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 Post subject: Re: Vigilante Justice
 Post Posted: Sun Jan 30, 2011 1:21 am 
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chaosman wrote:
I'll give a situation that happened several years ago and elicit opinions.

My first wife had a sister who is divorced from the father of her child. The child is my god-daughter and niece. The father had, on numerous occasions physically beat my sister-in-law both during the marriage and after. She had a restraining order in effect on him. He had been arrested for this and fled the state while on bail. His father, the child's grandfather, is a member of the Pagans. A violent biker gang that is not known for tolerance and understanding. The grandfather had called my sister-in-law and told her that he, his son, and some of his friends were on the way over to her house to kill her and take the child. She called the police and filed an incident report. No officer was dispatched to the home.
My wife was currently visiting with her sister at her apartment and had been witness to the call. I was at work. After the phone call the grandfather's blue van pulls up in front of the apartment and does burn outs, honks the horn and generally makes a nuisance of himself. She calls the police and the van leaves before the police arrive. This happens three more times leading to the theory that the grandfather is watching to see when the police leave before coming back for more harassment. The grandfather calls again and says next time we are coming in to finish you. The police are called and they tell her that she cannot monopolize the police department and that there is no way to prove she is telling the truth and that they cannot keep sending officers to the house and that they haven't seen any evidence that anyone is really threatening her when they came out to the house. They called me and told me the situation.
My response to the situation:
I left work. Drove home. Got my gun. Drove to the apartment. Hid my motorcycle. Hid myself in the shadows by the building door and waited for the van to return. When the van pulled up again and the sliding door opened up revealing several people getting out I proceeded to step out into the light and empty the clip into the open van door from about 15 yards away. They piled back into the van and got the heck outta there. I am unaware if I actually hit any of them but my sister-in-law didn't hear from her ex for three years after the incident. The next time he came over it was because he begged to see his daughter for Christmas and promised to be good. When he visited the first thing he did upon entering the house was look around nervously and ask if I was there. I judged my response to be a successful resolution to the situation but was hardly legal.

Was this vigilante justice? Proactive self defense? Was I way out of line? If so what were my other options? What say you?


You were pretty far out of line. Reasonable (though probably not legal) would have been showing them the gun and telling them you'd use it if they came onto the property, not firing it.

You could also could have tried proving to the police that this was happening (recording the "we're gonna get you" phone calls, taking pictures or video of the van being there and leaving just before the cops arrived, etc) and getting their help.

I'm not sure if those or other alternatives would have worked, or if I would have done them in the same situation; but there were other possibilities than firing a gun into a car which (from the sound of your story) could have had people still inside it.

(Edit: Yes, I recognize the irony of expressing a negative opinion about vigilante justice while having a Batman icon.)

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 Post subject: Re: Vigilante Justice
 Post Posted: Sun Jan 30, 2011 2:02 am 
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I would say that you got lucky that they A: were not armed and returned fire, or B: that you scared them enough that they thought better of losing their lives. You could have turned the incident into a bloodbath.

That being said. Since you fired first and before seeing any weapons, I think you were out of line. Still, you were probably the only protection that may have been afforded to your sister in law. I think while still in the cover of darkness that perhaps announcing that you were there and armed may have been a better move. If they proceeded anyway, perhaps a single shot to let them know you were not kidding. If they again continued, then maybe going the next step.

I know I wasn't there. I am just going by the incident as you described it. It is quite possible what you did may have been what was needed to scare the crap out of them.

Had you killed one of them and they were in fact not armed you would have been going to jail for quite some time, threats or no.

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 Post subject: Re: Vigilante Justice
 Post Posted: Sun Jan 30, 2011 2:44 am 
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I'm with Kajin...

Legally, yeah, pretty far out of line -- morally and tactically, though, I'd say you were on solid ground. They were not remotely ambiguous about voicing their intentions -- they may not have fired first, but they were a clear and immediate danger. If you had opened with a parlay, they would have had opportunity to adjust to the fact that they had you outnumbered and take advantage of that. All in all, I think you did the right thing (if not exactly the legal thing).

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 Post subject: Re: Vigilante Justice
 Post Posted: Sun Jan 30, 2011 6:34 am 
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I think what you did was excessive selfdefence. Still self defence still by your story your intention seems to have been making them go away and leave you and your relatives alone, not to punish them. But if i were going of an account of a neutral eye witness, not your account, i propably would not have given you the benefit of doubt there*.

Pretty much as Malice said, you should have found a different way, such as getting proof of the threats, or threatened them with your gun, without firering it, or waited until they clearly commited an act of breaking and entering (breaking down a door would definitly count, steping over a low fence most likely not).

I do have symathy for civilians without appropriate skills, who overreact in self defence situations, especially if it goes against people who do the equivalent of internet trolling with violent threats and attacks. As long as i am convinced that you don't have a tendency to jump to conclusions and see self defence situations, where there are none, (i don't know you well enough to have an opionion on this), i would not consider you personally a danger to society. But i don't think your actions should be tolerated, because first it would lead to more people who jump to conclusions to act and injure innocents, and secondly people like the grandfather could use such a leniency to engeneer situations, where they attack their victims and self defence can't be disproven in court.

An appropriate and just legal response to your actions would have been IMO a suspended sentence. It would show that this behaviour is not considered right, and anything harsher would not be right for a civilian who panics once in a situation where this is understandable.

I also consider it is quite likely that i myself would overreact in a self denfence situation. I never got the hang of "macho behaviour" with slowly escalating situations to determinate pecking orders and can't handle situations like that well. Being scared and in a situation you know you can't handle is a good recipie for panic reactions.

I also do think that police responses to stalking are often not as good as they should be, and it is a quite recent thing, that people seem to be awayre that better strategies have to be developed.

*With regards to what i believe that really happened. If i were in a jury and required to give the benefit of doubt due to my office, it would be yet an other story.

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 Post subject: Re: Vigilante Justice
 Post Posted: Sun Jan 30, 2011 11:36 am 
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Thanks for the responses.
Kajin- Thanks.
Malice- One of the largest factors in this situation for me was the reputation for violence that the Pagans have and that one of the few things they respect is someone who can meet them on their own terms. I respect your opinion though and you may well be correct.
Jorodryn-Yes I was lucky. I did recognize the possibility of death/murder/jail time when I acted but I felt pretty confident that any prosecution would have been extremely difficult considering no one knew I was there. In fact no one would have been able to prove I had even left work unless of course I had been caught at the scene. I understand why you thought I was out of line.
quantumcat42-Thanks.
arcosh-Well reasoned. I may have overreacted of course, though I do not believe so. As to civilians overreacting, in my particular case I believe I actually acted more in line with my Army training than anything else. When hostiles entered my defensive perimeter I fired upon them and drove them away. My after action report would have been: Enemy breached perimeter. I engaged them with defensive fire. Enemy retreated. No casualties. Enemy KIA unknown. Enemy WIA unknown.
In regards to your opinion on the just and legal response I have a question. You seem to think this was a case of panic versus a calm reasoned action. I may have been wrong or overreacting but I was not panicking. I took exactly the actions I planned to take if the situation warranted it. Would this change your opinion on the appropriate legal response?

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 Post subject: Re: Vigilante Justice
 Post Posted: Sun Jan 30, 2011 5:37 pm 
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I think what chaosman did was perfectly reasonable. A violent gang of bikers have threatened your family and the police aren't gonna do anything. Maybe it's because I come from a generation where vigilante justice is glorified through films and comics like The Boondock Saints and Batman, but people need to learn that actions have punishments. These men sent a death threat. Therefore, it was beneficial that someone did something before they killed anyone. Were they actually going to kill her? Just harass her outside the building? Doesn't matter. You fling s***, s*** is flung back. It's the circle of... s***, I suppose.

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 Post subject: Re: Vigilante Justice
 Post Posted: Sun Jan 30, 2011 6:05 pm 
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The proper response would have been going to court to get a restraining order after the first incident. Once the order has been issued, the police will respond to the reports much more seriously.

That being said, if you credibly believe that you and your family are in danger of imminent bodily harm, especially at your home, most jurisdictions will find that you were justified in responding with force. The amount of force you credibly believed was imminent is directly correlated to the amount of force you can justifiably exert.

Ultimately, chaosman, I think it was a mistake to rely only on the police (this is a common mistake. Many people are unaware of the availability of judicial remedies to these sorts of problems) solely to protect you from these people, but you still probably wouldn't be facing any liability (or at least would be able to convince a jury of your innocence) for what you did.

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 Post subject: Re: Vigilante Justice
 Post Posted: Mon Jan 31, 2011 1:33 am 
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chaosman: That is a horrible situation to be in. I'm not entirely sure whether what you did was right or not (and it certainly is not what I would have done), but I do believe that it was a defensible action. And, as has been mentioned, that you were lucky not to have killed anyone.

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 Post subject: Re: Vigilante Justice
 Post Posted: Mon Jan 31, 2011 4:50 am 
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As opposite of civilians i was thinking about people, who do have skills to defuse situations with violent criminals without bloodshed. Police officers should have such skills. Some military personel will have them too, but not all. Some other professions, propably as well. So unless you had successfull training in handling violent criminals (or natives or whatever) in police fashion rather then in military fashion, then you count as civilian with regards to my statements in that post.

I also took a wide definition of panic. You were scared, out of your depth, under preassure and had only very limited time to plan and prepare. People who are scared and out of thier depth often do things, that are more extreme (either in more extreme actions, or they freeze more) then their usual actions, even if there is a phase of developing premeditated plans in there, as long as the preassue does not go away during the planning phase. Which is a kind of light panic.

I mainly used the words civilian and panic to additionally stress that i disagree to "serves them right more people should have the balls to shoot as such scum" that are occasionally expressed during discussions of such incidents. I wanted to make clear that your reaction might be the best you could expect of a random person thrown into the situation, but likely not the best reaction that one could have. Not that i can name an exact optimal reaction now, as i still lack information and propably would have to consult someone, who knows more about the psychology of criminals.

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 Post subject: Re: Vigilante Justice
 Post Posted: Mon Jan 31, 2011 12:00 pm 
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@ Chaosman:

Perfectly justified in my opinion, and, ultimately, that was probably the best response you could have had.

Your wife's ex didn't have any respect for the law, the police's inadequacy not withstanding, and they were going to do something bad.
Enforcing jail time on the ex-husband would have just resulted in the grandfather using his biker gang to get revenge.

The fact that they got out of the van... unless the cop was right there, you did the right thing.

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