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Opening Arguments

Nervous streets

This should generate a lot of discussion:

Indiana's News Center has learned that the Fort Wayne pizza store employee who was shot and killed on the job over the weekend had a gun at the time of the robbery.

[. . .]

23-year old Chad Brunson, the night manager, was shot in the head early Sunday, after two black men with their faces covered burst in and demanded cash.

A police source said Brunson pulled out a gun during the holdup, and that when officers responded, they found Brunson on the floor with gun in hand.

[. . .]

Indiana's News Center has learned that Brunson had pulled a gun on a would-be robber during a hold-up attempt back in April.

The store's owner told him after that to leave the gun at home, but on Sunday morning he had one when police found him dead.

What went wrong? Did he freeze, or not remember he had the safety on? Did having the gun give him a false sense of security? Did seeing it make the robbers go a step further than they would have? Unless the surveillance tape shows something, there can be only speculation, and people are free to use their own feelings about how one should deal with armed intruders.

Mitch Harper has pointed out that demonstrating it has a handle on such crimes is as important as anything the city can do:

The cost of such a murder is spread over a much wider area than the location of the pizzeria and the homes of Mr. Brunson's family and friends.

You see, that pizzeria is located in the neighborhood where my wife and I lived.  I have eaten many pizzas from that shop.  I have run past it many times. Many friends still live in the neighborhood in all directions from that pizzeria.

The fear that flows from such an event corrodes the neighborhood and corrodes the city.

The pizza shop had been targeted by robbers before, and one explanation for the gun us that Brunson didn't feel safe without it. We can argue about whether it was wise to count on it, but the city can't afford  for that feeling -- that we're not safe leaving our front doors without being armed -- to be widespread.

I'm familiar with that area, too. It's not far from where I live, and it's across from Hartley's, where I eat frequently. This won't stop me from visiting that neighborhood, but it will make me nervous being there, at least for a time.


Bob G.
Fri, 01/05/2007 - 8:36am

My take on this is simple:

Trespassers will be shot...survivors will be shot AGAIN!


Fri, 01/05/2007 - 8:54am

This certainly throws some water on the gun industry's tired canard that if everyone were packin' there'd be no crime.

For years law enforcement has been telling the public that drawing a weapon on an armed criminal is about the stupidest thing you can do. Evidently Mr. Bruson's boss realized this too.

As for that neighborhood not being safe, it's a perception that has been growing for years -- thanks to Realtors badmouthing it, not crime.

Larry Morris
Fri, 01/05/2007 - 10:14am

I believe the argument was if more people were "packin" there'd be less crime. The thought is that if criminal elements know the unsuspecting citizen they're contemplating harm on might be armed, they would think twice about trying anything. At any rate, I certainly feel safer armed. And, yes, it is stupid to just pull your own gun against an armed attacker without thought or plan - however, it would certainly help in situations where crazy armed individuals start shooting up the place, ... I don

tim zank
Fri, 01/05/2007 - 10:32am

Alex, I believe the tired canard of which you speak is actually closer to "If more people had/used/carried guns for protection there would be less crime."

That's a wonderfully liberal mis-interpretation though.

As for the perception that the neighborhood isn't safe because Realtors "badmouth it" is one of the most asinine things I have ever heard. You currently have 203 properties actively listed for sale with Realtors in that neighborhood(46807). They aren't badmouthing it, they're trying to sell it.
Realtors don't list houses, advertise them, and show them while badmouthing them, because it's kind of hard to make a commission that way....

Fri, 01/05/2007 - 1:30pm

I beg your pardon, Tim, but I happen to know people who adore Southwood Park, who want to live there, who do live there -- and have been told by Realtors that no they don't want to live there. One woman in particular moved to Fort Wayne about eight years ago; she saw and loved the neighborhood but was told at that time that it was becoming dangerous and gang-infested and she'd be well advised to buy in Aboite. Which she did. Then she sold and now she lives in Southwood Park and loves it.

The director of ARCH, who's a personal friend, also lives in Southwood Park and constantly hears stories from people who want to buy there but have to contend with Realtors insistent on steering them away.

Sure, there are houses on the market there. Same ones that were on the market six months or a year ago in a market that's glutted with housing.

brian stouder
Fri, 01/05/2007 - 2:03pm

It seems to me that the same know-nothing anti-South Fort Wayne attitude is what eventually killed Southtown mall.

Steve Towsley
Fri, 01/05/2007 - 5:52pm

Let's talk about the real problem for a second, the one that gets no play. An unknown percentage of people in disadvantaged neighborhoods truly believe the following ridiculous, impossible and widely supported foolishness:

"There is some good societal/cultural rationale, that is an exculpatory reason, why I deserve to support myself with a life of crime"

The really interesting thing about this group delusion/conviction is that the believers, whoever they are, feel entitled to win. To rob, to deal, and to shoot those who fight back. Especially those perceived as slightly more privileged -- even if they only make eight bucks an hour.

A gun cannot guarantee the good guy's survival; it can only improve the odds in most situations. It's not a cure-all for the good guy any more than it is a solution for the bad guy. It just is.

The really story here is that every one of these people has a mother who wishes the best for her child. Some mothers of criminals will probably fight for their kid's right to rob, if the alternative is that her kid is justifiably shot dead in the course of an armed robbery.

Think about that. I'm sorry for those mothers, but the proper thing to do is suck it up when your kid dies while committing an armed crime.

In a city inhabited by really good people North, South, East and West, these two perps will be turned in by honest fellow citizens and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the laws against robbery and murder. In a city where some people abet criminals with lame excuses about practicalities and social inevitabilities, these guys might disappear into a web of guilty co-conspirators.

In a city like ours.... who knows? The moral jury is still out in this case.

One thing is certain -- if we give up and turn over the valuables, we are surrendering to the criminal element. Mr. Brunson died a citizen soldier, defending the right and saying, in effect, NO, for the rest of us.

I wish I had been there that night. I'd have been proud to aid the innocent and try to defeat the degenerate.

I pity the American who finds nothing worth defending, worth denying to the immoral predator, worth dying for.

I wish we had more like Mr. Brunson to fight the feral wimps in 99-cent polyester ski masks who routinely get their way only because so many people carefully teach them that if challenged they will quietly hand over everything they hold dear and feel like a hero with a tale to tell afterward.

Thank God our kids in the Middle East have less flaccid principles.

Steve Towsley
Fri, 01/05/2007 - 5:55pm

I see I need to quickly tell you that I type my thoughts faster than I can proofread. The above could have used a second look before hitting the "Publish" button. Oh well.

brian stouder
Fri, 01/05/2007 - 7:52pm

"because so many people carefully teach them that if challenged they will quietly hand over everything they hold dear and feel like a hero with a tale to tell afterward."

Steve - what planet do you live on?

How much cash could have been in that pizza shop? $300? $400?

The dead clerk had already been told by his boss not to bring his gun to work. The fellow should have either done as his boss said, or else find another job - maybe one at a gas station that has the bullet=proof glass dividers.

And looking at the other possibilities for how the robbery might have ended, what if the dead clerk had killed one or both of the robbers? Presumeably the police and the prosecutor would have cleared the clerk of any criminal wrong-doing, but still....in the wee hours of the morning, that fellow would have to continually think "I killed people in order to defend a couple of hundred dollars in a pizza joint".

By way of saying - you're dead for an awful long time. I would not arm myself to defend a few bucks in the till.

And - by the way, I think it is grossly inappropriate to try and compare the actions of a disobedient armed store clerk with that of the ongoing operations of the highly trained members of the Armed Forces of the United States currently deployed in war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Steve Towsley
Fri, 01/05/2007 - 8:26pm

Brian --

Everything you have just said is wrong by my understanding of American principles. The young man could have rolled over and presented his soft belly when challenged by a couple of idiots with stealing on their minds, but he and he alone decided what his principles would be as a responsible participant in his own workplace.

Don't criticize him for high ideals, much less call him disobedient because he put the Bill of Rights ahead of a store manager's idea of good policy.

I live on planet Earth, and I would not like to see liberals succeed in turning our world into H.G. Wells' cautionary image of helpless Eloi who have accepted as their lot in life the predation of cannibal Morlocks.

That, for anyone who missed the moral of the story, would be a planetary pact with the devil.

We don't need any more sheeple pretending that the defensive shooting of an armed criminal is worth a second's consideration as a civil suit.

For those who are up to it, like the brave but unlucky Mr. Brunson, fighting back when a career criminal tries to take what doesn't belong to him is a noble act which serves and validates our lawful society, wich may even retrain our young people, by example, demonstrating that there is nothing legitimate about stealing something that rightfully belongs to someone else. Nothing... legitimate... nor... excusable... in trying to pretend crime is a full-time career. The ONLY thing a criminal can earn regardless of race, creed or economic disadvantage is prison or the wrong end of a justified homicide, whether by cop or armed victim. Clear?

Steve Towsley
Sat, 01/06/2007 - 12:02am

Let me add one more point. I'll be interested to see the security video recorded in the store during the robbery. Until then, I can't guess how it unfolded, but let me say this as a general rule about revealing your legally carried firearm:

Don't draw the gun until you have made up your mind to fire. Don't draw if you are hoping to scare, or hoping the sight of your gun will send a perp running. Those days are long gone. Either draw to fire, or bide your time.

It is possible that Mr. Brunson drew his firearm and was cut down before he could quite get his shots off. It is also possible that he made the mistake of giving the perps a second to see the threat in hopes that he would not have to shoot. That would have been a huge mistake, if it occurred.

No civilian can afford the luxury of letting a dangerous perp choose the next move. These days thieves may shoot you dead even when you pose no threat.

Don't draw unless you have decided to fire instantly and keep firing until the threat is no longer a threat. Then call the ambulance.

Worry about sleepless nights later, and be glad you are still around to have insomnia.

Bob G.
Sat, 01/06/2007 - 8:17am

Ambulance, HELL....call the coroner!

Steve....you've addressed the crux of SO many of our "ills" on the southside, it's not funny.

And I hadn't thought about the Wellsian analogy until you mentioned it....brilliant!

AS to the realtor situation, if you check most any website of realtors here, they will HAVE houses down here listed, but when you check crime rates for specific zipcodes...you'll find the SE and SW zips have the highest number of incidents reported (and how many go UNreported).

SO anyone looking to buy and seriously settle down around here will be bombarded with all this negativity (either real OR perceived).

I'd be the last one to say we DON'T have probelms here...we DO...in abundance, and being a "lone wolf" around here (trying to turn things around for the better again) only gets a larger "target" placed on your back. Cripes, I have total strangers pissed at me because I want crime to "go play" somewhere other than MY neighborhood.

At least there are those certain city agencies that TRULY appreciate what I'm doing...and my hope is that other citizens decide to take up the banner and do something as well....it gets awful heavy after a few years!



brian stouder
Sat, 01/06/2007 - 1:30pm

"Everything you have just said is wrong by my understanding of American principles"

"Don't criticize him for high ideals"

I disagree that placing a premium on quick-draw firearm prowess is a higher ideal than 'Rule of law'.

"We don't need any more sheeple pretending that the defensive shooting of an armed criminal is worth a second's consideration as a civil suit."

Well - we also don't need pizza-seeking innocent bystanders getting hit by 'friendly fire', just because some self-appointed gunslinger sales clerk empties his weapon at some bad guys, and misses with a few shots.

" I'll be interested to see the security video recorded in the store during the robbery"

I agree completely with that

Steve Towsley
Sat, 01/06/2007 - 3:46pm

Man oh man.

Couldn't you squeeze any more pejorative characterizations in there? You could have referred to the young victim as an armed citizen.

Instead you publish a partisan tract loaded with words and phrases like quick-draw prowess and gunslinger and rule of law (though we don't know any laws were broken other than the laws against robbery and murder).

Why not just send your resume to Paul Helmke and forget the pretense to objective debate?

tim zank
Sat, 01/06/2007 - 4:55pm

Steve, that sums it up rather nicely.

Brian and Alex, I agree Southwood Park is a beautiful neighborhood as are many in and around the area, however I think common sense pretty much tells us the crime is more prevalent in that zip code than others. Bad things happen everywhere, and it just so happens more happen in that neck of the woods.

brian stouder
Sat, 01/06/2007 - 8:43pm

"Couldn't you squeeze any more pejorative characterizations in there? You could have referred to the young victim as an armed citizen"

Well, true enough.

What I wanted to answer back was your own invocation of the Bill of Rights and 'high ideals' in this horrible event.

The sentence "Don't draw unless you have decided to fire instantly and keep firing until the threat is no longer a threat" is really untenable, if we are to avoid mobocracy and anarchy, isn't it?

If the armed robber has already displayed his weapon - then you must assume (by this same logic) that he will fire the weapon at you without hesitation, if you make a sudden move (let alone grabbing for your own firearm)

On the other hand, if a fellow merely LOOKS threatening - but the clerk hasn't seen a weapon - then what? Does the clerk pre-emptively reach for his weapon? And if the clerk DOES decide to reach for his weapon, in your formulation he must already have decided to open fire on the 'threatening' individual.

If the threatening individual WAS a robber, but he only had a cell phone in his pocket, then the clerk may well commit an unjustifiable homicide.

Steve Towsley
Sun, 01/07/2007 - 6:48pm

Yes, but what I wanted to answer was your implied derision of a brave if unfortunate young man who decided "not on my watch."

We could use more people with that resolve, working on solutions to make that goal a reality. It would be grossly unjust to cast blame on any worker killed during a robbery. The cause, effect and consequences are the fault and responsibility of the people who decided to commit a crime.

As for the proper procedure for legally defending oneself with a firearm, that isn't a matter of my opinion. I paraphrased in a few words the accepted protocol you'll find in every training course on the decision whether and how to engage your legally owned concealed firearm in a violent assault.

Carrying a licensed firearm for what the Indiana constitution acknowledges as "defense of myself" does not give anyone, cop or civilian, a 007 license (despite our slightly overzealous B.G.'s suggestion).

He or she will legally shoot to STOP a violent assault when fearful for life, limb or property, if need and opportunity arise. After the assault is over, help is called for everyone involved including the perpetrator.

The training to "shoot to stop" does not imply emptying one's weapon or engaging in a foolish fast draw. The concept "shoot to stop" is based in common sense necessity -- it is perfectly reasonable to assume that one will fire once or more than once as necessary until the violent assault can't continue.

Nor should one infer that there is gross danger from stray rounds. There are plenty of product choices for every environment, and licensed gun owners tend to practice shooting with far more accuracy than any bullet-spraying perpetrator, in fact. Stopping an attack early may actually reduce innocent casualties in many cases.

The most important point of this particular aspect of the matter may be this: Shooting to stop the assault is not only "tenable" and legal, it is desirable; it is the point of the successful defense.

Mon, 01/08/2007 - 8:25am

I agree with who said he wanted to defend himself rather than roll over. If our judges and people would be more assertive towards crime, again, I agree, there woudld most likely be less of it. Southtown Mall failed because there was too much crime out there-plain and simple. Face it, not all but the majority of crime is committed on the south side of Ft Wayne. In other isolated parts of the city, there is more crime than normal as well. I am not saying a wealthy person never commits a crime.