With one short, straight-to-the-point pronouncement, Judge John O. Craig did the entire community a favor Thursday by stripping a John Wayne wannabe of his right to carry a concealed weapon around town.
…This exercise, a sort of Mr. Magoo meets Buford Pusser at the OK Corral, started with [Daniel Ray] Brown having breakfast with his mother at the McDonald’s at Hanes Mall last March 22.
Two men who worked for Independent Living, a group home whose residents include people living with behavioral and intellectual challenges, were at Hanes Mall just before 10 a.m. with a client in tow. One of the workers, Frederick Morgan, testified that he’d stopped at the mall to pay a bill during a planned outing with the client, whom he described as mentally ill.
The other worker, Morgan testified, said something the client didn’t like and that prompted the client to get out of the vehicle and run toward Hanes Mall Boulevard. Morgan and his co-worker — they’re both black — chased the client, who is white, past the McDonald’s and started to struggle with him.
Morgan testified that the client was yelling “Help me. They’re trying to kill me. Somebody help me.”
That’s when Brown decided to intervene. Brown believed a fight had broken out and decided he had to act. He told his mother to call 911, and pulled his semi-automatic handgun. Morgan also testified that Brown pointed his gun at the group and ordered them to produce identification.
“I’m like ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa. You need to put that gun up,’” Morgan testified.
When Brown’s instructions went unheeded, he decided to fire a bullet into the ground 3-4 feet in front of him. That got everyone’s attention — including police officers racing to the scene. Instead of a fight in progress — the initial 911 call — officers now knew that a firearm was involved.
The problems with that are as many as they are obvious. Or at least they should be.
Gunfire ratchets up tension. Brown’s not a cop. Far from it. And he violated some of the most basic tenets of the “training” he so proudly cited in giving his testimony.
In case you’ve never been to a reputable concealed carry class, here they are: Never point a weapon at a human being unless you intend to kill him/her. There’s no such thing as a “warning” shot. Never get involved in someone else’s fight; you can’t possibly know the circumstances. Pull a weapon, live with the consequences.
Officer J.R. Huffman, a 17-year veteran of the Winston-Salem Police Department, knows all that and more. Huffman was one of the first officers on the scene, and testified that hearing dispatch caution that shots had been fired “amped it up another level.”
Footage from his body camera played for the jury illustrated just how much. Huffman, his own weapon drawn, charged into the scene barking, “Where’s the gun? Who’s got the gun?”
Brown, who was smart enough to sit his pistol on the ground and move away from it, answered that the gun was his and that he had a concealed carry permit.
Huffman’s response, uttered in the heat of the moment, was priceless. “Where’d you get a concealed carry license from? Kmart? … Warning shots? We don’t fire warning shots.”
Well, presented mostly without comment.
Brown didn’t know what was going on, assumed a violent assault was in progress (despite one of the caretakers describing the mentally ill man as a client and there were no punches or kicks being thrown), and dramatically escalated the incident by first drawing a firearm without a deadly force threat being imminent, and then discharging a round without reason into the pavement.
Brown is very lucky to have gotten away with his concealed carry permit being revoked and only misdemeanor charges.
Owning a gun is a right, but clearly not one everyone can exercise responsibly.