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Three police officers shot in Prince William County, one fatally

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I often blog about the need to shrink our overgrown criminal justice system and to have police focus on such particularly serious crimes as rape, robbery, murder and other physical assault.

Certainly, we particularly want good policing when lives are immediately at risk. On February 27, one day after starting her job as a Prince William County, Virginia, police officer Ashley Guindon was slain when responding to a domestic violence call, and two of her colleagues also were shot, but are expected to recover.

Not only did the three responding police officers’ lives turn out to be at risk, but the suspect’s wife was shot and killed, and their eleven-year-old son escaped their home unharmed physically, but likely deeply psychologically scarred for the rest of his life.

I will not today engage in much analysis of the prosecution and criminal defense side of this case, except to say that this county’s longtime prosecutor has been very aggressive at pursuing the death penalty in numerous cases over the years, and says he likely will pursue the death penalty against alleged shooter Ronald Williams Hamilton. I see the death penalty as an unconstitutional relic of the dark ages, and Virginia’s very much alive death penalty machine was the most difficult hurdle for me to overcome in deciding to live in Virginia.

Ronald Williams Hamilton, like all criminal defendants, retains the presumption of innocence unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If no witnesses saw him shooting and if he remained silent with the police, he may have a stronger defense than otherwise. However, I imagine that the police dispatched their most skilled interrogators to try to get Hamilton to talk and to do so before seeking a lawyer.

Before officer Guindon ever was shot, I was already calendared to be at the Prince William courthouse this morning, February 29 for a hearing. I will leave extra early to court in the event of traffic and fewer nearby parking spaces for for television and other vehicles at the courthouse for Ronald Williams Hamilton’s arraignment this morning.

I did read that Mr. Hamilton had been an Army staff sergeant stationed at the Pentagon at the time of this incident. That raises questions about whether Mr. Hamilton had been sufficiently vetted to be at the Defense Department’s headquarters, but future acts of violence cannot always be predicted. Also, whether ironically or not, both Ashley Guindon’s and Hamilton’s lives revolved around military and law enforcement. Guindon was a Marine Corps Reserve veteran, and her father was an Iraq veteran who, sadly, committed suicide after his return from Iraq twelve years ago. Hamilton’s father is a retired South Carolina police major. Hamilton’s now-deceased wife’s work was with an area Wounded Warrior regiment, and Hamilton reportedly was jealous and did not want her working around the men.

Hamilton’s now-deceased wife’s friend reports that his wife knew he had weapons, but was fine with that. Virginia has very liberal laws on possessing handguns and obtaining concealed carry permits, particularly when compared to the very strict gun laws in neighboring District of Columbia and Maryland. Even after having lived in Virginia for over a total of three and one-half years and defending Virginia cases for nineteen years, and even though I believe that the Second Amendment must be given teeth unless and until the Second Amendment is weakened by Constitutional amendment, I am still chilled to think of all the people packing handguns in their cars and on their bodies in Virginia.

Hamilton’s father says his son “has always been a calm person and a very friendly person.” If Hamilton did in fact kill his wife and shoot officer Guindon and her two colleagues, what turned a purportedly calm and friendly person into one who allegedly killed two days ago?

Sending condolences to slain police officer Ashley Guindon and her family, and healing wishes to her two colleagues.