day?

No you are not, and every pharmacist with whom I've ever discussed the possibility would agree. I've never worked anywhere that has been robbed, but I've dealt with a lot of other shady shit, and I have worked places that had been broken into. One of them repeatedly, which is uncomfortably close to just showing up while the place is open. I have thoroughly imagined and discussed with colleagues how to handle it, because although it's unlikely, it happens, and I think it would be much easier to keep my cool if I already know what to do. Disturbingly, I would almost guarantee this guy thought about it ahead of time too. We all have. Especially if he had considered it enough to be armed while in the pharmacy.

My plan is this: Calmly place the contents of the cash register and all the narcs in a big ol' bag, oh, hey, want the benzos too while you're here? Thanks and have a nice day! Lock the door behind them, call the cops, fill out DEA form 106 once my hands stop shaking enough to write. Actually I vaguely recall that we even had a lecture in pharmacy school to this effect.

"All it was is defending your employee, business and livelihood."

Fuck that, it's drugs and money, it's nothing worth killing over.
posted by little e at 7:16 AM on May 30, 2009 [15 favorites]


Complicating matters is the fact that people keep expecting race to automatically complicate matters.

Gotta love that self-fulfilling prophecy.
posted by adipocere at 7:20 AM on May 30, 2009


Bad guys and thugs choose their path of destruction when they prey on the innocent. My sympathies can not feel for them. I hope these comments don't come back to haunt me just in case I'm chosen to be a Supreme Court Judge.
posted by doctorschlock at 7:22 AM on May 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Dude, the fucking guy left the building to chase the one kid down

This is true. Also, it looked like he went back into the room to re-load his gun before shooting the downed guy a second time - a deliberate thought-out action. The defense to that would be the pharmacist didn't know what would happen next and he was deliberate in defending himself by being sure there was no more threat. Most likely a conservative Okie jury would see it that way. But it depends on the technicalities of the law and any other facts that come up. In any case OK is so conservative, I doubt he will get convicted of first degree! That would put the pharmacist up for the death penalty - for defending his life and property. No way. I almost wonder if the prosecution in this case picked first degree, the hardest to prove, knowing it was a long shot. Of course maybe there are facts we are not aware of.
posted by stbalbach at 7:25 AM on May 30, 2009


I came to Metafilter to post my judgement on this man after watching a 60 second grainy security video.
posted by Nelson at 7:33 AM on May 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


Oh come on, he murdered the guy in cold blood and knew exactly how this debate would go.
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 7:44 AM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I see this as both completely understandable and completely manslaughter.

Fuck that, it's drugs and money, it's nothing worth killing over.

I've read enough to suspect that little said down the barrel of a gun can be taken at face value. When you choose to comply with an attacker instead of fleeing or resisting, you entrust your life to a person who's already weighed it cheaper than your money, your car, your sexual compliance. It's left to their discretion and diligence whether to see you safely through a robbery, or to dispose of you as evidence, or worse. Escape is the rational response, and in the rare case where killing is the surest means of escape, you must.
posted by kid ichorous at 7:47 AM on May 30, 2009 [13 favorites]


The important question is: which costs the taxpayers the least amount of money?
A. Wounding the robber, paying for his hospital care, rehab, trial, time in prison, release, additional trials, more time in prison, etc.
B. Burial.
posted by davebarnes at 7:52 AM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


The thing is, people who rob pharmacies usually just want some drugs, give them some drugs and they will go away and leave you alone. Easy! I say this based on knowledge of actual pharmacy robberies.

You start shooting, they start shooting, you are greatly increasing the odds you or a bystander will get hurt.
posted by little e at 7:54 AM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


E, In this particular case I agree. But I'd hate to have to make that call at gunpoint.
posted by kid ichorous at 7:57 AM on May 30, 2009


This is a colossal waste of money. He'll be set free for any number of reasons including temporary insanity.

Honestly, If I was a juror in this case I wouldn't vote to convict. No sympathy for armed robbers. Period.
posted by MikeMc at 8:13 AM on May 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


Oh, yeah, any other time someone threatens me with violence, I am sure as hell not doing what they tell me. I'll not be abducted or raped or whatever and if I've got a weapon I'll damn well use it or if I go it's kicking and screaming. But that's not how a pharmacy robbery typically goes down, and in the overwhelming majority of incidents you're actually safer to give them what you want, which this dude should have known.

Even the very small number of pharmacists I know of who are armed at work state they would not use or indicate they had a gun unless a robber shot first or tried to abduct someone (unlikely, but there was an incident oh, probably 20 or 30 years ago where a pharmacy tech was kidnapped, and it's part of community lore and always comes up in these conversations).
posted by little e at 8:13 AM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Give them what THEY want, that is. Fingers moving faster than brain today.
posted by little e at 8:15 AM on May 30, 2009


Bernhard Goetz.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:17 AM on May 30, 2009


Honestly, If I was a juror in this case I wouldn't vote to convict. No sympathy for armed robbers. Period.

Agreed. Without knowing the applicable Oklahoma law, I think it's likely that (on the facts we have) that the pharmacist is guilty of either manslaughter or some lesser form of murder. Nonetheless, I don't think that's a desirable result.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:20 AM on May 30, 2009


The important question is: which costs the taxpayers the least amount of money?

So you favour the death penalty for any crime then?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:29 AM on May 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


The crime is life... the sentence is death!
posted by Artw at 8:38 AM on May 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


It finally struck me while reading this that one of the - nah screw it - THE cornerstone of conservative thought is the instinct to look for any possible justification to not sympathize with an "Other" and then to decide that they deserve whatever fate they get.

People aren't cheering for him for defending his store or his life - or rather, everyone seems to understand that's what the first shot was for - but the people cheering on the shots that followed are cheering on the fact that he found a "justifiable" chance to murder someone, and took it.

And the fact that the murdered person was both black and a teenager only adds to the conservative mindset of cheering the guy who found the loophole that let him get away with murder.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:40 AM on May 30, 2009 [22 favorites]


Note: the above comment wasn't meant to call out those arguing that Ersland was still acting in the heat of the moment - it's very possible that he was, and I don't want to pass judgment on him without knowing everything I can. I just wanted to show the idea of "armed robbery justifies whatever retaliation I give" to be as evil a thought as it truly is.

Essentially it's the same as saying that morality is based on finding a victim that no one will care about.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:43 AM on May 30, 2009 [8 favorites]


The important question is: which costs the taxpayers the least amount of money?
A. Wounding the robber, paying for his hospital care, rehab, trial, time in prison, release, additional trials, more time in prison, etc.
B. Burial.


Jesus, davebarnes, I hope you don't really think that's the most important question at stake here. That's not any sort of question at all.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 8:50 AM on May 30, 2009


It amazes me how often the same people who furiously insist on an unfettered and unregulated right to have and carry a gun suddenly turn on a dime and scream that in a situation where you're forced to use one, of COURSE you can't have control over yourself.

I feel bad for everyone involved. In the heat of the moment, Ersland lost his shit and decided to reload a gun and deliberately kill a guy. The saddest part about this is he'll probably walk away thanks to jury nullification and live the next few decades slowly convincing himself more and more that he didn't do anything wrong.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:54 AM on May 30, 2009 [8 favorites]


People aren't cheering for him for defending his store or his life - or rather, everyone seems to understand that's what the first shot was for - but the people cheering on the shots that followed are cheering on the fact that he found a "justifiable" chance to murder someone, and took it.

This. Over and over again.

Having lived in DC during the apex of the gun ownership battle, as well as watching the growing and blatant racial issue that hung over the crime/poverty/fear issues related to it, this is the horrible, ugly truth of gun culture that few want to discuss. The allure of the self-defense fantasy is that other than war, it's the one situation where it's legal and acceptable to kill a person with a firearm. Local message boards and news pundits were full of this mentality. I saw very few people who praised the right of self-defensive ownership because they're excited about the idea of never having to use a gun against someone.

I have no doubt and wouldn't argue otherwise that there are gun aficionados who truly wish for a more responsible, safe, and practical approach to gun ownership and management. But I have no doubt as well that a large percentage of gunowners are very ingrained in the fantasy of being able to actually kill someone with one, and are very happy when something like that happens, especially in the context of something similar to their own fears- in this case, scary mean minorities coming to violate you.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:04 AM on May 30, 2009 [10 favorites]


The saddest part about this is he'll probably walk away ...

Oh, come on, it's not remotely sad that he get away with killing someone who, seconds before, was threatening him with a gun.
posted by jayder at 9:10 AM on May 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Several points.

1. I hung out with Bernie Goetz and he's a very interesting man. He seemed an extremely decent guy - he's entirely focused on animal rights and vegetarianism. He said that, "the newspapers got it totally wrong," and pointed out that if the stories in the paper were true, he'd have gone to jail for years. Note that Bernie gave himself up of his own free will.

2. Despite what many of you seem to think, you do still have rights at all times, even committing a crime, or suspected of committing a crime (which might protect you some day even if you are a completely law-abiding citizen).

3. The pharmacist had every right to shoot the first time. It was still the wrong thing to do. The total cost to him would still have been far greater than some drugs and some cash. Now the cost is greater than that.

4. It's hard not to read this thread and not think that a lot of people are made happy by the idea of hurting bad people.

5. It's of course up to a jury to decide. But it's hard not to see this as manslaughter. He shoots the guy, who goes down. He then ignores him completely, chases the other guy, then comes back, still doesn't even give the wounded or dead man a glance, goes and gets another gun, and finishes him off.

The law is very clear: "finishing him off" is manslaughter. If there's some reading of this quite-clear video as "self-defense" I'd be interested in what it was.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:11 AM on May 30, 2009 [12 favorites]


These things are not mutually exclusive:

- Armed robbery is wrong and dangerous and could get you killed.
- Shooting someone who is downed, and no longer a threat, is not self defense
- Taking time to reload/get another gun, turning your back on them as someone who has been trained in combat is a pretty good sign that they're probably not a threat (or, at least, you've assessed them to not be a threat)
- People in this country sure like to shoot black people, armed, unarmed, dangerous, running away, holding candy bars, whatever.
posted by yeloson at 9:12 AM on May 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


I dunno, I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I feel mildly strongly that if someone (the robbers) decide to function outside the rules of society (ie commit a crime) then they create justification for an equivalent response - I don't think that defending yourself when attacked should at all be criminal in nature. The robbers defined a new set of rules, and were treated accordingly. But at the stage that attack is stopped, the justification for the response stops, to me.

However, it looks to me that the killing of the guy is as relevant to the initial 'need to defend myself' aspect as if he'd found out where the guy lives and gone and shot him 4 days later. It was, to my mind, beyond the need to defend yourself if the guy is already down and you have the time to walk off and reload. I think he was entirely justified up to the point he walked around the counter to reload - at that point it gets very muddy indeed. It'd be very difficult to argue that he didn't calmly walk up to a prone guy and shoot him dead - no reaction, no hesitation, no suggestion of any movement from the downed kid.

Also: Heat of the moment? This is a trained ex-military combat veteran. I'm not entirely sure that the usual 'heat of the moment' rules apply. This should have been relatively routine for him, past the initial shock of it happening in his nice peaceful store. I can't see that shock lasting past him running out of the door after the first guy. If his military record doesn't show some sort of psychological issues under fire, then it'd be difficult to argue that he was completely cool and calm when he reloaded and repeatedly shot the guy. I fail to see how a trained and armed veteran would not have been at least as capable of resorting to his training to disarm the guy and hold him for the police.

Basically, if he wasn't calm, then his training utterly failed him. If he was in any way calm, his training would have just as easily allowed him to have taken a different response and control the situation rather than execute the guy. Whether or not it was racist I have no clue (but its easy to believe as possible), but it is very hard not to see it as anger or revenge motivation. Certainly a long way from self defence.
posted by Brockles at 9:17 AM on May 30, 2009


I just wanted to show the idea of "armed robbery justifies whatever retaliation I give" to be as evil a thought as it truly is.

I know it sounds kind of "Wild West", and I'm not a fan of vigilantism, but it just seems to me that once the guns come out all bets are off. I mean you have to have at least an inkling of what's at stake when you join an armed robbery crew in a state that has a "Make My Day" law. Did Ersland have to kill him? No. Did Parker and his unnamed accomplice have to threaten Ersland's life at gunpoint? No. All I'm seeing here is an ugly situation with no innocent victims and I'm certainly more sympathetic to Ersland than to Parker.
posted by MikeMc at 9:22 AM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Honestly, If I was a juror in this case I wouldn't vote to convict. No sympathy for armed robbers. Period.
Told ya.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:23 AM on May 30, 2009


The important question is: which costs the taxpayers the least amount of money?
A. 12 or more years of labor-intensive primary and secondary education followed by partially-subsidized tertiary education.
B. Forcible abortion.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:28 AM on May 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


If you're going to rob someone at gun point, a gulf war veteran with serious back pain seems like a real bad choice.

You know, I could be wrong, and if I am, I'm sure the reporters on Court TV or whatever will let me know, but I kind of doubt that the robbers were doing advanced searches on pharmacists in the Oklahoma City area on Facebook or match.com or something and deliberately chose Ersland based on his military background, current health situation, penchant for Thai take-out, and love of movies based on Tom Clancy novels.
posted by Ufez Jones at 9:28 AM on May 30, 2009


"3. The pharmacist had every right to shoot the first time. It was still the wrong thing to do."

I think this is going to be where most of the debate lies. A lot of people (even in this thread, on an historically anti-gun site) think it was the right thing to do.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 9:34 AM on May 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


The law is very clear: "finishing him off" is manslaughter.

which brings up another point - what if the first shot was in fact, fatal? - how do you murder a man who's already, or soon to be, dead?

that would probably be the defense's best argument - "the first shot killed him and the others were irrelevant"
posted by pyramid termite at 9:38 AM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Told ya.

You know, I've sat on a couple of juries and the one (battery case) that went all the way to a verdict ended in acquittal. Did he commit the battery in question? Yes. Were there mitigating factors? We thought so. It's not like we went into the jury room itching to throw another black guy in jail or anything.
posted by MikeMc at 9:38 AM on May 30, 2009


The important question is: which costs the taxpayers the least amount of money?
A. Wounding the robber, paying for his hospital care, rehab, trial, time in prison, release, additional trials, more time in prison, etc.
B. Burial.


When you find yourself on the wrong side of the law, may these same criteria be applied in your case.

Come on, people. Besides not knowing what was going through the mind of the clerk who killed him, we also don't know what was going through the mind of the guy he shot. Don't take this as an apology for armed robbery, but isn't the whole idea here, the whole Grand Social Experiment we call civilization, based on the premise that we act in the common good? This to me is two-pronged. Armed robbery is clearly wrong, not to be tolerated, and clearly illegal, and there are harsh penalties for it. Prong 2 involves a little compassion where when people screw up, we don't just throw them away -- we have a moral obligation to one another to try to mend the broken, and after they've been apprehended, find some way to help them live a life in a more productive, useful manner than armed robbery.

We don't know if drugs might have driven him to commit this crime, but statistically, it's quite probable. We also often don't know the circumstances by which one can become an addict, or what sort of desperation plays into their actions. Child abuse? Neglect? Poor education? Let's ascertain what the court refers to as "mitigating circumstances" before we summarily execute. This is America, and that's not how it's supposed to work, here.

Tossing the body in the hole because it might take a couple dollars of your taxes isn't really the solution. I Got Mine, Fuck Them is not a tenable governmental philosophy.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:41 AM on May 30, 2009 [7 favorites]


My pharmacy was robbed. I used to work the overnight shift as a pharmacy tech. If you've never had a gun pointed at you, it's hard to understand the sheer terror involved. It's not just, oh, they'll probably go away if I give them what they want...there's not a lot of logic involved when someone is threatening to kill you.

Of course, the pharmacist and I didn't shoot anybody. There was a door to the stockroom connected to the pharmacy, and she managed to slip out and call the cops while I dealt with the robber (she was pregnant at the time, pretty far along). Thank goodness all they wanted was pseudoephedrine, because I wouldn't have been able to unlock any of the Schedule II's. (Very surreal, being held up for Sudafed. I remember asking him if he wanted anything else when I handed him the bag. I'm very customer service oriented, I guess.)

I thought I was going to die. I completely understand if the pharmacist felt like his life was threatened. It totally was.

That said...that robber had a family, people who loved him. One act doesn't define a person. People don't rob pharmacies or steal cars or break into homes because it's fun, at least I don't think so. They're desperate, and if given enough time and care and rehabilitation, they can become productive members of society again. Maybe that's some bleeding heart liberal claptrap, but I believe everyone deserves a chance.

It's just sad, all around. For the pharmacist who's being thrust in the limelight, and who has to deal with the ramifications of his actions, for the man who lost his life, and for the families of both involved.
posted by jnaps at 9:43 AM on May 30, 2009 [10 favorites]


which brings up another point - what if the first shot was in fact, fatal?

The DA was quite clear in stating that if the first shot had been fatal there wouldn't have been any charges but he (Parker) was apparently still alive when the subsequent shots were fired hence the murder charge.
posted by MikeMc at 9:43 AM on May 30, 2009


The DA was quite clear in stating that if the first shot had been fatal there wouldn't have been any charges but he (Parker) was apparently still alive when the subsequent shots were fired hence the murder charge.

it can take hours to die from a fatal brain injury, though, so that defense isn't eliminated
posted by pyramid termite at 9:46 AM on May 30, 2009


People in this country sure like to shoot black people, armed, unarmed, dangerous, running away, holding candy bars, whatever.

But this observation is both as facile and as incorrect as "those Black people sure like to rob pharmacies, gas stations, bodegas, whatever." (And if someone hasn't yet posted the equivalent of that on, say, the Drudge Report, just wait. One of them will, because somewhere on this internet is a site that constitutes Metafilter's exact inverse.) And SWAT teams also like to MP5 White college kids through their dormitory doors; White college kids, apparently, like to get busted for pot. The point? Such generalizations have little bearing on the facts of this case, not that this should stop the internet's engines from milling discrete events into a homogeneous paste for our digestion. Not everything has to fit.
posted by kid ichorous at 9:53 AM on May 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


kid ichorous - I agree with you that the race of the people involved in this case has little bearing on how the event went down. It might have a great deal of impact, however, on the way that others judge the rightness or wrongness of Ersland's actions in retrospect, however.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:58 AM on May 30, 2009


it can take hours to die from a fatal brain injury

At which point if they guy who shot you does anything other than call an ambulance, like takes the oportunity to load a gun and put a few more holes in you, then hell yeah it's murder.

The dude killed someone because he wanted to. No other reason, no justification. It doesn't matter what actions the victim took that put him in the position where he could be murdered, dude is still a murderer.

posted by Artw at 10:01 AM on May 30, 2009


> I know it sounds kind of "Wild West", and I'm not a fan of vigilantism, but it just seems to me that once the guns come out all bets are off.

And how about once the guns are no longer out because the robber is lying facedown on the floor with three bullets in him and his accomplice has been chased off?

I can very much understand the feeling that, if you enter my shop and point a gun at me, what happens next is your own damn fault. But at some point afterwards, that carte blanche to react to a mortal threat ends. And in this case, it seems pretty obvious that it ended during reloading.

How does the "he needed killin' " defense succeed these days?
posted by fatbird at 10:03 AM on May 30, 2009


> Did Ersland have to kill him? No.

Isn't the whole premise of justifiable homicide that you did, in fact, have to?
posted by fatbird at 10:08 AM on May 30, 2009


Smedleyman must be taking a nap or a vacation. I can't believe he hasn't chimed in yet.
posted by desjardins at 10:13 AM on May 30, 2009


For all the people arguing that Parsons needed killin': you don't have to sympathize with the robber to believe that Ersland shouldn't have fired the last four shots. You're not implicitly condoning armed robbery by thinking that Ersland went too far.
posted by fatbird at 10:13 AM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


At which point if they guy who shot you does anything other than call an ambulance, like takes the oportunity to load a gun and put a few more holes in you, then hell yeah it's murder.

if the guy has already received a fatal injury, he cannot be murdered
posted by pyramid termite at 10:14 AM on May 30, 2009


Semantic bullshit.
posted by Artw at 10:15 AM on May 30, 2009


How does the "he needed killin' " defense succeed these days?

Depends on the jury, this having taken place in Oklahoma I'm thinking it's going to be pretty successful. How many average citizens do you think would vote to put this guy away for life for killing an armed robber? This case will probably go one of three ways: 1) Hung jury - no retrial. 2) Ersland walks. 3) Ersland pleads guilty to a greatly reduced charge with a token penalty. The only wild card is if the feds decide the outcome isn't to their liking (see Rodney King trial) and throw a civil rights charge at him.
posted by MikeMc at 10:17 AM on May 30, 2009


Navel, that's certainly true. If this does in fact go to trial, the jury selection process will be a tightrope act.

What puzzles me the most is that there were two guns at the pharmacy. Are they robbed often? Were they just waiting for this sort of situation to unfold?
posted by kid ichorous at 10:21 AM on May 30, 2009


if the guy has already received a fatal injury, he cannot be murdered

What, like, because that would be mortality double jeopardy or something? I suppose that someone with a terminal disease can't be murdered either, nor anyone who is suicidal?
posted by XMLicious at 10:21 AM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't - and I'm glad that most of the civilized world agrees with me.

You been robbed at gunpoint? No, didn't think so. Then hold off telling us what you'd oh so surely do, and what the "civilized" world would do.

Guy pulls a gun on you, all bets are off. The Metaflter Brigade can keep moralizing behind their keyboards if they'd like. Tell us when you actually have a gun pulled on you.
posted by xmutex at 10:22 AM on May 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


The only wild card is if the feds decide the outcome isn't to their liking (see Rodney King trial) and throw a civil rights charge at him.

This is an area of law I don't know that much about: on what theory could a civil rights charge comparable to the one brought against those police officers be brought against a private person?
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 10:24 AM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


on what theory could a civil rights charge comparable to the one brought against those police officers be brought against a private person?

IANAL so I don't know the legal rationale behind it but it does happen when state charges don't go the way some think they should.
posted by MikeMc at 10:33 AM on May 30, 2009


Guy pulls a gun on you, all bets are off. The Metaflter Brigade can keep moralizing behind their keyboards if they'd like. Tell us when you actually have a gun pulled on you.

Ersland didn't have a gun pulled on him after he'd already shot the guy and chased his accomplice out of the store. He didn't have a gun pointed at him when he turned his back and got his second gun.

No one here is arguing that Ersland shouldn't have shot the armed robber the first time in head. It's the last four that were totally gratuitous in the cause of self-defense.

Emotionally, the case is pretty clear to a lot of people. I suspect that what happens inside the courtroom will be a lot different, and I wouldn't be so sanguine about Ersland's chances. The prosecutor will really hammer Ersland on the second gun and turning his back. Especially in the context of cross-examination and jury deliberations, I think a lot of people starting from the perspective of "you take what you get when you start robbing people at gunpoint" will have that gut reaction broken down over time and reflection.

One question: could the Castle Doctrine apply here? In Castle Doctrine states, does it also apply to your place of business, or just your home?
posted by fatbird at 10:38 AM on May 30, 2009


I would have been happy just having the guy disabled on the floor and no longer capable of representing any real threat . . .

I think.

But in the heat of the moment things might have gone differently. I haven't experienced it, so I can't really say; and I can't really judge this guy based on what I've read or seen.

My own approach to this sort of thing is to never, ever put myself in a position where I would have to deal with it to begin with. Being an antisocial son of a bitch has its rewards.

Shit, I don't know. The reality is so often so far away from the legal aspects. Race, to me, doesn't even play into any of it, although cultural issues certainly do.

I picked up an old copy of National Geographic the other day. It had an article in it about South Africa and one of the photos was of an armed guy protecting some little business there.

I wonder if that kind of of thing may become common here in the states. It's not hard to imagine.

But I read these stories and still I just don't know.
posted by metagnathous at 10:41 AM on May 30, 2009


Guy pulls a gun on you, all bets are off.

and

But in the heat of the moment things might have gone differently.

But the whole point here is that the heat of the moment had passed, as demonstrated by Ersland turning his back on the robber and getting a second gun. He was clearly acting like the robber was no longer a threat.

For how long are all bets off? If you come into my store and pull a gun, and we trade shots and you run off, are the bets still off when you come home later that evening to find me waiting for you? If I see you the next day in a 7-11?
posted by fatbird at 10:50 AM on May 30, 2009


(compiling a list of people whom it is utterly safe to rob [and then kill -- no witnesses] since they will be good and compliant instead of making a fuss)
posted by rr at 10:50 AM on May 30, 2009


If the prosecutor is charging him with first degree murder only, with no option for the jury to convict on a lesser charge, the defense really doesn't even need to show up because the prosecutor is doing their job for them-- fully intentionally.

No jury anywhere in this country would ever go first degree in this case.

The prosecutor is charging him with something he(?) knows will result in acquittal.

He has to charge him with something in order to prevent the Feds from coming in with a denial of civil rights charge, but it's all just theater.
posted by jamjam at 10:59 AM on May 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


I find the comments avowing a lack of sympathy for the robbers interesting. No one is asking you to. Certainly not the social contract or the rule of law. We are largely debating law here and whether or not the final four shots constitute self defense. Have I had a gun pulled on me? I have not, but that does not disqualify me from making judgments about how laws relating to self-defense function in the society from which I belong. And our jury system is predicated on that premise. I feel for you that you have had to face that terror, but the fact remains that either sitting over this keyboard or in the jury it is my duty and responsibility to weigh these issues, even in the abstract.
posted by barrett caulk at 11:05 AM on May 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Aargh. . . . to which I belong.
posted by barrett caulk at 11:07 AM on May 30, 2009


So, am I a complete idiot for feeling that if anyone ever tried to rob me at gunpoint, I would just give them whatever the fuck they wanted and wish them a nice day?

How about if they tried to rape your wife at gunpoint? Would you give 'em the fuck that they wanted and wish them a nice day too?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:08 AM on May 30, 2009


I wouldn't - and I'm glad that most of the civilized world agrees with me.

But I bet if you asked the armed robber -- what would you prefer, a swift, painful, panic-inducing waterboarding, or five years in jail, I'm guessing 90% of armed robbers would take the waterboarding.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:14 AM on May 30, 2009


I was robbed at gunpoint once. The guy walked into the store, pulled the gun on me, and shouted "Give me all the money!" To show his seriousness, he fired a shot into the wall behind me. When he had the money in a bag, he made me to go into the back room. I was fully expecting to be shot in the back of the head. As I walked through the door into the back room, I turned around quickly to fight for my life any way I could, but he was gone. I was pretty shook up and not thinking clearly for a few days. I can definitely empathize with the pharmacist, but I can't unequivocally say he was completely within his rights as the situation has been described here.
posted by Daddy-O at 11:15 AM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Respectfully, PeterMcDermott, I think there is a distinction to made here, given the context of the specific case we are discussing. When the consequences of acquiescence involve material goods and/or cash as opposed to the rape/maiming/death of a human being we are now entering a different moral dilemma, yes?
posted by barrett caulk at 11:17 AM on May 30, 2009


So, am I a complete idiot for feeling that if anyone ever tried to rob me at gunpoint, I would just give them whatever the fuck they wanted and wish them a nice day?

No you are not, and every pharmacist with whom I've ever discussed the possibility would agree.

My plan is this: Calmly place the contents of the cash register and all the narcs in a big ol' bag, oh, hey, want the benzos too while you're here? Thanks and have a nice day! Lock the door behind them, call the cops, fill out DEA form 106 once my hands stop shaking enough to write. Actually I vaguely recall that we even had a lecture in pharmacy school to this effect.


This is what "experts" used to tell us to do when faced with an armed robbery - cooperate, don't try to fight back, and the perps will most likely just take the money/valuables and leave you alone. But that was a long time ago when most perps were still afraid of the gas chamber. In so many states today, murderers never serve their full sentence and often get paroled before the folks caught carrying six ounces of cocaine. Not to mention, a lot of them never get caught in the first place (see this piece about Detroit cops simply not bothering to respond to many homicide calls). A lot of gun-toting criminals don't follow the "code" of "do what I say and you won't get hurt." Many of them murder for the heck of it, like the Brown's Chicken killers. After this couple peacefully complied and relinquished their fried chicken at gunpoint, the perp's cohorts still urged him to "blast them!" (Mercifully he didn't.) And in this case, even after having their victims strip naked, raping the women, driving each person to various ATMs to empty their accounts, and stealing all the cash/valuables in the house, they still shot each one of them in cold blood and then drove over them with a car. Four of the victims were left with one gunman at several points during the crime, but they still didn't attempt to fight back for whatever reason.

This pharmacist is probably screwed now no matter how his case goes. Friends of the robber(s) might target him and seek revenge, and if he is convicted and goes to prison, how long before he gets shanked in the shower?
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:34 AM on May 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Those are some terrifying anecdotes, Oriole. Do you have any statistics on the number of armed robberies that actually end that way, versus the number where the victim just hands over the cash and the robbers leave?
posted by fatbird at 11:43 AM on May 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Manslaughter, he won't do any, or much, time.

It was a stupid thing to do. He could have gotten killed, his employee could have gotten killed, and now he's probably going to go to jail.

For a few hundred dollars, that was gonna be covered by insurance.
posted by empath at 11:49 AM on May 30, 2009


"I think that if you rob someone at gunpoint, you're pretty much abandoning any reasonable claim to a civil, or even measured, response."

The person who was killed is not the party who is indicting the defendant.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:50 AM on May 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


"Granted, the man was probably very angry. I would have been too.. all of these things put together, I think he should be punished for his poor choice, but I am not entirely sure on how long he should be punished for."

Isn't this classic voluntary manslaughter?
posted by krinklyfig at 11:53 AM on May 30, 2009


How about if they tried to rape your wife at gunpoint? Would you give 'em the fuck that they wanted and wish them a nice day too?

What the hell? How is money/drugs comparable to a human being?
posted by rtha at 11:55 AM on May 30, 2009


"This is what 'experts' used to tell us to do when faced with an armed robbery - cooperate, don't try to fight back, and the perps will most likely just take the money/valuables and leave you alone. But that was a long time ago when most perps were still afraid of the gas chamber."

I believe the reason for these policies has a lot more to do with liability than efficacy. The company doesn't want to be sued over instructing an employee to put themselves in a life-threatening situation or to potentially make an existing one more dangerous. What boss in their right mind is going to tell a cashier to jump over the counter and beat the robber? Some of them do that anyway, but that's just asking for trouble if you design a policy which requires a lowly service employee to be a law-enforcement vigilante.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:58 AM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


"How about if they tried to rape your wife at gunpoint? Would you give 'em the fuck that they wanted and wish them a nice day too?"

I think it's too easy to speculate on how someone might react in a highly dangerous situation. But the issue remains that our criminal justice system can't allow vigilante actions without repercussions. Even if someone is legally defending themselves by taking certain actions, other actions are not automatically justifiable, if perhaps understandable. If you catch a serial raper in your house, tie him up and torture him, well, I can see how someone might feel threatened when confronted with such a person and become enraged and wish to exact their own form of justice, but there's a point where a person's actions stop being self-defense and are considered crimes in and of themselves. I can't say what I'd do, honestly, and I can empathize with anyone who reacts unexpectedly when faced with fight-or-flight survival situations, but I still believe that we can't promote retributive punishment outside of the framework of the justice system. So, you defend yourself, the law allows for it, but anything more than that, it's a crime.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:11 PM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


He should do some time, because he walked past the prone guy twice, then came back and put 3 more in'em. I pretty sure he won't become a felon though. And the robber got what he gave. He took that risk and lost the bet. Don't rob people and you can avoid that whole situation.
posted by Flex1970 at 12:32 PM on May 30, 2009


robbers: we're going to bring these guns to the hold-up, but we aren't going to kill anyone.

clerk: I'm going to bring this gun to work, and I'm going to kill anyone who tries to rob me.
posted by Brocktoon at 12:48 PM on May 30, 2009


So those who think this was an acceptable thing to do, is it just guns that are special? If he had gone into the back, got a knife and slit the man's throat would that have been a-ok? Or he could have just stabbed him a few times? What if he had gone back, put on some shitkickers and kicked the robber to death?

This was execution. It was deliberate and premeditated (he went back, got another gun, and reloaded. That's far above the requirements for premeditation). While yes, he may not have been thinking straight at the time that does not excuse his actions to the point where it's not criminal, and in never excuses them to the point where he was right.
posted by aspo at 12:58 PM on May 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


Oh and shit like this?

(compiling a list of people whom it is utterly safe to rob [and then kill -- no witnesses] since they will be good and compliant instead of making a fuss)

Yeah rr, we've got it, you one hard motherfucker. Now go play outside and let the adults finish their conversation ok?
posted by aspo at 1:03 PM on May 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


And is execution unjustified? The robber was going to kill him. Eye for an Eye? Are we losing sight of the underlying principles of our justice system?
posted by phoffmann at 1:05 PM on May 30, 2009


If I were on the jury, and this were the evidence, I would convict him for murder. The fact that he didn't seem to be in any hurry, and that he went and got a different gun to administer the coup de grâce, cinched it for me.
posted by moonbiter at 1:07 PM on May 30, 2009


"And is execution unjustified? The robber was going to kill him. Eye for an Eye? Are we losing sight of the underlying principles of our justice system?"

The underlying principle of our justice system is that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. This is enforced through a system which monopolizes the use of force so that people don't act as judge, jury and executioner on their own. Of course you're allowed to defend yourself, but examples from the Book of Exodus are not actually written into our law, nor other Old Testament laws.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:15 PM on May 30, 2009


Eye for an Eye? Are we losing sight of the underlying principles of our justice system?

Since you just claimed an ancient Babylonian monarch as an untouched arbiter of American jurisprudence, I would say yes, yes you most certainly are.

I also coulda sworn there was some dude who said something on a mount somewhere about that particular issue that a minor percentage of this country's residents claim to be their inspiration for law and morality.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 1:17 PM on May 30, 2009


And is execution unjustified? The robber was going to kill him.

Which robber is that? The one lying on the ground with a bullet in his head, unconscious, immobile, bleeding out, and without a gun at that point?
posted by fatbird at 1:19 PM on May 30, 2009


How about if they tried to rape your wife at gunpoint? Would you give 'em the fuck that they wanted and wish them a nice day too?

The question you should ask is: if Kitty Dukakis raped your wife at gunpoint would you give Willie Horton a weekend furlough?
posted by humanfont at 1:47 PM on May 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


I really wish the video was clearer and showed the guy on the floor. We've been discussing this at length on a gun-related forum I'm a member of (SA's TFR).

In my Texas CHL class, we were told to "shoot to stop the threat, and no more". If someone barged in and tried to rob my home, yes I'd shoot him (center of mass, never the head; it's too difficult in high-stress situations). If he was down, and started to get up again (holding his gun), the shooting would continue until he ceased to be a threat.

It doesn't help that Ersland's Kel-Tec .380 has all the real stopping power of a Nerf dart gun. People have been shot with .380 and not even known it; .22 Long Rifle has more kinetic energy.

See this video - a man shoots his lawyer five times point-blank with a .380. Both men remain standing and walk away after the shooter runs out of ammo.
posted by mrbill at 1:48 PM on May 30, 2009


mrbill, which thread is that? I have an SA account, but I don't see a dedicated thread, and SA's practice of having megathreads tends to hide timely content.
posted by fatbird at 1:55 PM on May 30, 2009


aspo gets points for missing the point and dodging the issue.

It is amusing that the "OMG! Guns = bad!" brigade is busy asserting rational behavior on the part of the least rational person in any of these armed robbery/rape/... situations: the criminal. Does anyone actually think this way, or is this just politics over reality?
posted by rr at 2:03 PM on May 30, 2009


robbers: we're going to bring these guns to the hold-up, but we aren't going to kill anyone.

Assuming they wouldn't have killed him. Check some of Oriole Adams' links above. There was a case in Milwaukee where a woman on her knees in a restaurant parking lot was shotgunned (fatally) in front of her young daughter because one of the robbers didn't like the way she looked at him. My friend Kevin was robbed by a man who killed the clerk in a convenience store later that same night. Never assume the man pointing the gun won't kill you.
posted by MikeMc at 2:28 PM on May 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Seems pretty clear to me -- it's murder. The first shot wasn't, but the second gun full of bullets, that was certainly murder. I feel a bit of sympathy for the store owner, but if we let rage trump law, well, that can't be good for society.
posted by jamstigator at 2:32 PM on May 30, 2009


mrbill, which thread is that?

The Gun-Related News Articles Megathread, a few pages back from the latest stuff.
posted by mrbill at 2:32 PM on May 30, 2009


Okay, so, I want to say that race is not central to peoples' reactions to this incident, but, I sort of think the folks spinning the shooter as a Righteous Defender would be having at the very least slightly more complicated reactions if the races of the robbers and the pharmacist were switched....
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 2:35 PM on May 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


I sort of think the folks spinning the shooter as a Righteous Defender would be having at the very least slightly more complicated reactions if the races of the robbers and the pharmacist were switched....

Let's say the both the pharmacist and the robber were white, do you think people would be clamoring for this guy to be put away? I don't.
posted by MikeMc at 2:40 PM on May 30, 2009


brigade is busy asserting rational behavior on the part of the least rational person in any of these armed robbery/rape/... situations: the criminal.

Where? Who here is defending the armed robber for committing that crime? It's been stated several times in the thread that decrying the cold-blooded murder of the incapacitated criminal is not the same thing as excusing him.

You're engaging in willful mis-comprehension for the sake of being contrarian, here.

Let's try this again: If you break into my house and threaten to take my property at gunpoint, I have the right to defend myself, and if that act of defense in particular happens to result in your demise, too fucking bad. However, if my baseball bat merely knocks you unconscious, I do not legally have the right to pulp your skull after taking a stroll around the house. Even if I am on your list.
posted by Devils Rancher at 2:45 PM on May 30, 2009


Honestly, If I was a juror in this case I wouldn't vote to convict. No sympathy for armed robbers. Period.

Honestly, there's no way in hell you'd pass jury selection.
posted by Devils Rancher at 2:47 PM on May 30, 2009


Honestly, there's no way in hell you'd pass jury selection.

Maybe not for this case but I've been on a couple of criminal trial juries. One resulted in acquittal the other ended with a last minute plea bargain. I probably would be a bad choice for this case as it's obvious the DA has, from a "winnability" perspective, overcharged this guy (some here think intentionally so). Of course if I really wanted to be on this jury I'm sure I could tailor my voir dire answers to suit.
posted by MikeMc at 2:57 PM on May 30, 2009


it's obvious the DA has, from a "winnability" perspective, overcharged this guy (some here think intentionally so)

I don't think so. I've read about other cases where a husband comes home to find his wife in bed with her lover, who then goes to the garage to get his gun, comes back, and kills them both. The act of retrieving the gun is sufficient to establish premeditation--meaning a conscious decision to kill, as evidenced by carrying out several steps before the murder in order to facilitate it. Legally, it seems that a charge of first degree murder is required here, just because the pharmacist reloaded first.
posted by fatbird at 3:04 PM on May 30, 2009


I've read about other cases where a husband comes home to find his wife in bed with her lover, who then goes to the garage to get his gun, comes back, and kills them both.

That sounds familiar, wasn't that the case where the judge gave the guy time served + six months on a manslaughter conviction because he "had to give him something" and outrage, resulting in re-sentencing, ensued? IDK if the DA is required to file murder one in this case or if this is the set-up for a possible manslaughter plea bargain, I just can't see the DA thinking he's going to win this one.
posted by MikeMc at 3:17 PM on May 30, 2009



Where? Who here is defending the armed robber for committing that crime? It's been stated several times in the thread that decrying the cold-blooded murder of the incapacitated criminal is not the same thing as excusing him.


Now who is erecting the strawman?

The point is this: doing what a criminal is asking you to do and complying with their requests is not rational. They are not behaving rationally, there are all sorts of responses (as other have noted in the thread) that criminals engage in including murder, abduction and rape.
posted by rr at 3:18 PM on May 30, 2009


But this observation is both as facile and as incorrect...

Racial bias with regards to perception of danger and violence response has been studied by science.
posted by yeloson at 3:31 PM on May 30, 2009


You completely missed the point, Mike, and you strike me as the kind of guy who often does.
posted by Brocktoon at 3:36 PM on May 30, 2009


it's obvious the DA has, from a "winnability" perspective, overcharged this guy

"Obvious?" Well shit, if only that DA never bothered to go to law school; you'd have saved him a ton of money I'm sure.

Can one of the people confident of this magical, inexplicable theory of a self-serving DA who clearly wants to ruin a man's life for his own personal gain explain the motive behind it? Considering he already has three of the robbers in custody and clear guilty verdicts waiting for them (who the general public, as noted in the article already think will "Get what they deserve"), exactly what is his personal incentive- in the fact of public opposition in a heavily-white state that highly favors gun ownership- in arbitrarily charging the white, victimized clerk with murder? Shits and giggles?

It's "obvious" the DA has enough evidence (the, you know, video of the guy doing it sort of helps) to merit a case against the guy because if he's such a self-serving monster the idea that he'd gamble such a controversial charge on a case he thinks he can't feasibly win is pretty damn stupid. He's doing his job; the belief that a jury won't do theirs by committing nullification isn't the DA's fault.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 3:37 PM on May 30, 2009


Convict this guy of manslaughter. Seriously. I would have called him brave if he hadn't taken it to the level of killing someone who was already down, someone that he was 100% capable of covering from behind the counter while calling the police.

Yes, people do crazy shit in crazy situations and in the heat of the moment. If he hadn't turned his back for so long and taken the time to reload, I'd buy that defense in this case.
posted by EatTheWeak at 3:44 PM on May 30, 2009


Those are some terrifying anecdotes, Oriole. Do you have any statistics on the number of armed robberies that actually end that way, versus the number where the victim just hands over the cash and the robbers leave?

No, I don't, and to be honest I don't know how I'd begin to research and compile them (city-wide? state-wide? etc)

Anyway, the more I think about the Wichita case, the more I wonder how I would react in a similar situation. As a Monday-morning quarterback, I can see many parts in the story where I would've launched an offensive (and encouraged my co-victims to join me.) After all, it's one guy with one gun; if everyone rushed him at once, he can't kill all of us. Is that part of the reasoning that keeps groups from revolting - one of us may die? The lone survivor of the Wichita horror testified in court that at one point she was on all fours, being raped from behind, and that her attacker had set his gun down on the ground. She said that she thought for a moment about grabbing it, but she didn't know how to "work" it. Again, 20/20 hindsight here, but I'm thinking "grab the pistol and smack him upside the head with it." It occurs to me that there might be some sort of mental/adrenaline thing in play, where a person automatically goes into submission mode when confronted with a weapon....? I don't know the science behind it, but I'm also reminded of the hijacking of TWA flight 847, where there were only two armed hijackers, and 153 passengers aboard. Had six or ten of those passengers attacked the two hijackers (particularly using the tactic of throwing objects at their faces, forcing them to raise their hands to protect their eyes), the outcome may have been different. But there is something about a "victim mentality" that seems to prevent most people from reacting in such situations.
posted by Oriole Adams at 3:46 PM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


The point is this: doing what a criminal is asking you to do and complying with their requests is not rational.

Okay, I didn't understand the intent of your comment -- whether or not to comply with the demands of a criminal pointing a gun at you. You have a valid case, there, as they might shoot you, anyway, after you've complied. I see now where you were going.

However, that's really not what's being discussed here. A couple of people have said that they personally would have complied, and that employers suggest that clerks comply, and one person has suggested that this guy might have saved himself a lot of trouble by complying. We'll never know, as we can't get inside the mind of the dead guy.

The tangential debate aside from the excessive force then is should you engage armed robbers in gunplay? I think the odds of getting the drop on someone who already has a gun in your face are slim for one (Our "hero" really lucked out there), and for two, statistically, what percentage of armed robberies result in the murder of a compliant victim? I bet it's in the single digits, if it's even a full point. I think there's a rational argument to be made for not chancing a gun duel, considering those two factors. The odds of you getting shot by initiating an exchange of fire are probably a good bit higher than the odds of you getting shot at random while acquiescing to the demands of an armed robber.
posted by Devils Rancher at 3:48 PM on May 30, 2009



Let's say the both the pharmacist and the robber were white, do you think people would be clamoring for this guy to be put away? I don't.
posted by MikeMc at 5:40 PM on May 30 [+] [!]


Yes. I'm white and I think, given what we know, the guy should be charged with at least manslaughter. The pharmacist, in my opinion, went over the line when he went to get the second gun. I don't know anything about Oklahoma law, but where I am, people have a duty to retreat--shoot back at the guy in self-defense but that's it. If he can make an argument that the guy on the floor was making moves and was still a threat, that's a different matter. I don't know how race got injected in this discussion but to me, it's irrelevant.
posted by etaoin at 3:58 PM on May 30, 2009


I don't know how race got injected in this discussion...

The speculation-slash-editorializing by the OP...

"Complicating matters is the fact that Jerome is white and the robbers black."

...might have something to do with it
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:06 PM on May 30, 2009


It occurs to me that there might be some sort of mental/adrenaline thing in play, where a person automatically goes into submission mode when confronted with a weapon....? [...] But there is something about a "victim mentality" that seems to prevent most people from reacting in such situations.

I'd call it survival mechanism, not "victim mentality" or "submission." Most of us don't want to die most of the time, and I think it's much more likely that non-military, non-police civilian-type people will more naturally run away (if possible) from someone with a weapon, or comply, if only because at first blush, running towards or fighting someone with a weapon when you are unarmed seems a much better way to die than running away from them or complying with their demands.

Some people's flight-or-fight mechanism is going to be out at either end of the curve, of course, but most people will (reluctantly) comply or they will run away if they can. Many (most?) people will fight if cornered, like any other animal, but your definition of "cornered" and someone else's definition of "cornered" may be different.

These days, people on a hijacked plane will fight back, because they perceive themselves as being cornered (i.e., if we don't fight, we will die; if we do fight, we might not); back in 1972, being on a hijacked plane meant complying and hoping the authorities would meet the hijackers' demands - being on a hijacked plane did not equal "cornered" for most people, since most people survived most hijackings.
posted by rtha at 4:21 PM on May 30, 2009


The tangential debate aside from the excessive force then is should you engage armed robbers in gunplay? I think the odds of getting the drop on someone who already has a gun in your face are slim for one (Our "hero" really lucked out there), and for two, statistically, what percentage of armed robberies result in the murder of a compliant victim? I bet it's in the single digits, if it's even a full point. I think there's a rational argument to be made for not chancing a gun duel, considering those two factors.

I do not necessarily disagree. My issue is with the bland across-the-board anti-gun stance regarding self defense which is seen in this thread. The generic, sheepish prescription to just give criminals what they want and they will go away may be true in most cases but in some it is completely catastrophic: murder (andonly that, if you're lucky), rape and torture (if you're not)and possibly the added exploitation of others.

Putting aside the obvious cases where resistance is absolutely imperitive (under no circumstances should anyone ever allow themselves to be taken to a more private location by an assailant) I think you can make a very strong benefit that the passive "give in" crowd are benefiting from the occasional encounter between criminals and the parts of the populace that actually are willing to defend themselves.

In this case, the guy was clearly no longer threatened. Did he perceive that? Was he acting rationally? Probably not, but he had some cooldown time [getting the other gun] so there are grounds to question it. On the other hand, what exactly would be gained by putting this guy in jail?

And race? Race has nothing to do with it. I doubt any of the people arguing this topic from the position that taking the upper hand when possible is the right strategic action would care if the races were identical or exactly reversed. It has nothing to do with it, the ingredients are armed criminal willing to directly threaten the life of a non-criminal. Dragging race into it is just a racist way of clouding the issue.
posted by rr at 4:32 PM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


yeloson: Racial bias with regards to perception of danger and violence response has been studied by science.

Even so, racial trends in violent crime rates are a matter of record, and PTSD among veterans has been more than studied. Still, I don't think it's reasonable to assume that any side of this confrontation acted out some kind of racial role - that this is a telling fragment in a pattern of "Whites shooting too many Blacks," "Blacks robbing too many Whites," or "veterans lashing out at society." I think those three statements are comparably insufficient, premature, and politically convenient, especially when we know so little about the case.
posted by kid ichorous at 4:45 PM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


The speculation-slash-editorializing by the OP...

"Complicating matters is the fact that Jerome is white and the robbers black."

...might have something to do with it


Let me rephrase--WHY race got injected...
posted by etaoin at 5:12 PM on May 30, 2009


My issue is with the bland across-the-board anti-gun stance regarding self defense which is seen in this thread.

You are mistaking and anti-cold-blooded-murder stance for an anti-gun stance. Just, y'know, fyi.
posted by dersins at 5:20 PM on May 30, 2009


Now, a lawyer that is familiar with OK criminal law can clarify this, but from what I understand, the "I was freaked out" defense doesn't absolve you from responsibility for killing someone. It maybe mitigates the severity of your punishment and shifts the charges into the "second degree" or "manslaughter" zone, but the actions you take under stress or whatever are still your actions.

From what I know from my sister, who is a psychiatrist that every day makes several medical-legal decisions about mental capacity and responsibility, people are responsible for their actions even if they're mood-disordered, personality-disordered, or just simply messed up (although all of these can be argued as mitigating factors afterwards). The only conditions where you can claim that a mental state absolves you from your actions are psychosis and psychotic episodes (i.e., delusions, distortions of reality), and intellectual impairment that isn't self-inflicted (i.e., being drunk / high doesn't cut it, but being too developmentally-delayed to understand and follow the law might).

So, to re-word something someone has already said above: he can plead for leniency and understanding, but he's still responsible for his decision.

I'll also chime in with the "I don't know what I would've done" caveat, but I don't think that means that no judgement can be made. I may be in a similar situation in the future and make a wrong decision, and while I would hope for understanding, I would expect to be held responsible for it.
posted by LMGM at 5:29 PM on May 30, 2009


If you go waving a gun in someone's face without just cause (say, robbing them) your life is forfeit. It's one of the occupational hazards of being a stick up man. Not necessarily how I'd have handled it, nor cause for celebration, but I haven't a shred of sympathy for the robber. It's just the game.
posted by Scoo at 7:41 PM on May 30, 2009


You are mistaking and anti-cold-blooded-murder stance

Guilty or not of meditation, it is a gigantic stretch to describe it as "cold blooded." How cold blooded are you after some jackass threatens to kill you?
posted by rr at 8:21 PM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


etaoin: "I don't know anything about Oklahoma law, but where I am, people have a duty to retreat..."

Oklahoma is a Castle Doctrine state; there is no duty for a person to retreat when threatened inside their home. However, it only applies within the home, and has no effect on the situation in question as far as I can tell.

I'm a big believer that if you threaten someone's life in the commission of a crime, your life is pretty much forfeit; if the easiest way for the person you're threatening to remove the threat happens to involve ending yours, well, tough luck. However, as much as I'm pretty much automatically on the side of anyone who has the misfortune of having to defend themselves, when they go back and get a second gun to dispatch the scumbag (and anyone who's holding up a store at gunpoint is a prima facie scumbag) who's already at that point lying on the ground...it's a bit tough to defend.

Even under the most generous reading of the self-defense statutes, you're pretty much obligated to stop shooting at someone when they stop being a threat. That's kind of the difference between a self-defense shooting and an execution: in the former, you're shooting to remove the threat, and whether it kills the attacker or not is incidental — that's the sole reason why it's allowable.

I wish Ersland and his defense luck because he doesn't sound like a bad guy, but it does look like he stepped over the line. Sad situation, really.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:55 PM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


And that was my point. The legal system is designed to resolve guilt and punishment for actions in the abstract. The pharmacist had just been unarguably and on video on the receiving end of violence. There is no shade of grey to him. He was the victim. As such he had the right to act to right a wrong. The only legal issue might be whether he had provoked the assault on him, and i have seen no argument that that was the case. This is a primary situation where all the players understand exactly who is doing what.
posted by phoffmann at 9:03 PM on May 30, 2009


The only legal issue might be whether he had provoked the assault on him, and i have seen no argument that that was the case.

No. The legal issue is that the pharmacist came back into the store after he chased one robber out (and left the other one, whom he'd shot, on the floor of the shop), walked behind the counter and to the far end of it, walked back to where the robber was, and shot him some more.

After he'd run out of the store to chase the other guy, why did he go back? Why didn't he stay outside - where he was not at risk of being shot by the robber-on-the-floor - and call the police? Once he was outside the store, he was no longer being threatened by the robber.

That's the legal issue.
posted by rtha at 9:14 PM on May 30, 2009


The legal system is designed to resolve guilt and punishment for actions in the abstract... As such he had the right to act to right a wrong.

Nonsense. We do not allow citizens to right wrongs. The whole point of having a justice system dispensing punishment is to right wrongs. The whole point of a trial is to apply those abstractions you identify, in the real world, to a particular case. What you're talking about is vigilantism, pure and simple.

We allow citizens to defend themselves, with deadly force if it's necessary. Ersland wasn't defending himself with the second gun. There was no threat to his life when he used the second gun. That's what makes it an execution.
posted by fatbird at 9:27 PM on May 30, 2009


This is another question I have, having watched the video way too many times by now:

Did the kid he shot actually have a gun?

It seems like, reasonably, he might have, but I can't see one in the video. The kid who gets away certainly had one, but I don't see much from the deceased teen other than what looks to me to be pulling on a ski-mask or something similar. I've watched many times now, and can't see the teen in question holding a firearm.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:10 PM on May 30, 2009


Watch this video, where the DA explains in more detail what happened.

The person he killed was lying on his back, arms out, palms up, unarmed and unconscious. Ersland walks (he doesn't run like when he chases the gunman) to get the other gun, passing the robber on the floor(merely glancing at him and even carrying the gun in his non-shooting hand!), walks back and quickly fires five rounds into the robber's stomach.

He doesn't even stand there for another second before he turns and walks over to the phone and calls the police.

C'mon! Ersland is NOT behaving like he is in any danger at this point because he just isn't. He has the slightest little "hustle" in his step as he gets back to the kid with the head wound on the floor and he hurriedly unloads into him. This really looks like his intent is to finish the kid off.
posted by orme at 10:22 PM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think that if you rob someone at gunpoint, you're pretty much abandoning any reasonable claim to a civil, or even measured, response.

This is not the law. Nor should it be.

Depending on whether the person was dead after the first shot, under US law, this is first-degree murder. In the USA, if you cannot escape an assualt by another, you are entitled to use force in response. However, if you can escape, force is not justified under the law. Some states have home-protection exceptions, but this is a place of business.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:40 AM on May 31, 2009


The pertinet part of the OK castle law:

D. A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force, if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.

Murder in the first degree. There is no defense of "stress response."

As for those who say we cannot tell what he is thinking based on his actions, it is exactly what the prosecutors are going to say based on his actions. A jury is allowed to draw any inferences it wishes.

This case will plead out.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:55 AM on May 31, 2009


Wouldn't the defense be that he believed deadly force was necessary to protect himself and others, due to his military training? There was no "stress response" because this was how he has been trained to handle a threat. If an enemy attacks you, you make sure you kill them, so that there is no chance of them returning to attack you again. I'm not saying I think what he did was right, but if the requirement of the law is that he must reasonably believe that deadly force is necessary, it seems that would be pretty easy to establish. He was trained to respond that way. There's no need to argue that it was due to stress (especially since it seems pretty clear that it wasn't).

Full disclosure: I know nothing about law or military training.
posted by team lowkey at 10:06 AM on May 31, 2009


team lowkey: If an enemy attacks you, you make sure you kill them, so that there is no chance of them returning to attack you again.

Isn't it a war crime to intentionally finish off an incapacitated enemy?
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:46 PM on May 31, 2009


fatbird:

We do not allow citizens to right wrongs.

That kind of thinking is what caused me to make my remarks to push this issue out of the realm of regurgitating the thoughts of those that think that we always have to rely on the system. I admit this is an extreme case, but sometimes it pays to think about fundamental issues of right and wrong and to not just rely on a historical accumulation of case law. Sometimes the law is wrong.

Also read the definition of vigilante, here is one:

"A vigilante is a person who violates the law in order to exact what they believe to be justice from criminals."

pay attention to "what they believe"
posted by phoffmann at 2:07 PM on May 31, 2009


This won't get to a jury, especially in Oklahoma. Ironmouth is right. The prosecutor is looking for a plea - he's probably afraid of losing this at trial before a jury. The pharmacist will plea out to something like first degree manslaughter, maybe serve some jail time, be on extended probation, and the prosecutors can say that vigilantism will not go unpunished.

Criminal law is a malleable thing. You'll notice that these actions will fit the definition of first-degree murder as well as it fits the definition of voluntary manslaughter.
posted by jabberjaw at 3:28 PM on May 31, 2009


Isn't it a war crime to intentionally finish off an incapacitated enemy?

Only if he is wearing a uniform. Do you see a uniform in that video?

WELL? DO YOU?!
posted by prak at 1:03 AM on June 1, 2009


Isn't it going to be difficult to find a jury that do not have prior knowledge of this crime? Does that not prejudice the verdict?
posted by asok at 5:02 AM on June 1, 2009


if the guy has already received a fatal injury, he cannot be murdered

Could you provide a citation for that? It seems counterintuitive to me (we are all dying, after all), so if that's the case I'd be curious to learn more.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 6:37 AM on June 1, 2009


If you fire a bullet out of your 12th floor hotel window and it happens to hit a guy in the head who was jumping off the roof to commit suicide, well, guess what, you just committed murder, or at least manslaughter -- even though the person you killed was certainly doomed to die in seconds anyway. The projected duration of a person's life is irrelevant under the law. That's one reason why you can't just go into a terminal cancer ward and blow peoples' brains out. Yes, they're going to die anyway, but that doesn't give you the right to end their lives even one second earlier.
posted by jamstigator at 8:18 AM on June 1, 2009


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