December 28, 2011

Beverly Hope MeltonHope Melton, a 30 year old woman, stopped at a convenience store in the town of Jefferson, unaware that a violent man was watching her.  That man, 23 year old Nickolas Jermaine Miller,  was seen in surveillance video in the convenience store harassing  Melton before she left.  He was also seen on the tape, following her car as she left the parking lot.

According to Melton’s brother-in-law Juan Garces.“She did not know him. There was never a conversation with him,” said  “She had no indication she was in any danger.”

Miller, the man charged with abducting, raping and killing Melton was seen on surveillance video opening the store’s door for Melton, purchasing a beer and sitting in his car in waiting for her to leave.  When Melton finished pumping her gas, she left and Miller followed in his SUV.  Melton turned on to Angelus Road, heading to her grandmother’s house when she likely noticed that she was being followed.

She called her grandmother to tell her she saw a car following her and to let her know something was wrong, very wrong.  But, by the time they got to her location, all they found was her in the ditch, wheels spinning in reverse.

Murder InvestigationInvestigators suspect that Miller drove around Melton’s car, cutting her off and sent her into the ditch.  It is believed that she got out of the vehicle trying to flee from Miller, but he was able to catch her and force her into his SUV.  According to investigators, Miller then raped Melton and beat her to death with a baseball bat.  Her body was found in a secluded area of Kershaw County after Miller led Chesterfield County deputies to it.

Miller is currently in police custody in Kershaw County.  According to Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews, Miller had confessed and let authorities to Melton’s body.  His bond has not been set because he could receive the death penalty for the charges he faces, which will likely include kidnapping, criminal sexual conduct, and murder.

This is a senseless tragedy and unfortunately Hope Melton can not be brought back to life to do things differently, but I hope that we, as a pro-gun – pro-self defense community, will evaluate our own vulnerabilities and the vulnerabilities of our wives, girl friends, daughters, and female friends and encourage them to learn to protect themselves from violent encounters like Hope Melton experienced.  No one should ever have to experience what she did and I hope no one I know ever will…especially not on my watch.

Would a Firearm have saved the South Carolina women kidnapped, raped, and beaten to death?

This tragedy begs the question, “what if she had a gun?”   What if Hope Melton was a licensed concealed carry gun owner who choose to arm herself that day?  Would she still be alive today to tell the story?  I say yes!  And this should be a wake up call for women to choose ‘not to be a victim.’

Not a Victim!By evaluating this story, I mean no disrespect to Hope Melton’s family, but I do want consider the scenario under different conditions.

It is safe to say that people who choose to carry a weapon for self defense tend to be more alert to suspicious people, uncomfortable circumstances, and potential crimes.  In fact, they tend to carry themselves differently.  They can be less attractive as a target, because they are “too alert” and there are easier targets out there.

However, being alert doesn’t mean criminals won’t target you; some criminals, like Nickolas Jermaine Miller were willing to go to extremes to accomplish his plans and being alert would not have enough to deter him.

So, let’s re-evaluate the scenario, but this time we’ll give Hope Melton a gun.

Up until she was being followed, she didn’t do anything that most people would not have done themselves.  It is a bit sketchy, but some reports say she was being harassed in the store by the perpetrator.   This should have put her on high alert and may have justified a call to 911, but probably not by most people and it is questionable that the police would have done anything since a crime had not been committed…yet.

Also, his willingness to force her into the ditch in broad daylight is an indicator that he was very determined, violent, and experienced.   He wasn’t going to be deterred.

Once she felt threatened enough to call her grandmother, she was aware she was being followed.  As a Concealed Carry Licensee, this would have been her first opportunity to prepare to defend herself against the potential attack.  Readying her weapon by making it easily accessible, but (remember the crash in the ditch) keeping it securely holstered.  Once she had her weapon accessible for immediate use, she should have called 911 and continued driving to a safe location like a populated area, police station, or fire station.  Since the perpetrator forced her off the road, she had no opportunity to escape.

Once in the ditch, she exited her car and tried to flee.  This put her in a vulnerable position, but was reasonable in her mind because she was unarmed and wanted to escape.  I would have perhaps stayed in the car and tried to buy time by honking the horn, finding a pen or other sharp item to use as weapon, etc.  The more noise and time spent getting you out of the car may cause him to flee, but there is no guarantees.

In our scenario, however, she is armed and ready to defend herself.  

Let’s assume she only has seconds to react (probable), but has already prepared herself mentally for the potential encounter.  The SUV begins picking up speed as though to pass.  She has already readied/secured her weapon, called her grandmother and has 911 on the phone to alert them of the danger and is attempting to find a populated location to avoid any altercation.

As the driver passes, he swerves into her lane forcing her into the ditch.  She is scared, but physically ok and can see the driver moving towards her car.  Her weapon is securely holstered, but still accessible and she immediately upholsters it and draws on the approaching man giving loud verbal commands that both he and the 911 officer can hear.  Stop!  I am armed! I will shoot!

He is not deterred and only approaches faster.  As he reaches for her door to open it, she opens fire on him through the window, striking 3 times in the chest dropping him instantly.  This all may take place in 3-10 seconds, but seem like an eternity.

It takes a few moments, but as she continues to cover his body with her weapon, she finds her phone and tells the operator she needs immediate help, an ambulance, and that she has shot the perpetrator and is still armed, but will have her weapon secured (location) when officers arrive.

To successfully accomplish this, she would have had to mentally prepare beforehand with training.

She hangs up the phone, not wanting to give too many details in her current state.  She makes 2 important calls.  First calling her lawyer to get professional legal counsel ASAP and then calling her family to tell them to say nothing to the media or police with out the presence of their lawyer.

Several minutes later, the police finally arrive on scene.  Knowing that they are coming in ‘hot’ and may not know the circumstances of the shooting, she assumes they may see her as a threat.  Her firearm is secured in the location she told the operator and she has her hands in the air as they approach the scene.

As they begin their investigation on scene, she firmly, but politely says she wants her lawyer present before answer any questions.  No comments, statements, or remarks!  They can all be used against you!

“I’m sorry, but I need my lawyer present before I answer your questions.”

Although this scenario is fictional, it is the alternative to what actually happened.  Hope Melton would be going home to her husband and family and with some time and counseling, would move past the tragedy and put her life back together.

~ I’m interested in your thoughts.  What do you think?

Please leave a comment on this post, share it on Facebook, or leave a Voice mail message telling me your take.

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