Another Questionable Castle Doctrine Shooting In South Carolina

About 25 years ago I killed a man. It wasn’t my fault but I was part of a sad and bizarre chain of events that ended in a man lying at the edge of a Chicago freeway, dying. According to witnesses an Irish fellow with a family history of suicide had been walking back and forth on a highway overpass for over an hour. Without warning he suddenly jumped into the middle lane of heavy early-morning traffic driving to work. I was in the far left lane slightly behind the car he jumped in front of. When I first saw him it looked as if he had been pushed out the back door of that car. He had, in fact, been knocked into the next lane by his violent contact with the grill of the initial car

He landed directly in front of me, not more than 3 feet away. I jerked the wheel to the left brushing along side a concrete divider. I left a 10 foot black mark along that wall. It’s probably still there to this day. I’ll never forget the feel of a human being passing under the entirety of my car from the front wheels to the back. It felt like a continuous series of small but jarring bumps.

He was thrown from beneath my car and lay on his back, his leg grotesquely bent to the side severed under his pant-leg. I pulled over immediately and rushed to the man. I felt for a pulse and incredibly there was one – weak and beating like a machine gun…maybe as much as 200 beats per minute. He died on the spot a few minutes later. The male driver in the first car had stopped as well. A consummately decent person, he felt the same deep regret and sorrow that I did. Drivers in the proximity of the accident did an incredible job swerving away from the chaos. No cars crashed and no one else was injured.

Law enforcement was quick to arrive and assured me that witnesses had already told them I had been driving reasonably and had done everything I could to avoid contact with the poor man. The officer instructed me to sign an official paper and I could be on my way. I tried to be cool, but my hand was trembling so much that I had to hold it with my other hand just to affix my signature.

So I’ve seen death – up close and personal as they say. I also saw a number of people die when I worked as a hospital orderly during my undergrad days. Death is an extraordinary, often gut-wrenching event. It’s not a TV actor dying, then go to commercial. It is someone who goes from a living, breathing and moving organism to non-existence, never more to interact with anything worldly. Nothing prepares you for the stillness of death.

I’ve used up the first half of this submission to make the point that human life is a supremely precious commodity. I was moved to write this piece by the latest local Sunday newspaper headline of apparent vigilante justice born of the same mindset as the Zimmerman/Martin case. The major difference being that Trayvon Martin was an innocent young man not bothering anybody when he was shot to death by a self-styled neighborhood law enforcer.

The two people killed in my story were probably what society would consider ‘bad’ guys. They appeared to be preparing to break into an apartment. One was wearing a ski mask. The 30-year-old man who lived in that apartment was returning home in his vehicle around midnight when he saw the two men and shot them both dead. Since one of the victims (yes, they were victims) was shot in the head, Mr. Vigilante clearly wanted them dead.

The shooter and a woman in his car were interviewed, but not arrested. The ‘investigation’ is continuing. The two men were a little older than Trayvon, 18 and 22, but they did share two characteristics. They were all shot to death and they were all black. The race of the shooter was not revealed. Early accounts are always sketchy, but there is no mention of a confrontation in the article or whether either young man was armed. It’s not clear whether they were given any warning or even had the foggiest idea that the vigilante had a bead on them. It doesn’t mention whether he fired from his car or not. Apparently his were the only shots fired. And he most certainly had the option to keep driving and contact the police.

South Carolina has a ‘Castle Doctrine’ law, first cousin to ‘Stand Your Ground’. The 1976 South Carolina Code of Laws was amended in 2006 by H4301 that says, among other things, that you can plug somebody if you have “reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry or an unlawful and forcible act is occurring or has occurred.” That apparently broadens the scope of the law to the exterior of your dwelling.

The initial defining paragraph of the bill provides for the use of deadly force if it “is necessary to prevent death, great bodily injury, or the commission of a violent crime.” None of these criteria seemed applicable in this incident. So, yeah, you see these two dudes preparing to B & E your precious casa, but you’re in zero danger at the point of the shooting. At least that’s my read.

This is not a bleeding heart liberal defense of the two young men. This duo was not the cream of the societal crop if you believe the story that they were breaking the law. So call the cops, arrest them, convict them and send them away for a few years. There is no need to kill people on a vengeful  whim.

The South Carolina law is now written in such a way that unless you’re absolutely, 100% positive of success in a private lawsuit against one of these hair trigger vigilantes, it’s going to cost the initiator of the suit dearly for daring to try to bring a killer to at least some kind of economic justice. As H4301 reads, “The court shall award reasonable attorneys’ fees, court costs, compensation for loss of income, and all expenses incurred by the defendant in defense of a civil action brought by a plaintiff if the court finds that the defendant is immune from prosecution as provided in subsection (A). Does the court make that decision after the action? Nothing like making new law to assuage the NRA gun-nut crowd.

Reasonable people are now caught between a rock and a shell casing and it’s going to get worse until some power boy’s kid is on the receiving end of one of these gun-goobers.



15 Replies to “Another Questionable Castle Doctrine Shooting In South Carolina”

  1. It already has gotten worse. I don’t remember the figures but hasn’t killings in Florida already gone up 300% AFTER the Stand your Ground law went into effect?

    Supposing the guy in the car had missed and the two guys had the automatic pistols the TV tells us all criminals have? Both could easily be dead at this moment

    Whats to stop anyone from saying they thought a crime was going to be committed as they commit a crime themselves? The NRA and ALEC are teaching us that no life is worth saving and that to kill is a minor thing.

    South Carolina, making the decision that guns are more important than this god they claim

  2. Yep it’s the WILD WEST all over despite us moving into the 21st cedntury. Again as before I think it is over the line of humanity to kill someone for stealing your tv or whatever. That’s why we have insurance. Also we have more cops than ever and plenty of them have itchy trigger fingers so at least let trained assassins do their job.

  3. I was a junior/senior in highschool in Missouri when a classmate and some of his friends decided to break into a house (meth dealer… I *think*. the not so horrifying details are a bit hazy… it’s been a bit over 10 years now.) He was executed.

    No, not just shot, and not just shot in the head. John was on his knees, begging for his and his friends’ lives (the begging was from co-culprit, the knees was from the local newspaper) when he was shot point blank in the head with a shotgun.

    John was 17 years old. Maybe 18.

    I recently did a search for John gramling, the name of my classmate. The site that I found was mocking him, saying he deserved what he got, and mocking his mother for asking why the man who shot her baby wasn’t even arrested.

    The commentary was absolute appalling. “Stupid woman. No wonder her son is dead, with a stupid bitch like her for a mother.” “LOL brat got what he deserved.” Ad hominem.

    John was white. So was the shooter. But he was still a kid!

  4. If no one else was in that apartment and there was no reason to fear arson, that was definitely over the top. I have had trouble with an intending torch, and that’s different (the torch and I are both white).

  5. Are you saying that if someone is about to kill you, or a member of your family, that you don’t have the right to defend yourself or to protect them? If that is the case then please allow me to offer a different point of view.

    I am a woman. If statistics are to be believed, then I have a one in three change of being raped in my lifetime. So, let me tell you this: If an intruder breaks down my door, or otherwise forces his way into my home, then I have every reason to believe that his intent is to rape me, or to kill me, or both. Yes, I too believe that life is sacred, particularly my own life. Yes, I do own and gun, and yes, I will use it to protect myself, or my loved ones, from being raped or killed.

    If you all want to be victims by all means be victims. I myself am a survivor, and I’ll do whatever it takes to survive.

  6. No one is talking about inside your home. that right to defend yourself is a given. What is being talked about is the right to shoot and kill if you think someone MIGHT be getting ready to commit a crime OUTSIDE or away from your home

  7. To quote an old NRA slogan, “if guns are taken out of the hands of citizens, criminals will always find a way to get guns”. The clock is ticking and the more petty criminals and innocent people get gunned down by gun toting vigilanties the more arms will start walking the streets. Considering your story where two black guys getting ready to do a B & E get shot to death without warning by some gun nut on the exterior of the property. It won’t be long before petty criminals like this will start bringing weapons along with their B & E tools. And when these guys start arming themselves they will always go for the heavy weapons, like AK-47s. You can forget about the “Saturday Night Breakdowns, and your lastest Glocks, these guys will go military grade.

    When and if this type of gun escalation occurs the entire general public in the immediate vicinity of any shootout will be in mortal danger. Americans will be daily witnesses to Mexican style shootout violence happening right here in America’s suburbs.

    For the time being the gun nut NRA vigilantes are strutting around declaring that it is open season on black criminals; and under the cover of the NRA’s “stand your ground” laws every African American person is suspect of being either a criminal or a “potential” criminal. But following this kind of logic is the reason why BLIND people always wind up in the DITCH on the side of the road.

    When the arms race explodes overnight will America be prepared for the amount of innocent blood shed by accidental “in-the-line-of-fire” victims both in their houses and in the streets? It is coming, and the clock is ticking, and people are watching the body count mount up.
    What is so amazing is the ignorance of these white gun wielding vigilanties. They should wake up and realize that the fastest place to find a gun is in on the streets of America’s black communities. These areas have been awash with all kinds of weapons for years, and the only people that don’t seem to be aware of this fact are the NRA gun nuts. Good luck to you guys, the clock is ticking….

  8. but most of all, the GOP wants armed insurrectionists out there to stand up for that party. When in a group goes to extremes then they have to find ways to ensure that the people under them adhere to their ideology. What better way to do that than have people in the streets with guns

  9. Or even about to break in to your home. Use of Force should be appropriate. People should not be shooting other people for walking on their lawns.

    Then again, I feel judges and manslaughter charges and Accidental Death in Self Defense rulings should have the final say.

    These micromanagement “You can shoot whoever you want, whenever you want, as long as they’re wearing any 6 of the following clothing items, is Tuesday, and are within 300 feet of XXX” laws are ridiculous, and take the judge’s and jury’s flexibility to compensate for extenuating circumstances out of their hands.

  10. It also gives police officers perfectly valid reason to arrest the bad guys and get them off the street before they do any “bad” that they had planned with the guns. ^_^

  11. Having worked in law enforcement in South Carolina for over 18 years and just recently retired I have a different take on the incident.( I understand your repulsion of this incident, but here are some facts to work with)
    The telling factor, or more precisely, the ruling factor in the shooting was the time. You mentioned the fact that the “attempted” act took place around midnight. The “midnight” is very important as a factor in the shooting, for if it was past midnight, and these two individuals were attempting to enter the dwelling, then, even if they were unarmed in their attempt, the owner had the right to shoot to kill, for it factored into the “midnight” burglary charge as well as the “castle” charge.
    Since this individual was “outside” his dwelling, saw these individuals breaking into his dwelling, under the code you quoted, he could shoot the two individuals. (I have a real problem, like you, with the fact he took the law into his own hands and shot these two, instead of calling the police and letting them do their job, he just wanted to shoot these two, and he knew he could, under SC law, get away with it without any charge, or legal challenge to his shooting…it would be considered, under the law you quoted…a “righteous shoot”!
    The lawsuit protection was in response to having people shot but alive. They would sue the shooter and win enormous sums of money to take care of their hospital bills and “pain and suffering”. The law was rewritten with that type of lawsuit in mind to prevent the shooter from being sued by a survivor of the shooter.
    I know it sounds like I am writing a police report here, but having worked cases similar to this, I can tell you the mindset of shooter and the reason for the head shot. He didn’t want to have to pay any hospital bills. Plain and simple. If the “bad guys” were dead, no hospital bills.
    Unless we can re-establish the rule of law and rescind or amend these very liberal shooting laws or stand your ground laws, the best solution is for everyone to arm themselves so we can get back to the wild wild west mentality of old.
    Just to add something about police to this very uncomfortable conversation, most police I knew, including myself, were peace keepers. But there was always the odd ball or, as we would call them, “cowboys” out there that were off the charts animals and had no right wearing a gun or a badge. These were not the individuals I wanted to go out on patrol with because they could get ME killed with their stupidity.
    Unless the law is changed, there will be more incidents like this, where “bad guys” die by a shooter “legally” instead of being “busted” by police, and live to see another day…in jail…hopefully…but alive.

  12. The key here is seeing them break in. The article states they were shot “preparing” to break in. Which is kind of a vague item in itself. Personally I dont think this is a valid reason for shooting as they could have just been standing in the yard.

  13. I don’t think even “libtards” like us would disagree with the ability and right to defend your life when it is in danger.

    However, there is a difference between self defense murder. If you’re not in the property at the time, you stop and call the fucking cops instead of taking care of it yourself. That’s your job- the job to walk away and put human life over property.

    If you’re there and they walk in, well. That’s acceptable. You’re defending your life.

    However, everyone has the duty to try to walk away first before they take a human life.

    For example, in Missouri, it’s legal to use deadly force on someone who’s committing a felony.

    I’m sure they meant things like, “Driving down the street, see someone beating their wife, stop, shoot.”

    However, I think most people would agree it would not be acceptable to walk up and shoot someone who’s peacefully forging a check in a felony amount at a store, however that would be technically legal.

    Basically- if it’s violent, you can retaliate with violence. If not, then you have NO BUSINESS

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