Courage, and the July 4th D.C. subway stabbing.


Jasper Spires- 18, was arrested for the July 4th stabbing murder of Kevin Sutherland aboard a DC Metro train.

I heard about this story over the 4th of July weekend, and I wasn’t exactly sure where I wanted to go with it. It is kind of heavy, and we have had a full plate of other items to cover. For those who might have missed it, this should get you up to speed.

From the Washington Post:

“D.C. police said, the 18-year-old Spires — who may have been high on synthetic drugs — tried to grab a cellphone tucked into the waistband of a recent American University graduate headed to a gathering with friends.

The two struggled, police said, and the terror began.

Police and a witness interviewed said passengers trapped in the moving train huddled at both ends of the car and watched in horror as Spires punched 24-year-old Kevin Joseph Sutherland until he fell to the floor, then stabbed him until he was dead. Court documents say the victim was cut or stabbed 30 or 40 times, in the chest, abdomen, back, side and arms. Police said the assailant then threw the victim’s cellphone and returned to stomp on Sutherland’s body.”


There are several details that bother me about this case. First is the fact that DC residents are still, despite court victories, effectively denied the right to bear the tools they desire to defend themselves outside of the home. Even if CCW were a possibility for the majority of those in DC, they would still likely be restricted on the subway. Not that weapons prohibitions, or laws against murder stopped Mr. Spires from carrying his knife or killing Mr. Sutherland.

What is more disturbing than “Statutory Criminal Protection Zones”, is the fact that the attack occurred in broad daylight, in a train full of people that watched without jumping in to stomp Jasper Spires and save Kevin Sutherland.

John Daniel Davidson of The Federalist describes the behavior of the “Beta-Males” who cowardly watched thusly:

“That Spires had a knife—what the police said was a “small, black folding knife” they later recovered from a trash can—is no excuse. Any two adult men in that subway car could have stopped him, no matter how crazy or strong he was, and saved Sutherland’s life.

That no one did displays not just cowardice but also a callous and unthinking selfishness. The Reddit eyewitness had no idea at the time how many more people Spires would kill, no idea if he would attack the 52-year-old woman or an elderly passenger. He just let him walk off the train into the subway, covered in Sutherland’s blood.

This is essentially the opposite of the spirit of United Flight 93—the heroic selflessness that prompted a group of courageous passengers on 9/11 to attack their hijackers, forcing them to crash the plane in a Pennsylvania field. Once they heard about the attacks in New York and the Pentagon, and knew many more would die if they failed to act, they knew what they had to do—no matter what happened to them.”

Marianne Seregi of Slate, herself a victim of a subway assault, says she can identify with those who were paralyzed with fear.

“But in real life, I don’t want—no one wants—to get hurt. Despite my own experience and my lingering fury at the inaction of those around me, I’m not sure I would have acted any differently from those 10 eyewitnesses. If I’d been in that train car, I might have felt just like the woman who tried to become as small as possible. I might have been paralyzed with fear.

Yes, it’s hypocritical. I wish people would have helped me, and I’m not sure I could have mustered the courage to do the same.

I don’t want to be someone so passive and self-preserving that I allow a stranger to be killed right in front of me. I don’t want to protect myself at all costs. But fear is a powerful emotion. And just because we think we are brave doesn’t mean that we are.”

It is true that all of us think we will be able to wear the white hat and come to the rescue. Courage has different meanings. I was a firefighter. I ran into burning buildings, and crawled into a crushed car to hold someone’s head still while the Jaws of Life were ripping into the mangled frame. But I look at the guys and girls who have fought in Iraq, Afghanistan, and places less well known, and I wonder if I would have what it takes to have served in that capacity.

I can’t imagine what courage it would take to have stormed the Normandy beaches, or those of countless Pacific islands. Would I have had the courage to leave my home and family and stand at Concord Bridge, or could I do so if God forbid there were ever such a scenario in the future?

I don’t really know where I am going with this, other than to say I am following my old Boy Scout training and attempting to “Be Prepared”. I hope that if I been there on the subway, I might have made a difference, and in acting inspired others. I hope that I possess the situational awareness and the tools if I am ever faced with a similar scenario to step in and help save a life.



  1. jlottmc says:

    “I don’t want to protect myself at all costs.”

    This right here is the problem. I look back at history and am floored by this mentality, no one has the will to fight back, much less stand up for those who need help. The will to fight to stop a threat or to fight for an ideal seems to be lost in most if not all first world countries. Truly baffling. Having said that, I have faced off with some one who was high on PCP, and that is no picnic either. It seems that as a society grows and life gets easier that people get soft and lose their will to survive. It happened in Rome, the formerly Great Britain, and is happening here. People buy into the myth that police will be magically teleported to them when they need them. I’ll finish this rant by saying that the line from the movie A Few Good Men about people sleeping well at night because men like them are on the wall is absolutely true. People become accustomed to the rough men on the wall and become soft.
    Fight back, and stand up for those weaker than you. That sums up how I was raised, and how I raise my daughter.

  2. David says:

    I am going sideways on this but am going to bring it back around.

    I hate modern day analogies to wolf pack behavior. The whole “alpha” thing is bunk. Most wolf packs are smaller than most people think. The alpha male and female are probably the progenitors of the pack (the mom and dad). While wolves are savage they are not nearly as savage to each other as modern westerners believe. And . . . Betas don’t just sit by and do nothing.

    For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.

    Kipling got it right. Wolves are such great predators because they work as a team. They are not tigers. Alphas betas, zetas, and omegas all have a job. When the SEALs raided Ben Laden’s compound the guy who pulled the trigger was not “alpha” and the other guys nobodies. Beta wolves are better than people give them credit for (heck, the next alpha is probably a young beta); if you are going to make comparisons at least get it right – “Omega” would be a more appropriate designation for people who do nothing. But that is not even accurate as Omega wolves are active in pack activity. So there you have it, “Omega” is actually a step up from what these people are.

  3. whw says:

    They weren’t wolves at all. They were sheep.

  4. Spencer says:

    Violent crimes where bystanders do nothing have been characteristic of the eastern U.S. for decades. Americans in the West and Deep South, I suspect, likely would intervene. So what causes this wimpy indifference of so many Easterners? Too much political correctness, suburbanization, learned helplessness?

  5. Tony says:

    I live and work near there. If I had been on that train, I think I would have told someone to call 911 or hail the train operator, I would have told the assailant to stop, and likely would have fought him physically. Hope I would have prevailed without getting hurt too badly.

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Courage, and the July 4th D.C. subway stabbing.

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