This story from the New Orleans suburb of Metairie, Louisiana is a pretty good snapshot of the current state of our criminal justice system and the need for good folks to exercise their Second Amendment rights for their own safety and the well-being of others.
Our tale begins early last Friday morning, just before dawn, at a convenience store in Metairie. According to police, 37-year old Robert Merritt, armed with a machete, confronted a store employee outside the business and threatened to kill him, then walked inside the store and began to collect beers from the cooler. The employee confronted Merritt, who once again threatened him with the machete. That’s when an armed customer intervened, drawing his concealed firearm and pointing it at the suspect.
While Merritt was distracted, the employee grabbed the machete and called 911 for help. Merritt allegedly told the employee he’d leave if given back his machete, according to [Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Capt. Jason] Rivarde. The employee handed back the blade, and Merritt fled the store, dropping his wallet.
I honestly can’t believe the store clerk gave Merritt his machete, but as it turns out, Merritt actually returned to the convenience store a short time later, presumably to grab the wallet that he had dropped. Turns out, that was another bad idea on Merritt’s part.
Deputies responded to the scene and were still speaking with the victim when Merritt returned to the business, Rivarde said. The deputies tried to detain Merritt, but he resisted being handcuffed, the arrest report said.
One of the deputies used a TASER stun gun, and Merritt was taken into custody. He was arrested and booked into the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center in Gretna with aggravated assault and resisting arrest.
And here’s where the happy ending you might be expecting falls apart. Once Merritt was booked, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, his bond was set at the low, low, price of $1,000. As it turns out, however, Merritt didn’t even have to pay that relatively small amount, because he was “released the same day because of crowding at the jail.”
According to a 2019 story from the Times-Picayune, the Jefferson Parish jail has been suffering from reduced staffing for some time, and the quick release of accused criminals like Merritt isn’t unusual.
Thanks to a decades-old protocol to prevent overcrowding, people arrested for minor offenses are quickly released from the Jefferson Parish jail whether they make bail or not. That leaves an inmate population that consists largely of people accused of violent crimes, [Sheriff Joe] Lopinto said. As of this week, the jail roster included 20 murder suspects and 16 rape suspects.
I don’t know that aggravated assault is a minor offense, per se, but apparently it was minor enough for Merritt to be returned to the streets, where he’s presumably been reunited with both his wallet and his machete. Hopefully his brief stop at the local jail will be enough of an incentive that he pays for his beer in the future, but Merritt’s alleged assault and his quick release should also be an incentive for law-abiding citizens to get their concealed carry license. You never know when you or someone around you might be targeted, and the presence of that legally-owned firearm may very well prove to be more of a deterrent than the prospect of a short stay behind bars, even if the trigger is never pulled.