Tuesday, customers were coming and going in the parking lot of a Home Depot near Detroit when a shoplifter came tearing out of the store. The shoplifter, who appeared to be in his 40s, wearing a black shirt and hat, was pushing a cart full of stolen power tools and welding equipment totaling $1,000. As a Home Depot loss prevention officer ran after him, the shoplifter shoved the stolen goods in his black SUV and fled. That’s when a vigilante female bystander pulled out a permitted concealed handgun and fired several shots, possibly striking the SUV’s tires.
The shoplifter escaped, but other shoppers were left jarred and ducking for cover. The female shooter stayed at the scene and cooperated with police. Police have not publicly identified her, but she is 46 years old and from nearby Clarkston, Michigan. Police are looking for the suspect and the getaway driver, but the talk of the town wasn’t the shoplifting; it was the woman’s shooting.
A handful of local firearms instructors came out in criticism of the woman’s vigilante actions that put others in the busy public place at risk, not to mention the fact that it was all over material items, no one’s life was at risk (until the woman pulled her own gun in response).
“It’s my worst nightmare as a [concealed pistol license] instructor,” Doreen Hankins told the Detroit Free Press. “You have to know the entire situation before you pull that handgun out. And I don’t see that a shoplifter at Home Depot fills any of those criteria.”
Hankins and other firearms instructors told the newspaper that concealed weapon license holders should only pull their guns if someone is in imminent danger of death or serious injury, including a sexual assault. All three agreed the woman severely overreacted. “None of it makes sense,” Hankins said. “Even if it were law enforcement, they wouldn’t do that.”
“You are not a police officer,” she added, referring to concealed gun license holders. “You are not a person out there protecting the public at large.”
However, a 2014 Pew Research Polls shows that many Americans have this controversial belief. Since the 2012 Newtown, Connecticut school massacre, in which 26 people, including 20 children were killed, the percentage of Americans who believe that gun owners can “protect people from becoming victims of crime” has gone up 9%. Last week’s mass shooting in Oregon only seems to have reinforced this possibly dangerous solution.
The Home Depot incident seems to have become a main battleground between the people who believe more guns are the solution and people who believe making sure guns are only owned by those who are responsible is the solution. Critics flooded the Auburn Hills Police Department’s Facebook page with disparaging comments about the woman who unloaded on the shoplifter.
“I am more worried about an armed vigilante than a non-armed petty theft criminal,” one Michigan man wrote.
“Life ain’t Grand Theft Auto,” another commenter wrote, referring to a popular video game franchise.
Many of the comments were directed at the cops who let the woman walk away without charges.
“Why in hell is she not arrested for opening fire in a public place that could have mistakenly hit a bystander?” one person wrote. “Shoplifting is a misdemeanor, not a shoot-to-kill offense…”
“This police department seems to be amazingly confused on which crime actually matters,” another added.
Authorities have still not publicly stated whether she will face charges.
“Idiots like this one give the liberals that want to take our Second Amendment right away ammunition,” one man wrote on the police Facebook, “…she was taught under what circumstances she can justifiably draw her weapon. She deserves to be charged…”
Sources: Washington Post