Former pizza deliveryman James Spiers is very fortunate, but not for the reason you might think. The 38-year-old Spiers delivered a pizza to an apartment in Des Moines, Iowa last April, only to find himself facing an armed man who brandished a pistol and demanded money. Spiers, who has a permit to carry a concealed weapon, wrestled with the gunman, 19-year-old Kenneth Jimmerson, and subsequently shot him three times. The suspect fled and was later arrested when he called 911 for medical assistance. Also arrested was the decoy who placed the order by phone, 18-year-old Melanie Stout, Jimmerson’s pregnant girlfriend. Neither Jimmerson nor Stout lived in the apartment building where the incident took place.

Pizza Hut’s response was to fire Spiers, an employee for ten years, citing a company regulation that forbids the carrying of firearms by employees. Spiers was given severance pay and an offer to help him find a new job. The public response was quick and livid. Many Des Moines residents swore they would never eat another bite of Pizza Hut’s products. A state senator, Brad Zaun, a Republican from Urbandale, Iowa said Spiers did the right thing and that he would have done the same. Zaun also pledged to boycott Pizza Hut.

It should be noted that a favorite ploy of criminals is to place a call for carry-out delivery and then rob the delivery person when he/she arrives at a remote location. The robbery is often accompanied by physical assault and, in some instances, shooting or stabbing the delivery person. Thus, carrying a firearm after obtaining a permit to carry a concealed weapon would seem to be a judicious and sensible thing to do in this type of occupation.

While police have not charged Spiers, saying the shooting was justified, there are circumstances surrounding the incident that may result in some form of lawsuit eventually being filed against Spiers. The police report said Spiers grabbed the gun from Jimmerson and had his own gun and Jimmerson’s when police arrived. It appears that Jimmerson may have been shot while fleeing the scene. That means that Jimmerson no longer presented a threat to Spiers and that the shooting, under those circumstances, could be ruled as not justified.

Case law states that you may not shoot someone just to “punish” him. It further states that a fleeing suspect who has not committed a capital crime may not be shot simply to prevent his escape. Hence the old (and misleading) adage about dragging someone inside your house if you shoot him as he exits the front door and collapses in the yard.

Jimmerson survived his gunshot wounds and may soon be well enough to stand trial and also consult with a lawyer about bringing charges against Spiers for an unlawful shooting. Gun owners, with or without permits to carry, should remember that while shooting an assailant may be warranted, there is always the very real chance that an aggressive prosecutor may decide to press charges, or that the shooting victim will sue the shooter. Even if the shooter is vindicated, he could incur thousands of dollars for attorneys fees and research surrounding the trial.


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