The following is a response to a visitor to my blog who wants to justify Joe Horn, the white home owner in Houston, Texas, who gained national notoriety when he shot and killed two men burglarizing his neighbor’s house. The bold text are excerpts from Toad’s comment. Click here to read Toad’s comment in its entirety or the rest of the article Getting Away With Murder by Joe Horn...
”First, people take crime into their hands every day. I think our society could use less crime, not more, which is why I consider it tragic, but I still think society is better off with at least one long-time criminal dead, rather than planning his next crime.”
I think you meant that people take the law into their hands everyday. People commit murder everyday that doesn’t mean we have to tolerate it. Everyday somebody somewhere is being raped, that doesn’t mean that we should stop prosecuting people for that particular crime. How does people taking the law into their own hands justify the murder of killing people in the back? How did Mr. Horn know they were long-time criminals? Why are we so focused on stopping the crime of burglary but are ready to excuse the crime of murder?
”Second, defending yourself, your property, or your neighbor’s life or property is not taking “the law into their own hands.” It’s defense. This incident would not have happened if someone hadn’t wanted to commit a crime. The primary cause of this incident were the burglars, not Horn.”
Taking a shotgun outside your house, specifically after the authorities told you not to go, after you admitted to the emergency operator that you are going to kill the people burglarizing your neighbor’s house where you have nothing vested, is not defensive at all. It is an offensive act of force. If I see someone spray painting walls, that particular crime doesn’t justify someone else coming along and killing the impromptu artist. Just because someone is vandalizing property doesn’t give someone else the right to kill them or shoot them in the back when they try to run. Cops aren’t allowed to kill so indiscriminately. A police officer is not allowed to shoot unless they believe their life is in danger. Mr. Horn shooting two men in the back doesn’t sound like they were threatening his life. Because petty crime “A” happened or is happening does not automatically justify a far more serious crime “B” of murder.
”Horn didn’t consider that their might have been a third burglar behind the other two, to shoot Horn in the back. But that’s what heroes are made of – people who risk their lives to stop something bad from happening.”
There is nothing heroic about this man. This man was eager to kill and found the perfect excuse for it. And because we are talking about the murder of a couple of Hispanic men everyone is much more willing to forgive and forget. Compare the acts of white Joe Horn to black John White, who was trying to defend his home and family from a mob of white men who wanted to injure his son, and suddenly there’s a problem here. Why is John White considered a murderer while Joe Horn is considered a hero? Why is Joe Horn considered a hero while John White is a criminal?
”Sure, it was only $2000. Now, tell me how Horn didn’t know they were kidnappers with the neighbor’s 8-month old child in the bag…Maybe they had his chemotherapy medicine and the neighbor would die without it.”
What? You have got to be kidding me! A couple of burglars are going to steal an eight month old child by stuffing it in a bag. Okay, I’ll bite. If the neighbors left their eight month old baby in the house alone for burglars to come and stuff it in a bag then maybe the baby needs to go with them. And if they do have a baby that has been abandoned by its family then maybe they weren’t burglars but rescuers. And if we are going to assume that they could’ve had the baby in the bag then wouldn’t Mr. Horn be jeopardizing that baby’s life when he shoots the burglars point blank with a shot gun? Maybe they had a chemotherapy machine because they are so easy to sell on ebay or hock at a pawn shop. You’re really going to make these suppositions? Do you know how big a chemotherapy machine is? I think it’s an incredible grasp at straws to justify murder. There was no child in a bag. Here in America it is highly unusual for someone to be killed because other people don’t know what they are carrying in their bag. That’s why we call the police and give descriptions and license numbers so they can get to the bottom of the situation instead of taking the law into our own hands.
”THE BURGLARS set the scene for the drama that played out, but you are only blaming Horn for the conclusion.”
You are totally off base and rather clueless about my position. Had the burglars been caught by the police I would have loved to see them rot in prison. I am no harbinger of criminals. In the past year I’ve had my minivan burglarized twice, the plates stolen off of my car, and the storage unit I keep broken into and all my power tools stolen. All in all I have lost about two thousand dollars. I am angry over the lost and the violation. Does that mean I now have the right to go and kill people? No! I hope the burglars rot in hell but I actually believe life is more important than tools and minivans. I can’t see me taking someone’s life because I think they are stealing. I will call the police so that they can get to the bottom of things. All I can do is jump to conclusions about babies in bags and chemotherapy machines.
”I’m not trying to start a fight – I’m asking, ‘What is your solution?’”
Believe it or not Toad, I am not trying to start a fight either. But when someone says no one is worth losing their life over two thousand dollars but then applauds when a man kills burglars over two thousand dollars, that is hypocrisy. It is double speak. I hope people get caught but the average joe does not have the right to kill the suspicious looking people at his neighbor’s house. You asked what if they had a baby in the bag. Let me throw a supposition out, what if they had legitimate business next door and Mr. Horn shot them? Now what? Mr. Horn could have been shooting men who were totally innocent. It might have looked bad, but we need to get all the facts before we start pulling triggers. That’s the job of the police.
”What solution do you propose to reduce crime? What do you offer to the people terrorized by criminals? My cars have been stolen 4 times, my identity once, and my home suffered one attempted burglary which I foiled without shooting anyone. What do you offer to the victims of crime? Because if you want there to be no killings you you can be satisfied/happy/feel right/whatever, but don’t care about how I feel about those issues, then it’s YOU who are the hypocrite.”
I’m sorry that you have suffered with crime. We all suffer with crime. Like you said, ”our society could use less crime.” But unfortunately people killing other people for burglary does not and will not make us any safer. In fact, it will actually make things a lot more dangerous. Declaring open season on burglars means more burglars are more apt to arm themselves the next time they break into someone’s house.
Personally, as a black man here in America, I have more to lose from someone like Joe Horn than I have to fear from a burglar. I’ll take being a victim of the guy who wants to steal from me over being the victim of the guy with the itchy trigger finger who is ready to blow me away because I look suspicious any day, week, month, or year. One will only steal my property. The other won’t hesitate to take my life. Here in America I have more to fear from a man like Mr. Horn than any petty burglar. Yes I think people who are suspected of committing crime, who look suspicious, should be protected from people who feel that they are not entitled to any rights and are not entitled to life.
Here in America we hear so many stories about unarmed black men falling victim to people and authorities with a penchant for killing. There is Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo, Martin Lee Anderson, and etcetera. We justify these cold blooded murders by letting people armed to the teeth who make the choice to put themselves in danger to claim they were in fear of their lives. I’m sorry, but if people were truly afraid for their lives they would have avoided putting themselves in danger. It’s bad enough when police officers in body armor and backup from SWAT and police helicopters and armored police tanks can make the claim against unarmed black men. It gets pretty thick when neighbors come out shooting and claiming they were in fear of their life from inside their home.
”I care about all the rights of all the law-abiding people of our country. And I care about the rights of criminals, illegal aliens, and others like that, but I think that their rights are subordinate to the first set. Peace isn’t going to come from giving precedence to the rights to criminals, or to illegal aliens, or to people of a particular race.”
Everyone needs their rights protected. Simply because you are suspected of committing a crime does not mean you are not entitled to rights. Even after you have been convicted you have rights. No one has the right to take away anybody’s rights without due process of law. There are extenuating circumstances of course. But a man safe inside his own home who picks up his shot gun and goes outside to confront people who don’t have anything to do with him is without a doubt not one of them.
If we are going to be tough on crime we need to be tough on all crime. People who break into homes need to be prosecuted for their burglary. I do not have a problem in the world with that. I hope every burglar on the face of the Earth gets prosecuted to the fullest extent of law. But the burglars aren’t the only criminals here. Mr. Horn is a murderer. He willfully committed a crime that night. And as a murderer he needs to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. It is hypocrisy to say we need to focus only on one type of crime instead of all crime. The people whose house was broken into were victims and they need justice. The burglars who were shot and killed were victims as well and they deserve justice.
”In my opinion, the surest road to peace comes through the rule of law, applied impartially to everyone, and with law-abiding citizens enabled to defend themselves and their neighbors. With the criminals are more afraid that the citizens, there will be more peace than their is today.”
And the law says that murderers need to be prosecuted. I cannot agree with you more, it is very important that the rule of law gets applied to everyone without exception. So why are you making a case for a murderer to avoid prosecution? Your hypocrisy is so deep and factual I do not understand why you continue to deny it so.
”So, before you tell me what a hypocrite I am, tell me what solution you have to offer? Or is complaining about something you don’t like the limit of your compassion?”
The solution is not to selectively enforce law. Part of the solution is to make a just society where law is equally applied to everyone. Throwing our hands up and declaring open season on people carrying bags because they might be holding eight month old children is not the answer. Justifying this type of behavior is just more manifestation of racial disparity that leads some people to believe that they are better off taking a chance of stealing for a living rather than honestly earning a living.
We can’t tolerate petty burglars. We will justify their murder by any yahoo with a shotgun. But if theft was such a crime punishable by death by the average joe, why don’t we let people kill corporate executives that steal? Why aren’t people who run corporations that steal from the public being shot? Would we say it is okay if someone had walked into Enron and shot Kenneth Lay dead after his company stole money from people who were trying to make trades legally? Would we say it’s okay to kill executives of corporations that steal money from the public treasury through loop holes and fascism?
I’m pretty sure that if anyone walked up to a corporate thief and blew him away with a shotgun nobody would say that he deserved it. It’s only people who are poor or people who are a racial minority that we want to throw the book at. The law says that no one is entitled to take the law into their own hands. But people like Joe Horn, whose only crime is the murder of a minority, have absolutely nothing to worry about.