Commentary: Who's the Bad Guy?

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, April 20, 2007

After Sou Saechin shot and wounded a teenager who was breaking into his car at three in the morning, police arrested Saechin. The law is clear. People have the right to use deadly force to protect lives, but not property.

The arrest of the 42 year old father of four prompted loud complaints from the public, so the decision of Sacramento District Attorney Jan Scully not to prosecute Saechin was popular. But it was also pragmatic, and ultimately right.

As Scully explained in her press release, Saechin said the teenager he wounded had reached into his sweatshirt and was coming towards him when he fired. He may have had legitimate reason to fear for his life. Less excusable were the shots Saechin fired at the teenager and his companions as they fled. Luckily, those shots didn’t hit anybody. If they had, Scully may have decided differently.

Ultimately, she reasoned, it was not the homeowner but the burglary suspects who represent the bigger threat to the community. One was on probation for illegal firearms possession; the other for possession of an illegal assault weapon.

Finally, This decision should not be seen as an endorsement of make-my-day vigilante justice. Communities are not made safer when otherwise law abiding citizens pick up guns to go after criminals who break into cars.


Ginger Rutland writes for the Sacramento Bee Opinion pages.