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Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Richmond Ice Cream Store Manager Not Charged

David Felding got a bit of good news yesterday. The Richmond grand jury impaneled to decide if Felding should be charged in the shooting of Jerome Davis declined to indict Fielding in the shooting. But, according to the Richmond Times Dispatch, his father said the pain, trauma and tragedy of that evening may never be over.

Fielding fired 11 shots at Davis, who entered the store waving a BB-gun version of a 9 mm handgun and demanded money. Two of the shots struck Davis, one of them in the back, fatally wounding him as he fled the premises.

Yesterday, the Richmond commonwealth's attorney's office presented evidence for a charge of reckless discharge of a firearm. The five-member panel concluded that Fielding's actions were a justifiable and excusable form of self-defense. At least four grand jurors must vote for an indictment.

According to police, Davis entered the Baskin-Robbins about 9 p.m. on Sept. 6 and demanded money from the register. Fielding, the shift manager, handed over bills and change totaling less than $100.

Investigators said Davis ordered Fielding, another employee and the lone customer in the store to move back toward the storage area. Nobody realized Davis' gun was a fake, Herring said.
Once in the back of the store, however, Fielding produced his own 9mm gun from his waistband. Fielding then moved toward the front counter of the store and opened fire, causing Davis to flee.
Herring said there was no evidence that Davis turned around once he fled.

Davis, whose extensive criminal history included several robbery convictions, was found by police a couple of blocks away, bleeding to death near the front porch of his home in the 2900 block of Cherokee Road.

While the media likes to portray people who carry a firearm for self defense as trigger happy cowboys, the fact is, we never make the take the decision to do so lightly and if we are forced to fire, it has implications that could haunt us the rest of our lives. So is the case with Mr. Felding who Herring said was "extremely remorseful and crying," upon being told that Davis had died.

The panel's decision ends one of the most hotly debated shooting cases in the city's recent history. After the shooting, a neighborhood watch representative in Stratford Hills gathered more than 500 signatures on a petition supporting Fielding. The South Richmond business corridor has been hit by a surge in armed commercial robberies this year.

Prosecutors initially considered pursuing manslaughter charges in the case, but they decided to present evidence of reckless discharge when it could not be determined whether the fatal shot that killed Davis was one of three fired inside the store or among the eight fired when Fielding ran outside to pursue Davis.

Herring is apparently no fan of people defending themselves. He was quoted in the RTD saying "I think everyone understands that having more people firing more weapons increases the probability of unintended harm."

I was not in the store when this occurred. All I know is what was in press accounts. If they are accurate, Felding likely would have benefited from additional firearms training before deciding to carry a firearm. But, most "BB" guns look very real these days and I am not going to condemn his actions to protect himself and those in the store against a repeat offender.

You can read the complete RTD report here.

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