Nov 26 2007
08:04 am
By: WhitesCreek

Let me set this one up for you. A 71 year old man lives on his farm and the dogs start barking at some men who are coming through the brush toward his house. He gets his rifle and fires shots and yells at them to go away. They yell "Police" and he says he doesn't care who they are he wants them to go away.

The "police" coming through his property are TVA and Alcohol and Beverage Control officers. The man doesn't actually shoot them, they tackle him, and he is serving a ten year sentence for shooting at an officer or something.

Now look...I realize there's a problem here, but I want to make something clear. Country people don't shoot "AT" much of anything. Country people "shoot" things. I'm guessing William Hendricks had no intention of shooting the officers or they wouldn't have gotten shot at, they would have gotten shot.

Ok, so the guy is not the greatest in making good decisions, as far as law enforcement is concerned, and there was this patch of marijuana, not on his land that he was never tied to, so maybe he had nothing to do with it. I think he is a crotchety old man, overly protective of his property, and he has a couple of neighbors named Houston, and the community has a long (well earned on both sides) distrust of law enforcement, and the officers could maybe have handled this a little differently and not gotten shot at, and Mr. Hendricks should understand that even when the officers are wrong, they are right and you are not.

I don't think either side is capable of much understanding, and that's too bad. You and I will now spend well over a half a million dollars keeping Mr. Hendricks in jail until he turns 81, or dies or something, so are we feeling safer now?

It doesn't have to be this way.

Dang RIGHT I feel safer!

There's one less crotchety old man out there who thinks it's alright to be a scofflaw to the point that he can shoot first and ask questions later! If he's gonna be that way at 71, he'll be that way at 81, assuming he has the physical capability of lifting a deadly weapon. If one of those officers was shot or killed by this pitiful 71 year old man who's only crotchety, he'd be just as shot or just as dead as if he'd been shot by a 25 year old bad-ass from a mean part of the county.

There's ONE reason and one reason alone that Tennessee law gives anybody the right to use deadly force deliberately. And his situation didn't meet those criteria. There's no such thing as warning shots. Nobody on the other end can tell a warning shot from a miss. To the recipient of a missed aimed shot or a warning shot it's all the same, and they have to react as if their life is in danger.

Country people or non-country people - it's all the same, and being country people makes no difference legally or morally. I know lots of country people that were raised to respect the law and law enforcement officers. Unfortunately, in some parts, the opposite is true. It makes no difference under the law (or morally, for that matter) if one is raised in the part of the country where their elders teach them respect for the law and its officers, or if one is raised where they are taught the opposite.

Reading the report in the News Sentinel (per link in original blog entry), it is abundantly clear that this man has no regard whatever for the law or its officers, and that he really couldn't have cared less if he'd wounded or killed one of them. He said in open court that he didn't care who they were, he just wanted them off his land. He has no legal grounds to stand on whatever. Even if they were there illegally and were not law enforcement officers in the pursuit of their duty, he would have had no excuse to shoot them just because they were on his land.

Law enforcement officers are not trained that when somebody shoots at them as they pursue their duties they should ignore it. As the judge said, the man is lucky he's alive, and were he not alive, he would be bought and paid for.

The law in Tennessee has a provision for enhanced sentences when deadly weapons are used against law enforcement officers or firefighters, etc. And for good reason. It's to serve as an extra deterrent. And its deterrent effect would be nullified if it weren't exercised. So yes, it has to be this way unless the law is changed by the legislature.

But then again, it doesn't have to be this way, because people don't HAVE to shoot guns at people without first knowing whether or not they're in danger. People don't HAVE to shoot guns at people just because they're on their land. People don't HAVE to ignore the law or take the law into their own hands. So, in that aspect, no it doesn't have to be this way. There are choices about one's actions, and there are consequences to the choices.

Thomas More is a favorite historical character of mine. I've read a lot about him. He supported to the death the concept of a nation of laws, and he was against ignoring those laws at one's pleasure. Historians tell us that some of the lines in the play/movie "A Man for All Seasons" accurately reflect More's attitude about flaunting the law. Here is a pertinent quote:

Margaret More: Father, that man's bad.
Sir Thomas More: There's no law against that.
William Roper: There is: God's law.
Sir Thomas More: Then God can arrest him.
William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!
Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
William Roper: Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that!
Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!


OK, let me try this again...

You seem to be stuck on saying that Hendricks shot at the officers and I think he plain and simply didn't.

I'm not saying he is right to have fired his rifle, nor am I saying that shooting at people who have no business on your property the right thing to do.

I'm saying that the officers could have saved themselves some grief and possibly avoided a confrontation if they had contacted the land owner before they came through the woods toward his house. They seemed to have created the situation. Whether they have the legal right to, is not the point.

We have a societal contradiction with the NRA pushing guns down our throats and then being told that a citizen has to know that a particular intruder is an officer, not a bad guy. This is not a black and white issue, and I don't feel safer with this guy in jail. What would make me feel safer is some rational approach by enforcement that prevents this type of situation in the first place.

WC you're right...

I'll give you, upon re-reading, that it appears evident that Hendricks shot into the air by his own claim and by what was reported in the News Sentinel.

Indeed, the officers might have saved themselves a confrontation had they called the owners of all the pieces of land that they might traverse on their mission. However, not knowing who owned the illegal substance in which they were interested, advising people that they were coming could have resulted in either an ambush or in the whisking away of evidence and contraband. Not very good tactics for catching law breakers, methinks. And it's also true that not everybody who cultivates an illegal substance does it on their own land. So not knowing all these details might have made following your advice a bit awkward from the law enforcement perspective.

If I believed that the NRA was pushing guns down anybody's throats, I might have a different response. But when a citizen is TOLD by a shout, from a distance, that a person is a police officer, then what the NRA does or doesn't do is an irrelevant red herring. Courts all over this land have held that when a person verbally identifies him or herself as a police officer, then those so notified had better take notice of same, and not proceed as if the person were NOT a police officer.

In any court in this land when a person who has a loaded gun, has even fired the gun so as to demonstrate its loaded condition, has been warned to stop and/or drop the gun by someone identifying as a police officer, and that person does not do so, but rather continues an armed advance on police officers, there is no variance from the fact that a police officer can reasonably do whatever is necessary to protect himself and/or the public. That includes tackling. That includes shooting.

If there's a guy loose in public who is acting like this, and now he's not loose to act that way, I call that being safer.

Just exactly what rational approach by enforcement will prevent people like him from going off on them? Calling every landowner, which would likely include a guilty party, and saying, "Hey! We're coming across some property en route to some other property to get some illegal stuff off the market. Don't shoot - and, if it's your stuff, don't hide or destroy it and don't shoot at us!"? You really think that'll work?


Thanks, Anonymous...

Pretty much the way I heard it as well. The man provoked what he got. Had I been there wearing a badge I'd have done AT LEAST what was done. He's luck he's alive given that behavior.

The cops just can't win... somebody would bitch at 'em in a pie factory...


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