Some weeks ago as details of a highly publicized incident in Florida began to unravel; I discovered I knew virtually nothing about a self defense law now known to me as “Stand your ground law”.
Any basic on-line search regarding Stand your ground law shows it defined as “a person may use force in self defense when there is reasonable belief of a threat without an obligation to retreat first.”
My initial reaction wasn’t very favorable to this law---it appeared far too simple grounds allowing so called victim the right to kill an assailant should they believe their life is truly in danger. And I continue to believe the law as stated in Florida can dangerously provides victims the option of pulling a gun or other lethal weapon should they believe the situation warrants it---In other words, any of us who’s ever been physically assaulted or mugged knows the adrenaline is flowing at such horrific rate of speed, it could greatly impair the individual’s ability assume responsibility for taking another person’s life--- But all that said, certain circumstances exist where justifiable homicide has to be looked at as fully acceptable---the problem remains however it’s only later once all evidence has been compiled where we’re able to reach such conclusion.
So how does this pertain to Downtown Evanston?---well as luck (bad) would have it, while my wife and I were driving north on Orrington through downtown yesterday late afternoon, she was late for an appointment and hopped out of the car just past the Omni Orrington since there weren’t any parking spaces available, and asked me to find a space over on Sherman where she’d meet me later.
I took over the wheel where she left the car in the alley between The Orrington and Burger King. Upon arriving at Sherman and knowing this is a horrible blind spot there, I proceeded with great caution making sure not to disrupt any pedestrians on the sidewalk before pulling out onto Sherman. Just as I began to check traffic a tremendously loud thump came from the back of the car!—I immediately surmised someone was unhappy with me believing I hadn’t driven past the sidewalk quite as carefully as I believed, and this was further confirmed by extremely loud and vulgar language directed me.
I put the car in park, opened the door and got out---all the while still knowing I hadn’t caused any disruption to pedestrians, but all the same, I chose to take the calm approach and said---“do you think you could wait before allowing me the chance to apologize if I caused you any problems before smashing the trunk and cursing me out?” I barely even finished the sentence before a large man with dreadlocks and walking a small poodle (same poodle I’d seen out of the corner of my eye passing by the Unicorn Café as I drove past the sidewalk) lunged toward me and delivered a highly forceful forearm slam to my neck which needless to say caught me completely off guard, and this was followed by a straight right that caught me flush on the jaw---all the while still hurling vulgar insults that left me almost laughing at the absurdity of such insane rage.
At this time he continued screaming a manically bizarre claim that I’d ran through a stop sign in the alley and fully deserved the attack. I then began to think about “stand your ground laws”, and figured If I retaliate then I know this thing will turn into a major brawl and I’m not sure I want that. But all the same I’m thinking no matter how big this guy is and or how crazy he is, I have to think I’d be more than within legal rights to swing back no matter what state law says regarding self defense. And I’m not the type to shy away from such an attack
So I stood “eye to eye” with the guy trying to explain even if it was a case of me blowing off some imaginary stop sign, that he’d be in a world of trouble with the cops for assault and battery---this bit of reality had no effect on him as he continued on with his vulgar verbal warfare---and even though I was still slightly piqued from the two shots he got in, I decided there was no further use in dealing with the guy---he was clearly unbalanced and calling the police would only cause both of us hours of time at the station and subsequent court appearances. There were dozens of witnesses and sadly enough not even one ever made any effort to intervene---even while getting out of the car and absorbing the two cheap shots from the guy.
The attacker moved on and the entire incident probably didn’t last more than 3 minutes, but before returning to the car I approached a woman sitting at the Unicorn’s sidewalk cafe who I’d noticed was there for the entire ordeal—she confirmed what I already knew, and that being I’d never came close to disrupting the guy or the dog as I drove past the sidewalk---she offered her card if I needed a witness---a nice gesture. And amusingly enough, two guys sitting nearby at separate tables got up and scampered inside the Unicorn as I approached them.
Upon arriving home I decided to look on line about what kind of laws IL has on the books regarding self defense, and to what level of defense could I have taken and still been within the guidelines of law. But keep in mind and probably most of you already know---Carrying a firearm (conceal and carry)is strictly forbidden in IL—one of the few states in the country without some form of a conceal and carry law---and being in possession of almost any weapon imaginable is illegal in Cook County and Evanston
Bottom line being I’m glad I didn’t retaliate, and at no time did I ever think my life was in danger---but one never knows?---all one has to do is pick up a Chicago newspaper to see there’s an infinite amount of people walking around in Cook County that don’t have a problem in taking another person’s life.
From the State of IL web site – IL General Assemply
(720 ILCS 5/7-1) Sec. 7-1. Use of force in defense of person.
A person is justified in the use of force against another when and to the extent that he reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or another against such other's imminent use of unlawful force. However, he is justified in the use of force which is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm only if he reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or another, or the commission of a forcible felony.