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How Do You Shoot A 12-Year-Old?

"The first thing I thought is,  I would've shot 'em."

That's one of my good friends, talking to me the other day about the news that a pair of preteen gangsters last week walked up on a woman in the Detroit suburb of Harper Woods, flashed a handgun and carjacked her.

“It's sad, that's the worst part. It's just a little boy walked up to me in the neighborhood where I grew up in and tells me to give up my car to him. And I'm like, ‘Are you kidding?' and he opened up his shirt and showed me the gun,” Johnston said.

The boy said he was going to kill her if she didn't give her the keys, Johnston said.

My friend is not sharing his thoughts about this incident to be callous or tough. There's definitely more than a hint of sadness as he utters the words, slowly, almost as if in amazement at himself.

But he lives three blocks from the scene of the crime and knows it just as easily could've been him or his wife or his older daughter getting attacked. And like a lot of law-abiding men who grew up in the city's toughest neighborhoods, he packs not only a legally registered gun but an iron-clad determination to make it home to his family every day...

"I would've shot 'em...That's the first thing I thought when I saw that."

That's a dad at my son's football practice, a good man, a church pastor, a devoted father and husband, hard worker. And like my buddy who lives near Harper Woods, he too packs and is deadly serious about his willingness to protect himself.

Over the years, he says, he has had visions of any number of threats running through his head. Never once did those fears come wearing a child's face. He shakes his head as he hears himself speak. But his mind is made up.

"Yeah, I would've, too."

That's me, responding to both remarks. And while I can only guess at the sentiments of others, I know for certain how I feel as I say this: hurt, saddened, slightly ashamed. But ultimately, unable to honestly come up with any other answer.

And that scares me. I mean, I've seen a lot in this city, but I have never once thought about being in a situation where I'd have to consider harming a child -- or where I could consider it justified for anyone else to do so. I couldn't even have fathomed such a thing -- until I read the story the other day.

Suddenly, for days, all around city, everywhere I went I heard adults — preachers, professionals, suburbanites, lifelong Detroiters — recalibrating what they thought they once knew for sure. It's not a happy reformulation. It's, frankly, a sickening thought to have to process. How do you shoot a 12-year-old?

"It's sad, man," says my friend, who lived only three blocks away from me when we were kids. "And we know most of our children ain't into that kind of mess. But something's going on out here that even we never saw growing up. There are children out here who will kill you as soon as look at you. It ain't all -- or even most -- but all it takes is a few. And how do you deal with that?"

His voice rises as he weighs the questions yet again. How do you treat a child like an enemy combatant? How do you threaten violence, even in self-defense, against a little boy? How do you shoot a pistol-packing 12-year-old child so warped that he's willing to blow you away just to steal a car whose dashboard he probably can't even see over?

How do you not?

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  • 1

    You don't shoot a young child based not upon the legal laws, the age of the child, the social and political and economic realities confronting our urban venues...

    You don't shoot a child because your center is based upon the foundation of your being which does not ever allow all of the above to take away your humanity....

    My personhood and cultural dna does not permit me to shot a child under any circumstances....NEVER in EVER........

    Greg Thrasher

    • 1.1

      So Gthrasher here is a hypothetical for "you". You are married with a 3 year old daughter. You carry "protection" legally and are just out enjoying a day shopping with your family.

      You stop at an intersection where some kids are crossing the road. One of them walks kind of toward your door. You think nothing of it and continue talking with the family. Next thing you know this kid has opened your door and pointed a gun at you. He wants your car and wallet. You try to talk him down and do everything you can for this kid. The kid then realizes your not going to do anything and then draws down on your wife or even worse, your daughter.

      I hope you have that Gerber life insurance. As horrible as that sounds and as god awfull as it was to type, thats reality.

      At a very very young afe we are taught and learn what is socially and morally right and wrong. These kids KNOW ITS WRONG. If they are willing to take out not only me, but my wife and my daughter ( yes I used them in the story ) then by all means I am going to do my best to take them out before they take me or mine out.

      You are blanketing all children under one tarp and thats the word "child" or "Children". You can not do this as each child on this planet is unique and different. Some grow faster than others, each has a different personality and as shown here, some are just out to do whatever suites them no matter what the cost.

      In other words, you need to open your eyes to the world today. The date is not 1950, it is 2010 where bad stuff happens every single second of every single day to good people. The bad guys do get away, kids carry guns to schools and use them, drunk drivers are usually the sole survivors. You don't live in Mayberry bud, this story in the news can and does happen in "Everywhere America".

      The question is, who's funeral are you going to attend? Your wife and childs funeral or a 12 year old who had a horrible upbringing that was going to do some major harm to your family.

      P.S. You seem to be forgetting that after he kills either you, your wife or child he only has a 6 year sentence if he is 12. Thats right, when he turns 18, he is scott free and records sealed. He goes onto live a normal life or a life that he chooses. One that he doesn't even have to remember what he did. So 6 years is worth your life, your wifes life or even worse your childs?

      Grow up and open your eyes.

  • 2

    The thing about it is that he was coached.

    Rusty pliers are too good for that coach.


  • 3

    A few years back we were being assaulted in Lafayette Park and there was a gang of young kids on one occasion.

    A neighbor and I called the police and when they showed up we pointed out where they were and the police took off in their car across the park and looped back around and pulled up on them on the lawn of Chrysler School.

    They had them in the squad car at the end of Joliet and the police talked with us and as they were I looked up and saw an older man standing up by his car watching us. When the Police took off He scooted right after them and it was at that moment that I realized that he was coaching the kids.

    Learned from that... when young kids are doing such stuff, look around for the coach. He's watching.


  • 4

    What a sad, sad world we live in.

  • 5

    Where are the parents, or most likely- parent, of that 12 year old? Why was he out in the streets instead of home where he belongs? And why, in the name of common sense, did he have a gun?

    It all starts at home with the parent(s). This is not rocket science. If the parent(s) are that irresponsible, remove their kids from their custody, put the kids in a supervised boot camp where they can learn morals and disipline and throw the parent(s) in jail on a chain gang picking up trash.

  • 6

    When the boy showed the weapon and threatened to kill this woman his age is no longer an issue. If he had been shot and killed while attempting to commit this crime he would have got what was coming to him. Sadly this 12 year old boy is already a hard-core felon and therefore must be treated as such. Especially when he's waving a gun around.

    We can talk about what went wrong with this kid and others like him after the threat has been neutralized.

  • 7

    What did you expect with laws allowing more and more guns to be owned (and be used) by more and more people? Did you honestly thought that more guns would mean less people using them? Kids are people ... so that's the most normal outcome.
    Now deal with it ... yeah yeah, be tough: "that kid must be treated like a criminal because that what he is" ... like such an attitude would help. I like the one that says the kids were coached ... I agree, you coached them.
    The reality is that kids are a mirror of the society the adults create. So, kids using guns to steal a car it's nothing but adults shooting themselves in their foot after buying their beloved gun for whatever reason they invented to justify the purchase of the gun. Rephrased: it's stupid.
    So, do this, go home, look into the mirror and say "stupid".
    Do you want to solve the problem? Start by owning it. Are you adult and do you think guns are ok? Good, then it's your fault. You can shoot the kids if you want ... but it won't solve the problem, as long as you keep your gun. Now chose what is more important, your gun or your kids?

    • 7.1

      OH GOOD GOD get off of your high horse and anti-gun lobbyism. If there were no guns outside of law enforcement and military in this country guess what. The Sheriff's disturbed son would have brought the gun to school and shot his classmates.

      What law says a kid or child can use and possess a hand gun? I'll wait for your answer on that because you'll be looking well into the future as there is no law stating they can. As a matter of fact you have to be a minimum of 21 to own a hand gun.

      And you're seriously trying to pass off a white collar person who owns a .22 calibur pistol that has 4 inches of dust on it because it never see's the day light to that of a carjacker? Sounds like you need to pull your head out of your rump for 2 seconds because the lack of oxygen to your brain has caused a serious case of self-righteous, infallible, omniscient point of view.

      You clearly neglect to see any valid points outside of your skewed vision of a GUN made MY CHILD do this. How can an object with no life, no feelings, no speech, no nothing influence ones behavior? Oh thats right it CAN'T. Its the person using the "object".

      Whats next, no guns on the planet and guess what, a spree of knifings happens. Next thing we know we can't cut our steaks. Whats after that? No pencils? Nothing sharp? Nothing pointy? Sounds like a mental hospital to me. How about we just all throw our hands up and live in a bubble?

      Good god PB undo the dreadlocks, come out of the hemp tree and take a shower. If you have ever thought you have an open mind to anything, you are sadly mistaken.

    • 7.2

      I dont like guns at all really. and im basicly a commie socialist liberal vegan tree hugger etc - however if there arent guns around there are knives (as in merry old england) and if there arent knives there are rocks, and kids that would shoot you for a car arent above just beating you senseless or dead. this is poverty and absent or horrible parents (some im sure stealing cars and shooting people as well) this is poor, disadvantaged, angry young friends, completely different mindset than you or i, dont even see you as human--blahblah. do you see what I mean?

    • 7.3

      Oh, for Pete's sake ...

    • 7.4

      Are you honestly saying that you think this was a legal gun?
      You want us to believe that there aren't enough laws about this already and that one more might make the difference?
      You want us to believe that a 12-year-old gang banger would obey that law when he doesn't obey any other?

      Or do you really mean "All victims should be disarmed" so that criminals don't feel threatened and have to carry guns? Hint: they would carry them anyway if only for the feeling of power, and use them if only for the thrill.

      Put your feelings to the test. Put a sign on your front lawn: "This homeowner does not believe in guns". I didn't think you had the courage of your convictions.

  • 8

    If they want to "act" like grownups then treat them like grownups. Really people, this kind of behavior is only going to get worse.

    • 8.1

      BTW, if it comes down to me or them I'm going to choose me every time. Sorry but I'm not checking out early because some pre-teen hood rat wants to get a jump on his criminal career path.

  • 9

    Though I don't have the ideological "purity" of Mr. Thrasher, I believe it was him who pointed out in earlier comments the need to invest real money in getting kids out of the environments they're growing up in and into positive ones. That means doing it well before they've reached this point. If we don't do that, all we're doing is committing to a future where this happens more.

    Unfortunately, this means money and a commitment to see the programs through and I don't see a lot of people willing to take it to that level.

    • 9.1

      djtrudeau.....Don't worry about thrasher. He thinks much too higlhy himself. He believes his ideological purity and dna makes him superior. I know this because he has told me so as he has spit out his perfect answers while cursing on this very blog.
      He suffers from a messiah complex.
      At any time he will lash out against good ideas for Detroit. Only because he does not like the "White" person while he claims not to be racist only a watchman for Civil Rights .
      You have valid points on this blog today.

      Detroit Kid 51

  • 10

    I am so glad my values and core principles are not like codas78...I don't need the fictional accounts of a urban tale to validate the killing of a child...

    I am not like you codas78 ..I have not surrendered to the inhumanity of modern life...I reject all forms of violence from state sanctioned killings to the reality our country s the #1 arms dealer on the entire planet..

    Please spare me the false image of yesterday a place more violent than today..We live in a nation that hosted 2 domestic holocausts..We live in a nation that make excuses for abuse of womand, gays and even animals..

    No codas78 I am nothing like you..I reject the very presence of underdeveloped angry people like you who have reduced the value of another's life to road kill

  • 11

    I'm not sure anybody can know ahead of time how they would react in such a situation that involves the flight-fight response unless they have been in such a situation before. One thing is certain--if you don't have a firearm, you won't be using one (unless you overpower and take the weapon from the person pointing it at you).

    It's past-time to stop the parent blame game. Parents have some influence on young people in areas such as religion and politics, but stuff having to do with immediate lifestyle stuff (clothing, drug use, music taste, values, gang membership, carrying a weapon) they are going to do what their friends do. So peers are the most important reference group and agent of socialization to criminal activity. I'm not sure what kinds of interventions will stop the pathology of peer group socialization in a city like Detroit. More after school activities? More part-time jobs? Eliminate summer vacations? Tougher sentences for juvenile offenders? Better schools? School uniforms? Police activity focused on gangs and auto thefts? Drug testing? Martial arts training? Community service? Apprenticeships? The list of things to try (that may or may not work) seems endless.

  • 12

    How do you shoot a 12 year old? The simple answer is aim low, they are short. If one of these miniature miscreants opens my car door he's going to get a 45 caliber surprise. There is no cure for the choices some of these kids make. If they want to act like adults, they need to be treated as such. If they want to threaten someone with a gun they had better be prepared to pay for their choice.

  • 13

    I have been confronted by a 12 year old, among several that surrounded me while walking in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. They didn't show a gun but intimated by their actions that they were equipped with knives. In retrospect, they stalked me like a wolf pack stalks prey. Sorry, I didn't carry a weapon but wouldn't have had an opportunity to use if I had. I simply complied with their demands, handed off the couple of $100 that I had and went one way while they moved off another. Certainly I contacted the police and reviewed hundreds of mug shots. The police were adamant that I had done exactly the right thing.

    Another time I had a 45 placed against my temple while riding the "D" train in Brooklyn. Again, I complied exactly as ordered. No weapon in my hands but had I one it would not have been of any use.

    It's easy to imagine that one would react as Wyatt Earp or Jason Bourne but the reality is that all one is focused on is complying to get out of danger as quick as possible. Would I shoot a 12 year old? Probably not. I'm still an adult, the 12 year old is still a child. Even though he or she might have a gun or a knife, I must refrane from harming the child if at all possible, to protect the child, unless harm may come to others.

    • 13.1

      Harry, I can appreciate your compassion toward the child, but at the point the child is threatening deadly harm, and has the means to do that harm, that compassion may come with the highest possible price: Are you really prepared to let that child kill you? Or kill your child, or wife?

      Even when you simply comply with a criminal's demands, there is no guarantee he won't harm you. It is guaranteed he will go on to harm others. Harm WILL come to others later if you do not stop the criminal now. All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

  • 14

    a number of issues need to be addressed-
    at the local level, adults need to step up more to educate kids, both formally in schools and at home and in neighborhoods.. lack of positive male influences is a factor..
    At the federal level, there needs to be comprehensive
    firearms reform.
    self-defense is a natural thing, but one should never allow themselves to come into the mentality that they are 'at war' with the youth of their community-- when it comes to that, even if you shoot and kill your would-be-mugger in self defense-- you have already lost..

    • 14.1

      Your post was probably written as sarcasm (it's too foolish to be taken seriously when exposed to reason and logic).

      “At the federal level, there needs to be comprehensive firearms reform.”

      So tell us: What new “comprehensive firearms reform” do you believe, people willing to commit rape, robbery and murder, will obey? And WHY would they obey the new laws?

      “self-defense is a natural thing, but one should never allow themselves to come into the mentality that they are 'at war' with the youth of their community”

      Whom do you emote has the “'at war' with the youth of their community” feelings?
      No one that I've seen post about this article.

      “when it comes to that, even if you shoot and kill your would-be-mugger in self defense-- you have already lost..”

      This is of course wrong: if you kill the dirtbag CRIMINAL during the commission of his CRIME, you LIVE to go home to your loved ones, and other future would-have-been-victims will be safe from this worthless scumbag.
      Thus YOU WIN!

      Every criminal that dies during the commission of their crime; makes Society just a little bit BETTER and just a little bit SAFER.
      Every little bit counts!

      “An unarmed man can only flee from evil, and evil is not overcome by fleeing from it.”

  • 15

    It is not easy to kill a person. I know because I was going to. I had plenty of reasons to kill the person. I felt that killing the person would be justified. I spent weeks planning it. That was easy. It required buying some material for a couple hundred dollars and fabricating it so I could use it to kill the person. It took several days but that too easy.

    Getting the person to the location so I could kill the person was easy enough. In fact everything that didn't harm the person was easy. At that point, killing the person should have been so easy.

    However, I couldn't do it. In spite of all my plans and intentions (good or bad), I just didn't have the will or whatever it takes to kill a person.

    • 15.1

      Apples and oranges.
      You were considering premeditated murder. Split second self-defense is an entirely different matter.

      With a 12-year-old like this, remorse is only an emotion you get IF you live.

  • 16

    [...] since we all love to see justice served, I want all my fellow football fans to check out detroit.blogs.time and tell me what you think about[...]

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