Crime and Punishment

Definitely Not A Defensive Knife Use: Spring HS Cafeteria Shoulder Bump Led To Fatal Stabbing

Image: Booking photo

Hey! Man you disrespecting me? Take him out (you gotta keep ’em separated)…

Luis Alonzo Alfaro, 17, has reportedly told investigators that a shoulder-bump in the Spring High School cafeteria started yesterday’s deadly brawl. He and a black student bumped into each other and words were exchanged, he told police in a voluntary statement. And thus began to turn the key, in the lock on the lid of hell.

More details from Fox News:

Alfaro gave investigators a voluntary statement where he allegedly said that when he entered the school’s cafeteria just after 7 a.m., he bumped shoulders with a male student. Words were exchanged. He reportedly told investigators he shoved the male student and then another black male near him punched him on the left side of his face, MyFoxHouston.com reported.

Alfaro allegedly told investigators that he exchanged punches with the male student but others joined in. Alfaro pulled a folding knife from his shorts, the statement said. He used his left forearm to protect his face and while holding the knife in his right hand began swinging it in a back-and-fourth motion multiple times, according to reports. Three other students were injured in the altercation.

Joshua Broussard suffered multiple wounds, consistent with a sharp-edged instrument, to his abdomen area. Broussard collapsed and died in a hallway near the cafeteria, MyFoxHouston.com reported.

If true, Alfaro’s statement indicates a lack of malice or premeditation, and this could make a prosecution for first- or second-degree murder very unlikely. But it falls far short of establishing a valid ‘self-defense’ claim for two reasons.

Firstly, self-defense only allows you to use a reasonably necessary amount of force. Pulling a knife might be legally justified if you get jumped in an alley and you’re getting curb-stomped, but not in a high-school cafeteria dustup where everyone is still on their feet and throwing punches.

Alfaro’s self-defense claim would also fail because of a doctrine known as the ‘Initial Aggressor’ rule. A person is allowed to use force to defend himself, but only when that person is not the initial aggressor. After starting a fight (in this case by shoving the unnamed black student) Alfaro’s use of force is unlawful from its inception. The only way for Alfaro to regain the legal (if not tactical) high ground is to retreat and abandon the fight: if his adversary pursues him and re-initiates combat, Alfaro now becomes the defender instead of the aggressor.

Alfaro certainly wasn’t thinking of any of this, nor was he mindful of The Offspring’s 1990s hit song Come Out And Play, but play into it he certainly did. Now one life’s wasted and another’s a waste.

 

Discussion

7 responses to ‘Definitely Not A Defensive Knife Use: Spring HS Cafeteria Shoulder Bump Led To Fatal Stabbing

  1. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m getting tired of hearing about how we have rules and laws that say we must retreat, fall back, and run away from any hostile aggression. “..but others joined in…” sounds like a 1 on 1 turned into 2 or 3 on one.
    At what point do overwhelming odds mitigate the “he who started the fight must retreat” rule? Regardless of who started the fight, if the odds change, and more than one are now attacking, even in a fist fight, the outnumbered person should not have to retreat at this point, and if need be, choose something more effective as a defense. Granted, knives aren’t generally allowed in school, but as we all know, people quite often die from being punched and beaten by multiple attackers. (More often than being killed by an “assault rifle” in fact) Punches aren’t harmless acts of aggression when used by overwhelming numbers. As unsavory as this guys original behavior was, if the situation changed, and he found himself fighting off not one, but multiple attackers, I think that’s when his legal duty to retreat ends. I’m not condoning his bring a knife to school, but does fear for your life only apply when you’re being curb-stomped in public? One lucky punch is all it takes to end a life.

  2. Could have been a gang imitated kind of thing. One member does the bump on the target. When the target tries to defend honor the rest of the gang pile on to stomp the target.

    I am all for segregation as it is the fault lines of populations we see this. Separate them and a lot of the pressure points disappear. We are spend a lot of money on education in this country, you would think at some point they would start to do it right.

  3. I see Chris’ point, and I agree that the initial aggressor doctrine is a problem, but not an insurmountable one. According to the facts, the knife didn’t come out until “our hero” was struck by a student other than the one who he’d pushed. One on one and no knife, ok mutual aggression, no one gets charged. But the interloper who aided rather than attempted to break up the fight changes the circumstances considerably. I bet this turns into a negotiated plea–especially if the victim and his friends had a record of gang affiliation.

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