A gun-wielding furniture store manager who foiled an alleged burglary over the weekend is glad she took the advice of friends this past winter and enrolled in a concealed carry weapons permit class.
But as a brief dose of celebrity found Angela Mallard, 45, and her 65-year-old mother Marlene Woodman on Monday, a law enforcement official who teaches such permit classes expressed hope that citizens holding concealed weapons follow the law.
"Missouri is like 48 other states, except the state of Texas, that does not allow deadly force in defense of property," said Randy Gibson, a captain in the Greene County Sheriff's Department. "Property is property. It doesn't matter if it's a $5 purse or a $5,000 purse. It's still property."
The News-Leader sought clarity on the law from Gibson, who agreed to speak only in generalities and not specifically about this case since Springfield police, not the sheriff's department, is investigating the incident as a burglary.
It all happened around lunchtime Saturday at Smart Buy Home Furnishings, 2845 W. Chestnut.
Police arrested a 58-year-old man and his 45-year-old brother after Mallard held the two at gunpoint.
Woodman said the older man sneaked into a lunch room behind the main counter near the back of the store while she showed pieces of furniture to a new customer, not realizing that the man was his brother.
Mallard returned from lunch and found the older man in the lunch room, then hollered at her mother to hurry to Mallard's car to retrieve a .380 pistol.
Neither man apparently tried to flee but agreed to sit in the lunch room even before Mallard had the gun in her hand, the store workers said.
Mallard said she earned a concealed carry permit in January.
Gibson has taught 93 concealed weapons permit classes at Bass Pro Shops in the past six years and is well-versed in Missouri Revised Statute 563.031.
"We spend about an hour of the eight-hour class discussing this very issue," Gibson said.
The statute states that deadly force can be used when a victim is defending himself but that someone cannot discharge a gun simply to protect physical property.
Gibson said the statute is difficult to interpret, especially the following graphs:
"A person may not use deadly force upon another person under the circumstances specified in subsection 1 of this section unless: ... (2) Such force is used against a person who unlawfully enters, remains after unlawfully entering, or attempts to unlawfully enter a dwelling, residence, or vehicle lawfully occupied by such person."
Gibson explained that someone cannot discharge a firearm in defense of a TV set, or car stereo, for instance. State statute 563.041 also spells out the use of deadly force.
"It's got to pass the "R" test; it's got to be reasonable," Gibson said. "If it doesn't rise to that level (in defense of yourself or someone else), some other means of force is going to be appropriate.
"We don't want citizens going out in public and acting like cops with badges," Gibson said. "We don't want what happened on East Battlefield (last year) and someone enter into crime-prevention mode. That is not a reasonable use of force."
Gibson was referencing the case of Charles R. Webb from last October. Then 61, Webb allegedly fired three shots from his 9mm handgun at a fleeing purse snatcher following an incident at the Price Cutter store at 3260 E. Battlefield Road. The sheriff's department eventually revoked Webb's concealed weapons permit.
Saturday's incident apparently contained much less drama.
Mallard indicated Monday that she felt confident enough not to discharge her weapon, given police were en route.
Mallard, 45, and her mother had become somewhat of celebrities by late morning Monday after their story appeared in The News-Leader.
A handful of local broadcast media swung by to interview them, and several people they didn't even know phoned or stopped by to offer encouragement.
Charges against the alleged burglars have yet to be filed. In fact, it may be a month before Springfield police take the case to the prosecutor's office, said Lt. David Millsap, who oversees the criminal investigations unit of the Springfield Police Department.
Millsap explained that the case has been assigned to an investigator who will need to gather witness statements and possibly security videos, among other tasks.
The News-Leader generally does not publish names of suspects until they are charged with a crime.