Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Words Make a Difference in Description of Arizona Defensive Shooting

Kriston Charles Belinte Chee was shot to death at the Chandler Walmart. (Source: Arizona Department of Corrections)

AP or the police made an interesting choice of words in describing the shooting that took place in the Chandler Walmart on Sunday, the 16th of February.  The AP story says:

PHOENIX (AP) — A man who shot and killed another man inside a suburban Phoenix Walmart opened fire in self-defense, Chandler police said Monday.

 According to Chandler police, Kyle Wayne Quadlin, 25, shot Kriston Charles Belinte Chee, 36, following a fight at a service counter Sunday afternoon.
If Mr. Quadlin did not start the fight, it would be just as appropriate to say that he "shot Kriston Charles Belinte Chee, 36, after being attacked".

Under Arizona law, you cannot claim self defense if you were the aggressor and then did not attempt to withdraw from the encounter and make clear that you were attempting to withdraw.  Here is Arizona Statute 13-404 with the relevant sections:
B. The threat or use of physical force against another is not justified:

1. In response to verbal provocation alone; or

3. If the person provoked the other's use or attempted use of unlawful physical force, unless:

(a) The person withdraws from the encounter or clearly communicates to the other his intent to do so reasonably believing he cannot safely withdraw from the encounter; and

(b) The other nevertheless continues or attempts to use unlawful physical force against the person. 
Since the police have not charged Mr. Quadlin, it seems likely that he was attacked and not the other way around.  The use of the words "following a fight" implies two things that are in jarring contrast with the self defense claim in the article.   It implies that the "fight" was a mutually agreed to combat.  It implies that the fight was over, because of the word "following".

Notice the difference in the account by CBS5, a local station:
Police said an argument led to a fatal shooting at a Walmart in Chandler on Sunday afternoon.

Kyle Wayne Quadlin, 25, of Chandler, and Kriston Charles Belinte Chee, 36, got into an argument at the store's service counter just after 4 p.m. that escalated to a physical fight, said a Chandler police spokesman.

Quadlin told police he was losing the fight and said he "was in fear for his life" so he pulled a gun and shot Belinte Chee, the spokesman said.
In this account, we learn that an argument "escalated to a physical fight" though we still do not know who struck the first physical blow, which is important.  The store video may have been of assistance here, but we do not have access to it.  We know that Quadlin was released, is said to be cooperating, and has not been arrested, all of which is consistent with him being attacked, instead of the other way around.  We know that Chee was a big man,  6'2 inches tall, and 225 lbs, and that at one point he spent a couple of months in jail for a DUI.

We also know that more than twice as many people in this country are murdered with hands and feet as are murdered with rifles.   It is clear that the use of deadly force can be justified against someone using their personal weapons.   A great deal depends on who initiated the physical altercation.  That is the part that is missing from the accounts that have been published so far.

Certainly, if Mr. Quadlin had an opportunity to defuse the encounter or to refrain from an argument, it would likely have led to a better result.   All of this is unknown, however, because we do not know what happened.   There may not have been time or circumstances to defuse the situation before the attack was initiated.  It is likely that witnesses and store video are collaborating Mr. Quadlin's account, or he would have been arrested.   Being arrested after a self defense shooting is fairly common.   Not being arrested, especially after leaving the scene (though he did stay for a while) is a little unusual, indicating a pretty clear understanding of events by the police.

The narrative of the AP is a bit reminiscent of the narrative put out in the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman story.   Just because a person is "unarmed" does not mean that they cannot be a deadly threat.  Many people are killed by a single blow to the head from a fist.   Everyone recognizes that a blow to the head can render a person unconscious, at which point they are at the mercy of their attacker, and can easily be maimed or killed without resistance.

Being "unarmed" is not a license to attack people with the assurance that they may not use a weapon against you.  Weapons are the great equalizer that assures smaller/weaker people that the large and strong among us cannot assert their will without fear of resistance.  I have not been able to determine the height and weight of Mr. Quadlin.

©2014 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
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