Joseph Wilcox’s funeral is today. I hope the political opportunists who’ve spent the past two weeks second-guessing or trashing this community hero have the grace to stay away and allow his family and friends to honor him appropriately.
Wilcox, 31, was the concealed weapon permit holder who stepped forward to stop cop killer Jerad Miller on June 8. Miller had fired a shot and started a panic inside an east valley Wal-Mart. The gunman and his wife, Amanda, had just ambushed and executed Las Vegas police officers Alyn Beck and Igor Soldo at a nearby pizza joint while the men were having lunch.
At that moment, Wilcox was the public’s best hope of stopping a potential massacre. He was armed, and he had every reason to believe Jerad Miller was entering a supermarket, screaming with weapon in hand, with the intention of killing innocents. But when Wilcox approached Jerad Miller from behind to put a quick stop to the crisis, Amanda Miller came up behind Wilcox and fatally shot him at close range. The carnage ended when police killed Jerad Miller and Amanda Miller killed herself.
And so, in the rush to reach conclusions and bolster agendas, gun control advocates quickly asserted that Wilcox’s death had proved concealed-carry permit holders can’t stop mass shootings. The gun lobby’s claims that armed citizens in schools, colleges and businesses are the antidote for this country’s plague of crazed killers had been debunked.
The narrative held that Wilcox, like so many other permit holders, had no real training and, in trying to play John McClane, had gotten himself killed.
Never mind that, inside that Wal-Mart, the odds were so heavily tilted in Wilcox’s favor that no bookie would have dared to take a wager. That’s because active shooter events involve a lone gunman 98 percent of the time, according to FBI data reported by The Washington Post’s Mark Berman. What made the Las Vegas killings even more unusual, however, was not just the presence of a second shooter, but the involvement of a female shooter. The FBI reports that 97 percent of mass shooters are male.
As far as I can determine, this month’s bloodshed in Las Vegas was the country’s first two-killer, active-shooter mass murder since the Columbine High School massacre of 1999. (I didn’t consider last year’s Boston Marathon bombing or the 2002 Beltway sniper attacks, because none of those crimes, carried out by duos, fit the profile of a mass shooting.) And I couldn’t identify a single previous mass shooting that was carried out by a male-female tandem.
Wilcox decided against waiting for Jerad Miller to kill someone before moving in, and he had no reason to believe someone as insane as Miller would have a partner, let alone a female partner.
He also had history on his side. Armed citizens have stopped or prevented several mass killings over the years, and because their actions were successful, the events weren’t worthy of hours and days of national press coverage. One of them happened in Nevada.
In May 2008, a man with a concealed-carry permit shot to death a gunman who had opened fire inside the Players Bar and Grill in Winnemucca. The gunman, Ernesto Villagomez, had killed two patrons and reloaded his handgun before being killed by the permit holder.
In December 2012, a concealed weapon permit holder confronted a gunman inside an Oregon mall after two people had been killed, and likely prevented a much worse mass shooting, driving the murderer into a stairwell and the spot where he took his own life.
There are many, many more similar examples of armed citizens stopping active shooters over the past few decades. Wilcox, like the Millers, is an outlier and another reason why this terrible crime ranks among the worst in the valley’s history. But that won’t stop the push to use the killings for political gain.
Besides Wilcox’s death, the Millers’ anti-government ideology is being used to tout the threat of “domestic terrorists” fueled by right-wing hate. However, as reported last week by the Review-Journal’s Mike Blasky, Ben Botkin and Colton Lochhead, law enforcement had found no ties between the Millers and anti-government groups. They were so crazy that they had isolated themselves. And Jerad Miller, who voted for President Barack Obama in 2008, was a “truther” who believed the U.S. government was behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks. “Truthers” land on the far left of the political spectrum.
And Jerad Miller was a felon who managed to get his hands on guns and ammunition. Background check requirements didn’t stop him from acquiring firearms. Don’t expect the gun control crowd to play up that angle, or the fact that violent crime is down in this country even as gun sales are up.
Joseph Wilcox tried to stop a criminal lunatic and lost his life. He deserves our thanks, not misguided Monday morning quarterbacking. Let him rest in peace.
Glenn Cook (email@example.com) is the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s senior editorial writer. Follow him on Twitter: @Glenn_CookNV. Listen to him Mondays at 4 p.m. on “Live and Local with Kevin Wall” on KXNT News Radio, 100.5 FM, 840 AM.