Times Record: Bullets do not equal justice (Oct. 14, 2013)

Police are comfortable letting someone roam free who shot a business associate three times in the torso and left him bleeding on the ground.

We’re not. But what is “justifiable homicide,” anyway?

Someone breaks into your house and presents a danger to you or your family — that person can be dispatched with a legally owned firearm, and you’ll never hear us say a thing. Someone threatens you and pulls a weapon on you? Probably another good reason.

But what could unarmed Leon Kelley of Georgetown possibly have said or done to Merrill Kimball last Sunday in North Yarmouth to make him the target of homicidal gunfire?

And why three shots?

Assuming Kimball is a legal firearm owner, and knowing that Kelley was unarmed at the time, makes it very important for the police to determine what kind of confrontation occurred — and, by extension, what kind of confrontation justifies deadly force. With plenty of witnesses, that shouldn’t be a problem.

It’s a pretty high bar to reach, though, or should be. Fighting words, cursing, insults — anything that doesn’t pose a clear, immediate danger to a person’s very existence — these don’t justify deadly force. From what we know, we don’t believe that type of force was justified in the Yarmouth shooting, either.

Do we think Kimball is a danger to society? We do not. He apparently operates a business and has been a law-abiding citizen, by most accounts.

Does that mean he should not be charged, or perhaps locked up pending a throrough investigation? Absolutely not.

Manslaughter, reckless use of a firearm, assault with a deadly weapon — these are all charges that can be lodged short of murder (and we’re not ready to rule that out yet, either).

Bottom line: The authority to settle public disputes rests with the police. On 99 percent of ocassions, they do it well, nonviolently, with few casualties. They’re trained in conflict resolution. They’re trained in how to use a gun. We don’t want to live in a vigilante society where gun owners — trained or untrained, mentally stable or not — get to decide who lives and dies based on a passing whim. We’ve seen it too much.

That’s why Maine State Police need to fully divulge what happened at Brown’s Bee Farm on Greely Road in North Yarmouth — soon, and publicly — and to lodge the proper criminal charges against Kimball. The Office of the Maine Attorney General should also look into the incident.

Right now, we’re to believe there was good reason for a Georgetown man to be shot dead in the street. But we cannot yet reach that conculsion.

Finally, to the Kelley family, our sincere sympathy for your loss.

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