Just for the record, I don't know Joe Horn, but we're neighbors. I live in Village Grove subdivision in Pasadena (until the house sells, which I pray will be soon!), Horn lives in Village Grove East, a newer section just a mile or two away. In case you don't recognize the name Joe Horn (and no, I am not referring to the Atlanta Falcons reciever), he's the 61 year old man who gunned down two men who were robbing his next door neighbor's home in broad daylight last week. Here's a link to the story on the Chronicle's website: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/side/5306638.html
Mr. Horn is white. The two deceased burglars were black. Pasadena has a not-too-distant past of well-documented racism (people my age who grew up here can remember when the Klan's headquarters were on Southmore St.). In addition, the 911 call was released (it can be heard on the link above) and Mr. Horn was urged not to confront these men. He is heard to say, "I'm not going to let them get away" and "I'm gonna shoot them." This of course leads us to believe he was motivated less by fear of his own life and more by a desire to punish criminals on his own.
Reaction has been predictable. Letters to the editor at the Chronicle ( see here: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/editorial/outlook/5309148.html and also here: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/editorial/outlook/5312660.html) were mostly supportive of Horn. One guy wrote, "Let's fire the police and hire Joe Horn!" Then yesterday, Quanell X led a protest in Village Grove East. Quanell said if Horn were black and the two suspects white, Horn would be in jail today.
How do I feel about all this? Well, it is disconcerting to know that in our nice middle-class neighborhood, someone would brazenly break into a house in broad daylight. I leave my wife and two kids every day for most of the daylight hours. Frankly, I am glad that these two men, at least, will never break into my house. But on the other hand, I don't like the idea that ordinary citizens can use deadly force when they have no reason to believe their own lives are in danger. Society simply can't abide that, unless we want this to turn into Dodge City in the 1800s. I don't know what should happen to Mr. Horn, but in my opinion, he needs to be charged with something.
Mostly, though, I wonder why everything has to devolve into a political firestorm. Some are already lauding Mr. Horn as a folk hero. Quanell X has predictably turned this into a racial issue. Why can't it just be about the simple question: "How much lethal force is a person allowed to use?" Why does every event in our society have to be an occasion for soundbites and talk-radio vitriol?
So far, Wayne Dolcefino hasn't knocked on my door yet looking for a man-on-the-street reaction story, but I'll let you all know if he does.