December 13, 2006

How To Save A Life

If you haven’t heard this tune yet you must not have been near a radio for any length of time this year. It's by The Fray & it's loosely about a person trying unsuccessfully to counsel a troubled kid, offering ultimatums instead of the support he needed. It speaks of a frustration I'm sure everyone has known at some point: wanting to help someone but not knowing how to do so. The chorus says it all:

"Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life"

But the music is clever. It's fairly light in the verses & doesn't get so heavy as to seem out of place in the chorus. Anyway here's the vid & here are the lyrics.

Now we'll talk about the murder of a lady who probably did save a few lives, or at least tried.

A 62 year old lady was murdered while she worked an overnight shift at a 7-11 convenience store. This happened in Aurora, Colorado just east of Denver. It's assumed to be a robbery attempt even though no money was actually taken. The lady talked with her killer for a moment then she tried to run when he pulled out a short barreled shotgun. He shot her in the back. Her name was Jutte Gallegos Burton.

Miss Burton had co-founded a ministry called The Shield House to help people recovering from substance abuse. She'd be clean for about 20 years but saw a gap in the services available to addicts when she was getting herself cleaned up, so she tried to fill that gap. She had a daughter & grandson in Aurora & a son who is currently serving in the military.

7-11 has instituted safety measures since then. They now have two clerks working the overnight shift. However since they did not say that the additional clerk would be armed I don't think it's going to be as effective as their "loss prevention officer" wants to believe. Aurora cops are supposed to be making more frequent checks on area convenience stores & 7-11 has offered a $10,000 reward to anyone who has info leading to the arrest of Miss Burton's murderer.

I had heard in radio accounts of the murder that Miss Burton had requested the overnight shift & had been working it for 9 years or so. I'm just guessing but I assume 7-11 has a "comply with any demands" policy to accompany a "no weapons allowed" policy. In the corporate world that seems to be the standard & honestly it seems to pay off for them. Usually a robbery is a matter of monetary loss & perhaps some mild injuries to the victim. Insurance covers this without much fuss. From my understanding most insurance companies insist that employees be disarmed. They don't want to go through a wrongful death legal battle should some poor hapless robber end up dead at the hands of his mean barbaric victim. The fraction fo the time an employee is seriously hurt or killed it's not that big of a deal to pay some pittance to the deceased's family if they have to pay anything at all.

Among the many jobs I've held clerking was one of them. It was at a family owned convenience/general store in a bad part of town. My grandfather ran the place & even though he introduced me to firearms he refused to keep a pistol with him. He had bought into the bullshit about how easy it was to take a gun away from someone trying to defend themselves & figured his age (he was in his 70's when I was helping him out) made that even more likely. So I took to sitting in the back of the store with a double barrel across my lap as I did my homework. We never got robbed again.

One night when I wasn't there my grandfather got beat up pretty badly. The short version is this neighborhood punk (he was 27 or so at the time but I cannot consider him a man in any sense of the word) wanted revenge because he was awaiting trial for breaking into my grandfather's house (I was the one who caught him coming out the back door & my friends & I chased him till the cops caught up with us & cuffed him). So he waited until my grandfather closed the store & was walking the 100 yards to his house. He drug him into an alley then beat & choked him & left him for dead. I still remember what my grandfather looked like in the hospital & I still regret that the cops found the punk first. The point is if my grandfather hadn't had bought into the bullshit he might very well have had a pistol on him & could have avoided being beat to within an inch of his life. It wouldn't have guaranteed his safety but it would have given him a fair chance. An unarmed 72 year old man against an unarmed 27 year old punk isn't much of a chance. (In the interests of following up with the story said punk got a 10 year sentence for aggravated assault. He was supposed to be paroled in 7 but I never saw him in the old neighborhood. & ya damn skippy I looked, especially since he’d threatened to kill me when he got out.)

7-11 is not pursuing an effective solution. They're basically trying to look busy while accomplishing no real improvement in the safety of its employees. What they should do is encourage their employees to seek out training & carry a firearm while at work. Or at least have a "store gun" stashed someplace handy where it can be reached in an emergency.

Being armed might not have saved Miss Burton. Her murderer drew first & it's harder to beat an already aimed gun when you start from a holster. But if he’d have been armed then maybe she could have drawn first. Or more ideally (& likely) some punk with a shotgun wouldn't have risked going after a 62 year old woman because he'd have had reason to believe she was armed & capable of repelling his attack. There's no deterent to crime like a dangerous victim.

Until companies like 7-11 see the light I wouldn't blame a clerk if it was discovered he or she had a concealed handgun on their person while working. It would be grounds for termination if there was in fact a company policy proscribing such a state of preparedness but it's much easier to find a new job than a new life. & as an aside a few folks have criticized those who carry despite their employers’ policy against it. They are correct; it's wrong to carry if that's laid out as a no-no from the beginning. It'd be much more cool to resign your employment & seek a job where carrying is not prohibited. But truth be told a lot of decisions made at the corporate level are over-looked by the time it comes down to the local or store level. For example when I was delivering pizzas it was a corporate policy to yell "driver in" or "driver out" when entering or leaving the building respectively. It didn't matter if the manager himself had just opened the door for you; that was the policy. But every store manager I knew would say something to the effect of "make sure you say that if my boss is here" & then give the old wink & nod. Ditto for carrying. A lot of store managers would be forced to fire you if they found out you carried, but they made it a point to not look too closely at a slight bulge underneath your jacket, especially when they were about to send you to crack central. (As a matter of fact when I was delivering there were a few blocks so crime laden that the manager would only send 3 of us out of about 30 drivers to those addresses. Either he knew we packed or he just really wanted to get rid of us without filling out separation paperwork.)

As it stands now the murdering punk is still on the loose so if you're in the area be real careful. If a punk will shoot an old lady in the back then I doubt carjacking or breaking & entering are beneath his scruples. & look into The Shield House. I haven’t found much information on it but it sounds like Miss Burton was doing some good & perhaps they could use your help. & do let me know what if anything you find out.

Posted by Publicola at December 13, 2006 04:24 AM | TrackBack

Thank you for your comments, there are a few people starting to question 7-11's policy of having people work alone in dangerous situations. As far as I am concerned it is blatant negligence.
I knew Jutte. I was her former husband, we had a daughter and son and now two grandsons who she will never see. She was a good person, and didn't deserve this. As you stated she ran the Shield House in an effort to help other people. She also work another job at Macy's in order to make a living. There are a lot of things I can say in remembrance of Jutte, but what is important are the thoughts and feelings of people who crossed her path. To her I say- God bless.

Posted by: manny at December 17, 2006 11:36 AM

You & your family have my most sincere condolensces. If I can be of any service just let me know.

Posted by: Publicola at December 17, 2006 03:56 PM