Friday, August 17, 2018

Thugs Buggin' – The Last Word

Nicole DuFresne
The Texas License to Carry classroom portion requires a discussion of effective communication.  I've used the incident surrounding Nicole DuFresne's murder for a number of years as an example of how not to communicate.  This article looks at the incident from the perspective of both groups that were involved.

In the early morning hours of January 27, 2005, a group of friends that included Nicole DuFresne, Jeffrey Sparks, Mary Jane Gibson, Scott Nath sometime were returning home from a night of celebratory drinking. As they were walking down a Lower East Side of Manhattan street a group of five young men and two girls approached them. The group that included Rudy Fleming had already mugged a man for his leather jacket and menaced a girl at a subway station that same night.

Fleming demanded money of Nicole’s group. Sparks pushed his way past, at which point Fleming struck him across his left temple with a Taurus .357 magnum that he had been pointing at the ground. Sparks later said that neither he nor anyone else in the group had realized that Fleming was armed. Another robber with Fleming reportedly said, "It doesn't have to be like this. My friend's buggin'. We just want the money."

Fleming took Gibson's purse and cell phone and gave them to the girls with him. Nicole DuFresne turned to Sparks who was dazed and bleeding profusely from his left eye, asking if he was OK. He indicated that he was and said "Let's just go." At that point, Nath took Sparks by the arm and they ran down the street. Gibson turned to follow.

Witnesses said that DuFresne challenged Fleming, when she walked up to Fleming and looked him in the eye while demanding “Why are you still here, you got what you wanted? What are you going to do, you going to shoot us? Is that what you wanted?” Fleming reacted by pushing DuFresne in the chest with his left hand. A witness said that DuFresne stumbled backward, then bounced back and shouted her question again: “What are you going to do, shoot us?” A witness said that Fleming pushed DuFresne a second time, and when she came at him once again, he lifted his right arm and fired one shot, the bullet striking her in the chest and exiting through her back.

Sparks and Nath ran back to DuFresne finding her on her back in the street. She died a few minutes later in Sparks's arms, as Gibson and Nath knelt beside them.

According to the testimony of fellow mugger Ashley Evans at Fleming’s trial, the muggers chose DuFresne’s group because they looked like they were enjoying themselves. According to Evans, “They were extremely happy, so that made me even angrier.” Evans said that she tried to hit one of them, but that the group turned away. Fleming then followed and yelled at them to stop, hitting Sparks in the face with his pistol as he tried to push past.

Let’s look at what we can learn from this incident from the perspective of Peyton Quinn's 'Five Rules' concerning how to avoid violence with Marc MacYoung’s addition of a 6th rule.*

Peyton’s Five Rules:

1) Do not insult him

2) Do not challenge him

3) Do not threaten him

4) Do not deny it's happening

5) Give him a face-saving exit.

Marc’s additional rule:

6) Do not command

At the outset of this incident, Jeffrey Sparks was clearly denying that Fleming and his group were committing an armed robbery. Him attempting to push past was an act that Fleming likely saw as a challenge and precipitated the first of Fleming’s violent acts when he struck Sparks with the pistol. Sparks’s comment that no one in his group realized Fleming had a revolver leads one to believe that everyone in Sparks’s group was probably denying that the incident was happening. When another robber said, "It doesn't have to be like this. My friend's buggin'. We just want the money," he was likely trying to calm the situation and effectively giving Sparks’s group instructions on how to avoid further violence.

When Nath began to guide Sparks down the street and Gibson turned to follow, the robbery was essentially winding down and likely would have been over except for DuFresne’s actions. DuFresne violated the rest of Peyton’s rules and likely MacYoung’s 6th rule as well.

Tatiana McDonald, one of the muggers who testified at Fleming’s trail outlined street rules that resulted in DuFresne’s murder while other mugging victims that night were not harmed. McDonald describing Fleming’s reaction to DuFresne confronting him said “He was so mad, he just lift up the gun and shot at her. After I saw her grab her chest, I just ran.” When asked how close Fleming was to DuFresne when he shot her, McDonald replied “About two feet away. It was pretty close, because he couldn’t even hold up his hand. He did not have room to stretch out his arm. She was blocking the gun.”

Whether Fleming saw DuFresne walking up to him as a threat is unclear; however, he certainly saw her confrontation as insulting challenge. Her demanding “why are you still here” was essentially a command for him to leave. Once he pushed her away, DuFresne continuing to challenge him did not give him a face-saving exit in front of his peers.

Per MacYoung, a threat display is an insult that a violent person will have to react to because you've just crossed the line from being assertive to being aggressive ... what's more is now you've invaded his space. A violation, against which he is going to have to retaliate.** A final point, some people just have to get in the “last word.” Nicole DuFresne got in the last word “What are you going to do, shoot us?”

Although, it is impossible to tell anyone precisely what to do in a given circumstance when facing unlawful deadly force; Peyton and MacYoung’s rules provide an outline that may save your life.

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