Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Are We a Nation of Laws or a Nation of Vigilantes?

According to a press release titled “Vigilante Assaults on the Rise – A Return to a Lawless America?” and posted on the RSOL website, “In a span of only a few months' time, local and national media, fueled by the fires of social media, have documented an alarming rise in open, public vigilante attacks against citizens of this country.”

New Mexico is contributing to that trend. In Albuquerque on Thursday, the 5th, in the early morning hours, a man was assaulted by three others and beaten so severely he was not expected to survive.

The man who was beaten was engaged in an illegal and disturbing act, and he will be charged. He was peering in the bedroom window of two young sisters, ages 13 and 15. He was nude. According to the 911 dispatcher, “Three men from within the residence chased the alleged prowler away from the property and a physical fight ensued.”

The three men were the father, the brother, and a neighbor of the girls. What ensued was not so much a fight as it was a brutal attack that left the victim of the attack barely clinging to life. He was taken to the hospital in critical condition. His condition has since been upgraded to stable.

Comment boards on online articles covering this story praise the trio of men for “protecting family” and “doing what any man would do.”

Running the man off of their property would have been protecting family.

Holding him, forcefully if needed, until law enforcement could arrive would have been protecting family.

Chasing him from the property, assaulting him on the street, and beating him almost to death is not protecting family. It is committing a criminal act. It is a violent assault. It is vigilantism.

New Mexico has its own history of vigilantism going back to 2008. A man named Elton John Richard had been sentenced to two years after pleading to voluntary homicide. He had caught a man breaking into his car, chased him almost half a mile from his property, and shot him in the back and killed him while he was climbing over a fence.

After being in prison for four months, he was freed by a state district judge who reduced his sentence to time served. He gave as his reason that Richard was no threat to the community. That may quite possibly have been true so long as no one else in the community tried to break into his car.

The pattern was set with this case that those who commit acts of vigilante violence in New Mexico will not be held accountable.

And now, five years later, the trend continues. The Albuquerque Journal reports that the father in the assault trio is facing charges of aggravated battery. We shall see. And what of the other two assailants? Will they be charged? We shall see. RSOL has issued a press release calling on the county district attorney to do the right thing and charge those involved appropriately.

There is not a one of us that at some point in life has not suffered an injustice, a harm, an assault, or an act of violence. If we each sought our own revenge, took the law into our own hands, and wreaked vigilante revenge upon out wrongdoers, the streets would run with blood from coast to coast.

We are a nation with a system of rules and laws; injustices, harms, assault, and acts of violence must be dealt with through our established justice system, which includes law enforcement, the legal and court system, and the prison system.

To not deal appropriately with vigilantes is to encourage them and to say that their illegal acts are somehow acceptable.

When crime is committed, it must be addressed by law enforcement.

And this includes crime that is committed by vigilantes under the guise of street justice.

1 comment:

  1. I just quoted you on Ethics alarms, Shelly. Great post--beat me to it!


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