Thursday, May 28, 2009

Oklahoma's Assault On The Second Amendment: Jerome Ersland Charged With First-Degree Murder For Defending Himself Against Armed Robbers

Update June 3rd 2011: Jerome Ersland unjustly convicted of first-degree murder, petition campaign launched to free him. Updated post HERE.

Update May 29th: Ersland released on $100,000 bail, Antwun Parker's two playmates arrested. Updated post HERE.

Utah is one of the most Second Amendment-friendly states in the Union. If you use lethal force to defend yourself and your property, you are unlikely to be charged with a crime. Utah even sells concealed weapons permits to out-of-state residents.

Oklahoma also has a record of being friendly to the Second Amendment as well. Or at least that's what a pharmacist, Jerome Ersland, thought, until he used lethal force to defend his shop against armed invasion - and found himself charged with murder on May 27th, 2009.

From two news stories in the Daily Oklahoman, dated May 22nd and May 27th, we can construct a reasonable synopsis of the incident. On May 19th, around 5:50 P.M., Jerome Ersland and two co-workers were preparing to close up shop for the day at the Reliable Discount Pharmacy located near SW 59th and Pennsylvania Avenue in Oklahoma City. Because the neighborhood itself is bad and the shop had been robbed two years prior, Ersland was packing heat - a Kel-Tec .380 and a Taurus "Judge". Suddenly, two black thugs wearing ski masks burst in the door demanding cash and drugs, while a third accomplice functioning as the getaway car driver waited outside (Ersland is white, so this ultimately introduced a racial angle to the story).

Ersland's two female co-workers immediately fled to a secure back room. However, Ersland, a disabled veteran of Desert Storm who had just received back surgery six weeks prior, did not have that option. So he pulled out the Kel-Tec and shot one of the robbers, 16-year-old Antwun Parker, in the head. Ersland then pulled out his bigger gun, the Taurus, to go after the other robber, but Parker tried to get up. Fearing for his safety, and not knowing the Parker was actually unarmed, Ersland then pumped five more shots into Parker's chest, which proved fatal. In the interim, the second robber, who was armed, escaped with the getaway driver. The second robber, an unidentified 14-year-old, was caught late on May 28th. Surveillance video captured and aired by KFOR Channel 4 provides some more insight:



As news of the shooting spread throughout the neighborhood, relatives of Antwun Parker, accompanied by a black mob, assembled at the store and staged a verbal confontation. They accused Ersland of racism, and the relatives insisted that Parker was a good kid who "loved to play basketball and draw pictures". One relative even claimed that she "knew" that Parker was "incapable" of committing such a crime. This is symptomatic of the uncomfortable "stop snitching" mentality prevalent throughout much of the black community nationwide, in which many blacks whitewash the misdeeds of their own, although a growing number of influential black leaders are condemning this mentality.

Nonetheless, despite the fact that it looks like a clear-cut case of self-defense, the public was astonished and outraged when, on May 27th, 2009, prosecutor David Prater announced his intent to pursue first degree murder charges against Jerome Ersland. Prater claims that the surveillance video does not match well with Ersland's statements to police. In his case, Prater makes a clear-cut distinction between the first shot to the head of Antwun Parker fired by Ersland, which he says was legitimate self-defense, vs. the five subsequent shots to Parker's chest, which he claims was illegitimate. Prater said Ersland was justified in shooting Parker the first time, but he crossed the line when he continued shooting at the unconscious teen. He further stated that had Ersland's first shot been fatal, there'd be no case against him.

The affidavit of probable cause can be read HERE (loads slowly).

So, according to David Prater, in the heat of battle, Jerome Ersland was supposed to have automatically assumed that, when Antwun Parker struggled to his feet after being shot to the head, that Parker was unarmed and posed no further threat? This is a high standard difficult for even trained SWAT teams and special ops commandos, who constantly train for these situations, to achieve. They even sometimes fail. And yet Ersland, an untrained civilian who last saw action during Desert Storm, was supposed to make a correct assumption in a split second? Perhaps Prater has never faced hostile fire and doesn't understand the emotions involved. He's playing God - and wants to put someone away for not making the "perfect" decision. Furthermore, why is Prater going for first-degree murder, which implies malice aforethought? Does he really believe Ersland committed first-degree murder, or is he merely attempting to induce Ersland to plea to a lesser offense. Of course, this doesn't matter at the moment, since Ersland has publicly state he will fight the charges to the very end.

Jury nullification, anyone?

District Judge Tammy Bass-Lesure has now released Jerome Ersland on $100,000 bail, on condition he has no access to firearms. Ironically, David Prater contested the restriction, claiming it would be open season on the pharmacy when he was working, but the judge insisted on the restriction. His bond was posted by a supporter who he does not know. But public outrage against Prater's intentions continues to pick up steam. An unscientific Daily Oklahoman poll shows that of 4,218 respondents as of this post, 82 percent support Jerome Ersland and do NOT approve of David Prater filing murder charges against him. More support for Ersland is expressed on two separate Free Republic threads, HERE and HERE, as well as on the Hannity forums. Stormfront and the Vanguard News Network Forum are also weighing in. A lot of sub-constituencies who might otherwise have little to do with each other are coming together on this one issue.

Could such a miscarriage of justice happen in Utah? Sadly, yes, and a similar case is the case of D.J. Bell. While no lethal weapon was involved in this case, it was the victim who got charged with a crime. Five thugs broke into D.J. Bell's home on the mistaken notion that he had kidnapped two children (who hadn't been kidnapped and who had been sent back home), trashed the house, and brutally assaulted both Bell and his domestic partner. But against whom did Salt Lake County District Attorney Lohra Miller prefer charges? Not against the five thugs, but against Bell - for kidnapping. This shows that Second Amendment and Castle Doctrine rights are fragile at best - and remain subject to the capricious whims of opportunistic prosecutors.

40 comments:

Greg, Utah said...

Precisely - jury nullification. I think the District Attorney is perfectly aware of this possibility, and that's why he brought this ridiculously excessive charge of first degree murder. It seems to me that he does not want Mr. Ersland convicted, but also does not want to be accused of "racism" and "doing nothing" by the black activists.

Deseret Dawg said...

That's a good point, Greg. Prater is conscious of so-called black "reaction", although nothing official has come from the NAACP or any of the other usual suspects yet.

Of course, Prater just better hope he's right with such a gambit. If it goes wrong, Ersland goes away for a long time, depending upon Oklahoma's sentencing laws.

Greg said...

Actually, technically this would be not jury nullification - this will be a simple "not guilty" verdict (no law will be nullified with it).

I can't imagine a jury agreeing with the first degree murder charge in this case.

Greg said...

Some update you may find interesting:

http://newsok.com/judge-sets-bail-of-pharmacist-in-fatal-oklahoma-city-shooting-at-100000/article/3373194?custom_click=lead_story_title

The judge, despite the request from the DA, barred Mr. Ersland from having access to a gun at his workplace. "The judge refused to change her decision, saying Ersland can get another job. "If somebody wants to be around him, they are not going to have access to a gun," the judge said."Interested in the judge motives? Here may be the answer:
http://oklahomawomen.blogspot.com/2006/07/judge-tammy-bass-lesure-promotes.html

Deseret Dawg said...

Greg - that Oklahomawomen link was MOST interesting, and I made sure I embedded it in my post.

Anonymous said...

An act of vigilanteism justifies a charge of first degree murder. Given the video, it wouldn't take a great prosecutor to get a guilty verdict. I don't think Jermone deserves that charge, but he did something very stupid, and unfortunately may pay a high price for it. I would use this video footage in a gun safety/ home defense class to show people what not to do.

Andy Dufrane said...

How does that D.A. know if that thug was unconscious or not! how in the hell could he tell by that video in which the suspect was not even shown that he was unconscious! they say the secondary shots are what killed him, so it is logical to think then well he must have been moving around still possibly for a gun. And I will tell you if someone breaks into my house/car i gonna unload on his ass till I know hes dead. Those guys gave up their lives the minute they entered that pharmacy with gun/s demanding money or your life.

Tim said...

It is pretty clear that you did not watch the video, or if you did you skipped the key part. Several things in your article are factually incorrect:

(1) You state that Ersland did not have the option of fleeing due to his injuries. This is demonstrably false by the fact that Ersland chased after one of the robbers.

(2) You state that Ersland pulled out the Taurus to chase the robber. This is false. Ersland chased the robber with the gun he had in his hand. He walked passed the robber he shot to retrieve and load the Taurus before going back to shoot him.

(3) You state that Ersland only had a split second to determine whether the shot robber was incapacitated. This is false. He chased the other robber out of the store, walked passed the shot robber on the way back, and then loaded his weapon. He easily had 30 seconds to determine whether the robber was incapacitated.

(4) Ersland's body language and actions show that he did not consider the fallen robber a threat anymore. When Ersland came back from chasing the other robber he casually walks passed him, switches his gun to his off hand, and then casually walks away to retrieve and load the Taurus.

(5) It is unlikely that the robber made a move that Ersland reacted to. Even beyond the medical evidence, the camera clearly shows Ersland. He doesn't act surprised or react to anything. He strolls up to the fallen robber with the casualness of a farmer putting down a sick animal and shoots him.

Ersland was not defending himself any longer. He shot the robber because he wanted him dead.

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Anonymous said...

I love guns and our 2nd Amendment rights, and this is SUCH an unfortunate case. This could have been such a good showing for gun proponents/carriers. Before I say this, have no doubt on my stance. I carry a Glock 29 (10mm) every day, indoors, outdoors, no matter what. I even have it on me at home. That being said, this man straight killed that little thug.

The little thuggers deserved to be shot, especially the one with the gun, but only shot to stop their attack. It was OBVIOUS that the kid was no longer a threat. The goal should ALWAYS be shoot to stop the attack, not shoot to kill. If it takes killing them to stop them, then so be it, but the attack was over.

The pharmacist walked by the kid, looked at him, went and got his Taurus Judge, and deliberately walked up and EMPTIED FIVE SHELLS into the kid. That's either five .45 Long Colt or five .410 shotgun shells, as that pistol shoots both. If the kid were a threat, one shot would have ended the recurring threat.

The kid was unarmed, and even if he was getting up, the pharmacist's body language showed he was no threat. The first time he shot (when there WAS a threat) where was he? He was shooting from behind cover. If the kid was still a threat, it's reasonable to assume he would again use cover, maybe duck behind the counter. But no, he callously and slowly approached the kid and shot him to death.

This man was mad and wanted to kill the kid. I think first degree murder is a stretch, but second degree is possibly reasonable, and manslaughter sounds right to me. What a shame. It was obvious the kid that died was just a little tag along groupie, he had no gun, he was hiding behind his thugger friend, and kept fidgeting with his mask. He didn't want to be there. The wrong kid was shot to death. Again, what a shame.

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Priligy said...

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