Don't bring a hammer to a gun fight
A South Carolina woman and mother of four, Wanda Badger, is alive today thanks to her mother-in-law’s preparedness to defend her with deadly force. Betty Ann Newton saved Badger’s life when she distracted, and then fired on, her own son.
Gun carriers typically arm themselves to be prepared for criminal activity committed by strangers. Sadly though, most people who are targets of assault and homicide are victimized by people they know. Badger’s assailant and Newton’s son, Venson Jones, is the father of the couple’s children. During a discussion the day before, Jones told Newton he would use a hammer to crush Badger’s skull, and then assault Newton before he burned her house down. The next day, he would get part way through step one of his three-phase plan.
Between that verbal threat and the attack, Jones asked Newton for a hammer, which she refused to give. He then approached his father-in-law who, not knowing the backstory, loaned Jones a hammer.
It’s not clear whether mother and daughter share a residence, but Jones has his own place. He showed up at the residence where both women were located the day after making the threat, ostensibly to pick up a case of water.
When Badger told him to fetch it from the back seat of her car, he began swinging a hammer, cutting her several times before his mother inserted herself into the scene. Momma Newton told her son to go home. Jones then charged his mother, who was armed. She shot him, stopping the attacks. He will reportedly make a full recovery from a shot in the leg, and face charges for the attempted murder of Wanda Badger.
Newton’s use of deadly force is justified. Jones had the means–a hammer, the intent–a specifically stated threat, and the opportunity–he used the water-fetching chore to close distance on his first victim, and then repeated the charge on the woman who ended the fight.
Betty Ann Newton has been quoted as saying she’s not afraid of her son. Obviously, she’s also aware that her bravery requires immediate backup.
In domestic disputes, verbalized or written threats, especially those with specific details like the one Jones issued, are to be taken seriously. Putting the act in words means the offender has already envisioned carrying out the act. Any good psychologist teaching “success” emphasizes the importance of envisioning oneself in the achievement of goals. It’s a powerful technique, regardless of whether the plans are noble or depraved.
If you or a loved one is in any relationship in which threats or acted-out violence is occurring, make an escape plan before it’s too late. Most towns have safe houses for people fleeing abuse or threats thereof. Keeping an extra car key, cash, and a change of clothes secreted away may be advisable for those whose freedom is threatened by limited access to basic assets. It’s common to believe you can’t make it outside of the bad relationship, but there are throngs of people who made the scary leap to safety and are okay now. It’s up to you while you still have the choice.
Reading this story I reminisced about my friend Barbara, who was afraid to leave the man who insulted, shoved, and hit her. Days after our last phone conversation, she was found in her front yard, dead from a single, small stab wound to the heart. Her husband was convicted of second degree murder, but paroled after four short years. Today, her daughter and grandchildren are without the one who adored them most.
Another takeaway is an observation based on news coverage of this incident and its strange focus on the shooter. Most of it has been devoted to the fact that Momma isn’t being charged for shooting Jones.
Never mind that Jones came close to taking two lives and orphaning four kids. Should you ever have to use a firearm in defense of your life or that of another, be aware that negative press may follow, even if justification is crystal clear. Although there’s no evidence that anyone involved talked to reporters, it’s never a good idea to do so in the hours or days following a self-defense incident.
This article is dedicated to my friend Barbara.