Second guessing someone else’s actions is the easiest thing in the world. I do it hesitantly, at best. I certainly don’t criticize Craig Stutzman’s bravery in taking on an armed man. I do question his judgment, though. From reading the story this criminal scum, Tony Leroy Cleveland, decided to hold up the Food Pyramid. So, he obtained a gun1, a Batman mask, and then went to the store to rob some money. For some reason, he decided to take a shot or two at someone behind the cash register. He missed with his first shot and apparently there was no second shot because his hand gun jammed.
It was at this point that Mr. Stutzman made the heroic, and I mean that, decision to jump on Cleveland and subdue him. Cleveland is no slouch in criminal circles. Previous convictions included, and here’s a surprise, armed robbery and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. I have no doubt that Cleveland would have little compunction about injuring or even killing Mr. Stutzman if it would make his escape possible.
It seems that the decision to take on Cleveland was made in large part because his gun jammed. There are three flaws with that sort of logic. First, it’s entirely possible that Cleveland knows enough about guns to do a “Tap, Rack, Bang” drill to clear his weapon. In which case he would have shot Mr. Stutzman, no doubt in my mind. Second, Cleveland could have had two guns or maybe even three. Third, it’s entirely possible that Cleveland could have had an accomplice in the store to take care of people like Stutzman. All three of those scenarios are equally likely and have happened in robberies in the past, often with dire consequences for the citizen who intervened.
I certainly understand Mr. Stutzman’s concern for the other person’s life and possibly his own. Under the circumstances he probably did the right thing. After all, do we know that Cleveland didn’t intend to make sure that there were no witnesses? Chances are he’s a three time loser and might be headed back to prison for life if captured and convicted. Maybe Cleveland figured that shooting witnesses was just the cost of doing his business and was prepared to kill them all. I don’t know, and I doubt Mr Stutzman knew either. There’s no audio so we don’t know the complete story, maybe Cleveland said something that made Mr. Stutzman fear for his life.
What makes Mr. Stuztman’s actions even more brave was the reactions of the other people in the store. At about a minute into the tape we see another man, cell phone in hand, take a look to see what’s going on. Hopefully he’s calling the cops, but it’s possible he was calling a friend to tell him about the wicked fight going on. He’s certainly not jumping in the help Mr. Stutzman. In any case, he’s prancing around while on the cell phone and hardly helping. A couple of other customers do jump in, but it’s not until the fight has been going on for over a minute. Just before the police arrive, the pansy with the cell phone shows up again and starts kicking Cleveland, while still on the cell phone no less.
The police do show up fairly quickly but if Cleveland’s gun hadn’t jammed, what would they have found when they arrived? How many people would have been wounded or killed? There’s really no way to know that.
The bottom line here is that the wrong guy had the gun. Criminals shouldn’t have them, law abiding citizens SHOULD.
Mr. Stutzman deserves our approbation for his brave action, but we should also acknowledge that he was extremely fortunate not to have been seriously injured. If Mr. Stutzman had been armed, his actions would have been no less heroic, but certainly much safer.
1. Wait! Cleveland is a convicted felon. Federal law prohibits him from having a hand gun. How could this happen?