Wednesday, November 4, 2015

A Hollow Victory

Last Saturday, Halloween night no less, an incident took place on the southwest side of Chicago that would serve as a bullet point for the gun crowd, (no pun intended). As trick-or-treaters prowled the streets of Gage Park, a masked, armed robber was shot and killed by a customer in a local business. The shooter who was packing heat had a conceal-carry permit, and will not face charges. Sure enough, conservative web sites jumped all over the incident, claiming it as yet another example of how allowing private citizens to carry concealed weapons in public, saves lives and property.

Well it turns out in this case, that was only partially true as the would-be robber was armed with a toy gun. With a name sounding like he stepped out of a Dickens novel, 55 year old Reginald Gildersleeve once worked in the store where he lost his life, and it has been speculated that the attempted robbery was actually a Halloween prank gone horribly wrong. To the people in the business and especially the man who shot him, Gildersleeve was dead serious (sorry), and a real threat as he pointed a very real looking gun at the heads of the store's employees. 

Since his death, Gildersleeve's story has been well documented by the press. Leading something of a double life, he had a long history of criminal activity, mostly petty stuff like narcotics violations with a few robberies thrown in. He also was a devoted husband, step father and grandfather who portrayed himself on his Facebook page as someone looking to turn his life around. 

Hailed by some as a "good guy with a gun", the man who shot Gildersleeve has not been identified in the press and to my knowledge, has not given any interviews. His brother did acknowledge the fact that this has understandably been a very traumatic experience for him and his family.

I bring this up because so often we view incidents like this as cut and dried examples of the brutality of life in the big city that pit good guys against bad guys, forgetting that the people involved in these horrible situations are complicated human beings, not one dimensional characters ripped out of the pages of a comic book. Perhaps he needed to pay off a debt, maybe he wanted to buy a present for his wife, or maybe he was just drawn to a part of his past that he couldn't let go. We'll never know because Reginald Gildersleeve will take whatever compelled him to rob a store where people recognized him (despite the mask), to his grave. 

As for the man who shot him, justified as his actions may have been, he will have to live with the fact that he killed a man it turned out, was not much of a threat to anyone, except himself.

In the end, this incident will be recorded as just another of the 2,579 (and counting) shootings in Chicago so far this year. Since Reginald Gildersleeve died four days ago, at least five other people have been shot and killed in Chicago, including a young woman from Evanston who was visiting her grandmother in the Auburn-Gresham neighborhood, and a nine year old boy who was ambushed and executed in broad daylight, only a few hours and blocks away.

If only they had been packing heat, maybe they'd be alive today.

Yeah right.

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