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Shooting in Old City, Philadelphia

Looking at the video Fox provided, and based on the circumstances, it looks like it was multiple attackers. Lawful self-defense tends to be a very circumstantial thing, but based on what we see and have described here, this looks like self-defense to me. This guy needs to get a good lawyer, pronto.

I would also point out this is another reason to carry pepper spray. You want to have something between running and deadly force, and a defensive spray will put down your average drunk assholes who aren’t seriously committed to hurting you. Multiple attackers complicate things, and that’s the kind of situation it can be smart just to go straight to deadly force. But if you shoot someone who is unarmed, you’re going to end up having to answer in court, and that’s life-ruining expensive, as this guy is going to find out.

But based on the video, if I were on that jury, I’d acquit, unless there’s some other piece of evidence that demonstrates this wasn’t self-defense. Hopefully justice will prevail here.

UPDATE: On his docket sheet, looks like he’s being charged with carrying without a license, and carrying firearms on the streets of Philadelphia, even though he has a Virginia license which is valid in Pennsylvania. This is par for the course with Philadelphia. They will tend to pretend you don’t have a license until you prove it. His lawyer will get that charge thrown out, in all likelihood. Their hope will be that he pleads to one of the lesser charges, so he may learn his lesson that no one is permitted to defend themselves in the City of Philadelphia.

23 Responses to “Shooting in Old City, Philadelphia”

  1. Bitter says:

    As they say in their brief for McDonald, they belief that any right to self-defense the Court may believe exists should be “minimized” in Philadelphia.

  2. Dave R. says:

    One person getting beaten by a group is inherently dangerous and likely to constitute deadly force. (In fact I’ve been told by a police officer that’s the case under Oregon law, though now I come to check I can’t find it spelled out explicitly in the statute. Time for real legal advice.) Morally and practically, I’m fine with using deadly force to stop or even prevent that. Wait until you’re on the ground or surrounded and it may be all over. But yeah, you do need to know your state laws, and in the worst case scenario, some state laws may not recognize every morally justified self defense. It sounds like that may be the spot this guy is in.

  3. Sebastian says:

    It’s a force disparity. Five to one, you’re permitted to use deadly force. The reason this is a good reason to carry pepper spray is because it gives you more options along the force continuum. What we see on video would seem to be the guy attempting to get out of the situation after it had escalated. Was there an opportunity to spray the asshole early on? I don’t know. But it’s conceivable even on a five-to-one scenario, if you had sprayed the instigator, his buddied might have backed off. Then again, it might not work and you’d still have to shoot someone, but then at least you can say to a jury you tried to use lesser force first, and then only resorted to deadly force when you still were unable to get out of the situation.

    It’s a tricky thing. It’s easy to second guess after the fact, but that’s what police, prosecutors, and (if you’re really unlucky) juries, by definition, do. This may never go as far as a jury trial. I would imagine the prosecution would be eager to cut a deal on a lesser charge.

    This isn’t fair, of course, but we don’t have a justice system, we have a legal system. Given the video, I think this guy probably did what he had to do, and I don’t think he should feel any moral qualms about it. Get drunk and act like an asshole, then you and your buddies try to beat on a guy who just happens to be walking down the street with his date, you deserve to get shot.

  4. Jeff says:

    It’s interesting to see how many people in the comments section of Fox think the guy should have just taken a beating and somehow that would have been justice.

    “Innocent” drunken frat guys or not, if you’re hassling somebody and he pulls a gun, you go away. Their failure to do that is their fault, not his.

    Who knows how the whole thing went down, as the video is crap, but I’d like to better understand what tactical mistakes he made that allowed the scene to get that advanced. He’s in a bad spot now, having to explain to 12 why he shot somebody.

  5. Zak J says:

    No one should have a legal obligation to take a beating. Attackers, drunk or not, usually pick victims based on how helpless they look. I hope this guy doesn’t get his life ruined over defending himself.

    By the way, my impression was the PA legislature had settled the question about Philly’s illegal gun bans with new pre-emption laws. Could this be the test case to get the Philly laws that violate state law tossed out altogether?

    • Bitter says:

      Zak, which “new pre-emption laws” are you referring to? Maybe it’s because I haven’t lived here my entire life and I’m under 30, but I don’t consider Pennsylvania’s statutes on the matter new, especially considering that the court decision on the issue of state preemption happened nearly 14 years ago.

      Philadelphia was sued the last time they tried to pass local gun laws, but only some of the laws were thrown out. It’s not clearly cut and dry on the matter of gun control.

      Now you also bring up the separate issue of self-defense laws. Gun control (at least most anything short of the extremes of DC & Chicago) and self-defense are not the same issues under the law. Perhaps you were thinking of the Castle Doctrine bill? In that case, you should contact members of the House Judiciary Committee because it has not been brought up for a vote, muchless passed.

      I do concede that you might be referencing different topics. Like I said, I’m under 30 and haven’t lived here or paid close attention to the laws except for the past couple of years. However, I really can’t think of anything else that could be classified as “new” on the topic.

  6. Bob S. says:

    Sebastian,

    I can understand the idea of carrying pepper spray as an intermediate step there I also see a few problems.

    First, it could be portrayed – easily in my opinion — as being on the lookout for trouble. I mean how many people carry Pepper spray and a firearm? Isn’t that a little paranoid?

    See how easily it can be twisted?

    Secondly, for someone of us pepper spray is decidedly contra-indicated. As an asthma sufferer I want nothing to do with Mace or Pepper sprays – yet how many cases does the user also get a dose of the spray.

    In the video, the assailant (aka “shooting victim”) was moving around alot. Hard to hit a moving target with a spray and not effect others or yourself in that case.

  7. AntiCitizenOne says:

    funny how “sam” calls the mob “innocent bystanders” when they were clearly part of the group that included the victim…

  8. AntiCitizenOne says:

    people seem to forget that reaching for a drawn gun is likely to get you shot…

  9. Sebastian says:

    First, it could be portrayed – easily in my opinion — as being on the lookout for trouble. I mean how many people carry Pepper spray and a firearm? Isn’t that a little paranoid?

    Why’s that? The police do it. It could be explained as prudent, and you can get any number of experts to testify that’s the case. I used to worry about a slight variation on this, that if I was carrying pepper spray, and someone, say, pulls a knife on me and I shoot him, I don’t want the jury wondering why I didn’t just pull out my pepper spray. But a bit of research showed me this was largely an unfounded fear, or at least not foundational enough to overcome the advantages of having less than lethal, but still reasonably effective force.

    Secondly, for someone of us pepper spray is decidedly contra-indicated. As an asthma sufferer I want nothing to do with Mace or Pepper sprays – yet how many cases does the user also get a dose of the spray.

    That’s a mitigating factor, but I would say it depends on how bad your asthma is, versus having a capability that can still put down an asshole and avoid facing the possibility of going to jail. It might mean you don’t carry pepper spray, but that limits your capability and options.

    In the video, the assailant (aka “shooting victim”) was moving around alot. Hard to hit a moving target with a spray and not effect others or yourself in that case.

    I think, based on the situation that would appear to unfold on camera, that he was justified in shooting. It was multiple attackers, and I can believe he was afraid for his life. That’s self-defense. No one can say for sure what else could have been done here, and that’s really not legally or morally relevant to the self-defense at hand, but we didn’t see how the situation escalated. It could have been (not saying it was) a situation where lesser force applied earlier in the confrontation could have ended it without the need to resort to deadly force. I would tend to agree, again based on the scant evidence we have before us here, that by the time we see the shooting, this had developed beyond the point where defensive spray would have assuredly gotten the victim out of it with complete safety.

  10. Ronnie says:

    Wasn’t there a young guy beaten to death outside of a sports bar in Philly last year by several attackers? I believe the attackers were all drunk, too.

    People need to understand that bar fights in real life are nothing like the way they are in the movies, and that it really doesn’t take much to maim or kill a man in the street when even two or three grown men start punching and kicking him. As soon as he goes down to the ground, he is some real trouble.

    This guy who got arrested could very well be dead now if he had not had his gun with him. It’s better to be judged by twelve than carried by six, I’d say.

  11. Ian says:

    I have known Gerald since middle school and he would not have made the decision to use deadly force lightly. I was not at the incident but from what I have heard, he stands a good chance of claiming self defense. As you can see from the video, he was backing away and only fired when they guy rushed him. He has a valid CCW in VA. I have started a paypal account that will help toward his legal fees. http://bit.ly/5nm4Fu This is just a start, not really sure how else to help him. I am acting on behalf of his mother, who is in no shape to deal with this. Any other advice would be appreciated.

  12. Sebastian says:

    Thanks for the update Ian, and I hope you’ll keep us informed.

    I am going to leave your link stand, but I will point out to readers that I have absolutely no evidence the above PayPal link is legitimate, and I can’t vouch for it.

  13. Ian says:

    That’s what i’m afraid of. Anyone can make a paypal link say anything. I am searching for advice on how to legitimize it and the process involved in that. Every donation site i’ve seen has high fees and transaction charges.

  14. Sebastian says:

    It’s hard to say, to be honest. I can think of ways, but it would involve a good bit of paperwork with the government. There might be local gun rights groups in Virginia that might be willing to help (VCDL?) set up something. Though, most groups steer clear of funding legal defense for people who aren’t able to set precedent that benefits the whole community. Sadly, this is one of those things the person is kind of on their own. That sucks, but it’s hard to set up legal defense funds if you’re not rich or famous, which if you were you probably wouldn’t need to set one up to begin with.

    As I said, we have a legal system, not a justice system.

  15. Zak J says:

    Hi Bitter,
    I think the PA preemption statute is 6120: “(a) General rule.–No county, municipality or township may in any manner regulate the lawful ownership, possession, transfer or transportation of firearms, ammunition or ammunition components when carried or transported for purposes not prohibited by the laws of this Commonwealth.”

    Here’s a link from PAFOA:
    http://reference.pafoa.org/statutes/PA/18/II/G/61/A/6120/limitation-on-the-regulation-of-firearms-and-ammunition/

    I think the last court challenge was Clarke vs. House of Representatives in 2008, but not sure on that. Having seen reports about this law in PA, I’m confused about why Philly still seems willing to ignore what seems the obvious intent of the state legislature to create a uniform standard throughout the state. I’m also amazed they seem to get away with it.

  16. Bob S. says:

    Sebastian,

    I you asked why? Call it the Bat Belt accusation

    Why does a person “need” to carry pepper spray and a firearm unless they are looking for an opportunity to use them -singularly or in tandem.

    I mean, this guy was out doing pull ups in front of some place. Trying to show off, ready for trouble when it came, etc.

    The job would be for the defense team to apply the rational defense…but that is still defense.

    Now a personal question – please feel free to say you aren’t going to answer.

    Do you practice the use of pepper spray in your training or do you just practice drawing your firearm?

    I’m wondering what is the strongest reflex.

  17. Zak J says:

    Hi Bitter,
    I tried to post some links, but it didn’t work. There are a few on the PAFOA site. I believe the preemption law is 18 PA C.S. 6120. It states:

    “No county, municipality or township may in any manner regulate the lawful ownership, possession, transfer or transportation of firearms, ammunition or ammunition components when carried or transported for purposes not prohibited by the laws of this Commonwealth.”

    Since this law is on the books, I’m continually amazed that Philly manages to ignore it AND that they seem to get away with it. I see the law doesn’t address local laws about when you can protect yourself, but since this guy’s pistol was covered under a reciprocity agreement there should be no cause whatsoever to charge him under city law in the first place.

    • Bitter says:

      There is a difference between preemption of gun laws on possession and transportation and this incident. The City does not currently have anything that would fall in direct violation that I can think of, but there are a few elements of their laws that are within reasonable dispute. There’s just the pesky matter of having them enforced against a non-criminal who could then sue the city with appropriate standing.

      The state may recognize his permit, that’s a legal defense he has to charges. That does not mean that Philly can’t try to make the charges stick. I think you’re really just thinking of the way things should be versus the reality of a legal system filled with people who have different philosophies on how the criminal justice should work, legal debates that present at least two sides to every issue, and the political reality of doing anything at all in Philadelphia.

  18. Sebastian says:

    The City of Philadelphia has a number of ordinances on the books that regulate guns, but most of them either say they don’t take effect until the General Assembly grants the City the power to regulate guns, or are null and void because they’ve been challenged in court successfully. Preemption is pretty old news at this point, and this isn’t a case of Philadelphia violating it, because they are charging him under state law, not under Philadelphia’s ordinances. This is standard practice of throwing every charge imaginable at a person to see what sticks. His lawyer will get the carry charges dismissed, as they are without basis if he has a Virginia license.

  19. Sebastian says:

    Do you practice the use of pepper spray in your training or do you just practice drawing your firearm?

    I’m wondering what is the strongest reflex.

    I do practice drawing pepper spray. I’ve not practiced actually pushing the button down, since the consequences of that would be obvious. I would be lying if I told you that my pepper spray speed is as fast as my gun speed. The one drawback to pepper spray is it’s a canister, and it takes longer to bring it into play. If five guys suddenly rushed you, you’re talking gun anyway, regardless of whether you have spray on you. But this situation would seem to have escalated, as most of these types of encounters will tend to do. The advantage of pepper spray is you can use it early in a confrontation, because it’s a low level of force. At best it ends the confrontation, and prevents it from escalating to a deadly force situation. At worst you end up in a deadly force situation anyway, and at least then you look like you tried to get out of it without killing someone.

  20. Lucky Foward says:

    I agree we need the Castle Doctrine, and encourage everyone to contact the appropriate politician/representative to make it happen. If a Republican can be competitive in Taxachussetts, we can get the Castle Doctrine to stick even in Philly!

  21. Matthew Carberry says:

    Pepper spray is a less-lethal tool.

    That you are considering using a less-lethal tool by definition means the situation is not an “emergency” but rather has the potential to become one.

    Given that, you don’t need as reflexive a response. In fact spray has less deterrant effect than a firearm and is best used as a surprise. That means you are going to access it discretely to have it hidden in hand while trying to talk your way out of the situation as opposed to “drawing it”. If they swing you spray, you don’t try to “hold them off with it”.

    Unlike a gun, which is immediately recognizeable as a threat and will still, for instance, shoot through an intervening arm even if the attacker decides to go for it; spray is hard to identify as a threat and, if its presence is known, can be avoided, deflected or fought through by a determined attacker intent on doing harm. It should never be brandished, only used or not used.

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