ARMED CITIZEN CAPTURES COP-KILLER. Like so much of what he does, gun guru Massad Ayoob’s Tweet caught my full and immediate attention. The link took me to chattanoogan.com. Here’s the meat of the matter. “Two eyewitnesses gave graphic testimony on Wednesday morning about the April 2 slaying of veteran Chattanooga Police Sgt. Tim Chapin on Old Bird’s Mill Road in Brainerd. A nearby resident told of being outside at a yard sale when he heard gunfire and then he watched a gunbattle between Sgt. Chapin and Colorado parolee Jesse Mathews. Harlan Murray [above] said he then went inside his house, got a gun, and held Matthews at gunpoint until police soon arrived and handcuffed him.” Over at his blog, Mas reckons we got us a hero . . .

Kudos to Brother Murray, more living proof of why I’ve always felt the law-abiding armed citizen and the police are natural allies. I’ve already suggested to a friend on CPD that the cops chip in to buy Mr. Murray a larger caliber handgun.

Note: Massad Ayoob is a former cop. Throughout his adult life, fighting crime and/or defending oneself against it has been his raison d’etre. My perspective is slightly different. I am not now nor have I ever been in law enforcement. My number one priority: self-preservation. Not society. Not my neighbors. Myself and my family. So . . .

I don’t think Mr. Murray should have inserted himself into this life-and-death struggle. Matthews did not pose a direct threat to Mr. Murray or his family. He could have simply observed the ex-con and helped the police auger in. And then been a good witness; which is no small thing.

Murray’s actions put himself in mortal peril. If he’d been shot and killed, he would have left his family bereaved. For what? To bring a man to justice he didn’t know?

My take: engaging Matthews was a selfish act. I understand if you don’t agree. But before you dismiss me as anti-social and amoral, let’s hit rewind on this story.

Mr. Murray said he then told family members and a customer at the yard sale to get inside the house they had rented a month earlier at 109 Old Bird’s Mill Road. He said he went inside himself and retrieved a 22 revolver.

He returned to the road and confronted the man who had shot the police officer, aiming the gun at him and telling him, “Get down.” He said the man, who did not have a gun in his hands, did not comply even after he told him a second time. He said he directed, “Get down now.” He said the man then knelt down.

The witness said he held a gun on the man until a police officer soon ran up and handcuffed the man.

He said when the officer turned the man over he noticed that he was wearing a bullet-proof vest.

If the .22-wielding Murray’d been dispatched by Matthews, would he have been a hero or a schmuck?

30 Responses to Massad Ayoob Hails Armed Citizen Harlan Murray. Hmmm.

  1. My take: engaging Matthews was a selfish act.

    It is the duty of the law abiding responsible adult citizen to exercise their general police powers in defense of themselves and the public. As it appears Mr. Matthews was an actual criminal and a threat to the public, so it was the man’s civil duty to stop him.

    Out of curiosity, how the hell is it a selfish act to risk ones own life to stop a cop killing violent felon? Hogging all the credit and media attention?

    • I’ve got to second A Critic here. I understand the decision to look after you and your own as your first priority, I think it’s the rational decision. But then the other priorities come into play and sometimes we must take action even in the face of risk. And the safety of our neighborhoods and our society are, in my mind, worthy of risk.

      I also don’t get how it’s selfish, do tell?

    • Citizens have a right, but not a duty, to make citizens’ arrests. I assume you’ve heard the term sworn law enforcement officer? Upholding the law is what they are sworn to do. The rest of us are not.

      If the man holding the criminal at gunpoint were single and childless, it would be a selfless act to put himself at risk. But since he has a family, the risk spills over onto other people. Selfish still doesn’t quite seem like the right word; he didn’t stand to gain much personally. Where he went wrong was putting the welfare of society before that of his own family. He owes a far greater duty to the latter.

  2. Hmmmm, this is a tough one. The man’s got balls, but he could have just as easily gotten him self killed.

  3. “Det. Tate said at least four officers fired a total of about 40 shots at the robbery scene.” I don’t understand why this guy got involved. He should have gone inside with his family and protected them from there. I will protect me and mine. Otherwise I intend to be a good witness.

  4. “If the .22-wielding Murray’d been dispatched by Matthews, would he have been a hero or a schmuck?”

    A dead hero, because nobody calls a dead guy a schmuck.

  5. Mr. Farago is mostly right although I would describe the erstwhile protagonist as impulsive and well intentioned rather than selfish. None the less, impulsive behaviour like that can easily just compound a tragedy. What if the cops had mistaken him for a bad guy and shot him? What if he had fired on the miscreant and missed, hitting a neighbor? And finally, I would think twice about risking my life to protect a public safety officer who in fact has no legal duty to protect any of us as individual citizens. Police officers are charged with protecting the public at large, not any one of us or our families. Where I live, many cops are just overpaid union hacks with a very bad attitude about gun rights and warm fuzzy feelings about illegal aliens and such. Only a sucker would stick his neck out for someone like that.

    • “Only a sucker would stick his neck out for someone like that.”

      Oddly enough anti’s like to fantasize about our jumping out to rescue their unarmed selves. At least that is what I am told I have a gun for – to be a hero.

  6. Imagine a scenario where a citizen engaged a criminal who had shot someone who wasn’t a cop. All of a sudden he could find himself the the sights of an overzealous prosecutor. Or a civil case, since in this situation the perp would probably survive the 22lr hit.

  7. My take is that either decition could be considered right. If Mr. Murray wanted to stay in the house and not get involved, that would have been fine. But the fact that he wanted to be a good citizen and help the police the same way we expect them to help us cannot be considered selfish or wrong. It was his decition to make, and he should be commended for it.

    No one should feel they are required to help others in that situation, but no one should be denounced for doing so either. The Jarrod Laughner shooting showed the value of bystander intervension when it comes to saving lives. The idea that no one should ever intervene in any situation not threatening them or someone they know is something I reject (just as much as the notion that someone should feel compelled to intervene)

  8. Murray didn’t retreat and wasn’t being threatened by Matthews. Where I’m from he could be charged with assault because only the cops are authorized to use deadly force to capture or prevent escape of someone who committed a felony.

  9. Yes. It could have gone very badly for many reasons and I agree that acting on a desire to be a hero or a good citizen can be considered selfish.
    This discussion reminds me of the movie, “Devil’s Advocate” where vanity is the sin that gets them every time.

  10. Regardless of what is smart or what isn’t according to your expert calculations, you also have to be able to sleep at night and look yourself in the eye. And keeping a clean conscience doesn’t always mean doing the ‘smart’ thing.

  11. After reviewing the post, comments and original article, all that I have to say is: Mr. Farago, you’d make a poor Southerner.

  12. He can decide what to do with his life. I applaud his bravery. I am glad things worked out the way they did.

    Would have been better if the cop had lived or never been hurt at all.

    Work with what you have.

  13. What in the The sam hell. What if this country ran this way, “No not my problem i have to worry about myself” “After being asked to donate a dollar sixty five to feed the hungry i quickly calculated that in a roth ira this money over 20 years would equal about 10,000 dollars a year of public college for my child i did not donate, i have a duty to myself and my family” where is the line drawn, if someone 12ft away from me is being stabbed do i run away because i have a duty to live. And to all the paranoids who think that a prosecutor would prosecute you , i would love to see that, can you even imagine the headlines, “hero of shootout gets charge’s”. I really can’t believe what i read, what about being Americans looking out for each other, does this count for nothing, i question anyone’s patriotism and manhood who would cower inside their house while this terrible act was going on.

  14. This wasn’t some street fight that the citizen intervened in. It was a cop-killing.

    The real issue is bringing a .22LR to a gunfight.

    Yeah, sure, “you go to war with the army you have…” But bringing a .22 into an avoidable gunfight with someone you have seen firsthand kill a cop? The perp clearly has no respect for his own life or anyone else’s, thus making it much more likely you will have to use your weapon. Yes, the .22LR has killed a lot of people. But it doesn’t stop people effectively.

    If all I had was a .22, I would shoot at the perp from a distance and try to wound him. I sure wouldn’t approach in this scenario. Distance is your friend.

    • The real isse is bringing a .22LR to a gunfight.

      Abso-freakin’-lutely. If you don’t have the proper tool to do the job (and in this case that means a rifle, carbine or a shotgun with slugs), you stand back and be a good witness.

      However, I don’t really agree with Mr Farrago’s absolutist (do not help out directly (with a firearm) in these situations) position.

      Yes, it is a tough call – especially if the local law enforcement and prosecutor consider CCW citizens the equivalent of insect life. But you do benefit (indirectly) when removing horribly violent criminals from your locale. (Those who shoot at cops are generally NOT good neighbors). And your actions can deter other such criminals from visiting.

  15. The Police have made it clear (FOP) through their stance and statements concerning concealed carry and where and where not THEY think it is appropriate for me to be armed and secure that they neither want or will tolerate my being armed and involved. I will only protect me and mine.

    • That doesn’t mean every rank and file beat cop is opposed to CCW. I’m not going to let the stance of police unions or police chiefs prevent me aiding a cop under assault in every situation.

  16. Two observations:

    Mr. Murray didn’t see the robbery. What if Mr. Matthews had been defending himself. Fo all Mr. Murray knew, Sgt. Chapin could have been impersonating a cop or a crooked cop chasing a good guy. The article doesn’t say, but maybe Mr. Murray personally knew Sgt. Chapin. If so, that would change things.

    But the second one:

    “he held a gun on the man until a police officer soon ran up and handcuffed the man.”

    A cop has just been killed. Another cop runs around the corner and there you are holding a gun. That’s not a situation I would like to be in. Kudos to the cops for handling it as discriminatingly as they did, but Mr. Murray was VERY lucky the cops didn’t shoot him.

    Yeah, overall I would have to say there are way too many ways that could have gone wrong (but fortunately didn’t). I would have retreated into the house with my family and pulled out my cell phone camera and video’ed the guy discreetly from behind a window.

  17. Let me get this straight, the bad guy did not have a gun when the good guy held him at gunpoint? Where was the bad guy’s gun. I missed that. Anyhow, if the bad guy did not have a gun, he was no immediate threat to the good guy. If the bad guy had refused to “get down,” and the good guy had shot him, the good guy would now be the bad guy, and likely be facing criminal, and certainly civil liability. Morally he was, in my book, justified, and it wouldn’t bother me if he’d have killed the bad guy. Legally he was unbelievably stupid and/or naive. This is 2011, not 1811.

  18. Don’t know the whole story here (do we ever?). I know there’s more to it than what was in the newspaper article and I’m pretty sure the article got more than one fact wrong anyway, but I have to agree with NT_’s comment on the face of what I have read.

    Sometimes you just gotta get involved despite common wisdom.

  19. Forgive me Bob but I think you are a coward at heart.

    I have no respect for most cops thanks to the lower standards here in NY. Yet my whole life I have known plenty, Dad was a drunk and beater.

    Those were men Tall Strong Proud MEN.
    The standards have changed drastically . My dad would get the same beating he gave Knowing Mom would do the same dumb thing most do.

    Now they want lawyers not leaders and protectors. Folks who play both sides for a large part. Got me a 20 year PENSION!!
    But saying that there still are many good MEN maybe a good broad or two.
    They hold the structure of civilization together mostly after the fact but it is not by their choice.

    So tell me when a brave man dies, trying to hold the fort you run away or you do the right thing.

    I could tell you a story about the time I almost got robbed but then did, but you should get my hint.
    There were good men and then some bad males, I would gladly risk my life for those men.
    But Not the other species, A brave man died the other man honored him by doing something.

    Think about it.

    No shame in being a coward now and then, only in dying like one.

    • Yes, well, the problem is this: there’s a fine line between a hero and a fool. As stated previously, there’s a lot of ways this could have ended badly for Mr. Murray. More to the point, there are a lot of ways this could have ended badly for other people.

      1. A cop could have shot Murray. That would have left his family bereaved and traumatized the cop forever after. Leaving his family worse for wear.
      2. Murray could have shot at the per and hit someone else.
      3. Murray could have enraged the perp and thus inspired a murder spree (including taking people hostage)

      Do you need more? I understand that some people are willing to take that risk. But the odds of this successful outcome were low. I wouldn’t have taken them and risked making my family live without me (coward that I am).

  20. Mr Muray was Selfless not Selfish. He put the life of another Human being above his own. You cowards who would look the other way or hide and say it is not my problem are filth in my book. You have no values and are part of the problem facing Society today. You criticize and fail to support the Police who are there to protect you the Public. They are not there to protect property. I am not Law Enforcement but I appreciate what they do and the risks they face daily. You spout the 2nd Ammendment when it suits you but fail to understand the core values and intent of it. No you do not have the power to make a Citizen’s arrest in most States, but you do have a responsibility to your fellow man. To those of you who would say I would not help, I would say ‘How can I not’.

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