Wandering 72-year-old man with Alzheimer’s gets shot to death. At the top of the NYT article the scene is described almost poetically:
No one is sure how, in the frigid hours before dawn last Wednesday in this small north Georgia community near the Tennessee border, Mr. Westbrook ended up nearly three miles from home with a handful of other people’s mail, jiggling Joe Hendrix’s doorknob.Further down, there are more details about how it looked from Hendrix's point of view. It was "Just before 4 a.m." and:
Mr. Hendrix, 34, stepped onto his porch with a Glock pistol in his hand and his fiancée inside on the phone with a 911 dispatcher. He fired four shots. One hit Mr. Westbrook in the chest.
On a cold and damp day Tuesday, Mrs. Westbrook buried her husband of 51 years...
At least twice, Mr. Westbrook climbed onto the small porch, tried to open the door and rang the doorbell....Note the plural: "calls."
“When you listen to the 911 calls, it’s evident to me that there was fear displayed at least by the female who lived there,” [the sheriff] said.
As Mr. Westbrook came around a corner of the house, Mr. Hendrix took his gun and repeatedly called for him to identify himself, he told the police. Then he fired the shots. Mr. Hendrix told investigators that Mr. Westbrook continued to approach him, so he fired the shot into his chest.So it wasn't just a man jiggling the doorknob at a strange hour and then waiting for an answer only to be met by a man who steps right out and fires 4 shots. There was activity around the house and beyond the porch area, in the middle of the night. The couple inside were scared and enough time passed to make more than one call to the police. Hendrix went outside to investigate, tried to interact with the intruder, and only shot when the man kept approaching.
“When we sat down and told him the age of the victim and the diagnosis, he broke down and became emotional,” Sheriff Wilson said.Most of the article is about whether to prosecute Hendrix (and the usual material about Stand Your Ground law). Commenters over there are quick to blame guns, but I think homeowners have a right to defend themselves against someone trying to break into their house at night. Hendrix tried to talk to the man and couldn't see that he was old and didn't know that his mind had deteriorated.
Mrs. Westbrook says she's not sure whether Hendrix should be charged. The article begins with the line "Deanne Westbrook had tried everything to keep her husband, Ronald, in the house." No one wants to say anything unkind to a woman who lost her husband and who tried to treat him well, but if we're going to ask whether Hendrix was reasonable, shouldn't we also ask if Mrs. Westbrook was reasonable?
What more could she have done? Didn't she know that her husband went out and behaved in a way that would scare people at night and that he would not be able to explain himself when people asked him what he was doing or to stop when he was told he'd better stop? He needed supervision and constraint.
"He should have stayed in the house like a normal person would." That was the wife's quote. I see ambiguity in it now.
By the way, you don't need to look far in the NYT archive to find articles about people with Alzheimer's where the suggestion is that others ought to show them the exit from this life. They're all jiggling at the doorknob.