"Maybe they're watching
too much TV"
by Robert A. Waters
On October 16, 2000, a clerk at a
St. Louis liquor store shot and
killed an armed robber. According to the Post-Dispatch, this was "the
fifth alleged robber fatally shot in unrelated episodes in St. Louis within the
past three weeks."
Incredibly, a homicide investigator expressed his concern over the rash of
self-defense shootings. "I don't understand it," he said. "Maybe
they're [the victims] watching too much TV."
Let's examine what happened.
At 11:15 p.m., Cortez A. Westley, a seventeen-year-old crack dealer, entered Ja-Mar's
Liquor Store. Wearing a bandanna over his face, the robber pointed a
semiautomatic handgun at the clerk, whose name was not released. When he
demanded money, she reached beneath the cash register and retrieved her own
pistol. A single shot to the forehead ended the teenage thug's budding criminal
In response to the investigator's implied criticism, the clerk said, "I
didn't do anything wrong. It was self-defense. I'd rather him be laying there
Surveys have shown that up to ninety-three percent of police officers below the
rank of captain view armed citizens as allies in the fight against crime.
The reaction of Las Vegas District Attorney Ronald C. Bloxham to a recent
self-defense shooting is more indicative of law enforcement's attitude.
On July 19, 2000, an intruder broke into a residence near Desert Inn Road in Las
Vegas. The homeowner awoke, heard a noise, and retrieved a handgun. Opening the
door to his den, he was confronted by an intruder. The man pulled a gun and
fired three shots. The homeowner returned
fire, then called police. Investigators found the assailant dead on the
floor of the den, a smoking gun still clutched in his hand.
According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, this was the eighth self-defense
shooting in the city in three years.
District Attorney Bloxham summed it up this way. "I was born and raised in
Las Vegas," he said, "and it does seem like [now] you see a lot of
situations like this. I think the public is starting to protect themselves
The police, no matter how dedicated, can't protect everyone. In fact, courts
have consistently ruled that law enforcement agencies are not obligated to
protect individual citizens. The job of the police is to investigate crimes and
apprehend those who commit them. If, by causing a criminal to be incarcerated,
they keep some crimes from being committed, then they've done their job.
Many citizens know this and make arrangements to protect themselves.
During a week-long killing spree in February, 2000, five convenience store
clerks in Harris County, Texas were murdered by robbers. The police, frustrated
by their inability to stop the slaughter, began staking out as many stores as
their manpower would allow.
But when the shootings continued, convenience store owners and workers held a
rally to call public attention to their plight. However, what went unpublicized
was that many employees resolved to fight back.
The Wednesday following the rally, a Vietnamese storeowner shot one of two armed
robbers who tried to hold up his store.
Then, three days later, two men entered the Tex-Mex Food Store in Houston. As
the men walked up to the counter, Napel Ghani saw that one had a gun concealed
inside his coat. Speaking in Arabic, Napel told his mother, who was also working
that night, about the weapon he'd spotted.
When the robber pulled his gun and aimed it at Napel, the clerk grabbed the
man's hand. This gave Nora time to reach for her .38-caliber revolver. The
robber then spun away from Napel and pointed his gun at Nora.
In an interview with the Houston Chronicle, Napel described what happened next.
"I was going over the counter to her when I heard the shot," he said.
"I just froze. All the strength flowed out of me. I thought it was her,
that she'd been shot."
But Tyrone Marvin Bailey was the one who'd taken the bullet. He and the second
robber fled the store. Bailey ran about one hundred feet, then collapsed dead on
"As soon as she saw the muzzle of [the robber's] gun, she shot," Napel
said. Unlike the St. Louis detective, Houston police credited Nora with saving
both their lives.
After the two self-defense shootings, armed robberies of convenience stores in
Houston tapered off for several months.
And so it goes. Every day in America, a guerilla war rages back and forth.
Hardened criminals attacking peaceful citizens. And innocent
victims fighting back.
And every day, cops man the body bags. They see the bloody corpses, the
mutilated rape victims, the children who have been brutalized. They listen to
the sobs of family members who have lost loved ones, and hear pathological
monsters explain why their victims deserved to die. At the end of the day, most
cops conclude that citizens should have the right to use whatever resource is
available to stop criminal attacks.
A few officers--one being the St. Louis detective--reach different conclusions.
Like Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw, and Dan Rather, they think citizens should be
Maybe they're watching too much TV.
Robert A. Waters is author of the book, The Best Defense: True Stories of
Intended Victims Who Defended Themselves with a Firearm, Cumberland House
Publishing, Inc., 1998. Further articles from Mr. Waters can be viewed in his
online archives at http://www.KeepAndBearArms.com/Waters.