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NYC Store Owner Facing Charges for Accidentally Shooting Man Attacking Him

Cory Morse/The Grand Rapids Press via AP

The right to keep and bear arms may exist on paper in New York City, but we've got a long way to go before it's a right that's recognized in law. Dexter Taylor is facing ten years in prison for making his own guns at home after the Brooklyn judge overseeing his trial told him and his attorney the Second Amendment doesn't exist in her courtroom. The city is the defendant in multiple lawsuits challenging ridiculously long delays in processing concealed carry and premises permit applications, and publicly accessible places like Times Square and the New York City mass transit system are off-limits to lawful concealed carry. 

Despite those draconian restrictions, there are still some New Yorkers who are exercising their Second Amendment rights while contending with a regime that's hostile to this particular civil liberty. Now one of them is facing felony charges for shooting a man who was attacking him in Queens on Monday night. 

Francisco Valerio, 53, was arrested for reckless endangerment for allegedly firing off a round during his struggle with two crooks inside Franja Wines and Liquors in Ridgewood about 7:45 p.m. Monday.

The store owner, who has a valid license for the pistol, was fighting off the robbers when he struck one of them with the gun inside the store on Wyckoff Ave. near Putnam Ave., a police source said. A shot went off, hitting one of the crooks in the stomach.

The conflict began a few minutes earlier when Edwin Poaquiza and Kevin Pullutasi, both 20, entered the store and tried to swipe some liquor bottles, cops said. Valerio stopped them and booted them out of the store, cops said.

But the duo returned a few minutes later and allegedly attacked Valerio. The store owner grabbed his pistol as he fought the two men off and errantly fired off a shot, striking Pullutasi in the stomach, cops said.

According to the NY Daily News both Pullutasi and Poaquiza are facing charges of robbery, assault, and menacing for attacking Valerio. So why is Valerio accused of "reckless endangerment" for defending himself? 

I'd hate to think it's because the shop owner told police that he didn't mean for the gun to go off, but I have a sneaking suspicion that's exactly what landed him in trouble with the law. 

Valerio wasn't the initial aggressor here. Two guys came into his store, tried to steal some of the bottles on the shelf, and were chased off by Valerio. He didn't pull his gun or assault them in any way in that first encounter. But when they returned a few minutes later and began assaulting the shop owner, he drew his firearm. Even then, he didn't want to resort to pulling the trigger, but I'd argue he was within his rights to do so at that point. New York does impose a "duty to retreat' when possible, but when you're actively being assaulted you might not be able to run away and hide. 

So Valerio fought back against his attackers. He hasn't been charged with assault, so presumably, the officers who arrested him and the prosecutors who've charged him believe that he had the legal right to defend himself. But he's now being charged under New York's first-degree reckless endangerment statute, which states:

A person RECKLESSLY ENGAGES IN CONDUCT WHICH CREATES A GRAVE RISK OF DEATH TO ANOTHER PERSON: when he or she engages in conduct which creates a grave and unjustifiable risk that another person’s death will occur, and when he or she is aware of and consciously disregards that risk,and when that grave and unjustifiable risk is of such nature and degree that disregard of it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable person would observe in the situation.

I consider myself to be a reasonable guy, and shooting one of two people who are physically assaulting me sounds pretty darn reasonable to me. But if Valerio told officers that he didn't intend to shoot Pullutasi or fire his gun instead of informing them that he drew his firearm because he was afraid he was about to be beaten to death, he may very well have opened himself up to the bogus charge of recklessly endangering one of the two men who were assaulting him.

I'm sure Valerio believed he was in the right, but when you use your gun in self-defense it's a good idea to wait until you have an attorney present before giving a statement to police. I'd say that's especially true in cities and states that are actively hostile towards our right of armed self-defense like New York City. Valerio didn't ask to be attacked, and he defended himself the best he could. Now the business owner is facing a potential seven-year prison sentence if he's convicted of felony first-degree reckless endangerment. 

Valerio is a victim twice over. First he was assaulted in his store, and now he's being robbed of his freedom and his rights by overzealous agents of the state. Like Dexter Taylor, Valerio has now learned a very painful lesson: no matter what the Supreme Court has said about treating the Second Amendment as a second-class right, New York authorities don't view gun ownership or armed self-defense as any kind of right. It's a privilege to be doled out by the state, and God help anyone who dares to believe otherwise.