Ex-Prison Guard Not Charged In Shocking Chase, Killing In New York Subway [Video]

Where is the line separating self-defense from vigilantism?

New York is not a “stand your ground” state, meaning that a person has a duty to retreat from a threat if possible, before using deadly force. But this story proves you can still chase after and kill an unarmed person in a crowded subway station and get away with it, in a public shooting that is shocking, even by New York standards.

On Tuesday, March 10, 2015 electricians Gilbert Drogheo, 32 and Joscelyn Evering, 28, were headed home from work, strapping on a crowded subway to Brooklyn. As 69 year-old Willie Groomes, an ex-prison guard (who retired in 1993) with a gun permit, tried to walk between the pair to get on the subway, one of the younger men addressed him with the slang, “my nigger,” according to reports. Groomes replied, “I’m not your nigger.”

“They (Drogheo and Evering) were talking mad trash,” a witness reportedly said. “They must have been drunk.” Other witnesses said Drogheo raised his fist, threatening to “smoke” Groomes before Evering jumped Groomes (something Evering denied). Groomes pulled out a .380 Ruger handgun to try to fight him off. At least one witness reportedly saw Drogheo push Groomes back into the train as the two friends exited to get away. Neither Drogheo nor Evering is reported to have been armed.

Gilbert Drogheo
Gilbert Drogheo, 28, was shot and killed in a New York subway station on March 10, 2015

Groomes went after Drogheo, later claiming he wanted to make a “citizens’ arrest”. A three minute witness’ cellphone video shows the ensuing confrontation. Groomes is first seen on the video in the station, apparently after exiting the subway, walking swiftly down stairs, toward someone who is shouting at him on the lower stairs, and, as Groomes advances, he can be heard saying “Where you gonna go” to the younger man, who runs when Groomes gets to bottom of the stairs.

During the encounter, someone can be heard shouting repeatedly, “Don’t shoot him, O.G., don’t shoot him”. Groomes stops, looks up, turns, and heads back up the stairs, where, 25 seconds into the video, Groomes goes at Drogheo landing a left fist to the temple and holding a gun in the right hand. Drogheo reels from the blow, then struggles with Groomes over the gun before being shot. Witnesses scramble and a man who appears to be Evering approaches the wounded Drogheo, kneeling over and calling out mournfully to him as police arrive. Evering is arrested. Drogheo died later that evening at a hospital.

On May 4th, Brooklyn District Ken Thompson announced there wasn’t enough evidence to prove a crime was committed.

Thompson issued a statement that read, “Following a full and fair investigation…I have determined that criminal charges are not warranted in this matter. Based on interviews of multiple eyewitnesses to the events leading up to the shooting, our review of video tapes of the shooting itself and other evidence, I have decided not to put this case into the grand jury and will not bring criminal charges against Mr. Groomes. While the death of this young man was indeed tragic, we cannot prove any charge of homicide beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Prosecutors claim a second video shows that Groomes had given up trying to track down Drogheo, but they ran into each other again, when they claim Drogheo initiated a struggle that resulted in an “accidental discharge” of the weapon. This shocking cellphone video below seems to contradict that contention.

New York state self-defense laws allow a citizen to use physical force, “other than deadly physical force” when “he or she reasonably believes such to be necessary to effect an arrest or to prevent the escape from custody of a person” who may have committed a crime. A citizen can use deadly physical force only when defending against “imminent use of deadly physical force,” or when it is necessary to detain a person who was committed manslaughter, murder, robbery, forcible rape, or forcible criminal sexual act.

Gregg Pinto, a former Brooklyn assistant district attorney, told Gawker the reason Groomes was not arrested has little to do with self-defense or anything else about the conflict itself. “I can’t imagine that if this guy didn’t have a badge, he wouldn’t have been arrested,” Pinto. “In my opinion, NYPD is arrest first, ask questions later. The only time you don’t arrest is if the person is somehow connected to the police.”

In 1984, New Yorker Bernie Goetz made national headlines when he shot four black teenagers who were trying to mug him. He was arrested but later acquitted of attempted murder.

No one disputes the fact that Drogheo and his friend initiated the confrontation. Yet Groomes could have simply called the cops, or not followed the two younger men. He has not been charged or arrested. Evering was arrested at the scene, charged with menacing and felony assault. Drogheo’s family wants and deserves justice and have started a petition to get District Attorney Ken Thompson to charge Groomes with murder.

Was Groomes justified? What do you think he should have done? Leave your comments.

What’s your opinion of stand your ground law?

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Pooping By Dog Leads To Father’s Day Shooting

A Miami man, upset over a dog trying to poop on his son’s lawn, told police he shot the dog owner on Father’s Day because he felt threatened.

UPDATE: Knife found at scene contained no DNA from the victim

66-year-old Omar Rodriguez had a verbal altercation with Jose “Pepe” Rey, and Rodriguez claimed Rey had said he would return. Later, it’s reported that, as Rey was talking with other neighbors at a gathering, Rodriguez appeared. Rodriguez told police he saw Rey move toward him, with some type of “shiny object” in his hand, so he went to his car, got his gun, then opened fire, shooting Rey multiple times. He also threatened to shoot Rey’s wife, Lissy, when she ran to help her husband.

Jose "Pepe" Rey
Jose “Pepe” Rey was shot multiple times during a dispute over a dog trying to poop

Rey is last reported to be in critical condition, with severe abdominal and spinal injuries. A GoFundMe account has been set up to help the Rey family with medical expenses.

Rodriguez was arrested and faces charges of second-degree attempted murder and aggravated assault. At his arraignment on June 23, a judge denied bond, citing police reports that state Rey had his hands out and was backing up when he was shot.

Omar Rodriguez
Omar Rodriguez appears for arraignment June 23, 2015

Neighbors of Rodriguez’ son and his own neighbors – miles away – all reportedly described Rodriguez as unstable, saying he has allegedly threatened people in his son’s neighborhood as well as his own. Several frightened people in his son’s neighborhood have reportedly filed restraining orders to keep him away, and police have released surveillance camera footage that shows Rodriguez engaged in some mischief and altercations involving neighbors.

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Mass Shootings Do Little to Change State Gun Laws

Following the mass shooting in Connecticut, the Obama administration and lawmakers around the country promised to re-examine gun control in America.

ProPublica decided to take a look at what’s happened legislatively in states where some of the worst shootings in recent U.S. history have occurred to see what effect, if any, those events had on gun laws. While legislators in Virginia, Alabama, Arizona, New York, Texas and Colorado sometimes contemplated tightening rules after rampage shootings, few measures gained passage. In fact, several states have made it easier to buy more guns and take them to more places.

Also see: Crazy Gun Laws That Put Our Lives At Risk

Here’s a rundown of what’s happened in each of those states:

Vigil for victims of mass shooting at Virginia Tech (credit: vt.edu)
Vigil for victims of mass shooting at Virginia Tech (credit: vt.edu)

Virginia: After 23-year-old Virginia Tech student Seung Hui Cho killed 32 students and faculty members at the university in April 2007, then-Gov. Tim Kaine assigned a blue-ribbon task force to examine gun policies in the state. The task force made dozens of recommendations that, among other things, suggested that the state intensify background checks for gun purchasers, and ban firearm possession on college campuses. None of the recommendations became law.

The most significant change in Virginia came two weeks after the shooting when Kaine signed an executive order requiring the names of all people involuntarily committed to mental health facilities to be provided to a federal database called the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS. Licensed gun dealers are supposed to check the database before they sell anyone a gun.

President George W. Bush subsequently signed federal legislation requiring all states to submit their mental health records to NICS, but to gain the support of the NRA, Congress agreed to two concessions. It made changes to the way the government defined who was “mentally defective,” excluding people, for example, who had been “fully released or discharged” from mandatory treatment. The law also gave mentally ill people an avenue for restoring their gun rights if they could prove to a court that they had been rehabilitated. After the law passed, the NRA pushed state lawmakers to limit roadblocks for people applying to regain their rights.

Virginia is particularly open to restoring peoples’ gun rights. A 2011 New York Times investigation found that the restoration process in the state allowed some people to regain access to guns simply by writing a letter to the state. Others were permitted to carry guns just weeks or months after being hospitalized for psychiatric treatment.

In 2012, the Virginia state legislature repealed a law that had barred people from buying more than one handgun per month , a law put in place because so many guns purchased in Virginia were later used in crimes committed in states with more restrictions.

The legislature also has made several changes to its gun permitting process. In March, 2012 the state eliminated municipalities’ ability to require fingerprints as part of a concealed weapon permit application. The state used to require gun owners to undergo training with a certified instructor in order to get permits, but in 2009 it adopted a law allowing people to take an hour-long online test instead. Since Virginia adopted the law, the number of concealed handgun permits the state has issued increased dramatically and many of the permits were issued to people who live in other states where Virginia permits are accepted.

In 2010, Virginia became one of five states to allow permit holders to carry concealed and loaded weapons into bars and restaurants.

Alabama: In Alabama, gun control advocates have won two small legislative victories since March 2009, when 28-year-old sausage plant worker Michael McLendon went on a three-town shooting spree, killing 10 people.

In 2011, the state made it illegal for people to buy weapons for someone else who doesn’t have permission to carry one or to provide false information about their identity to a licensed gun dealer. The law was intended to help crack down on gun trafficking. (According to data compiled by non-profit Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the state had the fifth highest rate of crime gun exports in 2009.)

After Florida teen Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in February 2012, the Alabama state legislature made a slight revision to its version of a law known as the “castle doctrine,” which is meant to allow property owners to protect their homes against intruders. Alabama changed its law so that a shooter would only be entitled to civil immunity for shooting a trespasser if the property owner reacted “reasonably.”

Arizona: After former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., was shot in the head in a hail of bullets that killed six and wounded 13, a bill was introduced in the state legislature to limit gun magazines to 10 bullets, but the bill failed in the face of pressure from the gun lobby. A similar bill was proposed in Connecticut in 2012; it didn’t pass either.

In March 2012, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed a bill with the opposite effect, forbidding the Arizona Game and Fish Commission from limiting magazine capacity for any gun approved for hunting.

According to rankings assembled by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Arizona is “49th out of 50 2014 having enacted some of the weakest gun violence prevention laws in the country.”

Arizona doesn’t require a license to carry a concealed firearm in public, nor does it limit the number of firearms that someone can buy at once.

New York: After a mass shooting at an immigration services center in Binghamton, N.Y., where 13 people were killed and four were wounded, the state assembly entertained several bills on gun control. None passed. One bill would have given police more control over records related to firearm sales. Another would have banned 50-caliber weapons and allowed people to turn them into the state in exchange for fair market value.

Perhaps the most controversial bill in the package would have required the use of a technology called microstamping on all bullets sold in the state.

Using this technology, a serial number could be stamped on bullet casings so they could be traced back to a particular gun. The gun industry argued that the technology would be too expensive and was still unproven. Some gun manufacturers were so upset by it that they threatened to leave the state. The bill passed the Assembly in June, but the Senate did not vote on it.

In January 2012, the legislature repealed a law that previously required handgun manufacturers and dealers to share information about bullet casings and ballistics with the state. Critics of the law said the database used to maintain the information cost too much and didn’t help police.

Texas: There’s been no effort to tighten gun control in Texas since Army Maj. Nidal Hasan, 39, killed 13 and wounded 32 at a military processing center at Fort Hood in 2009.

In 2011, legislators passed two bills that gave gun carriers greater freedom to take their weapons to more places. One bill restricted employers from prohibiting guns from vehicles in parking areas and another allowed foster parents to carry handguns while transporting their foster children, as long as they are licensed carriers.

Colorado: Aurora graduate student James Eagan Holmes, 24, killed 12 and wounded 58 in a movie theater in July, 2012.

Century 16 theater in Aurora CO
Century 16 theater in Aurora CO

At the time, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper suggested that families of victims needed time to grieve before a discussion on gun control could begin in the state.

After the Connecticut shooting, Hickenlooper said that “the time is right” for the state to consider stronger gun control legislation. He introduced a measure to strengthen background checks for gun buyers.

This article, by Joaquin Sapien,  was originally published on ProPublica, Jan. 3, 2013. ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for their newsletter.

When?

Great!

Thoughts At Large

Enough

When will lives matter more than guns?

When will lives matter more than dogma?

When will lives matter more than religion?

When will we stop killing each other because we’re different?

When will debate, discussion, and conversation replace “stand your ground”?

When did America become so paranoid?

When will we begin to use compassion instead of condescension?

When will we see race as an opportunity to learn and not a reason to hate?

When will we see hatred diffused by associating rather than inflamed by isolation?

When will love of peace matter more than fear of peace?

When will love of peace matter more than love of war?

When will you stand up and say, “Enough!”

When will you act?

When?

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Change Or Repeal: A New Cyber-Active Movement

It’s been over a year since this non-partisan movement to End Stand Your Ground was cyber-active. Apologies to all of you who were faithful readers from the start.

Maybe the hiatus was partly due to a countless overdose of possible stand your ground cases (still trying to catch up on many incidents over the past year), or writer’s block, or so little time while working a job to make a living. Whatever the reason, there’s a lot of catching up to do here (almost done seeping through thousands of emails).Bruce Almighty typing

Now the fight goes on – appropriately starting again on National Gun Violence Awareness Day – with several new, subtle (but unmistakably obvious) changes, which should improve the clarity, awareness, support, and user experience of this network.

The new, biggest change you may notice is that the tag is now ‘to change or repeal’ stand-your-ground laws across America. This was necessary, since basically, if certain states change their ideology and remove the ‘no duty to retreat from anywhere” option, repeal may be unnecessary.

And this movement is not focused on gun control. It’s more about an ideology for saving the lives of unarmed people, whether or not they’re at fault.

Another change is the use of “cyber-movement”, since this activism is taking place primarily via the internet. This should also serve as a reminder to everyone that there is strength in internet users, so your support, participation and involvement – by signup for this blog, a follow on twitter, a like on the ESYG facebook page, comments, and by joining a discussion – is important! You’ll also find this movement has a footprint in many other cyber-places, including YouTubetumblr, Scoop.It, Pinterest, and Google+.

Finally, if you really want to help in an absolutely awesome way, a donation through Paypal would be the ultimate form of support! Expect an improved experience, with updates on all things concerning stand-your-ground and stand your ground laws. Hang on in here for the ride.