And this is what all the testosterone-charged, hillbilly, heat-packing, gun-rights ranting has come to: vigilante shootouts in the streets of Aurora.
Despite what you’ve heard, the only thing we’ll get with more good guys with guns is people mistakenly shot to death, and it’s probably nothing more than luck that kept it from happening in central Aurora this weekend. I have no doubt that 26-year-old Avery Nelson is a good guy and probably had the best of intentions Saturday night when he pulled out his gun outside a strip mall at South Chambers Road and East Iliff Avenue and shot at a fleeing robbery suspect.
But given that, Nelson, who works as a security guard in Denver, made a horrendously bad decision to pop off a few rounds at the alleged thief — a crime that was equally as dangerous and more insidious.
In the yadda, yadda, yadda world we live in where the president is ridiculed for crying over murdered children and nobody much cares that a couple dozen well-armed yahoos take over a federal wildlife reserve compound, the weekend story of a man trying to stop a fleeing Aurora robber by shooting at him came and went pretty fast.
Not so fast, folks.
Some guy reportedly robbed the Subway restaurant at about 9 p.m. Jan. 9. Even at that time of night, with myriad other businesses nearby, the place is busy. Apparently Nelson surmised that the store was robbed, and he knew who the robber was. So he sprayed his suspect with pepper spray. That didn’t stop him, and the suspect made his way toward a getaway car. So Nelson takes out his gun, and fires it into the air. Please, tell me that made your mouth drop open a little like it did mine.
Dude, you’re not John Wayne, this ain’t Tombstone, it’s not 1869 and you’re not a cop. Cops don’t fire “warning shots” into the air like in the movies. And they don’t do such things for a long list of reasons.
Not surprisingly, the man Nelson was chasing didn’t freeze and raise his hands like they do on TV. He went for the getaway car. Police reported that Nelson then started shooting at the car as the robbery suspect drives away. Now your mouth jaw should be hanging wide open.
Are you freaking kidding me? This isn’t like some kind of Saturday western, this is like a sequel to “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” or “Car 54 Where Are You?”
Nelson told Aurora Sentinel reporter Brandon Johansson that after he fired into the air and the suspect got in his car, he was positive that the robber was reaching under the seat for a gun. So he decided to squeeze off a few into the car or directly at the robber.
“With my life and the lives of the community in danger, I felt it was necessary to stop this person,” he said Monday.
This is what you get when Guns R Us goons at the NRA talk tough at firing back at the bad guys.
Here’s why this is so wrong on so many levels.
1. The suspect never shot at anyone.
2. Nelson only assumed the suspect was the robber. Ask any cop or reporter about how wildly different people perceive crime scenes. Question 10 people and get 10 completely different accounts of who did what and when. No kidding. The man trying to get away could easily have been a man just trying to get away from a place he was afraid he might get killed.
3. If the suspect is running toward the car, he would have no way of knowing Deputy Deadeye was squeezing off “warning shots” over his head. He probably thought he was being shot at. What if he had a gun and turned around and started shooting back? Good guy with a gun and any number of bystanders could have been killed.
4. Nelson said the suspect got in the car and began reaching under the seat for a gun, so he needed to shoot him. That’s insane. If he was close enough to see all this in the adrenalin-charged tirade at night, he must be a worse shot than I am. And if he was far enough away to wing the dude’s trunk and bumpers, he had no idea what was really going on in that car. And what if he hit the suspect? One of the reasons cops aren’t allowed to shoot at people in cars is because they can end up killing the cops or other people after being shot behind the wheel.
5. And the biggest mistake here? Nelson is not a cop, for godsake. He doesn’t get to pull out a gat and shoot at people he thinks are bad guys. He did this because we have a bunch of near-lunatic gun-rights rebels telling people that we need more vigilante “good” guns to fight back against bad guns. Vigilantes are criminals. People don’t understand that the oddly romantic notion of taking out the baddies with smokin’ Glock is all a big, fat delusion. It’s a lie, and it’s only by an amazing spate of luck and bad shooting that Nelson didn’t find himself in jail awaiting murder or manslaughter charges. There is no Make My Day defense for his reckless and abhorrent behavior, nor should there be.
Now I know that this just makes a whole posse of gun-toting heroes madder than hell that I should make the brave and honorable Nelson out to be the bad guy instead of the robber he was trying to stop. They’re wrong. The robber is the bad guy and needs to be caught and punished. Nelson was a good guy — who did a very, very bad and dangerous thing. It’s why we have sworn officers with badges, training and supervision to act as police.
So should Nelson get a bye because he meant well?
I hope not. Almost killing people is a grave mistake, but it’s up to a judge — not some worried city attorney who just doesn’t want the headache of a nasty Second Amendment carnival in town. If I was the judge, it’d be mandated firearms training, a fine, and community service at a rehab center where Nelson can see what gunshot wounds do to innocent people who get in the way of good guys with guns.
Follow @EditorDavePerry on Twitter and Facebook or reach him at 303-750-7555 or firstname.lastname@example.org.