Texas Vigilante Shoots Suspected Robber in Restaurant, Helps Diners Recover Their Money Before Disappearing
Many questions follow shooting.
The surveillance footage has dominated social media in the last week, depicting an almost operatic storyline in mere seconds. A man enters a Houston restaurant, waving a gun, apparently demanding money from patrons. Some toss bills to the floor. After the gun is waved over his table, another man retrieves a gun of his own, then shoots the gunman in the back and head repeatedly as he tries to escape. The vigilante retrieves the gun from the prostrate burglar. He then collected and returned the stolen money to diners. Apparently discovering the weapon is a fake, he throws it against the wall and leaves the establishment.
Ever since the video went viral, social media has been awash with questions, which have only amplified: Will the man face charges for shooting the robber so many times? Who is he? Was it self-defense, and how is that defined? Read on to find out how where the case stands now.
The major questions are: Was the vigilante justified in shooting the robber? And was he justified in doing it so many times, even after the burglar was immobilized? The robber's gun was fake—does that mean the man who shot him is in legal jeopardy? Carmen Roe, a legal analyst for KHOU 11, said the shooting appears to be in self-defense but there are reasons why police would want to speak with the shooter.
"One of the reasons that law enforcement is seeking out this individual is to find out whether he was in fear for his life or the lives of the people around him, because that's absolutely essential to a self-defense claim under the law," Roe said. "If you're justified in shooting the first bullet, you're justified in continuing to shoot until the deadly threat is no longer there."
Nathan Beedle, an attorney with the Harris County district attorney's office, told KHOU that according to Texas law, using deadly force is justified in situations of robbery by threat or aggravated robbery. "I can point you exactly where it is in the law: 9.31 and 9.32 of the penal code," he said. "Whether someone uses deadly force in the situation, that is presumed to be correct under Texas law."
The gun wielded by the robber turned out to be a toy. Roe told KHOU it didn't matter if the gun used in the robbery was fake because the threat was real. "Everybody in that restaurant clearly believed it was a real gun," she said. Roe said the man was within his rights to leave the restaurant, even though police would have liked to question him on the premises.
"Staying there to answer questions is important. It's something that, as a lawyer, I would have advised him to have done, but at the same time, you have no obligation to stay on the scene of a situation like that," she said.
But whether the man is charged with any crime will be up to a Houston grand jury, ABC News reported, adding that the man was questioned by Houston police detectives on Monday night. "After consulting with the Harris County District Attorney's Office, it was determined the shooting will be referred to a grand jury," a police statement says. "Since the male is not arrested or charged, his identity is not being released."
The man agreed to be questioned by police after detectives released a surveillance image of him and his pickup truck, ABC News reported. Police have also asked other customers at the restaurant who left the scene to come forward.