Would you shoot an intruder in your home? Would you condemn someone who did?
Most Canadians and Europeans and I suspect, many Americans are appalled at the idea of anyone shooting an intruder in his or her home and more so when the suspicion of an intruder is raised as a defence for shooting an innocent person.
Is the Blade Runner, Oscar Pistorius guilty of murder, culpable homicide, negligence or poor judgement?
I don’t know, it will be up to the courts to decide. What I do know is that his defence is entirely plausible. Because I was almost in a similar situation – of shooting someone I believed was about to attack me.
Here is the story:
In the mid 1990’s I was living in the PWV area of South Africa, near the city of Randburg in the Transvaal. It was at the time when the ANC were attempting to make the country ungovernable. They did not succeed, but the legacy of their disastrous and brutal policy is evident in the chaos in today’s “New” South Africa.
Murder, armed robbery and vehicle hijackings were at horrendous levels. A huge proportion of men and many women carried guns, I had a pistol in a holster on my belt every waking moment and in my bed at night. Almost everyone I knew had either been a victim of armed robbery or other violent crime or knew someone who had.
One evening I was driving home from my office later than usual and for some reason approached my house from the opposite direction, driving down the hill instead of up. I have often reflected since, how one’s life can hang on the whim of driving in one direction or the other.
I was driving my brand new Mazda Miata,one of the first batch to be imported into South Africa. Very unusual and very noticeable with its pop up lights.
Unlike in North America and because of the very high levels of crime, most suburban houses in South Africa were protected by high walls or fences and securely locked gates. The house I was living in at the time was unusual in that it had a brick paved courtyard set into the perimeter fence so that the garages could be approached without having to get out of the car to open a gate.
My half-acre property sloped down to the road, beyond was an open space and then a small river. With no houses on that side and no street lights, the road was quite dark.
A few houses before mine, I passed a group of black people on the side of the road. That was unusual as the suburb was predominantly occupied by white residents. Some houses had accommodation for servants, but they did not generally congregate in the road during the week. I was suspicious as on the way to work that morning, I had heard a report on the radio about a hijacking in the next suburb when a businessman had been shot and his BMW stolen.
The people seemed agitated and a few waved me down. I thought that it could be a decoy, a ruse to get me to stop so that one or more of them could produce guns and attack me. None of the crowd seemed in any distress, so I drove past.
I drove in to my courtyard, stopped outside my garage and, still suspicious, walked back to look up the road for signs of danger. In the darkness, I could not see far but all looked safe. I opened the garage door, drove my car inside, got out and locked it then walked to the back to open the boot (trunk). As I bent over to pick up my briefcase, I heard footsteps running across the brick paving.
The first though that flashed through my mind was ” This is it, my day of reckoning”. Because I had worn a suit to attend a meeting that day, I was not using my bulky 9mm pistol, I had my smaller 7.65 or .32 pistol, it had a defective safety mechanism so I did not carry it loaded with a round in the chamber.
Without thinking, I spun around, drew the weapon, pulled the slide back to cock it and chamber a round, released the safety catch, taken up the slack on the trigger and had the sights squarely lined up between the eyes of a big man before he got within two paces of me. As I yelled at him to stop, I realised that there was something wrong with the picture I was seeing. I swung the gun away and released the pressure on the trigger.
What was wrong with the picture was that there was a small child and a woman next to the man. As brutal as the criminals were, I thought it unlikely that they would endanger one of their children in that situation. I also noticed that neither of the adults had a gun or knife and that there was a crowd of people behind them at the edge of the road.
My family had heard my shouts and came running down to the garage, my wife at the time waving her .38 special revolver above her head, my elder son with our big rottweiler barking ferociously and leaping around on her leash, my younger son with the other dogs and a weapon of some sort. I told them to call the police.
Within minutes, both police and private security patrols arrived, about 10 men armed with pistols, rifles, and shotguns, surrounded the group.
What had happened was that the woman was a house maid at a house up the road, it was pay-day, the man was a husband or boyfriend who did not live with her but had arrived to relieve her of her hard-earned wages. Quite understandably, she resisted, he started beating her up, she screamed, ran to the road, the commotion attracting a number of other servants from the street who came to her aid.
When I drove by in my very recognisable car, she knew where I was going, assumed I would have a gun and ran to me for protection. That almost got her and the man killed.
I learned three very valuable lessons from that incident.
- I did not panic.
- My Army training from 20 years previously kicked in, and in different circumstances could well have saved my life.
- Military training and a lifetime of responsible gun ownership trained me to be 100% certain of my target before squeezing the trigger.
That personal experience of a similar situation, allows me, unlike most readers, to find Oscar Pistorius’ story plausible. Having lived with the reality of ever-present violent crime and carrying a gun for years in that country myself, makes it more understandable. I still have difficulty with parts of it, particularly firing shots through a closed-door and not determining where his girlfriend was before shooting. But I was not there and I have not had to live with the feeling of vulnerability a lack of lower legs must invoke.
What lessons can we draw from this?
The most important lesson, is to use discernment and critical thinking before jumping to conclusions about situations that are sensationalised in the media. Oscar Pistorius has been condemned in the court of public opinion, by both the tragedy’s treatment in the media, and the media fuelled paranoia in Canada, most European countries and the more liberal parts of the USA, about guns.
While not for a moment making light of a woman’s death, or excusing the Blade Runner of any responsibility for it, I know how people can react in situations of extreme real or perceived danger. It’s a survival instinct that is sharpened by continual exposure to a violent and criminal environment. I know, I lived with it for a big part of my life in during the terrorist war in Rhodesia and then in South Africa and Zimbabwe, it kept me alive.
The old maxim “There but for the grace of God go I” comes to mind.
I have frequently mentioned that accidents do happen despite the trend by big government and the nanny state mentality to find and punish someone for every incident no matter how minor or trivial.
This could be just an accident, it could be far worse. If Oscar Pistorius can get a fair trial in the shaky “New” South Africa, the truth might come out.
What do you think?