James Newman of Billings
Last month, James Newman of Billings fired six shots across the parking lot of Rimrock Mall while trying to make a citizen’s arrest for shoplifting. Police questioned Newman and released him at the scene, apparently satisfied with his contention that he fired in self-defense. The former Marine had confronted two people he suspected of stealing from JC Penney, insisting they wait with him for the authorities to arrive. When they got in their car, Newman stood behind the parking space in an attempt to block their escape. He drew his weapon. “If you hit me now,” he shouted, “I will [expletive] open fire.”
He wound up opening fire anyway, firing six shots at the car as it drove away. None of these shots hit the mark, which is a sad coda to this story of valor. If only Newman had killed one of the people whom he was trying to arrest for a misdemeanor in his capacity as a private citizen, we would laud him as a hero. As it is, he is just one of Montana’s many responsible handgun owners, who happened to bring his gun to the mall on the same day circumstances happened to force him to take the law into his own hands. You can read my paean to this brave citizen and C-plus marksman in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent. We’ll be back tomorrow, perhaps, with Friday links.
Phew! Now all I have to live with is my memory of killing a child.
Perhaps you heard already, but George Zimmerman acted in self-defense when he used his gun to kill the unarmed 17 year-old he followed down the street. Contrary to popular perception, Zimmerman’s defense team did not rely on Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, which A) allows people to use deadly force when they consider themselves at risk of death or great bodily injury, and B) does not require them to retreat from such threats, even when they might reasonably be able to do so. While most states have adopted the so-called Castle Doctrine, which applies to homes, Florida and several others have extended to any lawfully occupied public place the right to use deadly force rather than retreat. Since they did, they have experienced an average 8% increase in homicides and non-negligent manslaughter.
My brother forwarded me this article from Headline News’s obsessive coverage of the George Zimmerman trial, in which Zimmerman’s friend Mark Osterman explains how he convinced Zimmerman to buy a gun. Quote:
He asked whether he should or shouldn’t—to start with—and I recommended that he should. Anybody who’s a non-convicted felon should carry a firearm. The police aren’t always there.
Dear friends: when I am on trial for murder, please do not describe me as a “non-convicted felon.” Also, great advice on the gun thing, Mark.
Yesterday, the New York Times ran this article about the description George Zimmerman gave to police of what happened just before he shot Trayvon Martin. Not surprisingly, Zimmerman’s version is a desperate act of self-defense. He claims that he returned to his SUV after he lost Martin and was struck from behind, after which Martin “began slamming his head into the sidewalk.” My response to this news was I’ll bet he said that. I have already decided that George Zimmerman is not a reliable witness in the case of his own shooting of an unarmed black kid, which is A) understandable and B) a huge problem, given that I have no way of knowing what actually happened.