On July 25, a car belonging to Mario Dickens, a respected Milwaukee entrepreneur and church pastor, was the target of theft. Dickens fired his apparently legally possessed handgun at the perp. This crime involves some details that are rarely reported, but are common to other intended victims as well. For that reason, it’s an incident worth a deeper look–deeper indeed, as I’ll lend the usual professional instructor advice, followed by not-so-usual personal observation.
Dickens’s 2008 Cadillac was parked outside his office, which also houses a gas station. He was inside when someone alerted him to the theft in progress. Dickens says he grabbed his gun—which apparently wasn’t on his person—and ran outside to confront the thief. According to the news story, the perp drew his own handgun upon seeing Dickens and aimed it at him. Dickens says that’s what prompted him to fire a total of three shots. Two hit his own car and one hit a gas pump. The thief apparently didn’t discharge his gun as he made off with the Caddy.
Included in Dickens’ publicly stated reasons for firing, is a factor we rarely hear about in defensive shooting—past experience as a crime victim. Dickens, who leads a rather public existence, reached out to social media in the aftermath, just after calling 911—it's always best for the gun carrier to call the police first, if it is safe to do so.
Let’s examine some of the action in detail–
- Should you pursue a person stealing property?
Your best bet from a legal standpoint is to be a good witness, recording and reporting to police all available information about the perp—clothing, general appearance, tattoos, gait—plus the presence of other witnesses or bits of evidence. Don’t touch evidence—like weapons or baggies left behind—but also don’t let them disappear before police arrive, if possible.
If you’ve been reading my previous installments on defensive gun use, you know that in order to justify shooting, one of the measures of accountability is whether it was REASONABLE. In the world we live in, a car is a material thing, not a human life and not a matter of life or death—so shooting a thief for stealing property, much as you may love or have invested in that property—is unlikely to be favorably viewed by the law. Consider this a polite way of saying “you’re going to jail.”
Dickens covered himself by describing that the perp drew a gun first, showed intent in the form of direct eye contact, and pointed the gun in Dickens’ direction. Would that have happened if Dickens had simply stood on the sidelines and absorbed details? Probably not.
Think twice about giving in to the temptation to pursue a suspect, especially if you’re visibly armed. While a person invading a home or place of business is one thing, pursuing them into public space is generally not a good idea legally or for your safety. You could be the one not going home that night.
Criminals should not get away with stealing hard-earned goods, and I’m not advocating that you be a theft victim. Understand that your risk of being the one spending your life’s savings on legal fees and being in the news for a trial regarding a shooting is zero if you stand by as a witness. The choice, and the fallout, is yours and yours alone.
As has been stated in previous defensive gun use articles, shooting under the stress of crime and shooting at the range are not entirely the same skill. Missing the target is to be forgiven. Please consider, however, safety rule #4….fortunately, none of those missed shots struck a bystander.
- But social media can be of benefit sometimes!
Dickens posted a description of his vehicle on Facebook, which mobilized his friends to look for it. The car was soon found by a Facebook friend, abandoned and vandalized.
Here is the unedited text of his public Facebook post shortly after the crime:
Alert!!! Armed Man just Stole My car at MD Creations, Pulled Weapon on me. I Let Three rounds off at him. Don't Know if hes hit. if u see car Call police immediately. I am cooperating with district 4 and onstar to recover vehicle convertible top was down. do not approach the car, its not me in it.
And here’s what he had to say upon recovering the car, accompanied by a photo of it and the slashed convertible roof:
I'm by the car now. Thank you Facebook for helping recover the car. The authorities couldn't do it but thanks to friends like you.
Regular readers of Gun Carrier know that public statements to anyone in the hours following a defensive gun use are NOT recommended and often backfire. It’s especially poor form, though the emotion is understandable, to criticize the people whose job it is to solve crimes. This time, it worked in Dickens’ favor—though let’s keep in mind, insurance would probably have replaced the car’s value anyway.
The world we live in has outsourced our involvement with pricey belongings, and criminals too, to insurance providers and police/military personnel, respectively. Go against that flow at your own physical and financial risk.
- Dickens had personal reasons for shooting
As proclaimed on his Twitter profile, Mario Dickens survived a 2002 home invasion in which he was shot 12 times. He has made statements to reporters and on social media that he doesn’t intend on being victimized again.
While this perspective is admirable and understandable, prior experience with unrelated crime and unrelated criminals is NOT a legal justification for action. Period. Did the experience leave literal and figurative scars? Of course. But that’s not allowed as a carry-on baggage in legal defense.
Dickens thanked members of the criminal justice and general community for coming out in support of him. He was apparently cleared by the district attorney’s office, with no charges filed, on July 28.
- Beyond personal
On July 28, Dickens posted the following on Twitter and Facebook:
Along as Me and God Straight.
Your opinion doesn't matter.
“If a thief is caught breaking in at night and is struck a fatal blow, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed.
Dickens’ obvious dedication to community and long-standing history of volunteerism for charitable causes surely contributed to his community rallying behind him. He spent a generous helping of that earned capital that day outside his office.
At least one in-depth analysis of crime comes to the intuitive conclusion that any given race or ethnicity in the US is more likely to experience crime at the hands of someone of their own race. Both Dickens and the thief are black. If our nation’s black communities are to make a substantial reduction in crimes committed against one another, it will be from the inside, driven in large part by people like Dickens, who say “never again,” with willingness to back up that sentiment with action–often risking their own lives in the process.
I’m glad it all worked out for Mario Dickens. What do you think about this story? Let us know in the comments below.