District Attorney Johnson Britt has the difficult decision of making the call on whether criminal charges will be filed against a Lumberton man who shot and killed a person on Sunday he likely suspected of being up to no good.
What’s certain is no matter what Britt decides, the decision will be criticized — and there will be plenty of unhappy people.
But today’s Our View isn’t really about what happened Sunday, which is obviously tragic. A man died way too young, leaving behind loved ones, including two children, and the life of the person who pulled the trigger will never be the same — even if he dodges prosecution.
What Sunday’s tragedy underlines is that in Robeson, which ranks No. 1 in violence and No. 3 in property crime among counties in North Carolina, people are on edge. The person who pulled the trigger Sunday was reportedly the victim of a burglary a couple of weeks prior, during which he said that a weapon was stolen. That event couldn’t have been far from his mind when he heard what he believed was an intruder about 5 a.m. on Sunday.
But crime isn’t unique to Robeson County; it’s just more abundant. It is a problem across North Carolina, and the Great Recession only makes crime worse as people become desperate.
Last year, state lawmakers, led by Republicans, loosened the “castle doctrine,” which puts into law when people can use deadly force in defending themselves against what they perceive as a threat of violence. The expanded law brings under the umbrella a person’s car and his workplace, expanding self-defense protection beyond their own home.
Perhaps more telling, however, is that no longer is a person who perceives a threat required by law to retreat in advance of using deadly force, and the new law presumes that a person who unlawfully and by force enters or attempts to enter someone’s home, workplace or car intended to commit an unlawful act of violence.
These are seismic shifts that we believe will make fewer the number of prosecutions of people who claim self-defense in using deadly force — and will make more difficult achieving convictions when charges are brought.
Whether that will enhance public safety will depend — on whether the person in the right is on the giving or receiving end of the gun.