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Is Vigilantism the convenient new form of crime deterrent?

by Robert Randle  
6/15/2010 / Events

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.

Robert Randle
776 Commerce St. #B-11
Tacoma, WA 98402
June 12, 2010

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