Shooting of Criminal by Citizen NOT Reported by Police & NOT Unusual

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self defense guns
On 7 December 2018, at about 7:45 p.m., the owner of the Alibaba’s convenience store in Syracuse, New York shot and wounded an armed robber. The robber ended up in the hospital. The story made the news.

A local reporter for syracuse.com, Patrick Lohmann, investigated the story and wrote it up. While doing a followup, Lohmann discovered the store owner had shot another robbery suspect six weeks earlier.

That story did *not* make the news. From syracuse.com:

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — A tobacco shop owner who shot and badly injured a would-be robber Friday night at his North Side store also shot at and possibly injured a would-be robber six weeks ago at the same shop at the same time of night.

The owner of Alibaba Market on Wolf Street confirmed that he’d been involved in two shootings in as many months during a brief interview at his store on Saturday afternoon.

(snip)

Syracuse police did not announce an arrest in the Oct. 30 case or issue a news release, which is unusual in cases where shots are fired or someone is arrested in a robbery.

Police said there is a record of a “robbery” at the Alibaba Market at 7:25 p.m. on Oct. 30, 2018, but the case is “sealed,” said spokesman Sgt. Richard Helterline.

When Lohmann asked around the neighborhood to find out what happened, he got this story from two separate sources:

Baker said the owner told him that the robbers later called the police, confessed to the robbery and sought medical attention. One of the robbers had a gunshot wound to the hip, the owner told Baker.

The owner declined to comment on whether he had hit anyone he shot at in the Oct. 30 robbery.

Baker and another neighbor — who declined to be identified but said he got the same account of the Oct. 30 robbery from the owner — said police returned the owner’s weapon in the days after the failed robbery.

“Good thing he got it back in time,” Baker said.

There is a significant gap between the number of defensive gun uses researchers find in surveys, and defensive gun uses recorded by police or in various media.

Numerous surveys show defensive gun uses in the United States of between 500,000 and three million a year.   Only 353 justified homicides were recorded, by citizens other than police, in the FBI Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) for 2017. The UCR shows 429 justified homicides by police in 2017.

Studies of media reports show that justified homicides by non-police are reported in the media at least five times more often than are recorded in the UCR. There are numerous structural reasons for this disparity. The UCR has a very restrictive definition of justified homicide. Recording data in the UCR is voluntary, for starters.

A Washington Post project on police shootings showed justified homicides by police are reported in the media more than twice as often as are recorded in the UCR.  In 2017, the Washington Post found 987 fatal police shootings; the UCR recorded 429.

Fatal shootings are the most likely to be known, reported, and recorded.  The FBI uniform crime reports miss the vast majority of justified homicides. Justified homicides are the smallest category of defensive gun uses.

Those who claim the survey numbers of defensive gun uses (dgu) are too high, use the lack of official reports to claim defensive gun uses are rare.

This story illustrates the problem with that claim.

  • The store owner did not want his name in the media.
  • No one is required to report a dgu to police.
  • Police are not required to record a dgu in police reports.
  • Police reports are not required to be released to the media.
  • The media is not required to publish defensive gun uses.
  • No one keeps national statistics on defensive gun uses.
  • Police are not required to report non-crimes to the FBI, the media, or anyone.
  • There are compelling reasons for people to avoid reporting defensive gun uses.
  • There are strong incentives for wounded criminals to claim a wound from a defensive gun use was accidental or the result of a criminal attack.
  • In numerous locations, people do not want to be involved with the police in any way.

Over the years, I have had many people tell me of their personal defensive gun uses.  The vast majority of them occurred with no shots being fired.  The vast majority were credible. Only one of them (with no shots fired) reported the incident to the police.  It was never reported in the local media.

In one case, an older man in his 80’s (15 years ago) told me, when I pressed him for specifics, that he had shot and (presumably) killed, two people in separate incidents 50 years earlier. The episodes were not reported to the police. They involved attempted robberies in “bad” parts of cities. The rendition of the events appeared credible. The information was extracted by detailed questioning. It was not volunteered.

My friend Tex (George) Ferguson, the second most decorated U.S. Army veteran of WWII, and a likely CIA operative, told me of shooting and killing three men who attacked him in the early 1970s.

It was in a bad part of a major city that he was unexpectedly detoured too. It was such a bad area; the police refused to go there when the shooting was reported.

Tex reported the shootings to the local police chief. They were never recorded in the UCR or police records. They were never described in the media. No one ever came forward to press charges. Tex described the incident in detail. He became close friends with the police chief. They maintained correspondence and visited each other over the years.

The point of these anecdotal reminiscences is to illustrate that large numbers of defensive gun uses are never officially recorded, either in police records or in the media.

I find the survey results of a million or more defensive gun uses a year to be credible, because of my personal experience and anecdotal evidence told to me over decades.

It is not scientific, but it credibly explains the vast difference between the survey results and official and media records.

Large percentages of people in the United States gun culture have had the same experience. They find significant numbers of defensive gun uses to be credible, because they have friends and relatives and neighbors who have told their stories to them. Many millions have their own experiences to relate.

  • Very few make the news.
  • Very few are shared outside the gun culture.

Large numbers of people who are not gun owners do not know anyone who owns a gun.  Defensive gun use has been actively suppressed in the major media. Non-gun owners never heard of defensive gun uses and believed they were mythical.

If a person has actively chosen to be unarmed, they do not wish to hear of defensive gun uses. It upsets their world-view.

Second Amendment supporters have learned to get around the old dominant media, to publish defensive gun uses on the Internet, and to discuss them on talk radio. It is changing public perception and the debate about reforming gun laws. I recommend defensive gun uses be reported to the police.  The record will probably not make the news or the UCR. It can protect you if the aggressor decides to accuse you of an attack.

As a practical matter, cameras and recorders everywhere make the idea of walking away from a shooting impractical and legally dangerous, even in a “bad” part of town.

Tell us of your defensive gun use. We all need to know about it.


About Dean Weingarten:

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of constitutional carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and recently retired from the Department of Defense after a 30-year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.