Arizona -(Ammoland.com)- On Friday, 5 July 2019, two young women attacked a third woman, Rojanai Alston, in a Walmart store in North Versailles, Pennsylvania. It was about 9:30 p.m. A an unknown man accompanying Alston intervened and tried to separate the two women attacking the victim from her.
Rojanai had a concealed carry permit, and a handgun, in her purse. As she is resisting the attackers, she manages to pull the pistol from the purse. The young man dives for cover, and the two attackers flee as she fires five shots. It is all shown in the video below.
ONLY ON 4 – video of the shooting inside Walmart in North Versailles – and the planned attack on the shooter that triggered her opening fire. Was it self-defense? #WTAE at 6 pic.twitter.com/WGsV9QjLuZ
— Bob Mayo (@BMayo_WTAE) July 18, 2019
Then Rojanai, in the heat of the moment, made what may be a significant legal error. She followed one of the attackers for a short distance. It appears one of the attackers is coming back. She fires two more shots. Those shots have landed her in trouble. They connected with her initial attacker. From pennlive.com:
“She was cold-cocked in the head, not once, not twice, but at least three times, and then they attempted to drag her to the ground. And if she didn't have a firearm on her to disperse her two assailants, I don't know if my client would even be alive right now,” Haber said.
Despite this, Alston was held for trial on a charge of aggravated assault, WTAE reports, adding:
Alston initially fired five shots. But seconds later, when the woman who threw the first punch comes back in Alston’s direction, Alston fired two more times, shooting that woman in a finger and an upper thigh. All of the women were interviewed by police.
The Allegheny County District Attorney has said the first five shots were justified, but the last two were not. Rojanai's attorney disagrees. Rojanai has been charged with aggravated assault. This case will likely be decided by a jury trial. It will be expensive in time, money, and emotional stress.
This is an illustration of how difficult it is to exert calm judgment during and immediately after being attacked. We do not know exactly what was going through Rojanai's mind when she followed her attacker. Video of that area is not very clear in the clip that has been released. Was her attacker coming back to renew the attack when she fired the last two shots? Was that a reasonable assumption on her part?
It is easy to say that Rojanai should not have followed her attacker. Those judgments are simple to make from the safety of a computer screen when we are not in an adrenaline-charged fight or flight mode.
The legal standard is, when the threat has stopped, the justification for deadly force no longer exists. Was the threat stopped when the two attackers fled? Was the threat re-initiated a few seconds later?
The attackers showed no weapons other than hands and feet that I could see in the video. The conventional wisdom is, once they started to flee, let them go. This case shows the wisdom of believing each bullet fired has a lawyer attached to it.
Whatever the jury decides, Rojanai will be paying the price, from large to extremely heavy.
About Dean Weingarten:
Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of constitutional carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and recently retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.