Thursday, September 30, 2010
By Franco Ordoñez
The delivery driver for Pizza Hut started carrying a gun to work, he says, after being robbed twice in two years.
He says the fact that he had his Glock 22 under his shirt on Monday saved his life when two armed would-be robbers attacked him at the restaurant.
The driver, who asked that his name not be used out of fear for his safety, shot and killed the two men. They were identified as Gregory James Hardy and Dauntrae Wallace, both 21 and both convicted felons.
“If the bad guys attack, you know they’ll have guns,” the driver said. “The police can’t protect everyone.”
Police say the shooting remains under investigation. No charges had been filed by Wednesday night. It’s the third Charlotte-area case in two weeks in which an apparent robbery target used deadly force against a would-be assailant.
Experts say the cluster of cases could reflect growing feelings among a better-armed public that it needs to defend itself.
On Tuesday, a man who deputies say broke into a Union County home died after being beaten with a baseball bat by the homeowner.
Last week, Scott Thomas, a drummer for a Greenville, N.C., rock band, traded gunshots in Rock Hill with two men who allegedly tried to rob the band. One of the men, Demarcus Burris, 22, died from gunshot wounds. The other man, Dytavis Hinton, 22, and Thomas were taken to Carolinas Medical Center.
While homicides in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg metro area are up 23 percent from last year, crime overall is down 14 percent, according to Charlotte-Mecklenburg police. The downward trend reflects national statistics.
Even so, the number of concealed weapon permits issued to Mecklenburg residents has risen 142 percent in the past three years.
Tony Scheer, a Charlotte criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor, said the perception of higher crime has skewed reality and led to the purchase of more handguns. That has fueled a debate about vigilante justice.
There is a difference between someone using deadly force in self-defense when his or her life is threatened and someone using deadly force when there is no threat. Sheer said the victim deserves the benefit of the doubt.
A year ago, 76-year-old C.L. McClure drew widespread attention in the shooting death of a 15-year-old who police said was part of a home-invasion robbery at McClure’s northeast Charlotte house. McClure told police and prosecutors that after the midday break-in, he chased the robbers down to a wooded area where he shot and killed one of them.
When a homeowner shoots an intruder, N.C. law allows prosecutors to rule it justified. But McClure drove after the robbers, plunging the case into a gray area, legal experts say. Mecklenburg District Attorney Peter Gilchrist decided not to charge McClure, citing self-defense.
On Monday, inside the Pizza Hut cooler, the driver said the intruders were punching and pistol whipping him. He held his gun under his shirt, saying he didn’t want to use it unless he had to. He had a permit to conceal it.
But he said that as he felt one of the men lifting his shirt, nearly exposing the gun, the driver pulled out the weapon and opened fire. He said he acted to save his life.
N.C. law prohibits concealed weapons at restaurants where alcohol is served.
Pizza Hut policy also forbids workers from carrying firearms. Employees have been fired for using guns in self-defense.
Mike Hinshaw, owner and trainer of Handgunners Inc., a large indoor shooting and training facility in Burlington, said he’s glad the driver is alive.
He said each case is a judgment call but noted that an increasing number of people feel the need to protect themselves. He said his gun-safety classes have increased more than 50 percent in the past two years.
Look at the news, he said, and you’ll see that crimes, even if fewer in number, are getting more severe.
“Law enforcement can’t protect you 24/7 everywhere you are.”
Staff writer Ely Portillo contributed.