Wednesday, September 13, 2017

A sobering reminder to firearms owners


An error in judgment led to a tragedy in Washington.  It's just resulted in an 8½-year jail sentence for an errant firearms owner.

It all happened early on a Friday morning last November on Prairie Ridge Drive in Bonney Lake.

Panton told police he watched a stranger stealing his Jeep and that’s when he grabbed his .40 caliber handgun and opened fire while the suspect took off in his truck.

Except one of those bullets flew through Green’s window. It wasn’t much later that morning that Linda’s family called 911 when they found her injured and bleeding on the floor. She was rushed to a hospital but later died.

. . .

“I’m very, very sorry,” said Panton. “I cannot say that enough. I didn’t want to hurt anybody; I was trying to stop a kid from being a punk.”

But despite having no criminal record, Panton was sentenced by the judge to the maximum – 8.5 years behind bars.

Prosecutors said there is no excuse for taking the law into your own hands – and state law doesn’t allow the use of deadly force when protecting property.

“He did intend to pull the trigger,” said Judge Timothy Ashcraft. “When you do that, you have to accept the consequences as to where that bullet ends up.”

There's more at the link.  Bold print is my emphasis.

"Sorry" simply won't cut it in a tragedy like this.  Ms. Green would probably have been alive and well today, if Mr. Panton hadn't tried to take the law into his own hands.  His recklessness caused her death, and now he's paying the price.  Frankly, I think 8½ years is a relatively light sentence, considering that he deprived an innocent person of their life, and her relatives will have to live with that grief forever.

Laws differ from state to state.  In Texas, for example, it's legitimate under certain circumstances to use deadly force to defend one's property - but even when that's legal, one is still responsible for every shot one fires.  Irrespective of the law, there are too many "cowboy" gun owners out there who see nothing wrong with firing after someone who's just attacked them or stolen their property, even when the attack or theft is over and the perpetrator is trying to flee.  That's illegal in most jurisdictions, and it's almost always unwise.  Police have statutory protections when using deadly force, in their official capacity, to stop a fleeing felon.  Private citizens do not.  As private citizens, it's very much in our own interests to use deadly force only when it's absolutely and unavoidably necessary, and to cease using it the moment it's no longer so vitally needed.  Anything else is folly.

May Ms. Green rest in peace;  may her relatives receive what comfort they may;  and may Mr. Panton reflect on his actions during the years of his prison sentence, and hopefully learn from his mistakes.  What's more, I hope all gun owners who read of his misadventures will do the same . . . otherwise there will be more Ms. Greens in future.

Peter

15 comments:

Brad Richards said...

I have to disagree with 8-1/2 years being a "light" sentence. Or even a fair one.

What is the point of sending someone to jail? It's not supposed to be about vengeance. It ought to be about teaching them a lesson; if necessary, rehabilitation. Only in extreme cases is it about keeping society safe by taking someone off the streets.

In this case, a basically law-abiding citizen screwed up big time. He needs to be taught a lesson, specifically, never to recklessly handle a firearm again. Six months of jail time would do that, especially given that his right to own a firearm ever again will be severely restricted due to his conviction. After six months, he would still have a chance to pick up the threads of his life again.

8-1/2 years? His life is destroyed. He will lose his job, his house, his friends, his family - he will emerge from jail with nothing, and probably be permanently unemployable. How is that a useful outcome for society as a whole?

Too often, the "tough on crime" attitude in the States is completely counterproductive. People confuse "justice" with "vengeance.

Old NFO said...

He will pay a price the rest of his life. Sadly, she doesn't HAVE a life anymore.

Robert the Biker said...

Lets not forget that she would be alive if a certain piece of worthless shit hadn't gone to steal the mans possessions!

lpdbw said...

Police have statutory protections when using deadly force, in their official capacity, to stop a fleeing felon.

Maybe some places. What they have in most places is limited immunity, which, when coupled with prosecutorial discretion, means they can have reckless disregard for the safety of bystanders, and face no consequences at all. Immunity does not exist in statutes in most places; it is an invention of the courts.

Get back to me when cops are held to the same standard as Mr. Panton.

Simon Maguire said...

So what did the car thief get? Someone was killed due to his crime, if he did not do the crime she would not have been shot. The car thief is guilty of murde. If you do a crime and someone dies because of it in most places that means you are guilty of murder

Elmdor said...

As I recall for my Texas LTC course, Texas law makes no distinction between police officers and the public except for special sections regarding actions taken to perform an arrest or to prevent a suspect from fleeing after an arrest. After being the key word.

LEO's will probably get more benefit of the doubt here than other civilians at a grand jury or when a prosecutor decides whether or not to bring charges but if this same action had been taken by a LEO in Texas his case at least have gone before a grand jury.

Jeff B said...

My CCW Permit class instructor used an analogy of a tank of hungry sharks: If the piece of property in question was dropped into a tank of hungry sharks, would you jump in to get it?

If it was my child (I have none), heck yes I'd jump into a tank of sharks to get him/her back!

If my vehicle falls into a tank of sharks? Yeah, not so much... that's why I pay insurance premiums.

Bad decision by the shooter. It's just a vehicle... Not worth going to prison for it.

Jon said...

This is why everyone should get some training not just on shooting but on use of force laws. There are a number of good resources for this. You should also have some sort of legal backup. I am signed up for with 2 (CCW-Safe and Armed citizens legal defense network). https://armedcitizensnetwork.org/ has IMHO the best training, and I'll probably drop the CCW-Safe when it runs out.

http://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2016/12/john-boch/concealed-carry-insurance/

Uncle Lar said...

I think it's worth noting that Mr. Panton would have been subject to the same criminal charges if his aim had been better and he had struck the thief instead. Might have received a lesser sentence, might even have been acquitted by a jury, but shooting anyone when not in reasonable fear for your own life or that of others is still a crime.

Job said...

This guy should have known the use of force laws in Washington. If his life was not in danger, then he had no legal right to use deadly force. Even an armored car driver cannot legally shoot a robber after he has the money and is running.

An eight and a half year sentence for manslaughter is not vengeance. Vengeance would be for the family of the slain to kill the shooter or his family. The law has taken retribution out of the victim's family's hands, limited punishment to the shooter and even moderated the sentence. The maximum for second degree manslaughter is ten years, whereas the maximum for murder is life in prison or death. A decade is long enough to punish the shooter, short enough to moderate the sentence for circumstances, and long enough to discourage lynchings.

Pwl47 said...

A while back someone(either Peter or perhaps Lawdog)wrote a piece on the consequences of using deadly force. It was sobering to say the least and convinced me that I would only use it in the absolute most dire of circumstances. Property theft is not even close to being one of those. And no I am not wealthy. The loss would hurt but nothing I have that is small enough to steal is worth the trouble that would result from killing the thief.

JK Brown said...

There is a SCOTUS decision that governs the use of deadly force to stop someone fleeing. You can't as there is no threat, with very stringent exceptions for law enforcement. So this guy was a. using deadly force to stop property theft, but worse, firing after someone to stop them leaving.

In TN, non-law enforcement are specifically prohibited from using deadly force to stop someone fleeing or leaving. Law enforcement can use deadly force to stop someone fleeing, if they have reasonable suspicion the person is intent on harming others AND there is no other means to stop the person. Other means includes more officers arriving, cordoning off the area, etc. So, in practice, a police officer fires after someone only in the direst of circumstances. And they, along with anyone, are still responsible for their bullets. Although, if the police are justified in shooting, they are unlikely to get prison for killing an innocent bystander and the city will pay the civil damages to the family of the person wrongfully shot.

JK Brown said...

The police don't necessarily have more statutory protections for using deadly force, but they do have statutory powers to get into other people's business, which non law enforcement don't. Police, upon reasonable suspicion/probable cause to be argued in court, have the power to stop a person, question them and, are presumed justified if they put their hands on the person. All expected to be argued in court and physically complied with until you can get before a judge.

A private citizen who tries to stop someone and gets punched in the face, is out of luck. A police officer has cause to arrest.

Anonymous said...

There's a recent case down in Trashville, one I'm keeping an eye on.
On 26 August, a young woman named Katie Quackenbush was asked by a "homeless" man to turn down her loud stereo in her Porsche, which was parked near him. Apparently, the discussion escalated, and she drew a pistol. The sheriff's office said she didn't show up in the database as having a TN HCP. (In TN, no permit is required to carry a loaded firearm in one's vehicle, the vehicle being considered an extension of one's home; if one removes the weapon in public, that's out the window, of course.)
She fired two "warning shots", both of which struck the man; that's one hell of a warning! The victim survived, but was "critically wounded", according to news reports. Her father even defended her actions, saying she only wanted to warn the man away.
If she has a permit, she didn't pay attention in class, where she was undoubtedly told that warning shots are a terrible idea.
I'd bet money that she gets a slap on the wrist. I, for one, would like to see her given the maximum legal punishment for her callous, dangerous act, but nobody in the justice system is or will be asking my opinion.
--Tennessee Budd

TWS said...

It was a ridiculously long sentence in comparison to other homicides. Whether it was too long all on its own is a different question.

Likely training in use of force laws would have done nothing. He wasn't thinking anything he was reacting.