Front Sight’s Monday Blog: Verdict in Pharmacy Shooting…
June 13th, 2011
Two years ago my blog featured a surveillance video of an armed robbery taking place in a pharmacy. I titled the blog, “How to Get Charged With Murder” and asked you to decide if the pharmacist acted legally or not.
For those who missed the videos two years ago, I have included the original blog post followed by the recent verdict in the case.
Here is the original blog post with videos:
In a gunfight, there is a very well defined line between justifiable use of deadly force and murder.
Unfortunately, in the heat of the gun battle you are only going to be half as good and half as smart as you are on your best training day, simply from the stress of a lethal encounter.
As a result, the well-defined line between legal use of deadly force and murder can become quite blurry.
Here is real surveillance video that shows how quickly you can go from justifiably using deadly force to being charged with murder.
Understand that – universally – you are only justified to use deadly force when your opponent shows the ability, opportunity, and intent to immediately inflict serious bodily injury to you or those around you.
However, you are only justified to use deadly force to stop the threat.
Once the immediate threat of serious bodily injury or death ends, additional use of force is no longer justified.
Watch this very revealing surveillance video that shows a textbook case of justified use of deadly force that turns into a murder charge when shots are fired AFTER the threat has ended.
Then read my comments following these videos and email me your verdict, guilty or innocent?
Here’s the News Media’s take on the shooting:
Here is a video where the prosecutor essentially shows his case to the media.
Please understand that I have explained the universally accepted rules in the use of deadly force and shared this surveillance video with you for a very important reason: I want to help you AVOID criminal charges should you ever need to use your weapon to defend yourself or others.
This case, unless a plea bargain is struck, will end up in the hands of 12 of our “peers” to decide if a normally law-abiding, upstanding citizen should go to prison for his actions or be set free.
The surveillance video is the key witness because the other store employees were hiding at the time, the other robber had run away, and the unarmed teen is now dead and cannot testify.
However, the jury will likely hear from the man on trial as he explains what was going through his mind and why he felt compelled to get another gun and shoot what appears to be a teenager who was no longer a threat.
The jury, regardless of the “letter of the law” or instructions from the Court, ultimately makes the final decision in the case as to whether a man is guilty or innocent. The jury will decide if he walks free or not.
Here is the recent verdict in the case:
OKLAHOMA CITY — A jury Thursday convicted an Oklahoma City pharmacist of first-degree murder, saying he went too far when he pumped six bullets into a teenager who tried to rob the drug store where he worked, and suggested he spend the rest of his life in prison.
Jerome Ersland leaves the courtroom as the as the jury begins deliberations in Oklahoma City, Thursday, May 26, 2011. A jury convicted Ersland, an Oklahoma City pharmacist, of first-degree murder, saying he went too far when he pumped six bullets into a teenager who tried to rob his drug store, and suggested he spend the rest of his life in prison. (AP Photo/The Oklahoman, Steve Gooch)
Jerome Ersland stands as his guilty verdict is read by Judge Ray C. Elliott in Oklahoma City, Thursday, May 26, 2011.
Jerome Ersland, 59, had been hailed as a hero for protecting two co-workers during the May 19, 2009, robbery attempt at the Reliable Discount Pharmacy in a crime-ridden neighborhood in south Oklahoma City.
A prosecutor, however, said that after Ersland shot Antwun Parker in the head, knocking the 16-year-old to the ground, Ersland made himself “judge, jury, executioner” by getting a second handgun and shooting the boy five times in the abdomen. A coroner’s report said the latter shots killed Parker.
“This defendant was absolutely not defending himself or anyone else,” Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Chance told jurors during closing arguments Thursday.
Defense attorney Irven Box asked jurors to close their eyes and imagine what they would do in the same situation, and told them Ersland had to take action to end a threat.
“He eliminated the armed robber,” Box said.
Police said Parker wasn’t armed, and since the shooting have disputed Ersland’s claim that he was wounded during the robbery attempt. Ersland did not testify at the trial.
The jury — eight women and four men — recommended a life sentence after deliberating 3.5 hours. Oklahoma County District Judge Ray Elliott can impose a lighter sentence when Ersland is sentenced July 11, but cannot depart upward. If he accepts the jury’s suggestion, Ersland would be eligible for parole after 38 years and three months.
The jury’s recommendation carries considerable weight. The defense must ask for a reduced penalty, and Elliott must justify any decision to reject the jurors’ suggestion.
Ersland, in a dark jacket and red tie, showed no emotion as the verdict was read and was immediately taken into custody. He remained silent as sheriff’s deputies led him in handcuffs to an elevator reserved for defendants.
The victim’s family members, including Parker’s mother, Cleta Jennings, and his aunt, Mona Stewart, ran out of the courtroom crying when the verdict was announced and wept in the hallway before departing via a public elevator.
Box and District Attorney David Prater declined to comment until after Ersland’s sentencing. Jurors left the courthouse after declining to speak.
Ersland, a former Air Force lieutenant colonel, worked at a pharmacy that had been robbed before. Immediately after the shooting, anti-crime advocates and many listeners and viewers of talk shows called Ersland’s actions heroic.
A video from the store showed Ersland firing a pistol at two men after they burst into the store, one of them armed. Ersland hit Parker with one shot, knocking him to the ground, and chased the other suspect out the door. After returning to the pharmacy, he retrieved a second gun and shot Parker five more times 46 seconds after firing the first shot.
Jurors visited the pharmacy during the trial.
Box had said Ersland was protected by provisions of Oklahoma’s “Make My Day Law,” named after a Clint Eastwood line in “Dirty Harry.” Legislators in the 1980s initially gave residents the right to use deadly force when they feel threatened inside their homes, then in 2006 extended that to their automobiles or workplaces.
Prater said Ersland had the legal right to defend himself and his co-workers during the attempted robbery — and did when he fired the first shot that struck Parker in the head, knocking him unconscious. But the district attorney said deadly force must be used responsibly.
“There’s got to be limitations on that,” Prater said. “This isn’t about gun rights. This is about murder.”
The second teen who entered the pharmacy with Parker, Jevontai Ingram, was sentenced to a state juvenile facility after pleading guilty to first-degree murder under Oklahoma’s felony murder law. That law allows a murder charge against someone when an accomplice is killed during the commission of a crime.
Prosecutors say two men, Anthony D. Morrison, 44, and Emanuel Mitchell, 33, recruited the teens and helped plan the robbery. They were convicted of first-degree murder in early May and sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole. Near the end of their trial, Mitchell slugged Prater in the face at the end of Prater’s closing statement in the penalty phase. Deputies jumped on Mitchell to subdue him and took him away.
As Ersland’s trial wrapped up Thursday, 10 sheriff’s deputies stood by in the packed courtroom and Elliott warned the crowd to remain orderly.
“This has been a very emotional case for all parties involved,” Elliott said. “If you feel for whatever reason you can’t maintain your composure, I suggest you step out in the hall.”
THE TAKE HOME MESSAGE IS: When the threat ends, there is no legal reason to shoot your opponent again. Don’t turn a justifiable shooting into your own life prison sentence.
I will be posting a different article on this blog each Monday so I look forward to your visit every week.
If you have an interesting photo, story or tip about a relevant topic of interest to gun ownership, firearms training or Second Amendment issues, please feel free to send it to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org