When can you legally act in self-defense? Laws vary from state to state, but generally, you are only legally authorized to use lethal force in self-defense if there is an immediate threat of great bodily injury or death to you or to another person. Still, it’s not uncommon for people to claim they were acting in self-defense even if the circumstances don’t fit the legal requirements.
That would appear to be the case for a security guard in Chicago charged with attempted murder and other charges after he shot a customer three times. 42-year old Chester Holmes claims he was acting in self-defense… because the customer wasn’t wearing a mask and he was afraid of catching COVID-19.
The argument did not sway cook County Judge Mary Marubio.
“The victim fled the store, fell outside, followed by the defendant [who], according to the surveillance video, shot a second time. The defendant then paces back and forth and shot a third time,” Marubio said before ordering 42-year-old Chester Holmes held without bail.
Holmes, who is barred from possessing a weapon because he is a four-time convicted felon and registered child sex offender, was working as an armed security guard at the store on the 6000 block of South Racine when a 28-year-old man walked in without a COVID mask around 9:53 am. Monday, according to Assistant State’s Attorney Darryl Auguste.
Holmes and the victim argued about the mask policy and the victim eventually left. He then turned around and walked back in. When he did, Holmes met him with a drawn handgun and shot him, Auguste said.
After he was shot the victim fled the store, only to collapse on the ground outside. Prosecutors say Holmes then walked outside the store and shot the victim two more times before he himself fled the scene.
According to CWB Chicago, Holmes is a four-time felon who’s previously been convicted of sexually assaulting a 6-year old girl and sexually abusing a 15-year old. Holmes also served two stints in prison for failing to register as a sex offender for those crimes, yet somehow Holmes was hired as an armed guard for the store despite being prohibited by state and federal law from lawfully possessing a firearm.
Now, it is possible to legally act in armed self-defense even as a prohibited person, but if a gun is used you’re still going to be facing felon in possession charges. Still, Holmes’ attorney is apparently trying to make the best of a really weak case by arguing that his client was acting to protect himself when he shot the returning customer.
“This is obviously going to be a self-defense case,” Friedman said after hearing the allegations. He called the circumstances “basically, a customer who’s unruly, who wants to put other lives at risk,” by not wearing a COVID mask.
Holmes, Friedman argued, “reacted in self-defense” to a man who wasn’t wearing a COVID mask.
It’s pretty ballsy to argue that it was the unmasked customer putting lives at risk, as opposed to the guy who actually shot someone. Unruly doesn’t equal dangerous, and it certainly doesn’t equate to an immediate threat of death or great bodily injury. It doesn’t sound like the customer threw a punch or tried to attack Holmes in any way, but was shot simply for walking back in to the store. That might be a trespassing offense, but it wouldn’t justify shooting the customer. And even if a judge or jury did buy the argument that the first shot was in self-defense, there’s the allegation that Holmes walked outside and fired two more shots into the customer as he lay bleeding on the ground and posed no threat at all.
The bad news for Chester Holmes is that the judge overseeing his bond hearing didn’t accept his rationale for shooting the customer, but if I were Holmes I would take heart in the fact that the vast majority of felony cases in Cook County end up in plea bargains. Holmes might not be able to skate on all charges, but chances are he’s going to be offered a deal that will result in little-to-no prison time for his alleged attack on the unmasked customer. That’s good news for Holmes, but bad news for the rest of us.