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Fight crime: shoot back

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Snohomish County authorities were still investigating last night’s shooting at a private residence near Lake Stevens today, an incident that is getting coverage from all the local news agencies, and is one more example of a trend this column has discussed before, the lawful use of lethal force in self-defense.

It may be best summed up in the words of a popular bumper sticker: "Fight Crime - Shoot Back."

Reports from KING, KIRO, KOMO and KCPQ all say that two masked, armed men entered a garage last night in what apparently was an attempted armed robbery. It was their bad luck that a visitor who was with the homeowner in that garage had a gun of his own handy, inside of his car. He grabbed that gun and opened fire, hitting one suspect and sending the other fleeing.

Washington’s self-defense statute is pretty definitive when it comes to the lawful use of lethal force.

Homicide is also justifiable when committed either:
(1) In the lawful defense of the slayer, or his or her husband, wife, parent, child, brother, or sister, or of any other person in his or her presence or company, when there is reasonable ground to apprehend a design on the part of the person slain to commit a felony or to do some great personal injury to the slayer or to any such person, and there is imminent danger of such design being accomplished; or
(2) In the actual resistance of an attempt to commit a felony upon the slayer, in his or her presence, or upon or in a dwelling, or other place of abode, in which he or she is..—RCW 9A.16.050

When a person is in genuine fear of grave bodily harm or death, the law is pretty well established that they have the right to use whatever force necessary to defend themselves from attack. One does not necessarily need to face an attacker who is armed with a gun, either. Someone armed with a knife, crowbar, baseball bat, pipe, rock, shovel or some other instrument that can inflict potentially lethal injury could stop a bullet. As the saying goes, don't bring a knife to a gunfight.

Don’t confuse armed self-defense with that caper ten days ago in Pierce County, where three people allegedly decided to hand out some curbside justice to a suspected car thief and ended up charged with murder after 24-year-old Robert Ward was fatally shot in the confrontation. Self-defense statutes are not hunting licenses, despite what gun prohibitionists may say to the contrary.

One look at some of the comments being posted on the Everett Herald’s website shows that people are not shedding any tears for the would-be Lake Stevens robber who was at Harborview Medical Center in serious condition at last report. Likewise for comments appearing below the KIRO report.

Washington is not the only place where armed citizens are fighting back, often with lethal consequences for the criminals who, in the vernacular, “called the play.”

In Grand Rapids, Mich., earlier this month, a man armed with a fake gun tried to pull a robbery only to get shot by his intended victim, who just happened to have a real gun. The would-be robber, according to WZZM, approached the would-be victim, who was loading some band equipment into his car, took some of the equipment and then let the victim drive away. It was then that the bad guy pushed his luck by yelling at his victim and pulling the fake gun. The robbery victim, who is licensed to carry, drew his pistol and shot the outlaw in the chest.

In Sandstone, Minn., a homeowner fatally shot an armed burglary suspect when he was awakened and held at gunpoint for almost 30 minutes. The 70-something homeowner managed to grab his handgun and shoot the armed intruder, identified as Gypsy Watts, 23, of Sandstone. According to KMSP News, Watts had a criminal charge pending and had also been arrested for robbery, burglary and illegal firearm possession.

In late December, a Fulton County, Ga., homeowner shot a burglar who forced his way into the home. The unidentified homeowner said the bad guy was trying to break through the door using a shovel when he opened fire.

The local CBS affiliate in Chicago reported a mid-December fatal shooting in which the dead guy was identified as Demarcus Brandon. The cops wanted this fellow as the prime suspect in the shooting of a police officer in November, but when they finally got their hands on him, Brandon was in no condition to run. Brandon reportedly tried to rob a South Side cell phone store at gunpoint, but his number was disconnected suddenly when the store owner drew a gun on the parolee and fired. Brandon died at the scene.

There was one December incident in San Francisco that was simply bizarre. According to Time, 16-year-old Clifton Chatman was one of four guys who tried to mug a man for his cell phone and other belongings. Apparently for good measure, one of Chatman’s companions decided to shoot their victim in the head, but he picked a guy with an awfully hard head. According to the story, the bullet struck the victim in the face but ricocheted right back and hit Chatman, killing him where he stood. The other three thugs fled.

Readers are encouraged to share their thoughts below on fighting crime by shooting back.

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