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Corey Stingley was a shoplifter. On December 14th, 2012, the 16 year old entered VJ’s Food Mart in West Allis, WI and tried to steal several bottles of alcohol. Security cameras clearly show the teenager placing the bottles into his backpack.  The teen then tried to cover his tracks by buying an energy drink with his debit card before leaving. But, the clerk was on to him and confronted Corey about the alcohol in his bag. Corey panicked.  He reached over the counter, grabbed his debit card, and tried to run.

But, before he could get away, Jesse Cole, Robert Berringer and Mario Lauman decided to intervene. They grabbed Corey, placed him in a headlock, wrestled him to the ground, and restrained him until the police arrived. When the officers finally showed up, they handcuffed Corey. But the restraint was unnecessary. Corey Stingley was no longer breathing. He was transported to Froedtert Hospital where he was later pronounced dead.

The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the death of Corey Stingley a homicide. And yet, Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm (seen above) announced that no charges would be filed against the men who killed him. The reason? The men didn’t mean to kill him, and they didn’t know they were killing him, so they weren’t liable for their actions. If you think that sounds like a joke, you are correct – Dave Chappelle wrote an eerily similar bit years ago called, “I didn’t know I couldn’t do that.”

Getting Away With Murder

No matter how you slice it, the penalty for shoplifting is not death. For his offense, Corey would likely not even have gone to jail. His punishment probably would have consisted of probation, restitution, and counseling. And yet, a lot of people believe that because he committed a crime, he deserved to die:

[AKA] Kraut! – I cannot believe you people are standing up for this thug. You are disgusting. Fact is, he died during the commission of a crime. Period. He gets no sympathy from me, nor should he from any of you. The good civilians who restrained him cannot be held responsible. The moment this hoodlum escalated the situation from simple shoplifting to robbery, jumping over the counter, every person in that store gained the right to fight and restrain him, to protect themselves and the store’s property. If he hadn’t tried to rob the store, he wouldn’t have ended up dead. It was his own doing.

The fact any of you believe these brave men, trying to do the right thing, should be held responsible is absolutely sickening. You should be ashamed.

jaxorbetter – Just another criminal. Don’t steal sh#t that is not YOURS! He would be alive today if he was not a thief!

Of course, no one is arguing that it is okay to steal. However, the law is the law. If stealing is wrong, so is killing. Good intentions are not a valid excuse (unless your name is DA John Chisholm).

Criminalization as Justification

The Stingley case is part of a disturbing trend in which killings are justified after the fact by criminalizing the victims. For instance, when Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, there was national outrage. The story of an unarmed teen shot down by police resonated with people everywhere. But, when the police released the footage showing Brown robbing the convenience store, attitudes changed. All of a sudden, a lot of people began to think the killing was justified.

And yet, Michael Brown’s robbery should have no bearing on Michael Brown’s death. For one, the cop that stopped him was unaware that he was a robbery suspect. But more importantly, the penalty for stealing cigarellos is not death. It’s usually not even jail. Like Stingley, Brown probably would have done some combination of restitution, probation and counseling, considering that he had no criminal record. And yet, once Brown was portrayed as a criminal, a significant number of people stopped caring that he was killed:

Al Waishard – Turns out that this guy was a violent criminal. Turns out that he just beat up a convenience store clerk prior to his encounter with the police. Kind of changes things, ..right?

No, it doesn’t. The only facts that matter are the ones that relate directly to Brown’s interactions with officer Darren Wilson. Did Brown go for Wilson’s gun? Did Brown pose a threat to Wilson’s life? The answers to questions like this are the only things that can be used to justify Darren killing Brown. Nothing Brown did prior to that warranted a death sentence.

Unfortunately, a lot of people miss that point. Increasingly, if you can be made to look scary and dangerous, people don’t mind if bad things happen to you, even if the things that happen are completely out of proportion to the things you did. As a defender of justice and liberty, this worries me. Because as Martin Luther King once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

 

 

9 Responses

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