Shootin' the Breeze

and random targets

Archive for the tag “murder”

History of Violence

I met a young man who shared with me that he suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of “being involved in a murder trial.”  (I did not meet him as a law client or potential client, but in another manner).

I asked if he had been a witness or juror or defendant.  Defendant was the answer.

He explained further that when he was only 17, he entered into a plea bargain to avoid the risk of a murder conviction as an accomplice to assault and accomplice to murder.    It seems that his father had beaten a man to death and he, the son, was accused of being involved.  He had gone to prison as a result of the plea deal.  He told me that a book was written about his father’s case and trial.

I commented to the young man that I had gone to school with a guy with the same last name, but in another state.  I told him that the kid I knew was named Butch.

“That is my Dad’s name,” he said.  I told him where I grew up.  It was a match.  He told me the year his father was born.  It was two years before my birth.

Same guy.  What a coincidence.  I did not tell the young man the nature of my relationship with his father.

My wife researched the old news story about the murder trial.  Part of it described the father’s criminal history.  Butch was known in his town as a bully it said.  He had many arrests for assault and, well, various violent crimes. Tough man. Had pulled a straight edge razor on the victim in a bar during an argument about high school wrestling.  He wanted his 17 year old son to fight the 28 year old who had criticized his wrestling.  The 28 year old, 6’1″, 245 lbs, was invited by Butch to their home to finish the conflict resolution.  The result was a dead 28 year old.

Decades earlier, when I was 12 and Butch was 14, we went to the same junior high.  Butch was in 9th grade.  I was in 7th.  Butch was a bully, supposedly, by reputation, very tough and mean.  I had a foolishly exaggerated sense of self esteem.  I had watched too many cowboy movies.

So, since my peers were afraid of Butch, I thought it would be hilarious to mock Butch.  Remember the song about not tugging on Superman’s cape and not pulling the mask off the Lone Ranger by Jim Croce?  Well, the song had not come out yet when I was in 7th grade.

It would make a better story if I had saved someone from the school bully.  Rather, I teased him to show I was not afraid.  As he ran by on the way home from school, I ran after him.  It was unthinkable to the other 7th graders.  They were smart.

So Butch noticed the laughter and turned around and saw me imitating him.  He came over to me and knocked the books out from under my arm.  In those days, we did not carry books in backpacks nor, heaven forbid, brief cases.

The onlookers watched, fascinated, as I faced a beating.  To their surprise, and probably mine, I retaliated and knocked Butch’s books out from under his arm, to the ground.  Then he shoved me.  I shoved him back.  A crowd gathered in a circle.

Then a miracle happened.  Butch picked up his books and left.  I like to think that he wondered why I was not afraid.  I wonder too.  It has worked for me on other occasions.   My wife, Sugar, has witnessed the same phenomenon.  (See “A Cry for Help on a Downtown Street ”

Butch was either scared of me or he was just in a hurry to beat up some other kid.  I ain’t saying I could whip Butch.  I am just saying that he did not beat me to death like he did that other poor feller.

Call the Police!

As a prerequisite to reading this post, you should first read the one on the link below.

So Miss Sugar and I have a rental house in a town 50 miles away.  The tenants were to move out by the end of December.  On the last day of the month and of the year, they were to vacate the premises.  On January 1, we arrived at the rental house.  Imagine our surprise that the moving truck parked in the driveway was empty.

I knocked on the door.  It was locked.  I went into the back yard.  The two Mastiffs greeted me.  I walked into the open patio door.  They were not exactly packed up.  I looked around.  I got Sugar to come in too.  She had her camera.  See link. 

 I have been told that the power of my personal presence can be intimidating.  Shucks, I am just a country lawyer.  For some reason, over the years Miss Sugar has gotten the impression that I am a fighter as well as a lover.  She exaggerates about both.  Still, she was concerned when the tenants returned and I had a conversation with the male tenant, whom the police later described as “a large individual with a female companion with blue hair.” 

I might have let it slip during the conversation that I was not pleased that our house had been used to grow marijuana, that we had not given permission for a vent in the roof of the garage, and when the large individual denied the growing of marijuana, I might have inadvertantly called him a liar and encroached into his personal space, at which time he told me that I did not have to get aggressive.  I do recall gently responding that I am very aggressive and, perchance, I may have described myself, with typical self-deprecation, as a mean son of a bitch, without meaning disrespect for my own mother.  It was just a literary tool. 

In a few brief minutes, when I was inside the house and he was loading the truck, there was a knock on the door.  It was two police officers.  They informed me that they had received a call about an altercation.  I said there was no physical alteration, yet, and stated that our tenants were not out as promised, which I realize is a civil matter, and that this is a marijuana grow house, which in other states would be a criminal matter.  They did not seem interested in the latter.  

I thought, “What a weanie, calling the police on me.”

Sugar told me that she is the person who made the call.  I was insulted.  “I could take him, Sugar, you know I can, and you could handle the blue hair chick.”  

“I know.  It was not you that I was worried about.  A murder conviction could interfere with your ability to practice law.”

That Sugar is always considerate of the feelings of others.


Perspectives on a Problem

Is it the best time or the worst time to debate gun control in the immediate aftermath of a gunman killing innocent schoolchildren?

A mentally ill young man used guns to kill little children, an unthinkable tragedy.  There is no debate about whether the killer’s murderous actions were evil.  What he did was certainly criminal.  We have laws against murder.  We have a commandment against it as well.  Still, murders occur too often, in spite of the laws and commandment.

Mental illness of some as yet undefined sort is the cause of the crime.  As a nation, we can, I suppose, do more for the mentally ill.  We could do more, perhaps, to identify potentially violent people in order to stop them from harming others if not help them with their illnesses.  We do not have a law or commandment that “Thou shalt not be mentally ill.”  Even if we did, it would not stop mental illness.  Rather than a law against being mentally ill, which is futile, we can have legislation about improving how we deal with those who might be a danger to themselves or others.

It is easier to focus on objects rather than persons.  It would be easier to control who gets guns than who gets to be mentally ill.  Certainly it is easier to pass laws than to stop crime or mental illness.

We have in the Bill of Rights to our Constitution a guaranty of  “the right to bear arms.”   See  the Second Amendment.  It cannot be ignored, but it is not an absolute right.  It is not intended to promote crime.  It is intended for protection of our citizens.

I have some things to say that will alternately please and offend each side of the gun control debate.

First, I will remind the gun control advocates that even banning guns altogether will not prevent evil acts of killing.  My wife taught a middle school student who used a hammer to bash in the heads of his mother and grandmother.  Timothy McVeigh used a van rented from U Haul to kill dozens with a bomb.  We have daily killings with knives.  Recently, in China there were horrible multiple murders at a school — by a person using a knife to slay his young victims.  We do not talk about outlawing hammers or vans or knives.  It is clear that it is the person using those items who is the criminal, not the items themselves.  It is more like drunk driving.  Cars are not illegal.  They are useful.  The crime is  operating a motor vehicle when drunk because that is dangerous to others.  Also, we do not have anything in our Constitution about the right to transportation via motor vehicle.  Therefore, it is even more perilous to curtail a constitutional right than a mere convenience.

The debate about gun control would take a different turn if a citizen bearing arms had protected victims of violence.  What if the Aurora theater shooter had been shot by a movie goer shortly after he started shooting innocent unarmed people?  What if the principal at Sandy Hook Elementary School had shot the killer rather than bravely lunging at him unarmed? Then one person would be using a gun to protect people from a person using a gun for evil purposes.  The Second Amendment is for that purpose of protection.

Having said all that, I acknowledge that guns are more efficient weapons than hammers and knives.  The shooter  in Connecticut would not have killed so many if his weapon was a hammer because it would be easier to overpower and stop him.  On the other hand, a car bomb driven into the school or a plane crashing into the school would have been even more destructive.

I also note that automatic or semi-automatic guns are more dangerously efficient than weapons which require pulling the trigger for each shot and reloading individual bullets rather than using ammunition clips holding many bullets that can be fired in seconds.   The military-type assault rifles are not meant for hunting, but can be used either for mass killing or protecting from mass killing in order for it to be a fair fight.  Executing unarmed first graders is obviously not a fight at all. However, the Founding Fathers contemplated a citizen militia when including the right to bear arms in the Second Amendment.  The idea is that citizens should be armed in order to protect themselves and also protect our nation from enemies.  I add that protecting ourselves and others from well-armed murderers might justify citizens being armed with military type weapons.  Decent citizens are wary of how criminals might use such weapons for evil.

Similarly, our country is wary of other nations who want to develop nuclear weapons and other “weapons of mass destruction.”   Why?  Because we don’t trust how they will be used by others.  The more destructive the weapon, the scarier it is.  We all get that, even without being scholars of the history of military weapon development.  The U.S.A. tries to prevent other nations from possessing nuclear bombs because the more who have such weapons the more dangers exist that they will be misused.  We argue against proliferation of such weapons.

I understand and probably agree with the arguments against proliferation of dangerous weapons.  I am an NRA member and a SASS (Single Action Shooting Society) member and gun owner.  As the U.S.A. trusts itself to possess nuclear weapons as a deterrent against our nation being attacked, I trust myself to use guns for recreation or, if necessary, protection.  I sure don’t want mentally ill people to have access to guns like I do.  I sure don’t want criminals to have guns, nor do I want terrorists to fly airplanes into buildings or use car bombs.

The problem is that we don’t know who is a criminal until the crime has been committed.

We live in a world with many law-abiding people and some evildoers.  We are literally engaged in a war between good and evil.

The children who died at Sandy Hook Elementary School were victims of evil.  When President Lincoln dedicated the cemetery after the Battle of Gettysburg, he urged his listeners to “highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain…”  Let us, the living, highly resolve that the little children who were murdered in Connecticut shall not have died in vain.  Let us do what we can to make our country a safer place.   May God give us wisdom to make changes that are sensible and effective.  They won’t be easy or simple.

Diplomatic Protection


Libya is hundreds of years behind the times, demonstrating that it does not understand modern diplomacy or even civilized behavior.  The attack on the United States embassy there yesterday and the murder of our ambassador was just plain primitive. 

Rules of diplomacy have evolved over hundreds of years.  Embassies and ambassadors in each others’ countries are supposed to be provided special protections, including even immunity from criminal prosecution.  The rationale is that the embassy is actually the property of the country it represents rather than of the host nation.  In other words, the attack on our embassy is considered an attack on American soil. 

Granted, the government of Libya has been in upheaval, still, if it is to be considered a sovereign nation, it ought to act like one and follow the rules of diplomacy.  Imagine the opposite — that a mob in Washington, D.C. attacked the Libyan embassy.  Would the police look the other way?  Wouldn’t our military assist if necessary? 

It was the duty of Libya to protect our embassy.  It did not fulfill its duty.  Now what do we do?

I do not recommend that we murder the Libyan ambassador for revenge, but maybe we ought to kick him out of the U.S.A. and cut off diplomatic relations with Libya until it catches up with the rest of the civilized world here in the 21st century.


Infamy is nothing to be proud of.

In the aftermath of the horror of the shootings at the Aurora, Colorado movie theatre two days ago, there has been much speculation about the motive of someone who kills innocent strangers who happen to be in a crowded audience.  We might never know.  Whatever the motivation, it is evil and it is sick. 

If the shooter, whose name I will omit for the very reason I am writing about infamy, was trying to get attention as a villain, I point out that such attention is very fleeting. 

How many of us can name some previous shooters who are responsible for similar tragedies?  Do you recall the names of the disturbed murderer who shot the students at Virginia Tech recently and, much earlier, the sniper in the tower at the University of Texas?  Can you name the sicko who shot people Christmas shopping in an Omaha mall a few years ago?   How about the psychopath psychiatrist who shot soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas in 2009?  I didn’t think so.

Shooting unarmed people is a crime.  It is a sin.  It is not an accomplishment.

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