Monday, June 4, 2007

Some Things Aren't Worth Drawing a Gun to Protect

I blogged on the Civilian Gun Self-Defense Blog when this story was first reported, and at least at first glance, it appeared as though the clerk may have been legally in the right--although it is foolish to chase someone out of the store because they stole some merchandise--especially stuff worth so little.

I've just updated that entry with this news story:
NASHVILLE, Tenn.- A South Nashville store clerk who shot a man he said was shoplifting from his market has been charged with murder.

Convenience store clerk Jefferson Bilbrey, 45, was free on $80,000 bond Tuesday on a charge of second-degree murder for the March 10 shooting death of Richard Huddleston, Metro police said in a news release.

Police said Huddleston, 22, was stealing a beer and ball caps from a Shell Market on Haywood Lane when Bilbrey confronted him.

Huddleston ran outside the market and Bilbrey followed him and fired a .38-caliber revolver as Huddletson got into a car.

"Bilbrey did have a valid handgun carry permit; however, the police department's investigation, along with reviews by the District Attorney's office and the grand jury, determined that his use of deadly force was not justified under the circumstances," according to a Metro police news release.

Huddleston's victim's mother Cheryl Huddleston said he wasn't armed and that the shooting was senseless.

Bilbrey no longer works at that Shell Market. Huddleston's mother currently has a civil suit against the store owner.

"It is our understanding that they have encouraged their store clerks to go out and get licensed to carry pistols and I just believe that that's the wrong message," said Huddleston's attorney Michael Rowan.

He points to an incident only months before Huddelston's death.

Police said in September, Bilbrey fired his pistol at a driver of a tractor trailer he said drove too close to him as he took out the store trash.

Bilbrey shot at the big rig driver because the driver tried to make a U-turn in the market's parking lot.

"Evidently he seems to be really quick with the trigger," Rowan said.
The initial reports were that Bilbrey and Huddelston engaged in "a brief struggle" during which Huddelston reached inside of his shirt. If that was correct, then Bilbrey might have had good reason to believe that Huddelston was reaching for a weapon. The account of the incident as described above suggests that Huddelston was not a legitimate threat to Bilbrey, and thus Bilbrey's use of deadly force was not justified.

Some beers and some hats. It is crazy to risk arrest--or getting shot--to steal stuff of so little value. It is crazy to risk getting hurt or confronting criminal prosecution to stop someone from stealing stuff of so little value. I suppose if Bilbrey were the proprietor, and Huddelston was running off with something worth thousands of dollars it might make some sense to attempt to prevent Huddelston's escape with the goods, but over a few dollars worth of stuff? This makes no sense for anyone. Huddelston is dead, and Bilbrey will, even if found innocent, spend many thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of his life fighting the charges.

There are things worth killing someone to protect. But not some beer and some hats.

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