- The Washington Times - Monday, September 8, 2003

Glenn Ellis, of Laurel, Md., shot a teen-ager to death early Wednesday in an effort to prevent four men from stealing his sport-utility vehicle. We strongly condemn vigilante justice. Yet, Mr. Ellis did not arm himself, don night-vision goggles and prowl the streets neighborhood by neighborhood to hunt down the thieves.

Mr. Ellis was in his apartment at 2:20 a.m. when an alarm alerted him that someone was attempting to break into his vehicle in the parking lot of his apartment complex. It is an area, residents say, where cars are frequently vandalized or stolen. Mr. Ellis went outside, gun in hand, to confront the thieves — two of whom were already inside his Chevy Tahoe. Minutes later, he fired. When the shooting stopped, one of the suspected car thieves, a 15-year-old, was dead and a second one, a 23-year-old man, was wounded.

In deciding whether to press charges, prosecutorial discretion will take into account the fact that Mr. Ellis is a convicted felon. The Washington Post reported that, according to police records, Mr. Ellis was convicted in 1985 of assaulting his girlfriend and her mother. Several years later, while on probation, he was convicted of robbing a Hechinger’s in Langley Park at gunpoint. Mr. Ellis was sentenced to eight years in prison on that charge.

Mr. Ellis already has paid his debt to society for his earlier crimes. Any decision to prosecute Mr. Ellis in connection with the shootings ought to be based solely on whether he was acting in light of imminent danger to himself and in defense of his property. Based on the facts that have been made public thus far, we are inclined to believe that he was. (SUVs and other vehicles can easily be used as lethal weapons.)

Prince George’s leads the Washington region in auto thefts. In 2001, officers recorded nearly 12,000 reports of stolen vehicles. Police expect the numbers for 2002 to reach 15,000 and for them to be even higher for 2003 (more than 10,000 autos have been reported stolen through August), The Post reported on Sunday. Police and prosecutors would serve citizens well by expending resources on activities like protecting the public from robbers and car thieves.

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