Army Veteran William Lawler was recently visiting a North Philadelphia Pathmark Grocery with his girlfriend when 37-year old Dondi DeCosta started towards them in the parking lot, muttering and brandishing a 13″ knife.
DeCosta has a history of poor decision making. He has 21 prior arrests including assault and theft. Threatening Lawler was just the latest poor choice. As it turns out, not only did Mr. Lawlor serve more than 10 years in the Army, but he also works as a firearms instructor and was carrying a 9mm.
“But even after Lawler, 38, an Army veteran and longtime firearms instructor, showed his 9 mm Glock, the knife-wielding madman didn’t want to back down.
“At least a half-dozen times, I ordered him to stop. The last time, I said, ‘I don’t want to shoot you, but I will,’ ” Lawler said yesterday, recounting the bizarre run-in outside the supermarket, on Frankford Avenue near Megargee Street in Holmesburg. “Then, after I shot him, he fell to his knees and tried to throw the knife at me.”
I first want to say how glad I am that William is alright. I do question his shot selection, because he openly states that he didn’t want to kill DeCosta.
“Nine times out of 10, all the gun owner has to do is show the firearm, and the threat goes away,” he said.
Not this time: DeCosta instead moved toward the pair, Lawler said, threatening, “I’ll cut you up.” When he got within 5 or 6 feet, Lawler said, that was it. Lawler leveled the Glock and fired once, hitting DeCosta in the groin.
“My intent was to stop him, not kill him,” Lawler said yesterday. “I hope he’s OK, and hopefully he will be prosecuted.”
This runs contrary to what I have been taught by multiple firearms instructors. If you are legally justified in using lethal force, then you are by definition in a situation where you are facing an immanent threat to your life. By shooting to wound, it allowed DeCosta to throw his knife. Thankfully he missed. That Lawler was able to go home to bed at all, let alone with a clear conscience is the best of all possible scenarios when it could have been much worse.
At the time of the article’s writing, DeCosta remained in critical condition. So there is still the chance that the citizens of Philadelphia will be spared the cost of funding yet another trial for Mr. DeCosta. But if all the good luck was used up in allowing Lawler to walk away unharmed, it is still something to be thankful for.
I am personally thankful for all of the sheepdogs out there, both in and out of uniform. Thank you Lt. Lawler for your service in protecting the country, and thank you for making the streets of Philadelphia a touch safer for everyone else.