The Redding Record Searchlight reported a horrific story from Burney, California this Christmas season: an attack on a gas station in Shasta County that left one person burned to death. Around 7 p.m. on Wednesday December 21, a man dressed in yellow rain gear, a black hood pulled over his head and black gloves, walked into the Rocky Ledge Shell station, sprayed a flammable liquid around the store and on David Wicks, the clerk behind the counter. The perp then lit the fluid on fire, and rode off on a black bicycle.
In studying the surveillance video, investigators say the attacker was a man who stood about 5 feet, 6 inches to 5 feet, 9 inches tall. They have little else to go on, but they did find a beach cruiser bicycle four blocks away from the gas station, on Third Street and Pine Avenue, that matched the description of the bike the killer rode off on.
Sheriff’s Lt. Anthony Bertain said investigators don’t know a motive for the attack. His friends can’t understand how anyone would want to harm him….
Rocky Ledge Shell station owners Jaspal Singh and Devinder Sahota visited the store Thursday morning. They said they have known Wicks and his wife, Sonja, for a year. Sonja also works at the store as a manager. She came by on Thursday to pick up their car that had been parked there overnight.
“We’ve never been in a situation like this before,” Sahota said. “Our primary goal is to console Sonja….”
Secret Witness of Shasta County is offering $10,000 for information leading to the arrest or conviction of David Wicks’ killer. Singh said he’s working to add $5,000 to that reward. Sahota and Singh, both of the Sikh faith, added that they would have a prayer, known as “Ardas,” at the Sikh temple in honor of Wicks.
The fact that this crime didn’t even have some sort of pecuniary motive, that it was apparently a matter of pure violence says something dispiriting about our world during a time of year that’s supposed to be a time of warmth with family and friends.
California is widely acknowledged as having some of the strictest gun laws in the country. The astroturf anti-Second Amendment organization, Americans for Responsible Solutions, has given The Golden State an “A” rating because of laws requiring firearm purchasers to obtain a Firearms Safety Certificate and prohibiting the sale of so-called “unsafe” handguns.
Of course, those restrictions also raise the cost of entry to gun ownership for people on the financial margins of our society…you know, like people who work in jobs with a high risk of crime like being the midnight clerk at a gas station.
I’m not saying that a gun would’ve stopped what happened in Burney last week. For Mr. Wicks’ sake, I wish it had been a defensive gun use. But this was apparently a bolt-from-the-blue attack that was over and done with in fifteen seconds. Still, one thing that everyone from Col. Cooper to “Gun Guy” Dan Baum agree on is that when a properly trained citizen carries a firearm, it tends to make them more alert to other people and their actions. Maybe that would’ve given the victim in this case an edge.
There’s no way to know for sure. But I’d rather take the chance that it would have. Knowing that there’s a sadistic murderer running around immolating people in random attacks in northern California, I think I’d put a little more trust in my own GLOCK that in California’s finest — no disrespect intended — if I was in or around Shasta county at the moment.
(H/T: @ed_grimly, via Twitter.)