None dare call it ‘vigilantism’ — It’s ‘Justifiable Homicide’


Pay close attention to the release of the FBI Uniform Crime Report for 2018 in late September and refer quickly to Table 15 under “Homicides,” because if the pattern has continued from 2017 and 2016, the number of justifiable homicides will have risen.

In 2017, the most recent year for which data is available, the crime report says 353 people were killed justifiably by private citizens, typically with firearms. Of those fatalities, 299 involved the use of a firearm including 231 handgun-related killings, six involving rifles and seven more with shotguns. Fifty-five of those gun-related fatal shootings involved firearms that were not identified in reports to the FBI.

Increasing numbers of citizens are practicing and carrying defensive sidearms, preparing for a day they hope will never come. (Dave Workman photo)

Lest anyone think for a heartbeat there is something wrong or ghoulish about this, think again. The use of lethal force in self-defense, or the defense of another innocent person, is hardly a new concept. People have been killing in self-defense for eons, back to the stone age, because self-preservation is the original natural right.

Back in 2016, according to the FBI report, of the 337 justifiable homicides listed, 282 involved firearms. Of those, 202 saw handguns used, while 11 shootings involved rifles, ten involved shotguns and 59 of the reported cases did not list the type of firearm.

Go back yet another year, and of the 338 self-defense killings reported, 272 involved firearms. Handguns were used in 219 of the shootings, rifles in eight and shotguns in another 13. That year, only 32 of the cases did not identify what kind of firearm was used.

Source: FBI Uniform Crime Report for 2017

As this report was written, sheriff’s detectives in King County, Washington — where this correspondent hangs his hat — were investigating the fatal shooting of an apparent burglar in the community of White Center. According to published reports, a homeowner was awakened by the sound of someone breaking into his house.

The homeowner called 911, but while he was on the phone with the sheriff’s dispatcher, and trying to hide at the same time, he heard someone coming up the stairs and he opened fire. The unidentified suspect fell dead right there, and a K-9 officer could find no sign or scent of any accomplices.

Death Of The Axe Man

The White Center shooting happened not far from a 7-Eleven convenience store where, in March 2016, an armed private citizen’s quick reaction most assuredly saved his life and the life of the store clerk.

It was a Sunday morning when the armed citizen, who prefers to remain unidentified (full disclosure, he is acquainted with this column and is a member of the Washington Arms Collectors) was drinking coffee and visiting with the clerk. For no known reason, a man later identified as 43-year-old Steven Blacktongue entered the store and began swinging a large hatchet.

The newly-revived Colt King Cobra handles the .357 Magnum and .38 Special +P cartridges
and will likely become a favorite of armed private citizens. (Dave Workman photo)

Washington State has one of the best use-of-force statutes in the country. It is very simple. In the Evergreen State, homicide is justifiable when committed either:

(1) In the lawful defense of the slayer, or his or her husband, wife, parent, child, brother, or sister, or of any other person in his or her presence or company, when there is reasonable ground to apprehend a design on the part of the person slain to commit a felony or to do some great personal injury to the slayer or to any such person, and there is imminent danger of such design being accomplished; or

(2) In the actual resistance of an attempt to commit a felony upon the slayer, in his or her presence, or upon or in a dwelling, or other place of abode, in which he or she is.

It was Blacktongue’s bad luck that the customer he tried to decapitate leaned back far enough to be missed, and then drew one of the two J-frame Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum double action revolvers he was carrying—one in each pocket of his jacket—to fire three shots at literally point blank range. After questioning the armed man and the clerk, and carefully studying the security video, the “good guy with a gun” was released and no charges were filed.

This column viewed the security video several times. It all went down in less than 15 seconds, underscoring the fact that violence happens suddenly, not on a pre-arranged schedule, and perpetrators don’t call ahead to say they’re coming. Do what the Boy Scouts advise. Always be prepared.

A sheriff’s sergeant made this comment: “Fortunately, because of this customer with his weapon, this could have been a lot worse. The clerk could be the one laying there dead on the floor right now and fortunately he’s not, thanks to the customer.”

Down In Texas

Police in Houston, Texas responded to an unusual incident in which three thugs attacked a man as he arrived home late one evening and pistol-whipped him. That was just the beginning.

Published reports say two sisters inside the man’s home hid in a bedroom closet while the trio “ransacked the property.” They hit a panic alarm but were discovered by the perpetrators.

Into this nightmare came their brother and their mother, and when he saw something was wrong, he reportedly retrieved a gun and opened fire, striking one of the men who was armed. That bullet fatally wounded the suspect in the head while his cohorts reportedly jumped on the hood of the mom’s car. She hit the gas and drove a short distance to where she found a police officer at a nearby fast food restaurant.

This case was referred to the local grand jury, according to KVUE.

Reports Like This

Lest anyone wonder why a growing number of Americans is arming up and fighting back, a report from KATU News in Portland, Oregon may offer one explanation.

A Multnomah County grand jury recently returned a 25-count indictment against a man identified as Logan Johannsen, 26, who allegedly entered a man’s home, fatally stabbed him and then drove away in the dead man’s car. The victim, Gregory Isernhagen, was 50.

While the suspect’s guilt or innocence will be determined in court, the potential for something similar to happen elsewhere often spurs gun buying for the first time, plus increased interest in self-defense courses. No rational person wants to take a life, but neither do they wish to become a murder victim.

Gone are the days, if they ever really existed, that police or sheriff’s deputies would arrive in the nick of time and save the day. The public has learned the grim reality of crime, recidivism, shrinking police budgets and manpower shortages and people are once again taking responsibility for their own safety.

And put this in perspective. When the armed citizen who killed the hatchet-wielding man at the 7-Eleven was interviewed, he made an interesting observation about the dead man.

“He saddled that horse, not me.”