Earlier this week, an Atlanta homeowner shot and killed a young man who had pulled into his driveway by mistake. Something very similar happened in Baton Rouge more than 20 years ago. Some of you may remember this.
Yoshihiro Hattori was a 16-year-old Japanese exchange student who came to live with a Baton Rouge family in 1992. He and a young man from his host family were going to a Halloween party and mistook another house for the party house.
The boys went to the door and rang the doorbell, and when they got no response they turned to walk back to their car. But then the homeowner, Rodney Peairs, stormed out of his house with a .44-magnum revolver and yelled, “freeze!” Yoshihiro, probably not recognizing he was in danger, turned toward Pearis and said, “We’re here for the party.” Pearis fired his gun into Yoshihiro’s chest and ran back into his house.
Webb Haymaker, the boy with Yoshihiro, ran to a neighbor house and asked for help. The Pearis family did nothing, but remained in their house. An ambulance came, but Yoshihiro died before reaching the hospital.
At first, the Baton Rouge police declined to press charges against Pearis. Possibly only because of widespread outrage in Japan and pressure from higher officials was Pearis finally charged with manslaughter. At the trial, the defense portrayed Yoshihiro Hattori as scary and Rodney Peairs as just a regular guy defending his family. The defense pointed out that Yoshihiro was a 130-pound boy (dressed as John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever) who had just rung the doorbell — not exactly the usual behavior of a home invader. But naturally, Peairs was acquitted.
Now, as I remember it, the story got a lot of attention, and a lot of people thought it was outrageous, although many others defended Pearis and thought he was justified to shoot Yoshihiro. But there also was a widespread resignation about the acquittal — that’s just the way things are in America, especially in the South. It stinks, but nothing can be done.
This week’s shooting in Atlanta isn’t getting nearly as much attention, but the shooter was charged with murder pretty quickly. So far I haven’t heard anyone say the shooter, Phillip Walker Sailors, was justified in shooting a young man for the crime of pulling into his driveway. Perhaps someone has, and I’ve missed it. It will be interesting to see how and whether justice is served. I would also like to gauge if public reaction to this week’s shooting is different in any way from the reaction to the shooting in 1992. Have we progressed at all?
Related — here’s a gun control ad made to air during the Super Bowl.