Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Vigilantism Acceptable in Hamilton County

The Enquirer reports that the Hamilton County Prosecuting Attorney will not file charges against the owner of the N & M Minimart at Ninth and Elm. As you might recall, the owner, Wade Nassar, followed a robber into the street and fired shots at him as the robber fled. As recounted by the Enquirer at the time:

As soon as Nassar gave the man the money, he ran out the door and east on Ninth Street. When the robber took off, Nassar said he reached behind the counter, grabbed the .22-caliber handgun he keeps there and ran to the front door, opened it and started shooting, getting off five shots.
"How I missed him I don't know," Nassar said. "If I (would have) crossed the street, I would have killed him." Police heard the shots and responded. They weren't too thrilled about Nassar shooting his gun on a downtown street in an area across the street from a school.

And Nassar wasn't shy about his intent:

Nassar said he gave the robber $400 – and then grabbed his gun and followed him out the door. That’s when Nassar said he fired his .22-caliber handgun at the fleeing robber. “I meant to kill the dude,” Nassar said minutes after the Nov. 12 robbery.

Why is this OK? Joe Deters says that the robber "forfeit[ his] right not to be shot." But this isn't about the robber's rights; it's about the legality of Nassar's conduct. With gun ownership comes responsibility. Shooting at a fleeing suspect--who's already outside your property--is not self-defense. If Nassar had hit and killed his target (whose name is Sanford O'Neal, and is obviously not a terribly sympathetic figure--a few weeks after the Minimart heist, he was arrested for allegedly burglarizing a homicide victim's house, an act made possible only by breaking through police crime scene tape), would Nassar still be a free man?

I'm not suggesting that Nassar be charged with attempted murder. But there should be consequences for firing your gun on a downtown street at someone who no longer poses a risk of harm to you. I'm not convinced that turning downtown into the Wild, Wild West is such a good idea.

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