Amid the scrum of personal and political news of this past week or so, I almost missed this one; the apparent self-defense shooting late Saturday night at a northeast Minneapolis bar involving a bouncer with a carry permit:
Tirso Cruz Gomez, 24, of Columbia Heights was found bleeding to death from a gunshot wound when police arrived at Grumpy’s Bar, 2200 NE. 4th St., shortly before 1 a.m.
Police have spoken to the bouncer, who was detained at the scene and later released. The investigation will be passed on to the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, which determines whether charges will be filed.
Minneapolis Police Sgt. William Palmer said, “It does appear from our investigation that the bouncer was attempting to defend himself against an attack with a knife.”
The whole thing smells like booze, as it were – at least, on the part of Mr. Gomez:
It wasn’t clear why they were fighting. Gomez had apparently been at the bar earlier that evening before the confrontation, a witness said.
The bouncer has a legal permit to carry a pistol, police said, though they declined to make his name public.
According to witnesses, Mr. Gomez apparently left, and – against his mother’s wishes – came back to the bar, got into a scrap with the bouncer, and pulled a knife.
[The bouncer] tried to take the knife away from Gomez, and he required stitches for hand wounds, Palmer said.
The police – notwithstanding that the Minneapolis cops will generally “arrest the gun” in any sort of shooting incident where they can find a shooter – did not arrest the bouncer at the scene. However, the Hennepin County Attorney’s office – a famously anti-gun institution – still has the option to try to prosecute. And when anti-gun, DFL-linked organizations want to squash a legitimate shooter, they’ll find a way.
Remember – if the Henco Attorney wants to file charges, self-defense in Minnesota is considered an “affirmative defense”; in effect, the shooter, no matter how justified, admits “Yes, I shot the “victim”, but the shooting was justified” – and then takes on the burden of proving it was justified. And when you see the phrase “takes on the burden” in a legal context, what that means is “get ready to spend months in court and tens of thousands in legal bills”, because you are fighting the County.
As we’ve noted in this space in the past, there are four criteria for this affirmative defense: one must reasonably fear death or great bodily harm, must not be a willing participant in the squabble, must make a reasonable effort to disengage, and the lethal force must be reasonably appropriate. And when you see “Reasonable”, above, that means “would convince a jury”.
So let’s break it down:
Fear of Death or Great Bodily Harm: Dude. Knife. Done deal.
Lethal force is appropriate: Dude. Knife. Done deal.
Must make reasonable effort to avoid use of lethal force and must not be a willing participant: these two scare me – not because I believe the bouncer was wrong (given what I’ve seen – and the story seems to be pretty thoroughly reported), but because I can easily see a Henco Attorney, operating at the direction of a city administration that actively tries to discourage the law-abiding from defending themselves, telling a jury “bouncers get paid to fight with people! He should have run away!”, and “See? He tried to grab the knife! He was a macho guy who mixed it up, and then pulled a gun and shot when he got the worst of it!”. And I can see a jury, sitting in a nice, well-lit jury room with hours to make the decision, being inveighed to decide that the twerp attorney has a point.
This is why Minnesota law needs to be changed to allow the system to decline to charge obvious cases of self defense (if, indeed, that’s what this case is – and I will assume it is until I have reason to believe otherwise) – to remove the prosecutors’ discretion to prosecute the otherwise-impeccably-law-abiding purely to advance an administration’s political policies.