In the “play stupid games, win stupid prizes” department, a GGWG is spending 10 to 20 years behind bars for shooting another man at church. The Pennsylvania Superior Court recently affirmed his conviction, rejecting his claim that he was defending himself in Commonwealth v. Storms.
Storms had a valid license to carry firearms and was carrying in church. He also had the terrible sense to purchase a “conceal carry badge.” As if buying a badge isn’t bad enough, he then pulled the badge during an altercation with an unruly parishioner at church. As noted by the Court, “[Appellant] had a permit to carry a concealed weapon. As soon will become relevant, he also obtained a gold concealed weapon permit ‘badge.’ The unofficial badge is not issued in connection with the permit but can be obtained on the Internet.” Storm then inserted himself into a situation he frankly should have stayed out of, and let actual badged law enforcement handle.
An unruly parishioner caused a bit of scene at Storms’ church one Sunday. Ushers tried to calm the man down, and the associate pastor told them to back away and call the police. At this point, Storms should have stayed out of it. The unruly gentleman, soon to be a victim, was calm by all witness testimony, had been given notice to vacate, and police were on the way. This was a simple defiant trespass at this point which police could have handled. Instead, Storms wanted more done, and approached with the intent of removing the victim from church.
The trial court recounts what happened next:
With the two separated by a row of chairs, [Appellant] asked [Decedent] to go outside with him. When [Decedent] refused, [Appellant] flashed his unofficial concealed weapon permit badge. [Decedent] recognized it as a fake, telling [Appellant] as much in colorful language. [Appellant] then revealed his 9-millimeter pistol. The victim reacted by punching [Appellant] in the face and proceeding toward him. [Appellant] absorbed the blow and, rather than retreat down the open aisle behind him or call for help from the hundreds of people in church, squared himself into a ready fire stance and shot the unarmed [Decedent] twice. One of the bullets pierced [Decedent]’s heart and he died soon thereafter despite life-saving efforts by fellow parishioners and emergency medical responders.
There was unquestionably a 20 year age difference between the two, and Storms testified he believed the victim was “younger, bigger, faster, and stronger” than him, could kill him, and would take his gun and use it. While this may all undoubtedly have been true, a disparity of size and strength, as well as a generalized fear of having your gun taken, does not excuse “continuing the difficulty that results in the slaying” nor failing to retreat when it was safe to do so.
Brandishing a fake “badge” unquestionably continued – created, in fact – a difficulty that was not present until Storms intervened. The victim was calm and police were on there way. The badge elicited an unsurprising reaction from the victim and escalated his anger, causing him to focus on Storms. Now, it is absolutely true that a citizen may make an arrest in Pennsylvania. See 18 Pa.C.S. 508(b). However, one cannot create the need to use deadly force by inserting oneself into a situation. You lose the “mantle of innocense.” Juries do not buy that, and neither did the appellate court here.
Ditch the badge. Leave the arresting to the professionals, and you won’t spend 10 to 20 years in jail like Storms is.