Home Depot shooting incident raises questions

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Rochester Hills — A Clarkston woman who made national news and angered gun rights groups after she allegedly shot at a fleeing shoplifter’s vehicle outside a Home Depot store has been charged in the incident.

No one was injured at the Joslyn Road store when witnesses said Tatiana Duva-Rodriguez, 46, saw a loss prevention officer chasing a man pushing a shopping cart from the store to an awaiting Kia driven by another man.

Duva-Rodriguez, who has a license to carry a concealed weapon, allegedly tried to shoot out the tire of the vehicle as it sped away.

“Good people, in the heat of the moment, some times do not make the right decisions,” her attorney Steven L. Schwartz said in a phone interview. “People want to do good. To be good Samaritans. Like a person trying to stop a felony.”

The use of a weapon in the incident has raised questions about the rights of a person who is licensed to carry a pistol and when it’s legal to use it. Gun rights advocates say a well-armed populace can help to deter crime while gun control supporters say the Home Depot shooting is evidence that tighter restrictions are needed.

The incident apparently involved the “misguided attempt to disable the vehicle to stop two reported shoplifters,” Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper said in a press release.

“If this is proven, I find it very disturbing that someone would take out their gun in a busy parking lot and shoot at the tires of a passing car,” she said. “Once fired, the bullet could have easily ricocheted or fragmented and injured or killed someone else.

“It would have been much more helpful for her to take out her cellphone and shoot pictures of the shoplifter’s license plate.”

A not guilty plea was entered for Duva-Rodriguez, who stood mute before Rochester Hills 52-3 District Magistrate Marie Soma on one count of reckless use, discharge or handling of a firearm. She was released on $5,000 personal bond pending an Oct. 26 probable cause hearing before Judge Julie Nicholson.

The offense is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail and fines.

A copy of the arraignment was to be sent to the Oakland County Gun Board for possible revocation of her Concealed Pistol License, police said. Duva-Rodriguez’s handgun was confiscated Oct. 6.

Obtaining a CPL allows holders to carry a concealed loaded handgun under most conditions, including in a car. To get a CPL in Michigan, you have to complete a gun safety training course, be 21 years old, a U.S. or legal immigrant and state resident with no mental health problems or felony or certain misdemeanor convictions, among other conditions.

Schwartz described his client as a “hard-working, family-oriented” woman with no history of assaultive or criminal behavior.

Attorney Neil Rockind, a former assistant prosecutor who has founded his own criminal defense firm, said a shooter in this situation may have a difficult defense.

“There is no indication that she or others were in imminent danger,” he said, which the law says would legally protect owners who shoot at crime suspects.

“A passerby shooting at someone with whom she has had no contact is a different scenario,” he said. “The case will come down to witness testimony and the shooter’s state of mind. Did something scare her? Why? If not, she would need to admit wrongdoing and seek to mitigate any charges that may arise.”

Two Flint men in the Home Depot incident were later taken into custody and are expected to face retail fraud charges.

On Saturday, the driver of the truck, Anthony Harris, 46, pleaded not guilty to retail fraud charges and is being held in the Oakland County Jail in lieu of $25,000 bond and an Oct. 19 probable cause hearing.

The second suspect, a 52-year-old man, is expected to be charged, as well. He is being held on other outstanding criminal warrants from other departments, according to Auburn Hills Police Lt. Jill McDonnell.

‘Gun owners look bad’

The Home Depot incident angers some in gun rights groups who themselves have been criticized for their support of gun owners and the right to bear arms.

“Something like this makes all gun owners look bad,” said Rob Harris, a board member with the Michigan Open Carry group, a statewide organization that advocates openly wearing handguns in public.

“It gives people who don’t like guns the perfect talking point: ‘See! It was stupid. Bad choices.’ You never fire at a target not knowing what is behind it.

“She would have been better to not have done anything. Or just wrote down the license plate number for police.”

This is at least the third high-profile case involving a CPL holder involved in a Metro Detroit shooting incident in recent weeks.

A bank robber was injured Sept. 21 at a Warren bank after he was shot three times by a customer, a 60-year-old autoworker carrying a concealed weapon. The autoworker was among four people in the Citizen’s Bank on Timken near Van Dyke when the 43-year-old suspect pointed a handgun at him.

Warren Mayor James Fouts said it appeared the autoworker was within his rights because he had a loaded handgun pointed in his face during a bank robbery.

On Sept. 3, a 50-year-old CPL holder using an ATM on Detroit’s west side, wounded two armed teenagers who had approached him in a robbery attempt.

Shootings hard to gauge

It’s difficult to gauge whether shootings involving CPL holders are on the rise. The most authoritative of reports are a couple of years old and don’t track shooting incidents.

The most recent Michigan State Police CPL annual report — from July 2012 to June 2013 — showed there were 129,900 CPL applications received that year and 118,025 issued to handgun owners. There were also 1,402 CPL revocations during that same time frame, the majority for felony or misdemeanor convictions of some type.

A CPL license can be revoked for a conviction of reckless use or handling of a firearm and the owner cannot reapply for eight years.

There are more than 500,000 CPL holders in Michigan and the “overwhelming majority” of them act responsibly, said Harris, who doesn’t believe shooting incidents have become more frequent. But he stressed Duva-Rodriguez did not act properly.

“She should be charged,” said Harris, whose group’s Facebook page has more than 10,000 followers. “Carrying a firearm is a big responsibility and you only use it if your life or someone else’s is being threatened. You can’t defend property. I suspect she will lose her CPL,” he said.

Harris noted how Detroit Police Chief James Craig encouraged Detroit homeowners to arm themselves against intruders.

“You can’t defend yourself over stolen property but if someone is breaking into your home and you fear for your life you have the right to defend yourself,” Harris said. “The police can’t be everywhere.”


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