The White Castle on St. Louis’ north side was bathed in light, even at 3:50 a.m., when Thomas Donovan stepped to the burger joint’s counter and drew a pistol. Back in November, with a security camera rolling, a masked man wielding a shotgun held up the same restaurant before fleeing into the darkness. Police say that man was Donovan, 21, who lived nearby. This time, though, two off-duty police officers hired by the manager were waiting.
The officers, who were in uniform, ordered Donovan to drop the gun.
“Why, at that last moment they said ‘Freeze!’ he carried on, that’s what gets me, you know what I mean?” says George Fields, among a group of older men who gather at the restaurant for coffee.
When Donovan refused, one officer, a 21-year veteran, shot him in the abdomen. An ambulance rushed Donovan to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Donovan’s pistol turned out to be a BB gun. The officer, who a police spokesman would not identify, was placed on administrative leave for three days, but is back on the job without being charged.
“Everybody’s got a gun. Just because he’s a dummy doesn’t mean you have to kill him,” says Fields, who wonders what might have changed both Donovan’s decision and the policewoman’s. “You can’t stop it from happening again, but maybe you could slow it down.”
In Hampton, Va., Joseph McQueen, 30, and Clifton Christian, 24, were shot and killed outside a bar about 1:45 a.m.
In Allentown, Pa., Kyle Stroman, 20, was shot dead at an intersection at about 2 a.m.
Around 2:30 a.m., Tracy McFadden, 44, was shot dead on Georgia Avenue in Washington, D.C.
Late in the morning, shots rang out near the small East Texas town of Winnsboro, killing 37-year-old Juvenal Gonzales.
A self-employed painter, Gonzales was separated from the mother of his four children and had come to her home to pick them up for visitation. An argument ensued, and Gonzales was shot by a man at the house, the Franklin County sheriff’s office said.
For some people in neighboring Hopkins County, the news was jolting. The man charged with Gonzales’ killing — Clint Weldon Wilson, 31 — had killed before; claiming self-defense he eventually went free.
“The victim’s family in this new case — I can’t possibly imagine how difficult it would be for them to know that someone had done this before,” said Martin Braddy, the prosecutor in the earlier case, in which Wilson was charged with murdering Justin Pawlik, 27, during a 2011 struggle. At the scene was a woman who’d broken up with Pawlik and befriended Wilson.
But Texas’ stand-your-ground law allows deadly force in some circumstances when a person feels threatened, and a grand jury declined to indict Wilson.
Pawlik’s mother, Julie Bailey, said she had feared Wilson would cause more harm.
“Now another guy is dead,” she said. “If they don’t get rid of that law, they better start getting ready to dig more graves.”