(Now is a time for calm in the OKC community as the facts of the case get sorted out. It may well be, as Ersland’s attorney Irven Box predicts, that no jury will convict him. That seems like a good bet to make in Oklahoma, but that doesn’t mean Prater should or could have ignored the law.)
It’s difficult to imagine any rational-thinking person could believe Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater was trying to make a political statement when he charged a local pharmacist with first-degree murder.
The pharmacist, Jerome Jay Ersland, 57, shot a 16-year-old boy to death May 19 during an armed robbery attempt at the Reliable Discount Pharmacy in Oklahoma City, according to media reports.
Even a cursory glance at the facts as reported by the local media shows Prater had a legal duty to respond to the case’s two most significant and current pieces of evidence, a surveillance video and a medical examiner’s autopsy report. These were pieces of evidence surely viewed by others besides Prater. He couldn’t ignore what the evidence showed or what it might mean or how it might be construed, and what’s more he shouldn’t have ignored it.
Was Prater just to dismiss the fact the video allegedly indicates 16-year-old Antwun Parker was incapacitated after being shot initially by Ersland and that the pharmacist retrieved another weapon and came back and shot the boy several more times? (Watch the video here. ) Was he to ignore the fact the autopsy report apparently shows it was the second volley of bullets that killed the boy? Prater has a responsibility to the law as a district attorney.
Here’s another simple question: Can anyone believe that Prater wants this controversy? Prater, for example, argued during a court hearing for the pharmacist that he believes in the right of self-defense and that the pharmacist was not charged over the initial shooting. Meanwhile, Prater has also charged three other people alleged to be involved in the armed robber with first-degree murder and not one of them fired a bullet in the robbery attempt.
No one I know is arguing the pharmacist, who is free on bail, didn’t have a right to protect himself and other employees, or that he shouldn’t have had access to guns. He did have the right. We all have that right. It’s part of the law.
Meanwhile, extremists and contrarians on a local discussion board and the blogosphere have gone overboard with hyperbole about Prater’s charges. The current judge in the case has also received death threats, according to media reports. The case has obviously stirred emotions, but this is definitely not the Second Amendment case some gun advocates seem to want it to be. Ersland was well within the law to have guns and to initially shoot. That’s not in dispute.
Now is a time for calm in the OKC community as the facts of the case get sorted out. It may well be, as Ersland’s attorney Irven Box predicts, that no jury will convict him. That seems like a good bet to make in Oklahoma, but that doesn’t mean Prater should or could have ignored the law. Most people will be sympathetic to a pharmacist suddenly faced with an armed robbery attempt. It’s hard to predict how anyone might react in that situation. It may well be that there will be no trial or other evidence emerges.
But Prater had no choice, with what appears to be obvious and public evidence, to bring charges given what has been made known about the case at this point. He deserves credit for standing with the law, knowing the case would generate massive publicity and he would draw heat. That’s real integrity.