Re: GUNS: Shooting of Japanese student did happen
Wed, 9 Jun 1999 08:17:13 -0700 (PDT)

Michael S. Lorrey [] wrote:
>The proper response would have been
>a) call the cops, b) only shoot if the intruder attempted to break the door
>down. Seems like a clear cut case of manslaughter or negligent homicide to me.

Seems as though the juries agreed with you:


So what was the real story? After researching the media and court records via Lexis-Nexis, I found the basic facts:

On the night of the incident, Hattori and host-brother Webb Haymaker were going to a Halloween party on the other side of town from where they lived; Hattori had found that another Japanese exchange student lived in Baton Rouge, had contacted her, and was subsequently invited to the aforementioned party. Hattori, a vibrant and gregarious youth, spoke little English and, alas, had a habit of rushing up to friends to greet them. Both Hattori and Haymaker were in costume, Hattori in a white suit to imitate John Travolta, and Haymaker as an accident victim, with a neck brace, bandages, and fake blood.

Accidentally transposing two numbers in the address, the two boys went to the wrong house (6 houses down from the actual party). They went up the path to the front door, where Haymaker rang the doorbell. One of Peairs' three young children started to answer the door; his mother stopped him, and instead herself, dressed in a nightgown, opened the carport door, tentatively, to see who was calling this late. Haymaker heard one of the children looking through the blinds near the dimly-lit carport, and so went there when Bonnie Peairs opened the door. When she opened the door, she saw a youth dressed in bloody bandages and a neck brace ask "where's the party?"; at about the same time, Hattori, hearing Haymaker speak, came around the corner and rushed up to the carport door.

Alarmed, Mrs. Peairs slammed the door shut. No one but her knows exactly why she panicked to the degree that she was, but panicked she was, and she shouted for her husband to come. Outside, the two boys walked down the driveway; Haymaker was convinced now that they were at the wrong house, and started to try to explain this to Hattori, who did not yet understand. Inside, Rodney Peairs was introduced to the situation by hearing his wife, in a state of panic, tell him there were two strange men outside, and that he should get his gun. Trusting his wife's judgment, he got the gun and went to the carport door; the door was ajar, apparently having opened again at the force of it being slammed.

It was here that Peairs made his greatest error; instead of closing the door and defending from the inside, he stepped out into the doorway. It was on this point that the civil court ruled against him; but with a high crime rate and slow police response, Peairs claims he was doing what was necessary to protect his family, which a criminal court agreed with him on. (BTW, it took police 40 minutes to arrive after Hattori was shot.)

The two boys heard Peairs come to the door; they had been standing behind a vehicle in the driveway, meaning neither party could see the other initially. Hattori stepped out from behind the car. Peairs raised his gun and shouted "freeze!" Unfortunately, Hattori either did not understand it at all or even perhaps misunderstood the word as "please"; compounding the misunderstanding, Hattori was nearsighted and was not wearing his contacts; therefore he could not see the gun in Peairs' hands. Thinking a friend was at the door, he started running towards the figure. Peairs saw an intruder who'd frightened his wife to panic emerge from behind his car, ignore a raised gun, ignore his warning, and rush towards him quickly. In Hattori's outstretched hands was a dark metallic object which, in the dim light and rushed circumstance, Peairs thought was a gun (it was a camera). When Hattori was five feet away, Peairs shot him.

Now, put yourself in Peairs' place, see the situation as he saw it. Two intruders have scared your wife; to protect yourself, your wife, and your three children, believing the police will be no help, you go to confront the intruders. You present a gun, shout "freeze!" and yet one of the intruders rushes at you with what you believe is a gun in his outstretched hand. I am personally anti-gun and
anti-violence, but I must admit that at this point I would -not- be thinking, "oh, this might be a Japanese exchange student who lost his contact lenses and greets his friends by rushing towards them."

Can you honestly say you would never have reacted the same way? In light of the facts, what Peairs did was certainly an awful mistake, but nonetheless an understandable one.

This is the best I've found so far on the Net, and I don't see any particular reason to disbelieve it. Assuming it's correct, the jury decisions make perfect sense.

Apologies if the formatting is screwed, and hopefully that link works; the folks seem to be trying real hard to screw their system up lately.