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Police plead for mercy 

Don't hurt the criminals

It was midnight, and I was running on fumes when I stopped at a Mount Holly gas station that was deserted, except for the clerk. I'd just started the gas pump when a beat-up old car that had just passed the station did a quick U-turn and pulled into the lot. I instinctively knew something was wrong, but I barely had time to react before the car pulled alongside mine. The two occupants looked like they were drunk or stoned out of their minds, or both, and the driver said something crude to me and demanded I get in his car. Within seconds he'd hopped out, telling me he was going to put me in his car.

Had I not had a gun in my coat pocket, I'd have gladly paid thousands of dollars for one in that instant. As he closed in on me I pulled it out, planning to fire and to keep firing until he stopped. What shocked me was that I didn't have to. In fact, I never got the chance to fully point it at him. The sight of the barrel alone froze him in his tracks, just feet from me. It changed his whole demeanor. He put his hands up. He slowly backed away, looking at me like I was the crazy one.

I'm still convinced something terrible would have happened to me that night had I not had my gun with me. That's why it drives me nuts that once again, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police told the public last week not to fight back if they are confronted by an assailant. They do this every time a series of armed robbers gets injured or killed by armed victims. The last time they warned the public not to fight back was in July, after two armed assailants were hurt and a third killed by their victims.

The guy who was killed, Michael Travis White, entered someone's home in an attempt to rob them, but his intended victims got his gun away from him and killed him with it. To suggest that victims not fight back when an armed intruder enters their home with the full knowledge that they are inside and no immediate avenue of escape is available is madness.

But last week, compliance with criminals is exactly what CMPD once again suggested. In keeping with the department's long-term message on this, Officer Brad Starnes with the police crime prevention unit told News Talk 1110 WBT that robbery victims shouldn't fight back after two recent incidents where victims fought back with deadly results. He was referring not to the deaths of the victims but those of two armed robbers with long criminal records. One was shot and killed by an employee while attempting to rob Floyd's Restaurant and another was dispatched by a Cricket Wireless employee as he tried to rob the store. The victims weren't hurt.

"We don't encourage ending someone's life over money," Starnes said, referring to the life of the criminal. "We would like to handle it through the proper channels if possible, let them stand trial for it."

Instead, victims should remain calm, try to notice details about their attacker, hope, I presume, not to be executed, and call 911 as soon as possible, he said.

That the department would send that message this month of all months is the height of irony. Call 911? You mean like the triple homicide victims at the house on Patricia Ryan Drive did twice before they were murdered? Officers who responded the first time didn't attempt to enter the house even though the victim asked 911 for help. The second time, due to technological difficulties, they didn't respond to at all.

And what about 57-year-old father of four Larry O'Faire, a long-time trucking company employee who was killed outside his home on Horne Drive last week while being robbed by repeat felons Ronaldo and Rodarius Frieson? The "don't fight back" concept didn't work out so well in that case. Or in the case of the Feb. 5 shootings of former Fort Mill Mayor Charlie Powers and clerk Yen Nguyen at a Fort Mill convenience store during an armed robbery. Or in several others across the region in recent months where those who complied with armed robbers wound up dead. Though it's possible I missed one, after much searching, I couldn't find a single case of a victim seriously injured or killed because he or she fought back in the past six months. So here's last month's toll for the area -- four victims who took the CMPD approach and complied with their robbers or relied on 911 are dead and two more were seriously injured. The two victims who fought back during armed robberies came out just fine.

After personally observing CMPD's half-an-hour response time to an apparent robbery in progress next door, any illusions I had about relying on the police for protection against the violent criminals our justice system spins back out on the street with a slap on the wrist have been shattered. These criminals have so little fear of being stopped that they have begun kicking in doors in affluent suburban areas they never before dared to victimize.

And we're supposed to worry about hurting them over money? What about us?

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