police

Read firearms forums, and you’ll have self-proclaimed “experts” who’ve never had a lick of training beyond a gun safety or concealed carry class tell you that you can use lethal force if you were “in fear for your life.” They present this claim as if merely uttering the phrase is some sort of “get out of jail free” card.

It isn’t.

The man charged with killing a diaper thief fired his gun nine times, hitting the thief in the back while he was trying to get away, Orange County deputies said in an affidavit.

Lonnie Leonard, 51, is accused of shooting 19-year-old Arthur Adams, who deputies say was stealing two cartloads of items that included diapers at Wal-Mart in February.

Leonard, of Apopka, is also facing charges of aggravated battery with a firearm and carrying a concealed firearm.

Deputies concluded that Leonard fired his weapon with “no regard for the life and property of others.”

He told deputies he was in the store buying food when he heard yelling and saw two shoplifters run out of the store.

Armed with a 9 mm Winchester Luger, Leonard said he ran after them, the arrest report states. When he caught up to them, he told them to stop several times.

The shoplifters were entering the vehicle and were “posturing and reaching in their waistband and under the car seats,” the affidavit says.

“Leonard advised he feared for his life when he observed them reaching for something, so he drew his handgun from his jacket and fired several shots at them,” the affidavit said.

Mr. Leonard apparently meant well, and seems to have wanted to place the robbers under citizen’s arrest. When the suspected robbers ignored him and allegedly made threatening gestures, he shot at them. Nine times. He shot Adams twice, including once in the back.

When asked by police why he felt threatened by two people running away from the store, Leonard could not articulate an answer. A store employee also chasing the suspected shoplifters never heard the suspects say anything to Leonard, nor reach in their pockets as if searching for weapons.

We’d advise that if you are in a similar situation, let the thief take the merchandise. There are few possible good outcomes if you decide to insert yourself into such a situation, and many bad ones.  While I know many of us (and hopefully all of us) have a strong sense of right and wrong, you can’t take care of yourself and those you love if you’re in jail because your attempt to help escalated a minor crime into a felony homicide.