Kyle Troutman: Where is the line?
In the past week, two unique events have occurred that involve the presence of firearms, leaving almost more questions than answers about proper usage in somewhat rare situations.
Before I get into the grit of the gun conversation, I want to be clear that this is not a piece about the Second Amendment or “gun control” and does not call into question firearm ownership rights whatsoever.
This week, it was announced that former Monett Police Officer Montana Sheyenne is no longer charged with felony unlawful use of a weapon stemming from a 2019 incident where he shot his personal pistol at a moving vehicle in a Monett neighborhood.
We covered the original incident in the paper in September 2019, but about two weeks later, Sheyenne’s charges flew under our radar and went unreported. The details of the case are printed in a story on the front page of today’s edition.
I had received a few questions about it in the past few months, mainly people interested in law enforcement asking if there were any updates or progress on the case. Upon hearing the charge was dropped this week, I asked Barry County Prosecutor Amy Boxx why, and her answer surprised me.
She said the dismissal was primarily due to the death of the investigating officer.
The Missouri State Trooper who investigated the incident and requested the charge died unexpectedly in April. For the case to continue, a new investigator would have to be assigned and would have to re-investigate the case, which is now a year-and-a-half old.
I can understand how this could present some difficulties with evidence and re-interviewing witnesses, but it’s a bit unfortunate anyone would get a charge dismissed in this manner.
Yes, Sheyenne was a police officer, but where is the line for performing police work while not on duty? Does having a badge give an officer carte blanche to fire a personal weapon at a vehicle while off duty?
If Joe Schmo who lived on that street had acted in the same manner, would he not be classified as a vigilante? Furthermore, would he have been charged the same and his charge also be dropped, likewise?
Would the situation (and charge) be different if another person’s life was in danger at the time?
There is no question the individual behind the wheel of the vehicle Sheyenne shot at was a criminal. He was heavily intoxicated at the time and later rammed a Monett police cruiser, injuring two on-duty officers that also fired their weapons.
If the Monett Police Department’s reaction to Sheyenne’s actions is any indication — a different course should have been taken. The officer was terminated from his position, following the formal charge in November 2019, due to failing to adhere to department policy and protocol.
It stands to reason that if he did not fire his weapon, he may still be employed by the department.
The question now is, with the charge being dropped, will Sheyenne get his POST certification back? Should he get it back?
We rely on our law enforcement to make the right judgement calls, and that is why policy and procedure exist — to limit incidents like this one. Perfect judgement is an unrealistic expectation, but it should no doubt be the goal.
Another issue involving firearms arose last week during the search for the missing 12-year-old special needs child on the south side of Monett. About 75 local volunteers were combing the area near Race Brothers, and one individual who lives in the area gave a word of caution on social media that caused a stir.
The rural resident said volunteers knocked on her door at about 10:30 p.m., late enough the homeowner was suspicious, saying she answered the door with a weapon in her hand but out of sight. She went on to effectively say people searching through the farm land behind the home were putting themselves at risk of being shot for trespassing.
Her comments were met with a cascade of criticism, most of which noted that the quickly-organized search for a missing child should override any complaints of trespassing, given the situation.
This reaction from the homeowner struck me as a bit over the top, personally, but I would imagine many rural residents and gun owners probably have the same disposition.
That begs the question, when is it OK to have a weapon at the ready? Would it have been acceptable for the homeowner to approach and possibly point a weapon at the people searching in the field and demand they stop trespassing?
Where do these lines lay?
The majority of firearm conversations center on the right to bear arms and gun control, but how many conversations are actually had about responsible use?
It is my hope that these two situations give us pause when gripping a stock and make sure the decision being made is the appropriate one.
Anything less is irresponsible.
Kyle Troutman has served as the editor of The Monett Times since 2014. In 2017, he was named William E. James/Missouri Outstanding Young Journalist for daily newspapers. He may be reached at 417-235-3135 or email@example.com.