Saturday, August 1, 2009

A Bad Decision

Dre was a very respectful young man. ... In the year that I have known him I don't ever remember seeing him upset. ... He set a great example for neighborhood kids ... I pray that one day we all meet him in heaven, because Andri M Benjamin Jr is in God's hands.

This is an entry left in the Orlando Sentinel’s obituary guestbook for Andri Benjamin. He died on Saturday, July 25, 2009, at the age of 18.

If the above entry is accurate, his is a cautionary tale.

During the early morning hours of July 25th, Miguel Jimenez, age 56, was returning to his apartment. Benjamin ran up to Jimenez, put a gun in his face and tried to rob him. Jimenez, who was armed with a revolver, defended himself by firing at Benjamin several times, killing him. Jimenez noticed a second man, who was with Benjamin, also approaching him and held him at gunpoint until police arrived. Link. Link.

When Benjamin made the decision to put another's life in danger, he, willingly or not, accepted responsibility for the results. While his friends may have described him as a caring young man, whatever decisions Benjamin had made up to that incident, whatever impressions he had made on others, all came down to this. Whether he was a saint before that crime, or a “misunderstood” young man, all that suddenly became irrelevant.

Now comes the time for the hand-wringing, the excuses, the outrage, the self-serving claims of surprise. Once again, all irrelevant. When Benjamin pointed the gun at Jimenez, he could not expect Jimenez to interview him about his past accomplishments. He could not expect Jimenez to take pity on him. He placed Jimenez in fear for his life and Jimenez reacted in a manner consistent with his right to defend himself.

Isn’t that just life, though? Sometimes it just comes down to one choice. Run a stop sign. Drink and drive. Cheat on a spouse. Commit a crime. A lifetime of good decisions can be marred or ended by one single bad one.

Of course, I know nothing of Benjamin's past history. I am consciously avoiding that topic. I am giving him the benefit of the doubt, without discussion. Why? Because, in the end, for the interaction between Jimenez and Benjamin, that history will not matter. Had there been a trial, such history may have been relevant. But Benjamin chose a path that led to a more immediate decision. That was his choice. And his choice was honored.

Even if you have previously been a saint, you cannot expect to get away with purposely attacking someone else for your own pleasure. We all have the right to defend ourselves when attacked. We demand, from those who interact with us, basic respect for human life.

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