The Alexander Weiss Duty-to-Retreat Case Part 3
The Alexander Weiss Duty-to-Retreat Case
Part 3: When Worlds Collide
When twenty-six-year-old Alexander Weiss saw a silver Chevy Cavalier slide through an icy intersection and slam against the curb, he decided to stop and see if the occupants needed help. He pulled over in front of the Cavalier, and put the car in “park.”
18-year-old Noah Dukart sat in the front passenger seat of the Cavalier. His 17-year-old friend Muhammed Rahim was driving. Two teen-aged girls sat in the back. After crashing into the curb, Rahim revved the engine and hit the gas. Suddenly there was a car there. Weiss’ car.
The two vehicles collided.
Weiss, who worked for a construction contractor and was on his way to referee a youth basketball tournament stepped out of the car, expecting to exchange insurance information with the driver of the vehicle that just struck him. Dukart, who had taken non-prescription Xanax pills the night before, which according to testimony “makes him feel like he doesn’t care about anything,” decided that Weiss was responsible for the collision, and he got out of the car with “shoulders hunched” and “fists balled” to confront him.
That’s when two worlds collided.
The confrontation didn’t last long. Weiss threatened to call the police. Dukart threatened to kill Weiss. Weiss retrieved his pistol and cell phone from his car while Rahim exited his vehicle to give his friend backup. Outnumbered and intimidated, Weiss displayed his pistol. Rahim said he thought it was a fake and spit on Weiss, and according to Weiss’ testimony, Rahim reached for the gun. When Weiss aimed it at Rahim’s chest, the teenager said, “Do it then.” Weiss fired one fatal shot.
In a recent article, we criticized Weiss for “going back to the fight” after returning to his car to get his gun and his phone. Don West, criminal defense lawyer and National Trial Counsel for CCW Safe, suggested that Weiss should have stayed in the car rather than re-engaging. He should have “realized there was something wrong with this guy’s response to his attempt to get information and to see if everybody was okay,” Don says. “He [Dukart] was completely out of kilter. It was the wrong response.”
This isn’t the first time we’ve looked at a shooting where the defender encountered someone who gave the “wrong response.” In a very similar case, Gerald Strebendt was rear-ended by a motorist named David Crofut. When Strebendt exited his truck, Crofut started swearing and issuing threats. Strebendt grabbed his AR-15-style rifle and gave strong verbal commands for Crofut to stay back. But Crofut continued to advance on the armed stranger. At one point, Crofut reached into his coat pockets. On a 911 recording, Strebendt tells the dispatcher he can’t see the man’s hands. After retreating 80 feet into darkness, and after Crofut touched the rifle, Strebendt fired a single fatal shot.
In a book about Strebendts’s legal defense, attorney Mike Arnold opines that Crofut may have been reaching into his pocket for money. Earlier in the evening, Crofut had been drinking and playing video poker in a bar. He had a high blood alcohol level and some cash winnings. Maybe he was just trying to give Strebent some money to avoid involving the police. Of course, Strebendt had no way of knowing that. Regardless of what was going through Crofut’s mind, it’s clear that the two men approached the aftermath of the traffic collision from two completely different perspectives, and the resulting confrontation was catastrophic.
Steve Moses, weapons instructor and CCW Safe contributor says, “We just need to always be aware that anytime you have an encounter with another person, there’s a possibility that it may go sideways, and what we thought was just a reasonable discussion between two people that were rational people — that might not be the case.”
Consider Michael Dunn who received curses and death threats when he asked a group of teenagers to turn down their music. Think of Ted Wafer who discovered that the person who had been banging violently at his door in the middle of the night was just a drunk, injured girl. Each defender encountered behavior that didn’t seem rational.
The lesson for concealed carriers is that not everyone you meet is going to behave rationally, and when you encounter erratic, irrational behavior, you should identify it, and treat the person accordingly. If Alexander Weiss, as Don West suggested, had identified that Dukart was acting irrationally, he could have used that behavior to justify leaving the scene and going somewhere safe where he could call police. If Stebendt would have recognized that Crofut was impaired, he could have stopped engaging him and simply walked swiftly away, and Crofut would almost certainly have stopped following. Michael Dunn didn’t need to escalate a fight with a teenager over loud music; he could have simply parked in a different spot and avoided the shooting of Jordan Davis. If Ted Wafer had considered even the possibility that the person raving on his porch was intoxicated, he may have acted very differently.
As a concealed carrier, it is irrational to get into an argument with someone who is being irrational. When you encounter someone acting strangely, you don’t know what intoxicants are influencing their behavior. You don’t know what stresses they are under. Steve Moses says, when you encounter some people who are under the influence or under stress, “it’s a little bit like having a situation where you’ve had a severe drought in a heavily wooded area for a long time.” Don’t be the spark that sets the blaze. If the other guy starts the fire, don’t fan the flames, just walk away.
SHAWN VINCENT- LITIGATION CONSULTANT
Shawn Vincent is a litigation consultant who helps select juries in self-defense cases, and he manages public interest of high-profile legal matters. If you have any questions for Shawn, or would like more articles like this, let us know belo