Who Shot the Sheriff?

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Who Shot the Sheriff?

A town loses both their Sheriff and Deputy to gun violence in a short period of time. Would you believe a suspect that said that he shot and killed one of them and not the other? What are the chances that a municipality that is small enough to have but one Sheriff and one Deputy will have them both shot in separate incidents by multiple culprits?

One would assume that the town was not riddled with crime since the citizens felt that two law enforcement officials were enough to keep the peace. The narrator's choice of definite articles give a clue about the number of police personnel in the town. The narrator states that he shot the sheriff but did not shoot the deputy. Use of the definite article the indicates that there was one Deputy and one Sheriff in the narrator's town. The shooter did not say "I didn't shoot a deputy."

Yet, what would a man have to gain from admitting to one capital crime and not the other? The penalty for killing the Sheriff is death. The narrator is admitting to killing the Sheriff, why not admit to killing the Deputy as well?

Perhaps the shooter of the Sheriff did not shoot the Deputy because he had no reason to do so. Perhaps his yearning for justice is what compels him to not admit to shooting the Deputy since he did not do it and would like to see the proper person punished for the deputy's death. Perhaps confessing to one crime and not the other is a tactic the narrator is using to escape punishment for both of the crimes.

Yet, does the shooter have a true sense of justice if he shot the Sheriff in the first place? All human cultures abhor murder and punish those that break this norm. The murder of a law enforcement official is an attack not only on the man involved but on civilization itself, since one of the necessary precepts of a civilized society is the willingness of all people to forego violence as a method for solving disputes. The basic social contract dictates that we as individuals shun violence as a solution to our problems. Without the prohibition of violence, society becomes barbaric with the biggest and strongest making all the rules and decisions. The criteria for solving problems is not justice but in the simple self-interest of the rule maker. In a community ruled by the violence of its leaders true justice is rare.

What if the Sheriff was an unjust tyrant? Would that give the narrator the moral justification for shooting the Sheriff? From the narrator's account, the Sheriff was treating him poorly. "Every time I plant a seed, he says kill it before it grows." Let's assume that the narrator was telling the truth with the last statement. If the Sheriff was sabotaging the narrator's crops and denying him a way to earn a living and feed his family, is that enough cause to shoot the sheriff? The narrator claims he shot the Sheriff in self defense. Is the destruction of crops the only threat the Sheriff posed to the narrator? Did the Sheriff threaten him in any other way?

The self-defense claim brings up an interesting point. The shooter is acknowledging culpability in shooting someone, but he has chosen his words carefully. He indicates that he shot the Sheriff and that it was in self defense. Perhaps the Sheriff was unjust and disliked by the community so that an admission of killing the Sheriff is less likely to incur punishment especially if there is documentation of the Sheriff threatening him.

The connotation of the narrator's use of the term 'self-defense' indicates that an immediate danger to his physical well-being is present. Does the narrator's claim of the need to defend himself meet the standard of the need to avoid immediate physical harm from the Sheriff?

We need more details on the events that led up to the shooting. Was the narrator growing an illegal plant that the Sheriff was duty-bound to eradicate as part of his job? Let us assume that the crop grown by the narrator was deemed dangerous by the community as a whole, does anyone have the right to grow it? Is there any instance that an exception exists in which the narrator legally grows this crop? What if growing the crop, although technically illegal, is the only means for the narrator to make a living? Someone is buying the crop from the narrator if he is able to sell it on the black market which indicates that the crop fills some sort of societal need. Is the narrator's crop truly harmful or does it violate a social more? Perhaps the crop is illegal because the sale of it by the narrator would upset an economic advantage held by people who make laws in this jurisdiction. Is the narrator morally wrong for growing and selling this plant? Is the Sheriff morally right to destroy these crops? Does the survival of the farmer supersede the community's collective wish to remain safe from the harmful effects of this plant? More information is needed to make a judgment about the morality of the law that the Sheriff is enforcing. One thing is clear, the narrator views his actions as being morally defensible since he is engaging in growing and selling this crop. Otherwise, he would grow something else that is legal to make a living and avoid the problems with the Sheriff.

If the narrator is a victim of unjust laws, does that give him the right to mete out justice on his own? He perceives the Sheriff as a threat to his livelihood, does that give him the moral justification to use violence to solve his problem? Keep in mind the narrator has benefited from the social contract that prohibits violence and murder in society. The proof of this fact is that the narrator was alive and well at the time of the incident and had not been murdered himself. In fact, the narrator benefited from the protection that both the Sheriff and Deputy provided.

If the narrator was the victim of an unjust law, would he be justified in murdering the Sheriff for enforcing that law? Does the Sheriff's intervention in the farmer's ability to make a living meet the standard of an immediate physical threat? Most people would agree that a threat the Sheriff poses when he kills all the farmer's seeds 'before they grow' as more of a longer term problem for the narrator than an immediate physical threat that needs to be violently dealt with. In order to preserve the social contract, there should be non-violent ways for the narrator to change the unjust law that is hurting him. Non-violent prescriptions that work within the system to change the law should be present in any community that employs law enforcement personnel to keep a just peace. Did the narrator engage in non-violent remedies to prevent the Sheriff from prosecuting him or was violence his first course of action?

On a practical level, the violence of shooting the Sheriff is a temporary solution at best. Killing the Sheriff may give a short term reprieve to living under the Sheriff's perceived tyranny. Surely the system that hired and maintained the idea of a Sheriff would not allow the narrator to produce his crops without interference ad infinitum. He had to know that the murder of the municipality's top law enforcement officer would have consequences that would prevent him from continuing his life unmolested after the violent event. The narrator had to assume that there would be a replacement for the Sheriff that would threaten the narrator's crops by enforcing the same law. One would assume that when a Sheriff is removed for an unexpected reason that the Deputy would assume the role of Sheriff until the town hired a suitable replacement.

This is the case for the murder of the Deputy. The narrator realized that the Deputy would replace the Sheriff once he was killed and decided to act by killing the Deputy as well. If both of the law enforcement officials were dead, would that give the narrator time enough to produce his illegal crop before replacements could be activated to enforce the law about his grown contraband?

This introduces a possible motive for the killing of both the Sheriff and the Deputy. The narrator eliminated all police officials who would try to stop him from executing his crimes and was counting on a period of time when there would not be any legal structure to prevent him from engaging in his illegal activities.

What action should the citizens of the town take? Should they investigate the shooter's claims and spend resources to catch the guilty party? Keep in mind that the town lost their two law enforcement officers. Do they have the capacity to open a fresh investigation into the deputy's death? Or should they take the shooter's confession for slaying the Sheriff and assume that he was responsible for both?

Perhaps the narrator is not confessing to the murder of the deputy because he is unlikely to beat that charge. Admitting to one capital crime gives the narrator a story to sell to the citizens of the town. It makes him look honest in admitting to one horrible thing. In reality, confessing to the Sheriff's death does not mean that he is honest in his statements about the killing of the Deputy. The narrator admits to killing the Sheriff but claims that he as a valid reason, that he had no choice but to defend himself. The Sheriff's antipathy towards the narrator is well-known in the town according to the narrator when he claims, "Sheriff John Brown always hated me". The narrator also claims that he does not know why the Sheriff hated him, implying that the Sheriff was an unjust man who was persecuting the narrator out of a sense of cruelty. Since the Sheriff is in fact dead, there is no way to definitively know the Sheriff's feelings towards the narrator. In this sense the narrator has the advantage because nobody there to directly contradict his story. With the elimination of the Deputy, there is no one left in the town able to investigate the narrator's claims. While the death of the Deputy does not directly aid the validity of the narrator's story it does damage the ability to contradict it.

From the evidence presented, it is reasonable to suspect the narrator of shooting both the Sheriff and the Deputy. The killing of the Sheriff is the original crime and the killing of the Deputy points to the existence of a cover up to prevent any other versions of the Sheriff's death from being discovered. The narrator's story stands as the only version of events and the death of the Deputy prevents evidence from being gathered and presented, not only because the Deputy is dead but the law enforcement infrastructure of the town has been decimated.

The narrator shot the Sheriff. Despite his protestations, we can be reasonably sure that he did shoot the Deputy as well.

investigation
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