Friday, July 26, 2019

PA: Surveillance Video Shows Attack, Defensive Shooting, in Walmart

On Friday, 5 July, 2019, two young women attacked a third woman, Rojanai Alston, in a Walmart store in North Versailles, Pennsylvania.  It was about 9:30 p.m.  A an unknown man accompaning Alston  intervened, and tried to separate the two women attacking the victim from her.

Rojanai had a concealed carry permit, and a handgun, in her purse. As she is resisting the attackers, she manages to pull the pistol from the purse. The young man dives for cover, and the two attackers flee as she fires five shots. It is shown in the video below.


Video at link

Then Rojanai, in the heat of the moment, made what may be a significant legal error. She followed one of the attackers for a short distance. It appears one of the attackers is coming back. She fires two more shots. Those shots have landed her in trouble. They connected with her initial attacker. From
"She was cold-cocked in the head, not once, not twice, but at least three times, and then they attempted to drag her to the ground. And if she didn't have a firearm on her to disperse her two assailants, I don't know if my client would even be alive right now," Haber said.

Despite this, Alston was held for trial on a charge of aggravated assault, WTAE reports, adding:

Alston initially fired five shots. But seconds later, when the woman who threw the first punch comes back in Alston’s direction, Alston fired two more times, shooting that woman in a finger and an upper thigh. All of the women were interviewed by police.
 The  Allegheny County District Attorney has said the first five shots were justified, but the last two were not. Rojanai's attorney disagrees. Rojanai has been charged with aggravated assault.  This case will likely be decided by a jury trial. It will be expensive in time, money and emotional stress.

This is an illustration of how difficult it is to exert calm judgment during and immediately after being attacked. We do not know exactly what was going through Rojanai's mind when she followed her attacker.  Video of that area is not very clear in the clip that has been released. Was her attacker coming back to renew the attack when she fired the last two shots?  Was that a reasonable assumption on her part?

It is easy to say that Rojanai should have not followed her attacker. Those judgments are simple to make from the safety of a computer screen, when we are not in an adrenaline charged fight or flight mode.

The legal standard is, when the threat has stopped, the justification for deadly force no longer exists.
Was the threat stopped when the two attackers fled? Was the threat re-initiated a few seconds later?

The attackers showed no weapons other than hands and feet that I could see in the video.

The conventional wisdom is, once they started to  flee, let them go.

This case shows the wisdom of believing each bullet fired has a lawyer attached to it.

Whatever the jury decides, Rojanai will be paying a price, from large to extremely heavy.

©2019 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

Gun Watch 


Anonymous said...

If the attackers came back, that was their mistake. If they had kept running fine but when they returned maybe they had acquired weapons. In combat if the enemy with draws you cease fire if they return you make your best effort to add them to the body count.

Anonymous said...

She would not be in trouble if she was a better shot. Line from the good the bad and the ugly when you have to shoot , shoot . My line if you have to shoot hit something. drop the attackers before they have a chance to return. If the attackers know you are armed and come back maybe they are returning with arms. self defense is to prevent being attacked. especially a second time.