I agree with Al Sharpton.
Now, let’s not go nuts here. I think Al Sharpton is a divisive opportunist, who’ll use any situation in order to keep himself in the public eye. In my attempt to be as objective as possible, I believe he’s spent too much time stoking the flames of racism, and could do more to provide constructive effort toward discussions intended to foster racial harmony in America.
However, his segregating rhetoric aside, the essence of his actions in Florida is beyond warranted.
Here are the facts as we know them to be: An unarmed 17-year old, was shot and killed by an armed private citizen, who was engaged in a neighborhood watch routine. That’s what we know happened.
Any, and everything leading up to that event, and the procedures that Florida law enforcement took following the incident are going to be gone over in microscopic detail. I can already hear Nancy Grace’s shrill caterwaul with each word I bang out on this keyboard.
As I’ve written in a past diatribe, I am licensed to carry a firearm for personal defense. I am not a gun nut. I do not belong to the NRA, or any advocacy groups. I did go through the process of education and training in order to attain the knowledge, discipline, and understanding of in what circumstance a private citizen is placed in a situation where they have no choice but to employ deadly force in defense of their life, or the life of their immediate family.
Now, I know there’s a certain subsection of people reading this right now, who’ll say “what about other innocents, placed in harm’s way?” I’m sorry. I am not willing to risk my life, or expose myself to the inevitable civil proceedings that follow a shooting, for anyone but me, or my family. That being said, if there’s a threat in public, you’re there (and in danger), and a law-abiding citizen who’s armed is there, chances are, they are in danger. It’s safe to assume you’re going to be what I like to call “defended by extension.”
I was trained by a man named Tom Givens. Tom was a longtime member of law enforcement, and is one of the most logical men I’ve ever encountered. I could give you a huge dossier of his qualifications, and accomplishments, but if you’re really interested, you’ll take the time to check him out. It suffices to say, that I believe in Tom’s philosophies 100%. I consider myself fortunate to have studied personal defense under his tutelage.
As I watch the events unfolding in Florida, I see a lot of people spewing uneducated opinions. I hear terms like “duty to retreat,” and “stand your ground.”
In an effort to help you understand these terms in words we all use, “duty to retreat” means that if you are confronted by a threat to your person, you are legally required to run away. Now, in most cases, avoiding violent confrontation should be your first consideration. However, there are times when you are faced with an immediate threat, and you must make the decision to defend yourself, or your family. This is where “stand your ground” comes in. “Stand your ground” is a defensive statute that says; if you are facing an aggressor, you have the legal right to defend yourself, no matter where the altercation exists. It’s meant to be an extension of the “Castle Doctrine.” The Castle Doctrine is a law that protects you from prosecution for your actions in defense of your well-being from an intruder in your home.
I tell you these terms, because I’m hearing the mediots on TV, throwing blatant inaccuracies out for public consumption. People tend to believe what they hear on “news” programs. Even if they’re factually incorrect.
I’m not going to even discuss the racial component. I’ll leave that to those who enjoy engaging in arguments that never end. I will, treat all parties involved as equals and attempt to throw my two cents in with hope that you’ll have a better understanding of how an educated, armed American should process the events that took place in Sanford, Florida on the night of February 26th.
From what I understand (and let’s be clear, I certainly haven’t read every word related to the case. At least I’m admitting there may be room for error in my understanding), George Zimmerman is a self-appointed “captain” of his “neighborhood watch” program, in a gated community. Although he holds a valid license to carry a concealed weapon, he was not authorized to use it on watch. Nor, was he acting as an officially recognized security figure by any association, or community governing board. He claims to have observed someone that he believed to be suspicious, walking down the street. He called 911 to inform them of this person, and told the operator that he was following him. In direct contradiction to the instructions of the 911 operator, and in violation of the actual neighborhood watch guidelines which state; “it should be emphasized to members that they do not possess police powers, and they shall not carry weapons or pursue vehicles,” George Zimmerman pursed Trayvon Martin.
Everything that happens after Zimmerman called 911, changes everything related to this case.
Had Zimmerman let the natural course of events transpire, Trayvon Martin would be alive today.
By every account, there was no crime being committed. There was no imminent threat to George Zimmerman. And, by law, there was no justification for his actions. George Zimmerman followed Trayvon Martin. As soon as that decision was made, he became the aggressor. Had he not followed and forced Trayvon’s defenses, there would not have been an altercation that (giving Zimmerman the benefit of the doubt) necessitated the use of deadly force.
Here’s where I fall back on my personal defense training.
According to how I have been trained, in order to use deadly force against an assailant, there must be 4 components satisfied. Your attacker must meet them all prior to making the decision to shoot.
1. Means to inflict potentially fatal harm. (Having a weapon/capability)
First, Trayvon Martin was not even an assailant. He was walking down the street…unarmed. Had Zimmerman had legitimate concern for his presence, his “job” was to call police. He did. And there should have ended his involvement. No weapon. No capability based upon lack of contact between either party.
Component #1 – not satisfied.
2. Clear intent to do potentially fatal harm.
See Component #1. Trayvon Martin was not an assailant. In fact, once confronted by George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin now becomes the potential target of a violent encounter. Had he been armed, and felt his life to be in imminent jeopardy, he would have been justified in reaching into his waistband (as Zimmerman alleges took place prior to firing on the unarmed Martin) and utilizing deadly force in his own defense. Zimmerman meets both, Component 1 and 2 at this point. Martin does not.
Component #2 – not satisfied.
3. You must be certain that your life is in immediate jeopardy.
Have I mentioned that Trayvon Martin was not an assailant? Prior to George Zimmerman’s decision to engage Martin, which ignored both the instructions of a 911 operator, and the statutes of the neighborhood watch program that Zimmerman claimed to be acting under, Martin had no interest in the well-being of George Zimmerman whatsoever.
Component #3 – not satisfied.
4. You must have no other alternative.
This is where you’ll hear “stand your ground” being tossed about like some alpha-male-juicehead macho-ism.
The reality is; if you’re making the decision to employ the use of deadly force, you’d best be damned sure that you have to. The decision to take human life…and that is the decision you’ve made once you’ve employed your gun in a confrontation (any competent use of a gun, is reasonably expected to incapacitate a target, potentially resulting in their death), should never, ever, ever, be made as anything other than as a last resort. It goes without saying that Zimmerman didn’t have to defend his life until he provoked confrontation with an unarmed Trayvon Martin. And even then, by his instigation, had Martin killed George Zimmerman during the alleged physical confrontation, it would be Martin who was justified.
Trayvon Martin didn’t meet those stipulations. George Zimmerman…did.
Zimmerman is significantly larger than Trayvon Martin…giving him the means to do Martin potentially fatal harm (Component #1). By following Martin, he showed intent, and Martin could reasonably assume his life was in imminent danger (Components 2 & 3). Once Zimmerman pulled his weapon, Martin had no choice but to defend himself (Component #4).
Based upon what I’ve been taught regarding the justified use of deadly force, George Zimmerman has committed criminal homicide at the least. And it can be reasonably argued, murdered an unarmed American, who’d done nothing to deserve having his life taken from him. Had Trayvon Martin been armed, he could have legally killed George Zimmerman where he stood.
Putting a real twist on this story…The next time you hear “stand your ground” being used in this case, make sure you consider that that law actually applied more to Trayvon Martin than George Zimmerman. Zimmerman admitted pursuing Trayvon Martin. Florida’s “stand your ground law” permitted Trayvon to defend himself against a threat to his life. Unfortunately, it could not save him.
And so, for at least this once, Al Sharpton is standing up for what’s right. Regardless of his motivation, the fact that he’s making sure voices are heard in a case rife with impropriety, should be applauded.
George Zimmerman’s use of deadly force was not justified based upon the 4 components described above. The Police and District Attorney did not do their job. A crime was committed in Sanford, Florida on the night of February 26th.
I was taught, that if involved in a gun incident, to expect to be questioned beyond a routine discussion on the scene.
So far, Zimmerman has yet to answer for his actions.
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