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Frustrated Laquey crowd asks when they can attack thieves in their homes
LAQUEY, Mo. (May 11, 2010) — Guns, marksmanship, and rural Missouri typically go together, and numerous people in Thursday night’s frustrated crowd at Laquey said they’re prepared to act if deputies from the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department can’t or won’t help.

Event organizer Steve Cox said something must be done.

“What are we going to have to do? Do we have to arm ourselves with TASERS and guns and mace and every time you turn around have to give a little spray or a little shot or something like that?” Cox asked.

“When people start losing faith in the system, that’s when things like that happen,” shouted one woman in the audience.

While many of the frustrated residents said they’re prepared to chase criminals down themselves and use guns when needed, one woman, Shannon Franks, asked Capt. Bill Anderson from the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department for practical advice.

“We can’t count on the sheriff’s department to do anything to help us out,” Franks said. “I happen to have a gun in the car… what am I allowed to do without myself being prosecuted?”

One person in the audience said to call 911, a suggestion met with shouts of “They won’t come!”

Anderson tried to calm the crowd and answer Franks’ question.

“Understand this: Every one of us has the right to defend ourselves. What we have to do is we have to understand the ramifications of the actions that we take. I always hear these folks want to talk about, ‘I got a gun, I got a gun.’ Understand something: once you pull that trigger, that bullet doesn’t come back, and you don’t get to say, ‘Damn I’m sorry, I hope that didn’t hurt,’” Anderson said. “You don’t get to do that, so you’d better be right and you’d better be able to live with the consequences of your actions.”

Cox pressed Anderson for more details.

“I think what she was trying to get to was that if the cop’s not there and there’s a guy out in the yard, can she shoot him or does she have to wait?” Cox asked.

Franks clarified her question.

“I’m wondering what point in time is it considered a threat to me, a threat to my property, a threat to my animals, a threat whatever, where I can take action in my own hands without having ramifications brought back on me?” Franks asked.

That’s the wrong question, Anderson said.

“There is no point in time that you will not have ramifications; the question is how severe or significant the ramifications might be,” Anderson said — a response that met with loud disapproval and shouted suggestions that it would be better to put “buckshot in the butt” than a bullet in the heart.

“No! No!” Anderson shouted, trying to regain a hearing from an increasingly hostile audience.

Anderson finally asked Jeff Thomas, one of two Republican candidates trying to unseat incumbent Prosecuting Attorney Deborah Hooper, to give a legal answer.

Thomas was able to partially quiet the crowd.

“I’ll tell you, the legal jargon now we use is … the force you’re going to use has to be reasonably proportionate to the force you’re facing,” Thomas said. “For example, if the guy is punching you, it’s not reasonably proportionate to pull a gun, typically.”

“It’s awful, it’s the state of the law,” Thomas said as the crowd volume rose louder with shouted protests.

Franks didn’t like that answer.

“I’m supposed to stand back and watch them, stay out of danger so that I have no threat against me and watch them drive off with my stuff?” Franks asked. “But then I’ll never get back my money?”

Some shouted out that it would be better to let a thief escape than to get into a gun battle, but Cox quieted the crowd with his own question.

“That’s a legitimate question and it’s a legitimate concern,” Cox said.

Anderson said he couldn’t answer multiple shouted questions and asked the crowd to let him answer Franks’ question.

“I haven’t finished talking to this young lady over here because she’s got a valid question. Your question is, ‘At what point or at what time can I protect myself?’ You have to understand that property will never be more valuable than a human life. Never. I don’t care if it’s the worst dope dealer you know or the most significant person you know. Property is never more important that human life,” Anderson said. “The best thing you can do is dial 911, be the best witness you can be and let us get out there to help you resolve your problem.”

The root of the problem, Anderson said, is that many longtime residents don’t realize how much Pulaski County has changed and it’s no longer possible to quickly respond to all calls for service.

“Let me just tell you this right straight up off the bat, this is not the county that I grew up in,” Anderson said. “We’ve got 550 square miles of county here and a population that moves from 44,000 bedtime to somewhere around 80,000 during the day … I’m just telling you some straight facts. There’s only 12 of us road officers out there to support this community 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That’s just the way it is, and we have to prioritize calls. That’s just the way it is, and that’s the way you want it. You want me going to the lady who’s screaming rape before I go to the guy that says, ‘My tool was stolen.’”

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