A Sampling of Your Verdicts… (Part I)

June 9th, 2009  

A sampling of your verdicts in the case of the pharmacist, as covered in last Monday’s post, “How to Get Charged With Murder…

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Dr. Piazza,

Although no one can truly know beforehand how they would react in this situation, I’m afraid that I agree with the prosecutor this time. The robber was down, and obviously no longer a “deadly” threat and he was unarmed. The pharmacist could have held the criminal at gunpoint until police arrived instead of shooting him.

I still resent the media referring to the person committing the crime as a “16 year old boy” instead of more accurately “criminal” or “robber”.

Again, thanks to you and your organization for all you do to protect our second amendment rights.

Kim B.

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Dr. Ignatius,

Guilty.  I know this because I just spent four days at the most comprehensive gun training facility on the face of this earth (Front Sight).

My brother and I had the best time and learn so much about handling and understanding the responsibility of lethal force with conceal carry and guns.

Your team is so professional and understands what information will benefit anyone that decides to carry.

I have to say as someone that deals with people for a living. You have found some of the best gun talent available. Their people skills are top notch.

I will pass your story to others and we will be back.

Ken S.

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Dr. Piazza,

I just finished your 4 day handgun and 30 state concealed carry license course in May.  With the “proper” training and classroom sessions I would have to say that the pharmacist exceeded his rights and if I had a vote would have to say guilty.  It’s too bad these types of stories are what is aired on the news and many lawful, righteous shoots are not represented.

I would not want to be in his shoes as the trial and verdict proceed to a conclusion.

Regards,
Gregg N

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Dr. Piazza,

This guy obviously didn’t go to Front Sight.

David K.

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Dr. Piazza,

I’ve watched all three angles of the videos time and time again, and listened to the story that he was telling prior to their release (which was dramatically different from what they show).

My conclusion is that based on the way he calmly walked past the downed robber, with his back to him, calmly fiddled with the .380 on the counter, and calmly walked back, Ersland did not perceive any immediate threat.  That makes his decision to kill a deliberate homicide.

I suspect that Ersland had made a decision after the previous robbery that anyone who robbed him was going to die, and that he calmly carried out the execution.  Another possibility is that he was following the oft-bandied (and *bad*) advice that if you have to shoot someone, you should make sure they’re dead so yours is the only version of the story.  That’s bad advice in general, but particularly bad when cameras mean yours ISN’T the only version.

Either way, it’s first-degree murder, per the definition in OK law.

Shoot to stop, then stop shooting.

Shawn.

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Dear Doctor Piazza,

I am a stanch Second Amendment supporter and have been my entire adult life. I am also a veteran (medic) and  a NRA member. I firmly believe in the use of deadly force when I feel that myself or family is in immediate threat of life or death. I personally been in situations where drawing my (licensed) concealed weapon actually stopped the perpetrator and held them at bay until law enforcement arrived. At that time I was prepared to fire my weapon but the threat had dissapated. In the  state that I currently live in, CCWs are almost impossible (at least highly restricted) to obtain and only the “well connected” have that privilege.

Given only the video to go by, I would have to say that the store owner overstepped his bounds in the terms of “self defense” by returning to the perp a second time. It appears that the threat had been neutralized with the first series of shots.

I have to applaud you for well written blogs and articles. Finally, a non-biased, straight forward approach to real life situations with sensible solutions.

Sincerely,

Patrick P.

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Dr. Piazza,

Thanks for sending out that video of the shooting in your monday blog.  I watched the video 4 times, I can’t say I can really tell what’s happening.  To me the real question is was the guy on the floor getting up again?  Since you can see him in the video its very hard to tell, if he was on the floor unconscious then yes, he is guilty of at least excessive force, depending on if the head shot was not fatal.  If the extra rounds killed the guy then yes, looks like murder.

From the video it is just so hard to tell what’s going on with certainty.  If the whole case were based on that video, if I were on the jury, I would have to acquit because the video does not prove to me beyond a reasonable doubt there was no further threat.  I still think its a bad shooting, once the guy was down the pharmacist should have gone into the back and protected the other employees and called the police, then if the robber got back up and came after him again there would be no question he was justified.

I think the real problem for this guy will come up as they introduce other evidence.  Like you always say “never talk to the press”  this pharmacist talked way too much, I heard him interviewed on NRA news show the day after the shooting and it was clear he was mad at criminals because he had been robbed before.  While we can all understand that emotion it is no justification to kill someone who is not a threat.  I think what really went through his head was “this guy is not going to come back and rob me again”.  So hard to say what the real jury will see, but I think he is guilty if the guy was really down as the media claims, but the only person that really knows if the guy was really down and out is the pharmacist.

Thanks,
Scott

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Dr. Piazza,

Having attended the four day defensive handgun course, I’m quite sure the jury will find the defendant guilty of murder.

Rainer C.

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Dr. Piazza,

I wouldn’t render a verdict based solely on what the surveillance tape shows, nor the normally anti-gun mainstream media and certainly not on what the prosecutor has to say.

For one, we don’t see what the perpetrator was doing on the ground as it was out of the cameras view.  Was the guy moving? was he reaching for the gun?  I don’t know and I also have never been threatened with a loaded gun either.

The prosecutor is very anti-gun referring to the juvenile with the gun who was attempting to rob the store as “a child”  – you know what, if you pick up a gun and try to rob a place you’re not “a child” you’re “a criminal”.

If the “child” hadn’t chosen to put himself in harms way by choosing to rob the store with a lethal weapon he most likely wouldn’t be dead now – his path to the morgue was chosen BY HIM when he went to rob the pharmacy.

If I were on the jury I’d listen to all the facts and make my decision accordingly, if I believed the pharmacist was being railroaded I’d hang the jury because short of jury nullification that’s all I’d be able to do.

Regards

Robert

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Thank you Dr. Piazza,

Very informative blog.

Guilty. It pains me to say it, but he murdered the robber.

Additionally, it is not clear that he should have chased after the one who got away.  He had already gotten both bad guys to “stop” at that point (one downed and one running away).  It is not clear whether he fired shots at the retreating criminal, but if so, there could have been innocents milling about the area who he could have injured with a stray shot or from an overpenetrating bullet.  Better to have kept the downed crook covered while telling one of his employees to call the police.  In such a circumstance, if the criminal ended up dying from the first gunshot, it would have been a murder rap for his buddy who ran away.  Ironically, it looks like the victim is now the murderer.

Doug G.

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Dr. Piazza,

As much as it pains me to say so, I would find the pharmacist guilty – not of first degree murder, but of manslaughter.  I do believe that he crossed the line by executing the downed robber.  However, without knowing all of the background information (ie. Was this the first time he had been held up, etc.)  I cannot come to the conclusion that the act was premeditated.

Chuck C.

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Dr. Piazza,

If I were a juror in this case I would most likely find this man to be guilty of murder.  There is a chance that the boy regained consciousness and was reaching for the weapon but the pharmacists body language did not indicate there was any threat.  Even if the boy did stll pose a threat there probably wasn’t a need to fire 5 rounds point blank at the child, it seemed to be done out of anger, hatred, disgust for criminals which is understandable but still illegal.

I do sympathize with the man’s plight but I still feel he should be held accountable; however he should be given a very lenient sentence, no more than 2 years.

Anthony

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Dr. Piazza,

In the beginning of the video I would not convict the pharmacists of any wrong doing.  But to go back and when the threat seems to be over and shoot the kid again (I guess 5 times),  now, I would have to convict him.  The threat appeared to be over.  As with my training at Frontsight, I would have 911 called and keep an vigilante eye on the kid that had been shot.

Danny W.

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Dr. Piazza

Not guilty of first degree murder which is the charge.  Probably guilty of manslaughter.  I have been in shootings as a police officer.  I have used my weapon (and every shot was a hit).  The amount of adreline and the intensity of the situation is tremendous.  He should NOT have expended the extra rounds into this individual – but Ersland did not CREATE this situation, the punk did.

Tim N.

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Ignatius,

Well…  you have done us a great service by providing this incident’s details for our education.  My opinion is as follows:  once someone makes a deadly threat against me or mine [which the robbers clearly did], they cease to be protected by the laws of this nation because they have abandoned them.  If it is within my power, I will KILL anyone who has made a credible threat to those whom I call ‘family’; and, may even go as far as to attempt to protect others [strangers] from those threats IF I am certain that the offender is intent upon bodily harm to innocent people.

Now, that said, as you know better than most, the adrenalin rush which is the normal physical reaction to being faced with a gun pointed in your face will ASSUREDLY remove the normal power of decision making from ALL but the trained professional.  Thus, the man charged in this case was reacting to the overwhelming threats of his own demise which he had just endured.  The fact that the actor was ‘a 16 y/o boy’ is totally irrelevant.

Were I in his place, I may have acted the same; were I on his jury, I would DEFINITELY acquit him on the grounds that reaction under EXTREME duress is not the same as the analysis of the prosecutor sitting in his paneled office beside his legal texts.

Let the prosecutor face down a semi-auto in harm’s way before he places someone under judgment.

Peace,

Larry

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Dr. Piazza,

I understand the requirements of   “ability, opportunity, and intent to immediately inflict serious bodily injury to you or those around you.”

Mr Ersland feared for his life and made sure the down suspect stayed down to end the threat. I get the point that he exceeded his legal authority, however, I suspect a jury of HIS peers, will vote to acquit, “not guilty.”

Please note I didn’t say innocent, just not guilty of murder.

Thanks for the opportunity to comment,

Arnold G.

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Dr. Piazza,

Yes and No

1) He absolutely went far past the line, and should not have done what he did. He was wrong.

2) However, if I were on his jury, my vote would be “NOT GUILTY”.

Regards,

John M.

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Dr. Piazza,

NOT GUILTY, if I’m on the jury.

I can’t see an unarmed, unconscious teen who is no longer a threat in that video. All I could see is masked men pointing guns at people who were trying to run a pharmacy. For all I know, the criminal could have continued to be a threat at that point.

I don’t expect this pharmacy worker to be able to just KNOW the criminal is unarmed and neutralized. And how could he possibly KNOW the criminal was a teen? The guy had a MASK on.

I wouldn’t expect him to go to the trouble of doing a search on a violent criminal who could easily be both pretending to be unconscious AND hiding a dangerous weapon, waiting for his chance to hurt or kill someone.

The D.A. spoke as though this was an innocent child who was brutally gunned down by a killer. Once you put a mask on and point a gun at someone, all bets are off. You just might get shot. That’s what happened and I’m OK with this guy going back to business as best as he’s able.

Thanks for the blog, I’ve been enjoying it.

I’ll come to FS and get me some “comfort” as soon as I’m able.

Best regards,
Michael

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Dr. Piazza,

I believe excessive force was used, but when a robber goes into a place to carry out a crime, and threaten someone with a gun, knife, or whatever, he does not know how the person he is threatening is going to react. He has to know he is taking his life into his own hands, and be willing to take the punishment no matter what the outcome. Nobody knows for sure how they will react when put in that position. The fact that the robber was only 16 should not even be a factor, because for one thing, he had on a mask, and second, if I were the storekeeper, I would be more worried about where the barrel of that gun is pointed.

If I were on the jury, I would vote NOT GUILTY.

JOHN M

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Ignatius:

Based upon the video and the statements by the prosecutor, I would have to find the defendant Guilty.  While I have empathy for the defendant, and would not hesitate to suggest a death penalty for the robber, it is not the right of the defendant to kill a person that is no longer a threat.  While he could argue that he still feared for his life, his actions of casually walking by the robber twice suggest that the defendant recognized the robber was no longer a threat.  His pursuit of the additional robber suggest that he had intent to use his weapon against that individual even though he was in retreat and also no longer posed a threat.

I sincerely wish that the defendant had stopped once the first robber was down, and the second had left the premise.  He would be hailed as a savior rather than a murder.

On another note, I find it disgusting that the prosecutor refers to the robber as a “child”, rather than a criminal.  The tape is just as convincing that the “child” was in the act of attempted robbery.

Earl B

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Dr. Piazza,

Thank you for the great info you provide week after week. I cannot wait until I have the opportunity to attend classes at Front Sight.

I think the pharmacist is GUILTY based on the evidence provided, the laws as explained, and your explanation of universal justification of deadly force. I would definitely be interested to hear the accused’s testimony on what was going through his mind, but it seems open and shut.

Thanks again,

Mike

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Dr. Piazza,

Without knowing anything about the man defending his store he is absolutely innocent. He single handedly cleared the store of any lethal threat and saved three lives including his own. The child that died decided to make a very grown up decision involving himself in an armed robbery. In the eyes of the law that young man armed or not is as guilty as any accomplices. I believe it’s unacceptable to expect victims in the heat of battle to defend lives and in a split second turn off the fear and adrenaline to detain their wounded attempted murders. This victim is a hero and should be treated as such.

Shilo

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Dr. Piazza,

Based on the fact that the pharmacist was no longer under immediate threat to his life, I would say that he is guilty of improper use of deadly force.  While I understand why he would want to shoot his assailant, he was wrong in doing so.

Joanne L.

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Ignatius,

Much as I’d like it to be otherwise, he’s guilty of first degree murder.  Whether a sympathetic jury finds him guilty is another question, however.  He should ask for trial as soon as possible to take advantage of the public support he’s got in the heat of the current moment.

Dave R.

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Dr. Piazza,

Guilty.  Of course, I may not be a good judge because I am myself a prosecuting attorney.  However, an unconscious and unarmed person, if that is in fact true, poses no threat.  Additionally, the man had time to “cool down” after chasing the other kid out.  It would be a very different case had the man shot the victim a few times in a row.  At least the defense could still claim that he was acting out of fear or self-preservation.  It’s going to be a very hard argument for the defense attorney to argue he was defending himself against someone lying on the floor unconscious.  I am unsure of the laws of that particular jurisdiction, but in our jurisdiction, I don’t even think the defense could request a plea to voluntary manslaughter due to it being a heat of passion murder.  The man’s demeanor is very much against his best interest in the case as he appears very calm as he walks around the kid’s body and changes out guns, then goes over and shoots him again.  I think it would have been appropriate to change out guns if he was out of ammo and maintain the kid in his sights in case he suddenly sprang to and resumed his weapon.

Of course, juries are funny and that beyond a reasonable doubt standard can always be tricky for a prosecutor.

However, this being said, I am VERY much in favor of every competent person owning guns and using them when necessary.  I pack mine all the time and drive my wife crazy.

My two cents,
Mark

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Dr. Piazza,

Guilty of stupidity. Should have known he was on camera. But if I was on the jury, I would rule innocent. The robbers are forfeiting their right to live when they enter the store with the intent to rob it and threaten others with a firearm.

Tom

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Dr. Piazza

The pharmacist appears to be responding lawfully to an armed threat and responded responsibly. In the original assault, he shot one subject that fell to the floor and then chases the other man outside the store. When he returns, walking by the wounded subject and showing no signs of fear, he goes to the rear of the sales area and comes back and fires several rounds into the wounded subject at close range. This action changes a justified shooting into a murder case. Once the immediate threat has been removed, there was no reason for his action.

We have the authority of the second amendmendt to assure all of us the use of fire arms to defend ourselves when threatened with deadly attack but this authority is revoked by this type of action.

Just one other thing. If he had shot the wounded man when he returned to the store, under Michigan State law it would be second degree murder, but when he walked past the man on the floor and retreived another hand gun from the rear of the store and used it to shoot the wounded robber, it would be charged as first degree murder.

Sincerely,
Billy C.
45 years in law enforcement and private security

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Hi Ignatius,

If I was to be on the Jury, I would probably vote to award him a medal.

I know, I know… What you have here is an excellent example of precisely why your courses are so essential.

One other observation though… When District Attorney David Prader says “16 year old young child” and  “that child’s chest”, he shows his bias.  Sorry…  Barely a child when your sixteen and robbing stores.  That particular emphasis of his would have me as a juror tune out on the letter of the law, and go back to the intent… innocent…

Great illustration though, and thanks for making it and sharing it.

Regards,
Roger F.

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Dr. Piazza,

Guilty – by law and morally.  I think the defendant did this out of rage and the cliche “dead men tell no tales”, the problem is forensics and cameras do.  I disagree with the DA’s portrayal of the victim as a child.  If that person had been successful in their crime would they not have been tried as an adult? Especially if murder had been committed?  He also shot the wrong target, if the victim really was unarmed.

Tim

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Dear Dr. Piazza,

I hope I would have the presence of mind to not come back in and “finish off” the dirtbag robber. (However, such action was an overall benefit to Society.)

During the hindsight examination of this event, I can understand why charges were brought against the defendent.

However, during the extreme self preservation feelings this defendent must have been expierencing, I can see where he could have honestly felt that the downed dirtbag robber was still a threat.  While he did go past the punk who was laying on the floor to obtain another gun, I doubt if the defendent logically perceived that the dirt bag really was unconscious, unarmed and not a threat.  The defendent’s going past the downed dirt bag, was in retrospect STUPID.  I would imagine that it was more “tunnel vision” to become rearmed to stop the perceived threat.

The fact that the dirtbag robber was a teen ager, NOT A CHILD, like the Posecuting  Attorney describes him, has no bearing what-so-ever.  A young dirtbag generally will kill you quicker than an older one.

While I think that the evidence does support that the defendent did violate the letter of the law, if I were on the jury I would very strongly support a “NOT GUILTY” verdict.

Dr. Piazza, I think your presentation of the blog was a tremendous service to us.  Anything that causes one to think is worth its weight in gold.

THANK YOU!

Sincerely,
Fred I.

Note: I spent about 15 years in various areas of law enforcement including some as a Parole and Probation Officer.  Much of my stated opinion is the result of this expierence.  As a prior colleague in law enforcement might say about this case, “This defendent should be found guilty of practicing pest control without a license.”

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Stay tuned. More tomorrow….

Entry Filed under: Dr. Ignatius Piazza,Self Defense.

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