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An open letter to a Houston burglar . . .

Editor, Houston Post

Houston, Texas

Dear sir,

I was living near the Galleria in February, 1987 when my home, a rented duplex, was burglarized, and I wrote this open letter to a Houston burglar shortly after that happened. I relocated to another city late in February without having submitted it to you for consideration. However, the message is just as timely now as it was then, and in fact will always be applicable in the Houston metropolitan area.

I believe that I speak for most homeowners when I say that we should be allowed to use deadly force to protect our homes. We need to send a message to the criminal elements that prey on us. The television and VCR, the coins and jewelry and microwave and computer equipment and all the other items that afford the burglar a quick return for his efforts mean nothing. It is the potential for tragedy that exists in any burglary situation that should concern us. If this letter makes just one burglar turn aside or convinces just one homeowner to better protect himself against intrusion, then the effort will have been worthwhile.

An open letter to a Houston burglar

You probably don’t read the daily paper but there should be someone close to you that does, someone that knows about your criminal acts—a brother or a sister, your spouse or your sweetheart, your parents or your children or perhaps your friends. Perhaps one of them will give you this message. If you take heed it may save your life, and it might save me from committing a mortal sin.

I recently joined the legions of Houston residents that have been burglarized by you. The police said that mine was one of fifty or sixty homes in the metropolitan area that were hit on that day. I take no comfort in knowing that I was not alone, nor that I am just one of many that suffer the same indignity on any average day in Houston. I am outraged, and I am deeply concerned, both for your safety and mine.

That outrage and concern prompted this letter. For your sake and mine, you need to know how I feel and what my intentions are. Whether you are the one that committed the act or one that has the potential of committing a similar act, I must give you this message.

Don’t do it.

Don’t do it unless you are ready to suffer the consequences. Don’t do it unless you are prepared to be shot. I own a firearm and I know how to use it. I will shoot you or any other of your kind if you enter my home again.

I know that deadly force cannot be justified to defend property, that it can only be justified in the defense of my life or the life of another person. I am prepared to take my chances with a jury. Unless you are prepared to take your chances with me, don’t come back

You were in my kitchen and living room and bathrooms and bedrooms. You were not invited. My home is a sanctuary, just as yours is. I respect your home and your privacy. You violated the sanctity of mine. When I close my door I shut out the world, not just the noise and pollution but the world and its people. Whether the poorest hovel or the finest mansion, my home is inviolate. I will take any action necessary to protect it.

I was against capital punishment until you entered my home. I was for gun control until you entered my home. I am now for capital punishment and against gun control. Burglary of an occupied home should be punishable by death. Not on the second or third or fourth offense but on the first offense. It should make no difference whether daylight or dark, whether armed or unarmed, whether the occupants are at home or away. It should make no difference, because the potential for tragedy is the same.

The punishment should consider the potential as well as the actual consequences of the crime. Many people have died because they surprised you and others like you in the act of burglarizing their home, and many more will die for the same reason. That reason is simple. You are prepared to take any action necessary to ensure your success and your freedom. You are prepared. We are not.

Many of the items you took cannot be replaced, but enough have been replaced to make it worth your while to return. And the items you failed to take because you ran out of time or did not have room for are still here. But this time will be different.

This time I am prepared. I am ready for your return. This will be the only warning you will get. I consider it a fair warning, and certainly more than you gave before you ransacked my home. Don’t expect a command to halt or freeze or raise your hands. You will not hear it. You’ll hear the first shot, and maybe the second shot, and you may even hear the third. They will continue until the hammer clicks on a spent shell. It’s a heavy weapon, a magnum, so all the shots may not be required, but I must guarantee my own survival, and I assure you that I will be as thorough and certain in my task as you were in yours.

I have asked the editors to not print my name, but not because I fear you or want to set a trap for you. I don’t want you to consider this a challenge to see if you can do it again and get away with it. And I don’t want you to know my race or gender or nationality or ethnicity. I could be any one of the many thousands you have victimized in this city. I could be male or female, anglo or latin or black or oriental. We have all suffered at your hands. This way you won’t know which of us to avoid in order to continue your chosen career—that lack of knowledge could save your life.

The only way you can be sure is to stop burglarizing homes. It may not happen for a long time, and it may happen soon. If your next target is my home, it will happen then. Mine is not the only home in Houston defended by someone determined to protect loved ones and property. Mine is simply the only one that has given you fair warning.

Don’t do it. If you do, I will do my utmost best to make it the last home you will ever hit, the last challenge you will ever pick up, and the last breath you will ever take. You will be dead, and you will stay dead.

Believe it. For your sake and for mine, believe it.

 

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Letter to the editor, Express-News—S. A. cop shoots man with knife . . .

Letter to the editor, Express—News

March 10, 2010

P.O. Box 2171

San Antonio TX 78297

Please accept my compliments for your report on the use of a hitherto unknown weapon available to our police officers, as reported in today’s issue of San Antonio’s only daily newspaper. The development of the new weapon and its procurement were unknown to me until today’s issue arrived and had been read. The prompt for this submission was an incident that was reported  on page 2B in the News Roundup feature of the Metro section. I was pleased to note that our city is well ahead of the curve for innovative additions to the arsenal of weapons available to our uniformed police. The innovation pleased me, but the writing gave me no pleasure. This was the item’s heading:

S. A. cop shoots man with knife

In accordance with current journalism practices, details pertinent to the heading were given in the first paragraph, effectively setting the scene for the reader:

A San Antonio police officer shot a man Tuesday night after he ran at officers wielding a butcher’s knife on the South Side, officials said.

The author—or authors—used an estimated 200 additional words to cover the events that followed the shooting, but no more details on the new weapon were given. I had no interest in subsequent events—my attention was riveted on the heading and on the first paragraph, one that featured a single sentence, pithily constructed. While pleased at the introduction of the new weapon, I was fascinated by the ambiguities contained in the heading and its first paragraph.

The heading—S. A. cop shoots man with knife—was a bit ambiguous, but clear enough for any reader to surmise that—or at least possibly that— a combination of knife and pistol was used. However, the paragraph that followed was even more ambiguous—it is repeated here for emphasis:

A San Antonio police officer shot a man Tuesday night after he ran at officers wielding a butcher’s knife on the South Side, officials said.

Based purely on that paragraph, no reader can be sure whether other officers were present nor whether one officer, the one that fired the shot from the combination knife/firearm, shot one of the other officers as he ran at them. The reader has already surmised that the butcher’s knife doubled as a firearm, so in the face of that ambiguity could also surmise that the shot fired hit one of the other officers.

Oh, and there is yet another ambiguity—we are told that a man ran at officers wielding a butcher’s knife. We don’t know exactly which man, nor do we know who was wielding the knife—one could reasonably surmise that it was wielded by the officers. If wielded by more than one officer, it must have been a really large butcher’s knife.

The reader is told that the butcher’s knife was wielded (carried) on the South Side, perhaps indicating that the carrier (or carriers) had previously wielded the knife/firearm combination in a different part of the city. The author erroneously capitalized both words, either inadvertently or purposely in the belief that locations appearing in the middle of a sentence should always be capitalized.

A reader might also surmise that the butcher’s knife  was carried on the side away from the officers—on the south side—in order to conceal it until the man came within reach of the target. I find that plausible—the wrong doer may have been running toward the other officers at an angle—sideways, so to speak—thus deliberately making an effort to conceal the weapon.

I thirst for more information on the new weapon, and I trust that the additional information will soon be provided. Apparently some highly imaginative weapons manufacturers and cutlery makers have created a dual-purpose weapon by combining a deadly blade with a deadly firearm—a weapon that can be used against a miscreant at close quarters or from a distance, depending on the situation and the discretion of the officer or officers.

The mere thought of police officers armed with such a weapon should strike fear into the hearts of any person contemplating one or more criminal activities. An errant citizen now knows that he (or she) will be sliced, slashed or stabbed as necessary if the officer is close enough, and if the officer is not within knife range, that errant (he or she) will be shot as many times, and in as many body parts, as necessary.

As an aside to this letter, I learned from a radio report this morning that the man was shot in the leg—which leg was not revealed, but it was either the left or the right. I do not recall the radio report shedding any light on that facet of the incident, nor do I recall the report specifying which man was shot and which man did the shooting, so my doubts created by the ambiguities present in the report remain extant.

And now for mandatory disclosures if any exist, and in this case there is one. This posting was not submitted to the Express-News for consideration. I have compiled an impressive collection of submissions to the editor in past years—some were printed and some were rejected. I soon realized that the rejections contained one or more criticisms, all of which were intended to be constructive, but the editor apparently did not consider them constructive, and in fact, in one instance the editor agreed to print a letter but would not include the whining portions of the submission. I refused permission to print it, whether with or without my whinings.

So now you know the rest of that story. I address constructive criticisms to the editor but I do not submit them to the editor. I submit them to Word Press on my blog. That publisher has never rejected a letter and I trust that they never will, assuming of course that my submissions are pertinent and in good taste—just as this letter is.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 

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How I met Henry David Thoreau . . .

At some point during the decade of the 1970s I read an article in the San Antonio Light, one of San Antonio’s daily newspapers, a report of an interview conducted by a Light reporter with a nationally-known San Antonio attorney that specialized in criminal cases. His work took him across the nation and to many foreign destinations, and he talked about the extensive travel his duties required.

He told the reporter and readers of the San Antonio Light that he always carried a copy of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden on his travels. Whether on a plane or train or bus, whether in a hotel amid the hustle and bustle of big cities or in a motel room in a rural area, Thoreau’s journal provided the peace and quiet he needed for rest and relaxation. He said that over the years, his original copy became so worn that it needed to be replaced.

Fascinated by the effect of the writing as voiced by the attorney, I hastened to the library in search of Thoreau—I found him, and in the years since I have held Thoreau and his writings  close at hand—they give me the same peace and quiet enjoyed by the criminal lawyer. The well-thumbed copy I now use, one that I heartily recommend, is entitled Henry David Thoreau—Walden and “Civil Disobedience,” a Signet Classic paperback printed in 1980 by The New American Library, Inc., New York, NY. I treasure the copy for several reasons, not the least of which is the former owner’s signature inside the front cover, that of my youngest daughter, penned while studying Thoreau during her first year of college.

The runner-up to “Why I value my copy of Walden” is the afterword written by Perry Miller (1905—1963), an American intellectual historian and Harvard University professor. Miller’s brilliant analysis of Walden and “Civil Disobedience” should be read before reading the book—such pre-reading will give the reader a head start on understanding Thoreau’s life and his writings.

I believe that many, perhaps most, of those that read this posting will rush out to look for the book. There’s no need to rush, and no need to leave home—at the time of this posting, twenty-three copies of the book may be found online at http://www.abebooks.com/, the same site that the folks at http://www.halfpricebooks.com/ use to determine their selling price for books. At Abebooks, prices for Walden begin at one dollar and top out at twenty dollars. Try the site—you’ll like it! (In the interests of full disclosure, I must say, regretfully, that I have no stock in either company).

If any readers of this posting have not been formally introduced to Henry David Thoreau, I will proudly make the introduction by referring such persons to the following biographical study—plato.stanford.edu/entries/thoreau/. I trust that they will find a new friend in Hank—yep, I take the liberty of calling him Hank based on our long friendship.

Enjoy!

 

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