North Carolina Judge John O. Craig doesn’t believe it’s his job to make policy about guns — that’s a job for the legislature. But he told The Washington Post he’ll probably sleep a little better at night knowing Daniel Ray Brown isn’t toting a gun around.
Craig found Brown’s armed, bad-Samaritan response to a minor altercation so extreme that he immediately revoked the Winston-Salem, N.C., man’s concealed-carry permit, even though he met the state’s requirements.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea for this gentleman to have a concealed-carry permit, so I’m going to revoke that,” Craig said in court, according to the Winston-Salem Journal’s Scott Sexton. “This is just not the kind of thing we like to see from people with concealed-carry permits.”
The gun incident happened last March. Brown and his mother were eating near Hanes Mall in Winston-Salem when he saw a white man, screaming for help, being chased by two black men.
Brown, who did not return messages seeking comment, would later tell authorities that he thought the pursuers were drug dealers, or possibly loan sharks, and that the white man was in trouble. According to the Winston-Salem Journal, an officer testified that Brown told him “he saw two black guys ganging up on the white dude,” and “I’ve been told if I saw anything going on, I could use lethal force.”
But Brown was wrong — and Craig said he was about to make a bad situation worse.
“He was under the mistaken impression that if he came across a situation like this he could use lethal force to break it up,” an incredulous Craig told The Post. “I think he had a stand-your-ground-type defense confused and thought that he could just be a vigilante.”
According to Winston-Salem police, Brown “attempted to stop the struggle by pointing a handgun.”
One of the black men, Fredrick Morgan, testified that Brown pointed his gun at the group and demanded that the scuffling trio show ID.
“I’m like, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa. You need to put that gun up,’ ” Morgan testified, according to the Journal.
When the three men wouldn’t listen, Brown fired a bullet into the ground a few feet in front of Morgan.
It wasn’t until after Brown had made a new hole in the asphalt that he learned the truth. The white man was mentally ill and had fled from two care workers. The chase was their attempt to corral him near Hanes Mall.
The gunfire near a crowded mall spooked everyone and sent police officers scrambling to the scene. They arrested Brown and had harsh words for him at his appeal.
Officer J.R. Huffman, a 17-year veteran of the Winston-Salem police and the first officer on the scene, testified that Brown’s gunfire “amped it up another level,” according to the Journal.
When the officer demanded to know who fired the gun, Brown answered that the gun was his and that he had a concealed-carry permit.
Huffman responded: “Where’d you get a concealed-carry license from? Kmart? . . . Warning shots? We don’t fire warning shots.”
Brown was arrested and convicted of assault by pointing a gun and discharging a firearm within city limits — both misdemeanors. Unsatisfied with the verdict, he appealed to a jury trial, which brought him to Craig’s courtroom last week.
Although Craig said the misdemeanor case was fairly bizarre, he said the incident seemed indicative of greater confusion over “stand your ground” laws.
“Defense of your ground or your car or other people such as your family is a totally different thing from what [Brown] thought,” he said.
The case of an armed civilian had echoes of George Zimmerman, the Florida man accused in 2012 of killing Trayvon Martin.
Trayvon, 17, was unarmed, carrying a pack of Skittles candy and a can of fruit juice and wandering through a neighborhood in Sanford, Fla., when he got into a confrontation with Zimmerman.
Like the Winston-Salem case, Zimmerman’s had racial overtones.
Trayvon was black. Zimmerman, who told dispatchers that he was a neighborhood watch volunteer, identified himself as Hispanic. The shooting of the teen sparked protests across the country and a nationwide conversation about “stand your ground” laws.
Zimmerman claimed that Trayvon attacked him and that he fired in self-defense. He was acquitted a year after the shooting.
An earlier version of this review incorrectly said that Trayvon Martin had a can of iced tea with him on the night of his death. He had a can of fruit juice. This text has been corrected and updated.