A couple in Michigan are facing felonious assault charges and the possibility of four years in prison after one of them drew a gun during a heated argument in the parking lot of a Chipotle in a Detroit suburb. Jillian Wuestenberg and her husband Eric Wuestenberg are out on $50,000 bond in the incident, though Eric Wuestenberg is also out of a job. Oakland University, which employed him in a veterans-related department, gave Wuestenberg the heave-ho shortly after charges were filed.
“We have seen the video and we deem his behavior unacceptable. The employee has been notified that his employment has been terminated by the university,” OU said in a statement late Thursday.
The Black family and the Wuestenbergs argued outside the restaurant after a member of the Black family demanded an apology from Jillian Wuestenberg for bumping a teenage girl in the group. Both the Wuestenbergs and the Black family accused each other of racism.
Jillian Wuestenberg told police she exited the couple’s vehicle and pointed a handgun at the Black family after the mother stood behind the van, blocking the Wuestenbergs from leaving. They also said the mother slapped her hand on the back of the vehicle and made threatening statements.
The Black family told police the mother stepped behind the vehicle and the Wuestenbergs backed into her, Bouchard said.
As I said in my first story on this incident, I think both sides behaved badly from the get-go, but Wuestenberg didn’t need to pull her gun or even get out of her van. When the woman slapped her hand on the rear window of the Wuestenberg’s van, the couple had a clear shot to pull forward and drive away. In fact, after Jillian Wuestenberg got back in the van, that’s exactly what they did.
It was a needless prolonging of the confrontation, and I think Wuestenberg is going to have a difficult time convincing a jury that her escalation of the situation was legal and appropriate because she was in fear for her life. I’ll admit, though, that I’m having a harder time with the felonious assault charge filed against her husband, who isn’t caught on camera doing anything with his firearm.
I think Second Amendment advocate Marcus Weldon, who has some experience with being an armed citizen in the criminal justice system, and I are on the same page.
“Both parties were both wrong in this situation,” Weldon said. “I think the gun owner should not have drawn her firearm in that moment. I think that was not a great bodily harm or threat to her life.
“It’s also people’s responsibility to not escalate a situation. If someone were to bump my child, I understand as a father I would have been upset and checked the person. I think the ownership also falls on the family to say, walk away. The person in the car was leaving the scene, trying to leave the scene at least. At that point, let them walk away.
It’s a point echoed by Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard as he addressed the media about the charges on Thursday. Bouchard also objected to comments from a local lawmaker, who said the incident proved the need for more “gun reform laws.”
On Thursday, state Sen. Rosemary Bayer, D-Beverly Hills, called the incident unacceptable.
“There is nothing acceptable about what happened in Orion Township last night at the Chipotle. It is abhorrent to think that some in this country have such a sense of self-righteousness and entitlement that the idea of pulling a gun out on an unarmed child and her mother is OK,” Bayer said in a statement.
“It is not, and I condemn anyone who thinks otherwise. My heart goes out to Ms. Hill and her daughters, who may now forever be traumatized by this experience.”
Bayer also called for gun reform.
“Michigan needs commonsense gun reform, and we need it now. People should feel safe going about their day and not have to worry about having a gun pulled on them during a conflict,” she said. “This incident clearly shows we have much work to do because this is not how we should be treating each other.”
Bouchard said the incident had nothing to do with gun reform and those involved legally possessed their weapons.
“Remember, each one of us is a human being that deserves respect,” Bouchard said. “From my personal point of view, this is a blessing from God. So let’s treat each other like that. It’s very sad for me to see what’s going on across communities across this country.”
This isn’t about gun control, it’s about self-control. It’s about being willing to walk away (or drive away) and let some jerk get the last word, even if the last word is “racist.” At several points both sides in this conflict could have chosen to de-escalate the situation, but neither did. Now, instead of spending Independence Day celebrating freedom, the Wuestenbergs are wondering how much longer they’ll be able to enjoy it.