The dictionary defines ‘duel’ as a contest with deadly weapons arranged between two people in order to settle a point of honor. While the Abilene confrontation wasn’t pre-arranged, it certainly turned into a duel. The ‘Monkey Dance’ is a more commonly used term nowadays but the degree of outward emotion is the only difference between the two terms.
The Duel at the Dumpster in Abilene https://ktxs.com/news/local/caught-on-camera-abilene-father-son-kill-neighbor-over-trash can provide us with a number of lessons. Some of them relate to avoidance but other aspects of personal protection can also be learned.
- Murder definitions
- Emotional Hijacking
- Dealing with the mentally ill
- The role of Seconds or Partners
- Options – especially withdrawal
- Stand Your Ground (or not)
- Preparation and Deployment for Combat
- Using weapons adequately
- The cost of killing
- You’re always on video
It’s rare that we have video that shows most of an incident that covers from almost the beginning to the very end. Looking at it closely and objectively can show us some valuable lessons. Although one title for the video is “Two fat rednecks kill Father over Garbage,” we shouldn’t assume that any of us couldn’t get caught up in an equally consequential incident.
There is some confusion, because of the news reports, about the crime that the father and son have been charged with. It is Murder, a first degree felony. In Texas, this crime does not have the same meaning as First Degree Murder does in most States. Premeditation is not a required element. Any unlawful intentional killing is Murder in Texas. Manslaughter is reserved for recklessness not intention. PENAL CODE TITLE 5. OFFENSES AGAINST THE PERSON CHAPTER 19. CRIMINAL HOMICIDE https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/PE/htm/PE.19.htm
First degree felony refers to the degree of punishment that can be imposed, up to and including Life with a minimum of five years. At sentencing, the convicted can make a plea as a crime of passion. If accepted by the court, this reduces murder to a second degree felony, which is punishable by 2-20 years imprisonment. PENAL CODE TITLE 3. PUNISHMENTS CHAPTER 12. PUNISHMENTS https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/PE/htm/PE.12.htm
The $25K bond was surprising. It may have been the fee to the bondsman, in which case the bond itself would have been at least $250K, which is more what might be expected. In any case, it’s important to realize that even if the charges are dropped, a bondsman’s fee is not returned to the person who bonded out of jail. It’s the cost of not needing a Man Lock while in jail.
The minutes leading up to the Monkey Dance are not recorded, so we don’t know yet exactly what started the whole fracas. However, we can easily observe that both sides, including the Principals and the Seconds, were emotionally hijacked by the circumstances.
As a friend of mine commented:
We aren’t supposed to kill each other over who is king of the landfill until *after* society collapses.
When we have firearms, or any defensive weapon for that matter, we give up the ‘right’ to defend our honor. This whole conflict was a test of wills as to whom was ‘right.’ That is nothing more than defending honor and we need to recognize the pitfalls involved in honor and honor killings.
Dealing with the mentally ill
The man in the orange shirt had previously posted that he had mental problems and required medication to keep himself under some degree of control. As my colleague William Aprill says, “They are not like us.” During any confrontation, it’s easy to escalate the level of emotion. When this happens to someone with mental issues, rationality can go out the window in the blink of an eye. Someone who repeatedly yells “Point it [your pistol] at me” and “Go ahead, shoot me!” is obviously not in a rational state. The FBI calls this ‘a clue.’ The best way to deal with mentally ill persons is to not deal with them. If necessary, get Law Enforcement to do it.
The role of Seconds or Partners
The Seconds in a duel were trusted persons of the Principals who, if an apology could not be gained, would facilitate the conduct in the duel. In this incident, neither of the Seconds attempted to de-escalate the situation, rather both the son and the fiancée fanned the flames. Without them, it’s possible, just possible, that the situation might not have come to bloodshed. However, calling the other Principal names or daring the other Not to shoot is unlikely to defuse the tempers involved.
More about the remaining issues involved tomorrow.
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