Aftermath of a good self defense shooting.
Couple still aren't right with using deadly force in self-defense
After Eric Cegon shot the man who had been threatening him and his girlfriend, the couple are suffering anxiety, shock and grief.
By Jim Adams, Star Tribune
Eric Cegon's first few weeks were filled with sleeping pills, anxiety and disbelief that he had to kill a man with a shotgun.
"I blocked it out of my mind for a while," said Cegon, who never had a gun before. "I realized there was nothing right about it, but I didn't do anything wrong."
The Wright County attorney's office agreed, ruling that the Rockford man had acted in self-defense.
Since that devastating December night in his girlfriend's apartment, when Cegon shot armed intruder Erik Richter, the couple have endured nightmares and violent flashbacks, been berated by Richter's friends and struggled in their five-month-old relationship.
Samantha Simons, 22, said she has taken medication for anxiety-caused chest pains, but has also rediscovered her faith and believes God protected them that deadly night.
Cegon, 30, has used sleeping pills and talked to a therapist about his feelings of shock and grief. "I think about it every day," he said. "It is something I will always think about."
Cegon, Simons and her 2-year-old son, Jackson, have left the modest Rockford apartment where her jealousy-crazed ex-boyfriend of three years smashed through two barricaded doors and entered their bedroom about 3:30 a.m.
Cegon sat up in bed next to Simons as she screamed and covered her son. Cegon aimed a borrowed 12-gauge shotgun at the doorway and blasted Richter off his feet.
"You killed me," the couple heard Richter gasp after dropping a half-cocked handgun. Cegon fired again at the 6-footer, just to be sure. For more than a month, Richter, 35, had threatened to kill Cegon, and he had threatened Simons with a knife, violating a no-contact court order.
Richter was the father of Simons' son and a friend of Cegon's who had worked on cars with him. The shooting left Cegon dazed for about a week, until he saw Richter's funeral program.
"He broke down and started crying," said Simons, 22. "He looked at me and cried some more. Then he started playing his guitar. ... I think he tries to block it out because he doesn't want to feel the sadness and the hurt."
Those emotions, along with remorse, fear and anger, often surface after fatal shootings, said Minneapolis police chaplain Jeffrey Stewart, who has counseled officers involved in on-duty shootings. "It doesn't matter how right it is. ... We have a desire not to take a human life, even if you are forced and it is the right thing to do."
He said civilians such as Cegon probably have more difficulty coping than do officers, who are trained about what to expect if they ever have to take a life.
Cegon's act "probably saved not only his life but that of others," Stewart said.
Cegon and Simons are living with Cegon's parents in Rockford while saving for another apartment. Cegon, a Rockford High School graduate, also has a son and is going through a divorce. He was rehired for the auto parts delivery job that he quit shortly before the shooting because he didn't want to be any place where Richter could find him.
Richter, who had served time for meth possession, had shown Simons a shotgun with which he planned to kill Cegon. Simons said she left Richter because of his increasing meth use and physical abuse. She said he begged her to come back to him and said if he couldn't have her, nobody would. He saw her weekly until the shooting and always looked high, she said.
Regarding Cegon, Simons said, the shooting has "put a dark cloud over our relationship. We both are not as happy because of it. I hope we will stay together." She said they have talked about marriage, adding: "I think the relationship will be stronger after we get over this hump."
As Simons talked at the kitchen table, Jackson played in a camouflage shirt with a truck and green squirt gun in the mobile home of Cegon's parents. Simons pointed to the bedroom window where on Nov. 4, court records say, Richter tried to break in while yelling that he would kill Cegon. After that, Cegon, with Simons' blessing, borrowed a friend's shotgun and learned how to use it. He had never hunted or kept a firearm.
Cegon felt an "aura of death" while Richter was stalking him: "You can feel it deep down that he wants me dead," he said. He carried the shotgun with him for two weeks before the fatal night. The couple said they never want a gun in their home again, unless they face a similar peril.
Cegon has flashbacks sometimes when he dozes off at night and has taken medication for anxiety and to help him sleep. He has seen a therapist several times.
"My emotions are dulled," he said. "Happiness and sadness are not as intense."
Getting back to work in St. Michael gives him something positive to focus on, he said during a lunch break one day.
The couple avoid a Rockford bar where two of Richter's friends confronted them one night after the shooting. The two men called them "scumbags" and tried to pick a fight, Cegon said. He turned back to the bar and ignored them.
Cegon regrets that Richter "brought it to this. ... I didn't have a choice. It's not good," but better than being dead, he said.
Simons said she had shunned God in her teens after three friends in Brainerd died in a meth-related shooting and another girlfriend died in a car accident. But she says that God, not the shotgun, gave her peace when they decided to stay in her apartment that night. They expected Richter's arrival because he had a court hearing the next day for violating her no-contact order.
"Something told me to stay there," she said. "We could have gone and hid to avoid it, but he would have been looking for us. You can't run forever. I felt we should stay there and face up to the problem."
Although they hadn't slept well and had barricaded their bedroom door for a week, "that night we fell asleep and felt safe," she said. "I never used to believe in God ... but all the sudden I felt this peace inside of me ... that night I started to believe. I felt like God was protecting us."
Simons said she plans to see a therapist and take her son, who seems OK, to what is called play therapy.
She expects the boy will ask someday about his father, whose framed photo he saw after the shooting. Jackson hugged it and said, " 'That's my daddy,' " Simons said. "I don't know how I am going to answer when he brings it up. I won't lie to him about anything. I hope he understands why we had to do what we had to do. ... It changed my life, and it will forever."
This young man protected himself and his girlfriend with a borrowed shotgun. He is taking the shooting pretty hard and I can understand that. I just wonder if I would be as disturbed as he seems to be over protecting my wife and myself in similar circumstances. I know I would be worried about what a prosecutor would do to me no matter how just the shooting was. I'm not heartless but I just don't think I would be as broken up as he is about protecting my life. What do you think?