Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Man Shot Dead in A.A. Meeting, reporting the news from South Carolina has the story about the would-be stick up artist who lost his life when he tried to rob an A.A. meeting in Columbia. Weer'd tipped us off to this fascinating story in his comment about Phil Spector.

A New Jersey man has been shot and killed at an Alcoholics Anonymous center in South Carolina in what police say was a thwarted robbery.

The State newspaper reported that Columbia police said Sunday that a visitor to the AA center shot and killed the 18-year-old man who was trying to rob members there.

Richland County Coroner Gary Watts said Kayson Helms of Edison, N.J., was shot in the neck, abdomen and chest.

Columbia Police say Helms walked into the meeting at 2015 College Street, the Acoa Club, at 11 p.m. Saturday night with a gun and demanded whatever those at the center had and was shot.

It's fascinating for several reasons. As Weer'd pointed out, New Jersey is a state with very strict gun laws, while South Carolina is very lax. The fact that the shooter came from Edison, New Jersey and was only 18 years old means he could not have had the gun legally, at least that's Weer'd's take on it. Off the top of my head, I wonder if he could have been a resident of South Carolina, maybe his grandma lives there. As such, would he not be able to own a gun legally? Isn't that a person's "right" in states like SC?

Another fascinating aspect of this incident is the end result, which even I cannot dispute meets the criteria for a righteous shooting. But it casts a big light on all the so-called defensive uses of firearms the pro-gun crowd are always touting. I'm not completely unaware of the dilemma which these urban warriors, the ones with Concealed Carry Permits face in situations like this. To determine what constitutes lethal threat and therefore merits the kind of response young Kayson Helms received must be very difficult. Assuming the armed citizen is not just looking for a chance to do some "live target shooting," which I believe is a big assumption because many of them are doing just that, how can he tell if a criminal deserves the ultimate response? Well, I suppose, and correct me if I'm wrong, you experts, if a criminal displays a gun he's fair game.

And there's the rub, as Shakespeare said. Obviously not all criminals who brandish a weapon intend to use it. Since it's usually not possible to distinguish the ones who are from the ones who aren't, armed citizens are allowed, nay, encouraged to blow them all away. They do that to make the rest of us safer.

Well, I have a problem with that. The unidentified killer of Kayson Helms, although perfectly within his "rights," is no less a killer. Had he not been there for his A.A. meeting, in which they pray together to the Higher Power and share with each other about surrender to God's will; had he not been there armed with a concealed gun at an A.A. meeting, young Kayson would have done a penny-ante stick up and been on his way, probably to shoot dope in some Columbia alleyway later that night, and no one would have died. The overwhelming majority of stickups result in no loss of life. The tiny percentage that do, are sometimes the result of a so-called defensive shootings like this or some other form of resistance.

How many pro-gun guys revel in this kind of story? How many of you refer to people like Kayson Helms with pejorative names, de-humanizing him in order to more easily legitimize your actions. It's all over the internet and it's not pretty.

What's your opinion? Do you agree that it's a tough judgment call at times to determine if the criminal has lethal intent? Do you feel it's too dangerous to take chances and guys like this should be shot dead?

Do you think there's a conflict in bringing a weapon to an A.A. meeting? It's similar to bringing one to church, isn't it? Do you think that's OK?

Please leave a comment.


  1. "Do you agree that it's a tough judgment call at times to determine if the criminal has lethal intent?"

    Yep, but you appear to have made it easily without ever seeing the scene!


    "Do you feel it's too dangerous to take chances and guys like this should be shot dead?"

    No I think good people should wait for at LEAST one person to be seriously injured or killed before returning fire...preferably TWO people, as the first victim COULD have been a simple accident, or the shooter just trying to make a point.

    And of course you don't shoot to kill, you shoot to stop, and if the mere presentation of a firearm is enough to dissuade the attacker, there should be no shots at all.

    "Do you think there's a conflict in bringing a weapon to an A.A. meeting? It's similar to bringing one to church, isn't it? Do you think that's OK?"

    Of course it's OK. People who attend AA or Church likely believe life is sacred. Those who brandish weapons and threats for petty baubles believe life is forfeit to their whims.

    The firearm protects that life:
    "through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me."

    BTW I loved the deep speculation about his gran'ma living in town. It added a LOT of credibility to your argument.

    I told you I'd be here to shred your argument, and here I am, and look, she be shredded, cross-cut style!

    I'm done with this one, give me another, Mike!

  2. under no circumstances justification for this child's murder.not only is it sickening that he was shot multiple times it only took one bullet to stop him that individual that shot that kid is a murderer.even though kayson was wrong for what he was doing he did not deserve to be murdered.none of the articles i read said that a weapon was recovered!!!!!!

  3. MikeB,

    I'll try to address a few points that Weer'd didn't (there aren't many- he did a great job).

    A New Jersey man has been shot and killed at an Alcoholics Anonymous center in South Carolina in what police say was a thwarted robbery.I think this highlights the need to carry a firearm. I wonder (note, this is my conjecture) how many attempted robberies would never get off the ground if more people were openly carrying firearms?

    Think about it, the criminal apparently assumed that it was safe to rob this group. How much of that was due to the absence of visible weapons?

    Could have Open Carry have saved the criminal's life?

    I also think this highlights the need to carry everywhere. It isn't paranoia, it isn't fear; just simple and sensible precautions.

    I don't drop my life insurance or car insurance if I'm just going to the mall. This guy wasn't paranoid for carrying to an AA meeting, he was prepared.

    Assuming the armed citizen is not just looking for a chance to do some "live target shooting," which I believe is a big assumption because many of them are doing just that, how can he tell if a criminal deserves the ultimate response?MikeB, it is called knowing the law. As a licensed concealed carry holder, I have to know the law concerning deadly force. I've even had to PASS a test on the subject. I'm subjected to additional penalties for NOT following the law.

    The legal system over the years has clearly defined when lethal force can and can not be used. Study the law and you'll be able to know when.
    This isn't a case of vigilantism, this is a case of a armed citizen acting entirely within the law, according to the legal precedents and COMMON SENSE.

    Well, I suppose, and correct me if I'm wrong, you experts, if a criminal displays a gun he's fair game.If a criminal says that (s)he is there to rob me, should I ask them if they are serious? Do they really mean to rob me or are they just joking?

    Sorry, but I'm going to take a criminal at their word. I think it would be discourteous or disrespectful to assume they don't know what they are saying.

    Accordingly, if a criminal displays a firearm; I'm going to assume that (s)he has no compunction against using it. They are already committing one crime, shouldn't I assume they are willing to use deadly force to get their way?

    Hmm, I could also look in the newspaper, on the TV, on the internet and find cases where criminals have shoot their victims.

    Three men were being held on capital murder charges Friday in the shooting deaths of two Garland men whose bodies were found outside a Christian recording studio.

    James Gerdield Broadnax, 19; Demarius Dwight Cummings, 19; and Lonnie Montreal Harris, 18, were arrested in Texarkana after police found them inside a Ford Crown Victoria belonging to one of the victims. Bail is set at $1 million each.

    Detectives said the men shot Matthew Butler and Stephen Swann early Thursday as they left Zion Gate recording studio, 810 State St. in Garland.

    Police said they believe that robbery was the motive.
    Do you agree that it's a tough judgment call at times to determine if the criminal has lethal intent?No, I don't think it is a tough judgment call. I think as Becky at OneUtah said that people can read others fairly well.

    Also, if the criminal doesn't want to risk his/her life there is a simple way to do that....don't do the crime.

    1. I think they should have sucurity at AA meetings they should not allow weapons i go to AA meetings It suppost to be a place to talke and share your problems or just listen thats what i do and i find it helpful

  4. So Mike are you either going to respond with a rebuttle or a retraction after that point-by-point shredding?

  5. Hmm, MikeB

    TWO comments approved after I've submitted a comment and NOTHING.

    I made sure to comply with your requirements.

    I'm seriously asking what was wrong with that comment so that I can avoid your censoring. I don't know what didn't meet your requirements.

    Please email me if you don't want to post your in the comments.

  6. Weer'd, Your "shredding" is a bit hard to follow. Part of it seems to be sarcastic exaggerating, like this: "No I think good people should wait for at LEAST one person to be seriously injured or killed before returning fire"By that I suppose you mean it was a righteous shooting. I say it was excessive force bordering on murder. Forget about what Anonymous said, that no weapon was recovered, I'm basing my comments on the report I read that the robber had a gun and was shot dead by an AA member.

    I know you approve of the death penalty, but even you must consider that for armed robbery, immediate death is a bit severe. Even you, tough law and order guy that you are, must consider that the death penalty, if we use it at all, should be reserved for serious pre-meditated crimes.

    To me, a real tough guy who carries a gun would not be so shaken up by a teenage stick-up artist that he has to shoot him dead. A real tough guy would have the nerve to leave his gun holstered, stand tall and let the kid take a few bucks and leave with the money and his life.

    The only types I can see shooting the kid down are two. First is the fearful nervous insecure guy who carries a gun to make up for his inadequacies. At the sight of a criminal he responds in a panic, killing before thinking, then breaking down like on the video you posted a few months ago, "Oh my god, oh my god, I shot him, I shot him."

    The second type is the guy who trains and can't wait to kill some scumbag who deserves it. He doesn't get scared at all. He's cool and calm and in his superior authority, more of a killer than this 18 year old kid from Jersey.

    Which type are you Weer'd? Is there a third type or did I cover it pretty well?

  7. How do you know that the criminal was not going to start a mass shooting like the media has been promoting on TV so much? We don't.

    We weren't there. There has been very little information describing exactly what took place. Was the criminal under the influence of drugs? Did he threaten to kill everyone in the room? We simply don't know any of the facts. We were not there.

    Interesting how the anonymous commenter makes the criminal the victim and the bystander the criminal. He would paint this to be an innocent child picking up a toy gun and the evil ccw holder walking up and executing him for it.

    Though we don't know much, we do know that the criminal was no child--he was 18 years old. He was old enough to serve in the military, go to college, get a job or engage in any number of other worthwhile pursuits rather than robbing a bunch of recovering alcoholics.

    Kayson was an adult. He made a bad decision and he paid the price. As to the number of shots fired, again we were not there. Maybe the criminal was drugged up and one shot failed to stop him. Maybe the ccw holder was carrying a very small, ineffective handgun and one bullet from it was not enough. Again, we don't know the facts. One thing for certain though, if the shooting were justifiable, then one bullet, two bullets, 15 bullets does not really matter at that point. If you are justified in using lethal force, there is nothing that determines how much is too lethal.

  8. There is a third type. Someone who would prefer to be left alone but was not presented with that option. Someone who just wants to keep his family safe from the goblins.

  9. Or somebody smart enugh to know that if somebody points a gun at you, you don't have time to second guess a scenario, because if you're wrong, or slow, you could be dead.

    I also like how you equate lawful personal defense with the death penalty.

    I can understand why my comments were hard for you to follow. You must be having a bad day, today.

    Hope you can take a nap or something so things will be a bit better!

  10. I knew this kid and have hung out at his house a few times. He use to go to my high school before an incident here and was kicked out. He was at times a rude kid and had little regard for others. Im a junior at that high school still when he was attending this school he was a junior and I was a sophmore. He would lie about the most childish things. "I got with 5 girls last night!" I wont forget that good laugh. It is sad to hear a former student has passed and I cant believe the people around here how they are reacting. People are saying things like "HE WAS AN ASSHOLE." By the way Kayson never did dope and he was never a hard drug user. I feel sorry for his family. He wanted to become a rapper (he wasn't that good) and he always talked about wanting to be famous. Well I guess he got what he wanted but its more IMfamous then famous. Also it was widely known around here that Kayson had a gun so that weapon mite have been the one he had when he was in NJ. Also usually when a student/recent alummni pass they announce it on the loud speaker but I assume because of the graphic nature of this they didn't.

  11. Oh come on Mike.

    The "kid" committed ARMED ROBBERY.

    You threaten someones life like that there's a chance you'll choose the wrong guy to rob and end up dead.

    He threatened deadly force against others in order to steal their property. Getting shot by an intended victim is merely an occupational hazard of such criminal action.

    I have NO respect for this kid. Good riddance.

    BTW Mike, if he'd tried to rob a cop at gunpoint and the cop shot him dead would you be singing the same BS tune about how the robber is the poor victim?

  12. Very interesting information, Anon.

    I can't varify anything, but it does sound like my theory that the gun came from Jersey is supported by your statments.

    As for the number of shots fired, the saying goes "What's worth shooting once, is worth shooting twice."

    Handguns, even the largest self-defense chamberings like .357 Magnum, .41 Magnum, .45 ACP, 10mm Automatic, are not sure-thing one-shot-stoppers. Generally the end result of a shot landed is all about where the bullet hit, and where it went after it made contact.

    Bullets can do funky things, I read in the paper about a man who was shot while robbing a car dealership. Not only did the crook survive, but he didn't even go to the hospital. The bullet (a 9x19mm IIRC) hit him just above one eye, and had mushroomed against his skull. He essentially was given a VERY big black eye.

    Most handgun training courses will teach to fire in strings, not in single shots. There are a number of schools for this, be it double-taps, continuious fire until the target is observed to stop the fight, the Mozambique drill, ect.

    If the defender fires a shot the confrontation has already escalated to deadly force, likely (as in this case) through justification, in which case it is VERY wise to land as many shots as possible, as a wounded attacker can still fight back and cause great harm.

  13. btw if you want heres Kayson's myspace

  14. No man should ever have to surrender to the whims of a tyrant, be that tyrant King George or a wanna-be gangbanger with a gun, that is why we have the second amendment.

    If someone pulls a gun on you, they may choose to shoot you regardless of whether or not you cooperate, and saying "statistically they won't shoot..." is a way of gambling with your life (pretty unethical theologically, to all of you preachers on the subject).

    I went to school with this kid. He was asking for it, going to rob a bunch of people trying to put their broken lives back together. Drug dealer to robber to dead... connect the dots.

  15. To another anonymous, they recovered a pistol where the guy died, and there were witnesses. Also, he was 18, a man, not a child as most overbearing parents would believe.

  16. "To determine what constitutes lethal threat and therefore merits the kind of response young Kayson Helms received must be very difficult."

    I'm sorry, but first off, anyone who approaches me with a weapon, gun or otherwise, is not a live target to shoot at, but a legitimate threat to my safety and well being. If I am in a secluded area, and a person is acting as if they are under the influence and in a violent nature, I think that is cut and dry, weapon or not.

    I do not know if this guy had a weapon on him, nor do I care. It is apparent to me, that something directed the shooter to draw his firearm, and pull the trigger. It is easy to second guess no that it is over. Frankly, this could have been much worse than it was, and as for the three shots when one would have done, unless the man was already down, and not trying to get up, I might say the neck shot was the final nail in the coffin.

  17. Kayson Helms put a gun to my daughter's face as he attempted to rob her at the AA meeting.
    He got exactly what he deserved. The man who shot and killed him saved her life and he is a hero to me.

  18. Thanks for the comments you guys who knew Kayson. I appreciate hearing from you guys what we might not get from the newspapers.

    Do any of you know why he went bad? I've watched The Wire, and loved every minute of it, but I never wanted to act any of it out. Probably millions of black kids can say the same thing. Why did Kayson do what he did?

  19. Mike - Does it really matter WHY?

    unprovoked violence is outside the norms of what is acceptable in our society. This "kid" damn well understood that and made the conscious decision to commit armed robbery anyway.

    If you merely give up your wallet to such folks you're literally legitimizing their actions. you're telling society's most violent thugs that they can take what they want from you, by force, without fear of resistance. That's EXACTLY what they want, and it'll only perpetuate the problem.

  20. MikeB,

    Why did Kayson do what he did?Think if you address the WHY more then the HOW you might actually affect the crime rate.

    Think of it this way, we have always had barbarians among that didn't follow society rules.

    I think you will find the reasons for criminals fall into 2 basic groups: cultural and psychopathic.

    The excellent book "The Sociopath Next Door" documents that 4% of the people in the world have nothing that functions as a conscience. 4%!. Most are able to channel that lack of conscience and become ruthless within the law, the rest show up on T.V, in our newspapers as the thugs who commit horrendous crimes.

    The other group is the cultural reasons; how the economic, educational, societal, familial structures -- or more importantly the lack creates people who have no regard for obeying the rules by which most society functions.

    Either way, the issue isn't firearms, it is the CRIMINAL.

  21. Mike W., Your ideas make sense but I'm afraid they don't hold up to the percentages of what actually happens in the real world. Like Sevesteen said, given the chance of handing over your wallet and shooting the guy dead, losing the wallet is preferable. I realize you might face a terrible dilemma trying to decide if the armed robber truly has lethal intent, but if you want to be responsible, that's exactly what you must do. The fact is, contrary to what you said, you have no idea what's in his mind. The fact that he aims a gun at you does not necessarily mean that he "damn well understood" anything.

    Your way is too simple, blow them away. Is that the only way you can think of to not "legitimize their actions?"

  22. "Your way is too simple, blow them away. Is that the only way you can think of to not "legitimize their actions?"

    Nope, I'll just show examples where a person threatening with a weapon who WASN'T interested in taking money.

    Note the URL for all links.

    Wouldn't it be safe to assume if somebody threatens you with a weapon that they just might mean it?

    That's the assertion of the blogger linked.

  23. My ideas "don't hold up to the percentages of what happens in the real world"

    Please, enlighten me o omnipotent one! Prove I'm wromg. Since you're saying the percentages prove me wrong I'm guessing that means you actually have EVIDENCE?

    Sadly, I'll bet money you don't have anything to back up your inane statement.

    And Mike, do you realize what you're saying? You're saying if someone points a gun (or other weapon) at me and says "give me all your money" I'm supposed to assume he DOESNT want to hurt me?

    You have got to be fucking kidding me? He just initiated deadly force against me and you think I should just assume he doesn't mean to actually harm me.

    Sorry mike, but that's batshit crazy.

    As Heinlein said,

    Never appeal to a man's 'better nature.' He may not have one.Appealing to the "better nature" of who's just threatened you with deadly force so he can STEAL from you is nuts. You're gambling with your life, and the depraved thug is holding all the chips.

    As for me, I'd prefer to have a set of pocket aces up my sleeve just in case.

  24. Like Sevesteen said, given the chance of handing over your wallet and shooting the guy dead, losing the wallet is preferable.Giving in to criminals is generally expedient, rather than moral. The world overall would be a better place if robbery generally met with effective armed resistance. I'm only slightly altruistic, and I'm pretty sure that shooting someone would bother me more than losing my wallet, even if I were legally justified, and even if the world would be better off if that person were shot.

  25. I agree with you Seve. Certainly handing over your wallet and watch is the most expedient, and physically and morally easy thing to do, compared to using lethal force on an attacker.

    I mean nothing in my wallet is irreplaceable, and I might loose a few days getting a new driver's license, new carry permits, as well as getting all my credit and debit cars canceled, but that pales in comparison to the legal debacles and the strong possibility of Post-Traumatic Stress.

    Of course the comparison is far from that simple. Getting your life threatened is more than enough to trigger PTS.

    And this isn't a merchant transaction. You aren't paying $50 cash for the exchange of a watch. You're being threatened with the demand for your valuables, but in no way does the threat end when the exchange is made. You may hand over your wallet and watch and get shot for your cooperation.

    I think Mike has illustrated the scope of that very well in the above links listed.

  26. Mike, may I suggest an excellent bit of reading?

    "Why the Gun is Civilization" by Marko Kloos.


  27. Great Discussion Seve & Weer'd, but at one point doesn't it become more then "possessions"?

    Someone pointed out that those "mere pieces of property" represents hours or days out of my life. I work for X number of dollars per hour so, a $10,000 car is equal to (10,000/X) Y number of hours out of my life.

    That is time that I can not regain and can not spend with my family when I have to replace that car.

    The idea, as I understand it, is that the criminal doesn't just steal property, but makes you their slave. You've worked for them, without pay, without consent, when they steal from you.

    It put an interesting perspective on things. Would I shoot someone for 1/2 an hour out of my life? Probably not. How about if they were ripping off your car, the entire contents of your house?

    How many priceless mementos would you be willing to give up also? I have pictures of my family that I can not replace. I have artifacts that once lose can not be reproduced.....what level of action would be appropriate for that which can not be replaced?

  28. +1 Bob. By somebody taking your possession they have essentially enslaved you at your given hourly rate. So stealing one's wallet easily could void an entire day's salary. So not only did they take your wallet, but they also took your time WORKING for the contents of that wallet.

    Somebody steals your car they possibly could have enslaved you for a year more-or-less.

    Still Bob, while I 100% agree with your philosophy, I prefer to point out the more meat-and-potatoes aspect that if somebody threatens to kill you, it would be foolish not to belie them, and if that same person promises you safety in exchange for goods and/or services, I find it just as foolish to believe them.

  29. Bob and Weer'd, I got you. Our hard-earned possessions are equal in value to not only the items themselves but to all the time and effort it took to earn them.
    So, considering that, instant death penalty for robbery, is appropriate?

  30. Wow, both a Dodge AND a strawman argument in one short responce! Congrats Mike, you're getting this down to a SCIENCE!

    First up you entirely dodge my statement that handing over goods to a violent person and expecting mercy is the apitome of stupidity, and dive right for the more philisophical argument that is a lower hanging fruit for a loosing argument.

    THEN you go on with:
    "So, considering that, instant death penalty for robbery, is appropriate?"

    STRAW MAN! Use of Lethal force in self defense is NO WAY even similar to a death sentence.

    First up you need to be under imidiate threat of your life or the life of an innocent person in your imidiate vacinity. You must be legally justified in all your actions.

    At any given point if the threat stops you must discontinue the use of lethal force. Using lethal force with no justifyable threat, or after the threat is passed is Criminal Assault and Murder/Attempted Murder.

    If the attacker choose to run or surrenders, you may not kill them. If you wound an attacker and they are no longer a threat you may not finish them off.

    Meanwhile a person on death row has been convicted of a crime that warrents the death penalty, a judge and jury have agreed that the death sentence is just in the eyes of the law, and the sentence is carried out at a later date by profesonal executioners in a controled environment.

    The convicted poses no threat at the time of execution, and if the method of execution proves to be non-fatal it is repeated until the convict is pronounced dead by a licenced doctor.

    Carrying on in such an immature and dishonest fashion proves that you are deeply in the wrong in your belifs.

  31. So, considering that, instant death penalty for robbery, is appropriate?Instant death penalty for a credible threat to the life of an innocent, while the threat exists, and if there are not equally reliable methods of ending the threat immediately available. A gun used in a robbery is a credible threat.

    We should retain the right to resist a robbery by force, even if it endangers the robber. If you have the options of accepting a criminal's illegal demands, resisting with force reasonable to stop the threat, or passively resisting and accepting the harm the criminal inflicts, all three options should be legal.

    The definition of reasonable is the biggest problem. I don't believe you should be allowed to shoot a shoplifter.

    If a 220 pound bodybuilder takes my 70 year old, 110 pound mother in law's keys, doesn't threaten or harm her but just gets in her car and drives off there is almost nothing she can do without a weapon. If he merely pushes her away, she is likely to fall and break bones. If she is legally armed, does she have to let him steal her car?

  32. Weer'd, You're absolutely right that my comparing this to capital punishment is stupid. You won't hear it again from me.

    My point was simply that your readiness to shoot down an armed robber strikes me a cavalier. In order to make that point in the future, which I'm sure I'll have the opportunity to do, I won't resort to that comparison, which upon reflection I agree doesn't really work.

    I, of all people, should be careful when using comparisons since I've objected so strenuously to some of yours and Bob's, e.g. cars.

  33. "My point was simply that your readiness to shoot down an armed robber strikes me a cavalier."

    No less cavalier as somebody threatening death over my wallet or watch, or access to a woman's body.

  34. If someone is threatening you with deadly force you are legally justified in responding with deadly force in self-defense.

    What's so "cavalier" about that?

    And yes, someone robbing you at gunpoint / knifepoint IS "deadly force"

    I have to ask Mike, if this "kid" had tried to rob a cop and he'd shot him in self-defense would you be badmouthing the cop?