“Whats you mean I be under arrest? I was the one shot! How come you not be arrestin’ the shooter?!” The ex-con, Jerome Damond, demanded as Sergeant Thacker and I cuffed him in the hallway of the county courthouse. We had just come out of the prosecutor’s office adjacent to the grand jury room where evidence was presented that Lawrence Nathan admitted to shooting Damond. But Nathan was not arrested — Damond was.
This incident grew out of an altercation at the Country Kitchen restaurant about a month previous. Damond was causing a disturbance and refused to leave the eatery. Nathan, the manager, got a tiny .25 ACP pistol from his office and, without pointing it at Damond, ordered him out. Nathan claimed, and no witness disputed this, that Damond advanced toward him in a menacing manner with fists clenched. It was then that Nathan shot him. The problem was the bullet hit Damond in the ass.
The sergeant and I, and all the cops in the area, knew and liked Nathan. When we were called to the scene, we ordered a life squad for Damond and conducted an interview of those present — including Nathan. Back at the station, I completed the incident report and presented it to Sergeant Thacker for his approval. Because it was close to the end of our third shift, we waited for the chief to arrive; after all, this did involve a shooting.
The chief didn’t like the way it was handled, indicating that we should have arrested Nathan and turned the case over to the prosecutor to take before a grand jury. The sergeant and I drove back to the Country Kitchen and, as apologetic as we could be, took Nathan to HQ to be printed and photographed.
In the grand jury room, based on our testimony, we were able to convince the jury that Nathan fired in self-defense, and at that instant, Damond turned away, thus causing the bullet to strike him in the rear. No one wanted to see the nice guy restaurant manager convicted of any crime. Nor did we want to allow a dirtbag such as Damond to issue threats with impunity. There is no statute, law or constitutional right that guarantees that life is fair.
As we led the ex-con to the county lockup, he looked at me saying, “I’ll getcha, pig. Some night you be drivin’ that fancy police car down the road and I’ll be shootin’ you like Larry shoot me.” Keeping my cool, I calmly said, “Get in line punk.” Cool or not, I was extra attentive to my surroundings after Damond was released.
Note: The names used in this story are fictitious.
— Chuck Klein
Woodlawn, Ohio, P.D., ret.