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In Living Commentary

To turn a robbery into a gunfight is just crazy dangerous. (PHOTO: shutterstock.com )

Vigilante justice boosts danger on our streets


It's the absolute worst nightmare of peaceful people come alive, right before our very eyes, in bright daylight.

When Wisconsin foolishly passed a concealed carry bill, there were many people – me among them – who predicted that this was going to spawn a kind of vigilante justice and turn many neighborhoods into the OK Corral.

Well, Guess what? It's happened.

I read about this incident last week, but it happened on the last day of 2012.

A guy named Michael Simpson had been shopping near 76th and Capitol, one of the busiest intersections in town. Simpson got held up but a guy with a gun. First he told the robber he didn't have anything. Then, upon further urging by the gunman, Simpson gave him everything in his pockets. The robber took off.

But instead of saying a prayer and thanking his lucky stars he was alive, he followed the gunman. He told police that when the gunman noticed he was being followed, he turned toward Simpson and pointed his gun. That's when Simpson let loose with a volley of seven shots at Devonte Capre Harris, the alleged thief.

They exchanged shots in the early afternoon light and then Harris ran into a store, saying he had been shot. The police came and took Harris to a hospital and they found his gun and Simpson's stuff in a nearby trash can.

It almost leaves you breathless, doesn't it?

I'm not sure where to start, but I think with Simpson would be a good place. How in the world does someone with that kind of attitude ever get a permit for a gun, much less the ability to carry a concealed weapon?

What would we all be saying if one of his misses had accidentally killed some innocent bystander? Killed a child? Would all these gun nuts say something like, "well, collateral damage is sad, but it happens in a gunfight. He was just protecting himself."

He wasn't protecting himself. The crime was over. The thief was running away. There is no property worth killing someone over. Not property. Not things. Not money. Nothing. Simpson was out of danger. But with a gun in his hand he was apparently anxious to put himself, and who knows how many others, back into danger.

Kent Lovern is the assistant district attorney who examined the case. He said Simpson's actions were justified under the circumstances. Lovern is a top aide to DA John Chisholm and a guy who has a reputation as a very good and very smart lawyer.

I wanted to find out what those circumstances were that made it okay for Simpson to unload on Harris d so I called Lovern.

"The report is clear that Harris fired at Mr. Simpson," Lovern told me. "And once that happened Mr. Simpson had the right to fire back and protect himself."

Lovern is smart enough and savvy enough to avoid being pulled into any discussion about the decision Simpson made to go after Harris in the first place. I respect Lovern for that.

But holy cow, is there any way that anyone with an ounce of common sense can't see the danger here. I mean the potential danger to people walking out of a store or standing by a bus stop.

I know, I know. None of this would ever have happened if the bad guy hadn't robbed Simpson. But robbery happens. We are never going to stop all of the robberies. But to turn a robbery into a gunfight is just crazy dangerous. Or maybe it's just crazy.

Talkbacks

FleeceJohnson | Feb. 22, 2013 at 8:24 p.m. (report)

What a pathetic excuse for journalism. Like the other poster said, you better hope you don't find yourself on the business end of one of these criminal's cruel intentions because your passive approach to self defense and taking a stand for your human rights will get you exactly where you dont want to be. People like you and your rhetoric are more of a danger to us than those in this article. How about do some research on how many crimes and robberies have been avoided since CC has been around. Write about that instead.

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AndrewJ | Feb. 22, 2013 at 9:14 a.m. (report)

"But robbery happens. We are never going to stop all of the robberies." Cancer happens too, should we stop fighting back against that? CC took effect 7-8-2011. So in the roughly 1.5 years the law has been around, you were able to scrounge up 1 (one) incident that very roughly fits your "Shootout at the O.K. Corral" scenario. That's laughable. To say you're grasping at straws would be an understatement. The fact that you're writing about this incident with no true knowledge of what Mr. Simpson was seeing/doing at the time makes you nothing more than a fearmonger. Talk to Simpson and post his side of the story, then you'd gain some credibility. What if he was following at a distance to provide police with information on where the criminal was going? What if, when he discharged his weapon, his lines of sight in front of and behind were completely clear as he'd been taught under the training required to acquire a CC permit? What are the answers to these questions, Dave? Why didn't you seek them? Is it because once you have them you might not be able to produce the narrative you've been looking for? Be a journalist for once, talk to Mr. Simpson and post an update.

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EastSideMKE | Feb. 22, 2013 at 5:53 a.m. (report)

Wisconsin was the 49th state to pass CCW legislation, it isn't like this is some experimental pilot program. States like Vermont and Montana have extremely lax gun laws and virtually no violent crime to speak of. Isn't it interesting that there were no roaming "flash mobs" of unruly Black teenagers harassing people at State Fair, Mayfair, or really anywhere last summer immediately following the passage of CCW laws? Maybe those kids thought twice about pushing people off their Harleys and crawling on the roofs of people's cars in traffic because they were worried about getting their heads blown off. Just a thought.

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TheyThink | Feb. 21, 2013 at 9:14 p.m. (report)

Another thing Dave forgets to point out...the criminal, Harris, who held up Simpson at gunpoint, was a felon so he was not legally able to possess a gun. Amazingly that gun control law didn't work, the thug still had a gun and used it on an innocent citizen. Dave, I truly hope you're never a victim with your laissez faire attitude toward criminals.

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TheyThink | Feb. 21, 2013 at 9:07 p.m. (report)

Would Dave been ok if this person didn't have a conceal carry permit and instead legally carried a gun using the existing 'open carry' law in Wisconsin to defend himself? Dave, your ignorance is simply stunning when it comes to gun laws in Wisconsin. Please do more research before spewing your "educated," arm-chair quarterback opinions.

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