A boy dies, and a gun debate is reignited
Holdup victim had concealed-carry permit Tuesday, April 24, 2007Damian G. Guevara and Patrick O'DonnellPlain Dealer Reporters
Damon Wells is the man gun supporters were imagining when they fought for the right to carry concealed weapons.
He had a permit to carry his gun, and he had the gun on him when a pair of teenage thieves approached him Saturday night on his front porch in Cleveland.
When one of the youths pulled a gun, Wells drew his and shot one of the boys several times in the chest, police said. Arthur Buford, 15, died after stumbling away and collapsing on a sidewalk near East 134th Street and Kinsman Road.
City prosecutors decided Monday that Wells, 25, was justified and would not be charged for what appears to be the first time a concealed-carry permit holder has shot and killed an attacker.
Nonetheless, the shooting reignited the debate that flared three years ago when Ohio's concealed-carry law took effect.
Gun supporters said the weapon saved Wells' life. Opponents said it took Buford's - that the 15-year-old might be alive if a citizen had not been armed.
An angry throng of about 30 youths gathered Monday and set up a memorial at the intersection where Buford, a freshman at John F. Kennedy High School, died.
His cousin, Tameka Foster, 21, questioned why police did not punish Buford's shooter.
"They let that man run out freely," Foster said. "My cousin is dead."
Buford's accomplice disappeared after the shooting and had not been caught as of Monday night. Police found a .38-caliber handgun in the mail chute of a nearby house. They believe it belonged to Buford or the other suspect, Lt. Thomas Stacho said.
Police took a .40-caliber Smith and Wesson firearm from Wells as evidence, the police report shows.
Both sides of the gun debate said it was sad that a teenager died.
"It's tragic," said Jim Irvine, chairman of the Buckeye Firearms Association. "Anytime somebody dies, it's tragic, but it's hard to have any sympathy when he chose to have a gun and go threaten somebody's life."
Irvine said it was "great that a potential victim is able to continue his life instead of having a criminal take it."
Toby Hoover, of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, said she had not heard of any other fatal shooting involving a concealed-carry permit holder.
"This is one of the few where they actually used it to stop a crime," Hoover said.
But, she said, "there's still a dead kid here."
A man who answered a phone number for Wells refused to comment and hung up. No one answered the door at Wells' home.
Plain Dealer reporters Jesse Tinsley and Brie Zeltner and researcher Cheryl Diamond contributed to this story.