To Go or Not to Go

Here is the scene and it is straight out of a Shakespearian tragedy. It’s probably a Friday evening, maybe Saturday. You’re at the mall, belatedly returning a Christmas or birthday gift. Your family is in tow and planning to head to the food court after the post-holiday shopping. This should be fun, this time together; a memorable evening.

But a crowd of teens and young adults is “hanging out” near the food court. The boys and girls in the crowd are loud, boisterous. Soon, there is shoving…and boisterous becomes obnoxious, which inevitably escalates to screeching insults, a hair pulling wrestling match, and a punch being thrown.

You know what’s coming and attempt to herd your family together, aside, out of the way, to a place of shelter. That’s not easy because your loving, but clueless, spouse is rubber-necking the action and the children balk at moving any faster.

“What’s coming,” of course, is that some knucklehead is going to pull out a gun.

Your job is not to intervene in the coming shooting; that is a professional law enforcement issue. Your job is to find a place of sanctuary and keep your family safe from rampaging youth and stray bullets. If you cannot get away fast enough or far enough, your job may require that you draw your gun in self-defense, which is, of course, the very reason you carry.

Unfortunately, this scene is enacted practically every week. It can happen to you.

Last month, just before Christmas, a group of young people caused a deadly incident at the Northlake Mall in Charlotte, North Carolina. According to Chief Kerr Putney of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, the 2:10 pm incident was sparked by a long-running feud—probably some boyfriend-girlfriend thing or a “your momma” comment, although one witness said it was “in retaliation to (sic) a shooting that happened last week involving the deceased suspect’s brother”—between people who had been involved in past altercations. It was not gang-related, not an act of terrorism, and not some random act of violence.

“Five guys started fighting,” a different witness reported, when “two of them ran out of the [shoe] store when the third guy came out of the store he pulled out a gun. Officer stepped up, said ‘put your gun down’ [but] he turned around and [the officer] opened fire.”

Apparently, when the screaming and shoving began, one of the young men, one Daquan Antonio Westbrook, an 18-year-old “father to be,” an amateur rapper who went by the name “Donkey Cartel,” drew a pistol and began firing. The crowd of young people fled in all directions. Unfortunately for Daquan, when he swung the pistol in the direction of Thomas Ferguson, an off-duty police officer working as mall security, the officer shot him dead with his service weapon. Thanks to the decisive action of the law enforcement officer, no one other than the dead punk with the gun was injured because investigators reported that multiple weapons were found at the scene.

According to news reports, as journalists and law enforcement flocked to the mall, witnesses described a “chaotic scene.” On a mall video, one hears shouting and alarms ringing “along with screaming families frantically searching for loved ones.”

Shopper Natalia Marcano was inside the mall Christmas shopping. When shots rang out she “went to grab for” her kids only they weren’t there. A “huge crowd of people just ran right through them and before I knew it the kids were gone.” Officers eventually reunited Ms. Marcano with her children.