Monday, July 30, 2007

If any good can come of this horror

From The Guardian:

CHESHIRE, Conn. (AP) - Two men accused of killing a physician's wife and two daughters and setting fire to their home could face the death penalty if convicted.

Joshua Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes were charged with six capital felony counts in the deaths of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters during a home invasion, New Haven State's Attorney Michael Dearington said Thursday. They previously were charged with assault, sexual assault, kidnapping, robbery, arson and other counts in Monday's attack.

The seeming randomness of the attack has scared residents around the normally peaceful New Haven suburb of Cheshire, with its upper-middle class neighborhoods and Colonial homes with well-kept lawns.

Residents are lining up for gun safety classes so they can buy firearms, said Scott Hoffman, owner of Hoffman's Gun Center in nearby Newington.

``You talk to these people and you can see it's hit home, this particular crime,'' he said. ``It's the sheer grotesqueness of the crime and the fact that it's such a normal family.''

There are indications of intelligent life in Connecticut after all. People are waking up to the danger of being unprepared and unprotected and arming themselves. Connecticut requires a permit issued by the police to purchase a handgun or to carry a concealed firearm, but no permit is required for a rifle or shotgun and no permit is required to maintain a weapon loaded and ready in the home. Source

First and foremost Dr. Petit's family is dead because two evil men chose to invade their home, torment and murder them. However if Dr. Petit and his wife had taken some simple precautions they would be alive today.

From what we can piece together from press accounts this is what happened. The two criminals were scouting the area for victims. They saw Mrs. Hawke-Petit and her youngest daughter coming out of a grocery store and getting into their Mercedes. Liking the look of the expensive car, and probably the two women, they followed it home. The neighborhood and the Petit home spoke of affluence and promised a rich score for the two experienced criminals.

Approaching the house later on, about 3:00 AM, the two predators did not see a sign warning that the home was protected with an alarm system and they heard no barking dog. They seem to have circled the house trying the doors until they found AN UNLOCKED DOOR which they used to gain entry. Once inside they were not greeted with either an alarm sounding to tell them that the police were on the way or a barking watch dog telling them that the family would soon be awake and investigating.

At this point there was only one potential danger the two home invaders might possibly have to face, and it was the deadliest danger for men in their "profession" - armed homeowners. However the Petits, after failing to secure their home with locked doors and give themselves advance warning of approaching trouble with an alarm system (at least not one which was switched on) and a guard dog, went the final mile toward making themselves truly helpless sheep awaiting slaughter by not being armed.

After this the sequence of events is not known to the general public. What we do know is that Mr. Petit was neutralized by a severe beating about the head and body with a baseball bat and that he was bound and dumped into the house's basement. At least one and probably all of the Petit females were raped or otherwise sexually assaulted over a period of about 6 hours. Finally at around 9:00 AM Mrs. Hawke-Petit was forced to drive one of the criminals to the family's bank and make a withdrawal. At the bank she was somehow able to communicate to a teller that she and her family were being held hostage. Bank employees called the police which responded to the Petit home and the bank.

After Mrs. Hawke-Petit and her captor returned to the Petit home Mrs. Hawke-Petit was strangled to death and the home was set on fire with gasoline which the pair of criminals had brought with them. Mr. Petit was, as far as they knew, still tied up in the basement and the Petit daughters were tied to their beds, still alive.

The two criminals attempted to flee the Petit home in the Petit's SUV while inside the house Dr. Petit managed to free himself and exit the burning house while the two Petit daughters died of smoke inhalation.

Police captured the two murderers as they attempted to make their getaway.

As can be seen from the above narrative either Dr. Petit or Mrs. Hawke-Petit, the two responsible adults of the family, could have prevented the tragedy which befell them with some simple protective measures.

1. They could have secured the perimeter of their home with locked windows and doors which were designed to resist criminal intrusion. Every door in that house should have been a metal-clad entry door with a deadbolt lock. The door frames should have been reinforced with metal to help prevent battering. The windows should have been of a type designed to resist being forced and have been protected with burglar bars (which can be disguised as decorative wrought iron). A good starting point in upgrading your home security is a book like Home Security: Your Guide to Protecting Your Family . Had they not been able to gain entry to the house without taking time and making a great deal of noise the two scumbags would have almost certainly moved on to an easier target.

2. They should have had a burglar alarm system professionally installed and it should have been turned on. The alarm system should have been one of the type which is monitored and maintained by the alarm company. Ideally it should have been of the type which allows the people at the control center to actually hear what is going on in the house when the alarm is triggered. The knowledge that they had lost the element of surprise, that the family was awake and preparing for them and that the police had been called would have sent the two criminals fleeing. In fact a sticker on each door and window that the home was protected by an alarm system would have most likely stopped them from even trying to enter.

3. There should have been a watchdog inside the house to both sound the alert in the case of intruders and to act as a first line of active defense in the event the home's perimeter was breached. A barking dog will send most would-be burglars on to the next target. This is especially true if the dog is one of the larger and fiercer breeds like rottweiler or doberman pincer.

4. The Petits should have taken advantage of their Second Amendment rights and owned at least one firearm. Ideally they would have had at least one handgun and one shotgun. All members of the family should have been made familiar with the operation of all of the weapons and should have been required to practice with them on a regular basis.

5. The family should have had a plan on what to do in the event of a nighttime home invasion. The plan should have been kept as simple as possible and should have been practiced.

Basically a family plan to resist a home invasion would look something like this. The father would arm himself with either a handgun or a short barrel shotgun (as short as the law allows) and go to the children's rooms to wake them and bring them back to the master bedroom. If the oldest child responsible enough he or she can do this while the father guards the top of the stairwell or the opening of the hallway.

While this is going on the mother should be in contact with the police via telephone (a cell phone should be in the master bedroom as a backup in case the criminals sever the land-line coming into the house). After the family and any guests are in the master bedroom the door should be closed and locked (ideally the master bedroom should be protected with a metal clad entry door in a strengthened frame and equipped with a deadbolt).

Everyone should then take cover behind the bed with unarmed persons laying on the floor. One member of the family should still be on the phone with police. All armed persons should aim their weapons at the door and be ready to fire on anyone who forces it open. Upon hearing noise outside the bedroom door the head of the hose should shout in a loud, but controlled voice that anyone coming through the door will be shot. After that wait for the police and shoot anyone who comes through the door.

Maintain contact with the police. The dispatcher will inform you when police are on the scene and when they have searched and secured the house.

There are a number of good "starter" books out there for the firearms novice. One of the better ones is In the Gravest Extreme Role of the Firearm in Personal Protection , by Massad Ayoob. Another good book for the beginner is Armed Response: A Comprehensive Guide to Using Firearms for Self-Defense by David S Kenik. No one book will tell you everything you need to know and reading will never be a substitute for hands-on practice, but if you start off with the kind of ignorance that most people outside of the "gun culture" have about firearms either or both of those books will help get you started.