Editor’s Notebook

Learning
from Others 

by Gila Hayes

A while ago, our Network Advisory Board member James Fleming commented, “People by and large have no idea how common it is for someone to be involved in a self-defense situation and later face charges for their actions. And a lot of these incidents don’t make national headlines, only local headlines.” He went on to express interest in state-by-state statistics showing cases charged after self defense. While I don’t know how I would manage the statistical analysis, Fleming has a great idea when he suggests that members should send us Internet links to stories from their home areas about legal action taken against armed citizens who have acted in self defense.

In August, I heard from two Network members who were concerned about self-defense cases that were going through the courts in Indiana and Georgia. Both have resulted in tremendous grief and loss of freedom for the intended victims. Both carry a variety of lessons, so with a tip o’ the hat to Jim Trockman and Phil Smith for providing Internet links to these stories, let’s see what we can learn from the news.

The first story involves an Indiana man assaulted and forced into his home where he was robbed by four young men. One of the earlier reports is the most complete, and you can read it at http://www.courierpress.com/news/2012/feb/22/no-headline---ev_castledoctrine/?print=1. The victim was Ira Beumer, who after the assailants restrained him, stole his money and guns and bailed into their Grand Am for a quick get away, directed his wife who had arrived during the attack to call law enforcement, then sped off after the car in his Dodge Ram truck. The attackers’ Grand Am went out of control, spun around in a yard adjacent to the roadway, and then sped back up the road toward Beumer. They collided and one of the robbers was killed.

Reports assert that when sheriff’s deputies arrived, Beumer said that he chased and collided with the Grand Am to stop their escape because they might have grabbed his daughter, whom he could not locate after the robbers left his home. Another report has him telling a deputy that he wanted to kill the car’s occupants. In a later news interview, Beumer told a reporter, “I started to follow them and they hit this sweeping curb, lost control of their vehicle, went into a yard. Created a huge dust cloud and they had come back onto the road, and that’s when we collided.” http://www.courierpress.com/news/2012/aug/29/nov-12-trial-date-set-fatal-vehicle-pursuit-case/ In a later court hearing, he blamed the crash on poor visibility. Beumer’s various statements will have to be sorted out and I’m afraid the prosecutor will make much of them.

Though early after the incident pundits tried to frame Beumer’s pursuit of the robbers as justified by the “Castle Doctrine,” that argument failed because he left his home and pursued his attackers. Why did Beumer follow the four men who assaulted and robbed him? He thought they had taken his daughter, whom, unknown to him, was not at home during the robbery. How else can Beumer justify chasing after four men so dangerous that he believed they would kill him and his family when they were inside his house. Telling the sheriff’s deputy that he “intentionally rammed the car trying to kill the men” (see http://www.courierpress.com/news/2012/aug/29/nov-12-trial-date-set-fatal-vehicle-pursuit-case/) is going to complicate convincing a judge or jury that he thought his daughter was in the car, though.

His on-scene statement is an example of saying too much to law enforcement after surviving an attack. Keep it simple: who was the attacker, briefly outline their actions, then decline to say more until an attorney is present.

“These men came into my home, attacked me, robbed me and threatened my wife and family. I couldn’t find my daughter after they left, so I thought they had taken her.
 

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