ome years back I was sitting quietly at home when a strange car pulled into my driveway. And when I say pulled into my driveway I don’t mean that it came up the driveway in a normal way—no, I mean it came through the hedge separating my driveway from the parking lot next door, taking out a small tree, crossed over my driveway, and finally came to rest at an angle across my front yard. It was about three in the morning.
Now I could have taken a gun, gone outside, and shot the driver. To judge from today’s reports that would be, apparently, a fairly reasonable thing for a frightened elderly person to do. At least, that’s what one Philip Sailors did, with considerably less reason than I had to be frightened, when a strange car pulled into his driveway in a normal fashion. And while the justice system didn’t exactly give him a medal for it, it did allow him to plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter—a mere $500.00 fine and a suspended sentence. Apparently it was important to keep this crazed loon out of jail for some reason.
According to news accounts it was about ten in the evening when the car pulled up into Sailors’ driveway. Inside were four young people, three of them high school students. Sailors looked out the window and saw the car.
Did he do what a sane person would do—go down and ask what the kids wanted, or whether they were lost or something? No. He did not. Did he do what a frightened elderly person would do, and call 911? Again, no. Not at all. No, he did what a psycho-killer in a bad movie might do—grabbed his gun, went outside, and started shooting as the car took off down the driveway in a futile attempt to escape. Then, to add to the deranged quality of it all, after killing the driver Sailors held the three high-school kids at gunpoint. According to one of them Sailors made no attempt to help the dying man.
The police arrived in response to two 911 calls, one from one of the kids in the car and another from a neighbor who had heard gunshots. Sailors claimed that he believed the high-school kids were home invaders and that the fleeing car was about to run him down. As a former missionary to Panama he ought to have been able to tell high-school kids out ice-skating from dangerous criminals. As a Vietnam veteran he should have been able to distinguish a car fleeing from a car approaching—you’d think. But no.
When the police arrived it came out that the driver had come to pick up another student at a nearby address. The car’s GPS system misdirected him to Sailors’ driveway. And Sailors was arrested for murder.
Sailors was reported to be grief-stricken—but he offered no apology when he accepted the plea deal that let him off with manslaughter. A news report says “Sailors did not want to comment after the hearing. He was surrounded by friends and family who came to the hearing as a show of support.” It also reported that he paid the victim’s family an undisclosed sum of money in settlement of a lawsuit. Nice.
Oh, yeah—for the record I did what a frightened elderly person would do—called 911 and waited. It turned out that the guy driving the car was not so much a crazed madman as a fellow who suffered a stroke, thus missing a turn and ending up in my yard. Probably just as well I didn’t shoot him, then.