An error in judgment led to a tragedy in Washington. It’s just resulted in an 8½-year jail sentence for an errant firearms owner.
It all happened early on a Friday morning last November on Prairie Ridge Drive in Bonney Lake.
Panton told police he watched a stranger stealing his Jeep and that’s when he grabbed his .40 caliber handgun and opened fire while the suspect took off in his truck.
Except one of those bullets flew through Green’s window. It wasn’t much later that morning that Linda’s family called 911 when they found her injured and bleeding on the floor. She was rushed to a hospital but later died.
. . .
“I’m very, very sorry,” said Panton. “I cannot say that enough. I didn’t want to hurt anybody; I was trying to stop a kid from being a punk.”
But despite having no criminal record, Panton was sentenced by the judge to the maximum – 8.5 years behind bars.
Prosecutors said there is no excuse for taking the law into your own hands – and state law doesn’t allow the use of deadly force when protecting property.
“He did intend to pull the trigger,” said Judge Timothy Ashcraft. “When you do that, you have to accept the consequences as to where that bullet ends up.”
There’s more at the link. Bold print is my emphasis.
“Sorry” simply won’t cut it in a tragedy like this. Ms. Green would probably have been alive and well today, if Mr. Panton hadn’t tried to take the law into his own hands. His recklessness caused her death, and now he’s paying the price. Frankly, I think 8½ years is a relatively light sentence, considering that he deprived an innocent person of their life, and her relatives will have to live with that grief forever.
Laws differ from state to state. In Texas, for example, it’s legitimate under certain circumstances to use deadly force to defend one’s property – but even when that’s legal, one is still responsible for every shot one fires. Irrespective of the law, there are too many “cowboy” gun owners out there who see nothing wrong with firing after someone who’s just attacked them or stolen their property, even when the attack or theft is over and the perpetrator is trying to flee. That’s illegal in most jurisdictions, and it’s almost always unwise. Police have statutory protections when using deadly force, in their official capacity, to stop a fleeing felon. Private citizens do not. As private citizens, it’s very much in our own interests to use deadly force only when it’s absolutely and unavoidably necessary, and to cease using it the moment it’s no longer so vitally needed. Anything else is folly.
May Ms. Green rest in peace; may her relatives receive what comfort they may; and may Mr. Panton reflect on his actions during the years of his prison sentence, and hopefully learn from his mistakes. What’s more, I hope all gun owners who read of his misadventures will do the same . . . otherwise there will be more Ms. Greens in future.