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Two Knife Attacks--A Contrast

by Robert A. Waters

When Kim Mariani was asked about a Walmart shopper who used her handgun to stop a knife-wielding assailant, the spokeswoman for Handgun Control, Inc. said, "[Using a gun] just escalates the situation, and a lot of times it's unnecessary."

The case she was referring to occurred on May 23, 2000, in Spring Hill, Florida. A shoplifter attacked employees with a knife, slashing two of them before Sandra Suter pulled her licensed .40-caliber handgun and ended the assault.

It turned out that Willie J. Redding, the assailant, had been released from jail the same day. He was a violent career criminal and drug addict who knew how to work the criminal justice system to his advantage. He'd been arrested for dozens of crimes, but had spent little time in jail.

Many cops and Walmart employees called Suter a heroine, stating that she saved others from being injured in the knife attack.

HCI, of course, disagreed. Their statements implied that Suter should not have become involved. The grandmother should have allowed Redding to continue his attack on the unarmed employees.

What would have happened had Suter not intervened?

We get an idea from an incident that occurred a year later.

On Sunday, May 6, 2001, a similar attack occurred, this one in Lexington, Kentucky. Unfortunately, in this case, none of the employees or customers were armed, leading the assailant to escalate his attack until as many as eight people were injured.

At midnight, Jorge Soto Luke, a drug addict with a history of mental illness, walked out of the Lexington Walmart. When he did, a buzzer went off, indicating that he was carrying goods he hadn't paid for. Aswana Waddy, a cashier, yelled for Luke to stop. Even though he kept going, Luke was not followed by other employees.

But fifteen minutes later, he returned.

He walked into the store, and rushed straight toward Waddy. Luke punched the cashier, knocking her to the floor. Then he pulled out a knife and began stabbing her. Waddy was stabbed in the shoulder, back, and head. After the assault, she was taken to Kentucky Medical Center where she was listed in fair condition.

When two customers attempted to intervene in the attack on Waddy, they were also stabbed. Store employees Katie Fennel and Deborah Porter rushed to the aid of their fellow-employee but they were met by the enraged Luke and repeatedly stabbed.

As three employees lay on the floor bleeding from wounds inflicted by Luke, still another employee, a female, attempted to pull Waddy away from the attacker. Luke was having none of it--he stabbed the employee in the shoulder and slashed her face.

After a rampage that lasted nearly ten minutes, Luke was finally subdued by several male employees.

Police soon arrived. Investigators stated that they were looking for at least two other customers who fled the store after being attacked by Luke.

In all, as many as eight customers and employees had been knifed by the crazed assailant. The victims were taken to area hospitals. All except Waddy were released within 24 hours. Her injuries were severe enough to require surgery and an extensive stay in the hospital.

The police investigation revealed that Luke was a crack addict with a history of mental illness.

Had a Sandra Suter been in the store, the assault might have ended quickly. It might not have escalated to the point that eight people were injured.

The contrast is unmistakeable. Without a firearm, the attack in Lexington seemed to go on forever. Each heroic employee or customer who attempted to stop the assailant was stabbed, leaving the floor littered with bleeding victims.

On the other hand, the Spring Hill assailant looked down the barrel of a handgun and quickly lost his aggressive tendencies. In retrospect, Sandra Suter almost certainly saved others from injury or even death.

According to a recent report, in the wake of the Lexington attack, Walmart is reviewing its security policies. Letting employees carry concealed weapons might be a start.

Also From Robert Waters

The Best Defense: True Stories of Intended Victims Who Defended Themselves


Printer Version

The NRA has a point about the inadvisability of simply taking guns away from the populace. If that were possible, it would not disarm that small percentage of the population willing to break the law.... Punishing people who obey the law is backward thinking. Hugh Downs, Veteran ABC newsman

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