Monday, September 3, 2018

Thugs Shoplifting: Crossing the Line

June 2017: A judge sentenced Min Sik Kim, owner of the Pacific Quick Stop in Spanaway, Washington state to eight years in prison for second-degree murder after Kim fatally shot a would-be shoplifter in the back as he attempted to flee. Kim claimed the shooting was self defense; however, a surveillance video of the shooting did not corroborate Kim’s claim.

Prosecutors charged Kim with second-degree murder in the death of Jakeel Mason. Kim was outside the store when Mason attempted to steal several packs of cigarettes from behind the counter. The video showed Kim re-enter the store with a pistol in his right hand. Kim points the pistol at Mason, grabs Mason, and forces him further into the store. Mason puts both hands up and is not resisting. Kim then holsters the pistol and begins punching Mason in the face and the two men begin to fight. Mason takes Kim to the floor and both continue to fight for several seconds.

The video shows Mason was able to free himself and attempted to flee the store. Kim stood up after clearing himself from a shelf containing merchandise, then drew his pistol and shot Mason twice in the back as Mason neared the door. Mason collapsed in the doorway and died before medical aid arrived.

Kim told investigators that he pulled his gun out and shot Mason during the struggle. But prosecutors say the store's footage shows that Mason was no longer a threat to Kim and was running away when Kim fired.

A Pierce County Sheriff’s spokesman said "This is a tough one because we can understand why the store clerk was on guard. His wife has just been shot there a month before during a robbery attempt and the whole family was upset about it.” Prosecutor Mark Lindquist said in a statement that "The defendant's frustrations are understandable, but his actions were not lawful, shop owners cannot legally shoot unarmed shoplifters attempting to flee."

Min Sik Kim confused mutual combat or fighting with self defense. Fighting is NOT self defense! Many people like Kim not realizing this, think they are “defending” themselves when in fact they are fighting. Self defense is about protecting your physical body, not your emotional well-being, nor as an excuse to vent your frustrations.

Defensive use of justifiable deadly force or "self defense" is a legal construct that requires three elements inclusively:

– Danger: Clear and present exposure

– Potential for great bodily harm – to the innocent, not the guilty; the potential for bodily injury which creates a high probability of death, permanent disfigurement, or which causes a permanent or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ

– Immediate or otherwise unavoidable: It is happening now and you cannot avoid the danger

Using deadly force in self-defense is justified only when a person reasonably believes that such force is immediately necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm. You must stay within these parameters. If you do not, then you are no longer legally using force to defend yourself. Why you stepped outside these parameters is not relevant—you are no longer legally using force. Mason’s actions did not represent a threat of imminent death or great bodily harm at the moment Kim fired. This is where Kim stepped over the line and killed Mason without justification.

If you carry a firearm for personal protection, it is critical that you understand where your actions stop being self defense and instead make you the aggressor. If a post incident investigation finds that you crossed the line from self defense into assault or worse, you will probably be prosecuted.

There are several reputable, time-proven courses available to teach you the difference and to help you understand self defense law including those from Massad Ayoob and Andrew Branca and graduates from their instructor courses among others. In addition to teaching the law and justifiable use of deadly force, many reputable self defense instructors will also teach you how to avoid bad situations in the first place.

I suspect that were we able to ask Mr Kim if he could turn back the clock and spend the $500.00 or so for a comprehensive use of force course, we could easily guess his answer. If you carry a firearm for personal protection, it is incumbent upon you to understand the law and difference between self defense and fighting. If you ever find yourself in a use of force situation and cross the line from
self defense into something else, you will likely be prosecuted, convicted, and go to jail. Perhaps for a long time.

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