A Gunfight in Kansas

On Nieman Road in Shawnee, Kansas (a Kansas City suburb), in a small strip-mall about a block from Shawnee City Hall, and situated between a bilingual storefront church and an investment brokerage. stands a gunshop called “She’s a Pistol”.

If the name seems unusual for a gun store, it’s because “She’s a Pistol” was started by Becky Bieker and her husband, Jon, with a mission to teach women how to protect and defend themselves and their families, and to provide them with the means to do so. The store conducts self-defense classes for women and carries a wide variety of non-lethal defensive weapons in addition to firearms; it caters to women but welcomes men as well.

On Friday, Jan. 9, at around 2 p.m. on a sunny afternoon, four armed individuals entered the shop and encountered Becky Bieker apparently alone behind the counter.

Based on ensuing events, it seems fair to surmise that their intent was robbery.

But whatever their plans may have been, they went awry when Jon Bieker, watching the store’s closed-circuit TV, saw his wife being brutally beaten and emerged from the rear portion of the store to protect and defend her.

The way events were reported by local print and broadcast media, “gunfire broke out”; “shots were fired”; “a shootout ensued”; in the process, three of the individuals were wounded; two were incapacitated and unable to flee, but one wounded robber and his unwounded accomplice fled and were arrested nearby in short order. But Jon Bieker, 44, was fatally wounded and succumbed within hours at a hospital.

One suspect is 18 yrs. old, two are 19 and another is 20. All have now been charged with first-degree murder. Two of them are still hospitalized.

What many of us familiar with this case (I first heard about it on the radio minutes after it happened, while the police were still searching for two of the suspects) can’t help but notice is the way the local media have reported on it.

The local news stories have not only been deliberately stingy with the details of how events unfolded, and have used a deliberately passive voice (e.g. “gunfire erupted”), but they have consistently characterized the suspects as “teenagers” or merely “teens”. It was also several days before any identifying details about the four “teens” were reported; nor were their names reported for several days, and it was longer before their photos were shown.

The cynics among us have almost come to expect that when a journalist’s physical description of a suspect conspicuously omits anything about the suspect’s complexion, there’s a reason.

And that’s part of why the cynics feel that the media are following a template we’ve seen before, as in the way 17 yr. old, 6’2” and 175 lb. “little” Trayvon Martin was characterized as “a child”, accompanied by a childhood photo, and the way Michael Brown of Ferguson, MO was characterized as a “gentle giant”.

But labeling armed robbers as “teens” ought to be a two-way street. If these alleged murderers are indeed “teenagers” -- which carries the subtext that they are therefore not expected to be fully responsible for their decisions and behavior -- I think it would be only fair to involve their parents, and to make them at least subject to questioning.

In the Ferguson, MO case, the media were quick to publish details about Officer Darren Wilson, including his address, which made his family subject to harassment and even death threats.

I have no desire to harass or threaten the parents of Hakeem Malik, Nicquan Ke-Aaron Midgyett, Londro Patterson III or Deanthony Wiley, but I’d certainly like to hear them answer some questions. For example:

  • Did these “teenagers” attend school? Did they have jobs? Did they live with their parents?
  • Did they have prior brushes with the law? (The four “teens” are also now being investigated in connection with a string of convenience store robberies.) Do they come from families with a history of criminality?
  • Where and how did they acquire the guns they used?
  • Just what sort of upbringing did they have? Were they ever actually taught right from wrong? Were they ever disciplined? Were they ever encouraged to learn self-control?
  • Just what aspect of their upbringing motivated them to choose armed robbery as a career?

And while I’m posing questions, here’s another that comes to mind: While Kansas state law provides for the death penalty, it has not been imposed since 1965. This leaves many Kansans, including myself, wondering, “Just who do you have to murder in order to actually be executed in Kansas?”

And here’s another aspect to this case: Becky Bieker (herself hospitalized after being assaulted, and dealing with the grief and shock of seeing her husband slain) has made it a point to implore everyone (including all the customers, neighbors and other local citizens who have rallied in support, made donations and attended a candlelight vigil and march in Jon’s honor) to refrain from politicizing this tragedy vis-à-vis “gun control”.

But that hasn’t stopped the anti-gun forces from trying to make political hay. And, as usual, their “arguments” are unimpeded by logic, and follow the meme of blaming guns per se, not the criminals who misuse them. One caller to a local radio station actually said, “Well, if the man hadn’t been involved in the business of selling guns, he wouldn’t be dead!”

Fortunately, such “arguments” are getting very little traction, at least in these parts and in this case. Common sense makes it pretty evident that, while Jon Bieker made the ultimate sacrifice, the fact that he had a gun and knew how to use it saved his wife’s life and probably the lives of others who, but for Jon, would be the next victims of a gang of four armed “teens” brazen enough to attempt a daylight robbery of a gun store.

(Contributions to a memorial fund for Jon Bieker [and to help Becky with expenses] may be made through the Kansas State Rifle Association, at http://www.ksraweb.org/.)

Stu Tarlowe, a native of NYC who now lives in the Sunflower State, has penned more than 75 pieces for American Thinker. His pantheon of heroes and role models includes Barry Farber, Jean Shepherd, Long John Nebel, Aristide Briant, Col. Jeff Cooper, Rabbi Meir Kahane, Hunter S. Thompson, Ed McMahon and G. Gordon Liddy.

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