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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Police Shooting Gone Wrong

     At three in the morning of August 30, 2009, 45-year-old James Lee Whitehead, a well-known female impersonator in San Antonio, Texas, was walking home from his waiter's job in the city. Wearing men's clothing at the time, Whitehead was set upon by three assailants who demanded money and knocked him to the ground. Witnesses called 911 and within minutes San Antonia patrol officer William Karman arrived at the scene. Two of the muggers jumped into a nearby car and fled.

     The third mugger, 22-year-old Jesse Ramon, intoxicated and high on marijuana, remained behind and pistol-whipped Whitehead. Officer Karman repeatedly ordered Ramon to drop his weapon. Instead, Ramon approached the officer with his handgun drawn. When Ramon ignored Karman's demands to drop the gun, the officer fired two shots, both bullets striking, but not stopping the subject. Karman fired three more times. Two of those bullets hit Ramon, the third went into and killed the victim, Mr. Whitehead.

     Shot four times, Ramon remained in a coma for more than a month but survived.

     In September 2011, Ramon went on trial for criminally causing Mr. Whitehead's death under the felony-murder doctrine that criminally holds a felon responsible for any death related directly to his felony. In this case, Mr. Whitehead had been killed as a result of Ramon's robbery and his threatening behavior toward the police officer. On October 29, the jury, after deliberating thirty minutes, found Ramon guilty of murder. A few days later the jury sentenced Ramon to forty years in prison.

     Officer Karman, to save his own life, had no choice but to use deadly force. The shooting of Mr. Whitehead was a tragic accident. The fact the victim died from a single bullet and Ramon, his assailant, survived four, shows just how unfair life can be. While Ramon may regret the incident because he got caught, the police officer will struggle a long time with the outcome of his justifiable act.  

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