Is Vigilantism the convenient new form of crime deterrent?
by Robert Randle
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The Saturday, June 12, 2010 edition of the Tacoma News Tribune featured 2 articles about the shooting death of 20-year-old Joseph Tobeck of Tenino, WA. The story must have been quite important for two reporters, Kathleen Merryman and Mike Archbold to have written separate articles about this unfortunate incident. In Ms. Merryman’s version, the towns of Roy and McKenna have been under siege by a proliferation of Methamphetamine labs that have sprung up in these unincorporated towns within Pierce County, and the associated home burglaries which these “tweakers” commit to support their drug habit. In this particular case, however, 69-year-old McKenna resident William Morgan shot and killed Joseph Tobeck for nothing more than taking [collecting], along with an unidentified friend, old, discarded scrap metal pipe out of a drainage ditch on county property across the street from the shooters home. Mr. Morgan, armed with a handgun, confronted Tobeck and his friend, he fired nine .40 caliber rounds at them as they left the scene in a truck and one of the bullets struck Tobeck in the back of the head, and he died later as a result of his injuries. The thing is, according to Tobeck’s grandmother, he collected and sold scrap metal for a living.
The article by reporter Mike Archbold gives the identity of Joseph Tobeck’s friend, who was 20-year-old Robert Justus. Morgan’s claim that his actions were in self-defense because the pair tried to run him over with the truck may not stand up to the scrutiny of ballistics, forensic investigation, the fatal bullet entry wound to Tobeck, and the window and body of the truck which was riddled with bullets. WA State Law as well as every other one allows for the use of ‘equivalent’ deadly force if you have “reason” to believe your life is in immediate or imminent danger. To kill someone solely on the basis of protecting property, whether your own or belonging to someone else, is NOT permitted under Washington Law or any other jurisdiction within the United States. Another consideration is the mental or emotional state-of-mind of Mr. Morgan at the time of this event and whether he perceived a ‘real’ threat to his life and acted in the way he did based upon that fear. If the metal pipe did belong to Morgan, why was it not on his property instead of across the street in a ditch? Of course, it might have belonged to him at some point, but after he apparently discarded it then it was available to anyone to take who had the means to carry it away.
Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist might not have such a easy case with this one because a young man was killed, who it seems, did not pose an immediate threat to the alleged victim because the actions leading to this final and fatal confrontation occurred across the street and not on Mr. Morgan’s property; so what was the danger to his life? It is a sad commentary of our modern society when this kind of action by Mr. Morgan can be applauded as some kind of heroic action, and yet, a young 20-year-old’s family will have to make funeral arrangements for a son barely 2 years after graduating from High School, all because a possible senile or mentally deficient 69-year-old man shot him to death over a 250 pound piece of old, crusty, deteriorated, metal drainage pipe.
776 Commerce St. #B-11
Tacoma, WA 98402
June 12, 2010
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I know this family quite well and it has brought such a viod to this family they are devistated... Joe and I went to school together and he was not as the articles say a "tweeker" or a "thief". His brother and him both scrap metal and this is just horrible...If this man would have just a glimpse of what agony and pain he has inflicted upon this family then he probably wouldn't have reacted to this situation as he had. I also am good friends with the man that was with Joe when this happened and he is a christian with a 4 year old son... This is what they did to make extra cash.. They were both completely harmless individuals and once they heard that man yell they got scared and were trying to get out of there as soon as possible. The papers fail to point out that the man was STANDING in the middle of the road, if he was in such fear why would he stand in the middle of the road? Why shoot nine shots? Why would he after he shot Joe have the other young man get out of the car pointing his gun at him? They were both unarmed... The sad thing about this is Joe was trying to get this money to help his parents with their horses... Such a shame... RIP JOE...