Tatiana Duva-Rodriguez thought she was doing the right thing when she pulled out her pistol and fired at a pair of shoplifters as they fled from a Home Depot near Detroit.
She wasn’t, at least in the eyes of the law.
On Wednesday, a Michigan judge sentenced Duva-Rodriguez to 18 months of probation and stripped the 46-year-old of her concealed gun permit.
Duva-Rodriguez didn’t manage to stop the shoplifters when she rattled off several rounds outside an Auburn Hills Home Depot on Oct. 6, although she did flatten one of their tires.
What she did do, however, was spark a nationwide debate — or at least add fuel to an already raging fire.
The shooting came just days after a massacre at a community college in Oregon, an event that led GOP presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ben Carson to call for “more guns” to help fight crime.
But Duva-Rodriguez’s attempt at being a good Samaritan badly backfired.
She was widely pilloried for pulling out her piece when nothing but property was at stake. Gun experts slammed her, saying she was lucky not to have killed an innocent bystander. Prosecutors called her decision to fire her weapon in a busy parking lot “disturbing” and charged Duva-Rodriguez with misdemeanor reckless use of a handgun.
Duva-Rodriguez did not contest the charge in court, but she was hardly contrite.
“I tried to help,” she told WJBK after her sentencing on Wednesday, before wryly adding: “And I learned my lesson that I will never help anybody again.”
Her lawyer was even more defiant.
“We need more people like Tatiana Duva-Rodriguez in our society,” defense attorney Steven Lyle Schwartz told the Associated Press.
The shooting, and Duva-Rodriguez’s sentencing, is unlikely to end the debate over whether arming law-abiding citizens cuts down on crime, let alone prevents massacres like the Oregon college incident or the recent rampage in San Bernardino that left 14 people dead.
The idea that “good guys” with guns are the answer appears to resurface with a vengeance after every mass shooting.
Google searches for concealed weapon permits, for instance, have exploded since the San Bernardino shooting, The Washington Post’s Christopher Ingraham reports.
Trump and Carson aren’t alone in pushing the idea.
“If more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in,” said Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University and son of the late religious right leader, two days after the San Bernardino shooting.
“It just blows my mind that the president of the United States [says] that the answer to circumstances like that is more gun control,” he continued. “If some of those people in that community center had what I have in my back pocket right now ….”
The “good guy” theory also appears to be gaining ground more generally.
There are now about 12.8 million concealed carry permit holders in the U.S., up from 4.6 million in 2007, Ingraham reports. And a recent Gallup poll found that 56 percent of Americans say the country would be safer if more people carried concealed firearms.
Despite anecdotal evidence that “good guys” with guns are good for public safety, scientific evidence is much harder to come by. A recent study by Mount St. Mary’s University found that people without firearms training had either dangerously itchy or dangerously slow trigger fingers. “Carrying a gun in public does not provide self-defense unless the carrier is properly trained and maintains their skill level,” the study’s authors wrote.
Duva-Rodriguez saw herself as somebody’s savior. She was in the Home Depot parking lot when she heard a scream. A loss prevention officer was chasing a shoplifter with a cart full of stolen power tools. When the man loaded the tools into a waiting getaway car, Duva-Rodriguez pulled out her pistol and fired two rounds.
“I made a decision in a split second,” she told judge Julie Nicholson on Wednesday, according to WJBK. “Maybe it was not the right one, but I was trying to help.”
“She’s there to help; saw something happening; thought it was serious; pulled her gun,” added Schwartz, her attorney. “She didn’t want to hurt anybody. We didn’t know that there were any people in the parking lot, other than this person that was driving away this vehicle. She didn’t shoot it in the air; she didn’t shoot it at the window, at the windshield. She fired at the tires.”
Schwartz also sought to dispel the idea that his client was a yahoo with a gun, calling her a “sharpshooter.”
Whether or not she’s a sharpshooter, Duva-Rodriguez will now have to wait until at least 2023 to carry a concealed weapon again, Nicholson ordered.
“I don’t believe any malice was involved in what you were doing,” the judge said, according to the AP, “but I believe you have to think about what could have happened.”