Vigilante Justice, Self-Defense in Pharmacy Robbery Case

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Oklahoma City—Pharmacist Jerome Ersland was at work at the Reliable Discount Pharmacy when two masked teenagers entered, brandished a gun and attempted to rob the store. What happened next has sparked a firestorm of controversy around the nation.

Ersland first shot one of the intruders in the head, chased away the other one, and then retrieved another gun from behind the counter and proceeded to shoot the first, already wounded teen five additional times.

Ersland, 57, who is a disabled veteran of the first Gulf War, has been charged with first-degree murder. He is currently free on $100,000 bail – the money provided by an anonymous donor in what has been an incredible wave of support from strangers who feel that Ersland was justified in the shooting.

Opponents say, however, that Ersland did not need to fire the additional shots, which were described by the medical examiner as the fatal shots, since the teenager, 16-year-old Antwun Parker, was unconscious and unarmed. He lay on his back and was posing no threat to the pharmacist or anyone else in the store at the time of the fatal shooting.

The armed 14-year-old whom Ersland chased from the scene was apprehended and arrested the day after the incident. The pharmacy, which is in a crime-ridden area of Oklahoma City, has been robbed before.

Oklahoma’s “Make My Day” law, which is named after the famous Clint Eastwood line and which dates back to the 1980s, entitles individuals to the use of deadly force when an intruder threatens them inside their homes. That right was extended to workplaces, cars and other locations by 2006’s “Stand Your Ground” law.

At issue in this case is whether Ersland was justified in firing additional shots after immobilizing the intruder with one shot to the head. District Attorney David Prater said that the five additional shots were not justified, although the first one was.

National Rifle Association members, conservative pundits and many individual citizens, however, have applauded Ersland’s actions, saying that the teenager got what was coming to him.

If convicted of first-degree murder, Ersland would be eligible for the death penalty or life in prison.

 

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