What lesson was learned here?

While I am pleased with the outcome:

He was walking toward the stairs when a teenage boy approached and pulled out
a knife.

“He wants my money, so I just gave him my wallet and told him, ‘Here you
go,'” Diaz says.

As the teen began to walk away, Diaz told him, “Hey, wait a minute. You
forgot something. If you’re going to be robbing people for the rest of the
night, you might as well take my coat to keep you warm.”

The would-be robber looked at his would-be victim, “like what’s going on
here?” Diaz says. “He asked me, ‘Why are you doing this?'”

Diaz replied: “If you’re willing to risk your freedom for a few dollars, then
I guess you must really need the money. I mean, all I wanted to do was get
dinner and if you really want to join me … hey, you’re more than welcome.

When the bill arrived, Diaz told the teen, “Look, I guess you’re going to
have to pay for this bill ’cause you have my money and I can’t pay for this. So
if you give me my wallet back, I’ll gladly treat you.”

The teen “didn’t even think about it” and returned the wallet, Diaz says. “I
gave him $20 … I figure maybe it’ll help him. I don’t know.”

Diaz says he asked for something in return — the teen’s knife — “and he gave
it to me.”

I have to wonder how often such a response to robbery will turn out so benign and how many potential thugs will be enabled by this story. I fear that such a response on a broad scale would encourage crime more than shame criminals into rethinking their career path.

Do criminologists have currently enough data to give us good answers to the obvious questions brought up by this story? If not, what sort of experiments could be run to get the answers with minimal risk to the experimenters?

Is there some sort of reliable character assessment can be done in the second and a half it takes to draw and fire your gun in the face of a deadly threat such that you are out an hour of your life and $20 rather than days or weeks of your time and many thousands of dollars defending against a civil suit or criminal charges for shooting a “choir boy”?

12 thoughts on “What lesson was learned here?

  1. He bet, and he won. If he plays craps, I want to stand next to him and make side bets on him. Definitely beating the odds, there. Definitely. Definitely.

  2. There is a famous Japanese zen koan about a monk who lived in a small hut. A robber comes in one night, threatens him, and the monk gives him everything he has (not much). The monk, bereft of all his worldly possessions, looks up at the full moon after the thief leaves and says, “If only I could have given him this moon!” Deep stuff, those Zen koans!

    When later caught, the robber is brought back to the monk for ID. The cops ask the monk if this is the guy who took the monk’s few possessions. The monk says no, he GAVE the guy all his stuff willingly. The cops now have no case, and let the guy go, instead of giving him the gruesome punishment a thief would have gotten. The guy becomes an acolyte of the monk, and lives a virtuous life thereafter.

    So there is at least historical precedent for this type of bet.

  3. Yes story corps, what a wonderful tale Mr. Diaz has woven that so touchingly validates the dominant paradigm of violent criminals as misunderstood youth. He even includes good urban buzz themes like “simple”. The surprising thing with the story is that folks here would assume it was fact rather then “allegory” (aka something he made up). Story corps is not news (but then I guess it’s not like news has corroborating and verifiable sources anymore).

  4. I suspect in the real world Ciaz would have been bleeding out on the street for dissin’ the knife welder after giving up his wallet.

  5. I would also add that there’s a certain amount of discernment that’s required. Something like this certainly has to be determined on a case-by-case basis!

    And, while I respect the person who could pull something like this off, I’d also respect the person who pulls out a gun and shoots the would-be robber.

  6. I suspect if Diaz does something like this a few more times he’ll end up in the hospital, morgue, or a ditch somewhere. That’s crazy if it’s actually true.

  7. I have to admire such a person (if it were true) for their self-sacrificing act. Because that is truly what it was…self-sacrificing. His life was on the line more than once in a situation he contributed to, but had no idea what the outcome might be. I guess some people are called to do this, and they have my utmost respect.

    I, however, am not ready to die for the minute possibility of a violent criminal turning their life around based upon a few minutes of interaction with a “better” person. Maybe that says something about me that I’m not necessarily proud of, but that’s the way it is.

    I would like to point out that you cannot steal from God. In other words, God judges perfectly, and knows if said violent criminal will come to peace or destruction regardless of what this puny human does. I’m not saying I’m better than the criminal, but I don’t like to play the odds when my or one of my loved one’s life is on the line. I’ll pray for the soul of the robber after I’ve stopped them.

  8. Stories like this always presume that every human being has a conscience.

    I do not believe that to be true.

    Regards,

  9. The article doesn’t say what kind of a social worker he is — but, some people have jobs that put them closer to the grittier aspects of society on a regular basis. The kid probably was more scared than the social worker was and he recognized that.

  10. I already fessed up on Robb’s blog that I had a journalism degree. I worked at newspapers for a lot of years and newspapers are invariably located in the worst parts of town. Not only that, but most newspapers come out in the morning which means many newspaper people work the night shift. Newspaper people also like to party which means we end up at some really derelict bars. Consequently, I’ve been in some situations that would probably cause a lot of gunnies to hyperventilate.

    What I want to know is this: I’ve driven some men through bad parts of LA and they actually freak out. They are grabbing for the roof liner of the car. They cannot handle driving through a bad part of town. I’m not even going to ask them to get out and walk around. They are terrified about even being in a bad part of town. Why?

    I can drive through the same areas with other newspaper pals and no one freaks out. We don’t actually get antsy until we see guns (that’s happened before too) and even then, we didn’t run away.

    So, what’s the deal? Are a lot of gunnies really super-chickenchit? They’re so scared of their shadows that they can’t deal with the big world outside? If you go into a biker bar, what do you do? Flee? How would you ever function if you had a job that depended on you to get information out of these people?

    I just don’t understand people these days. There seems to be so much fear… And I don’t see a lot of justification for the fear.

  11. “…driving around in bad parts of town…”; stick your hand into the lion’s cage once too often and it WILL get bit off. I’spect that your nervous passengers realize this even if you don’t.
    ‘Course I’m one of those chicken-shit gun owners so what do I know.

  12. @ubu52: First, it’s a ridiculous assumption that those men who you take to the bad parts of LA are “gunnies”. Given that they live in LA, there’s a very good chance they aren’t, or, if they are, they are illegally owning the gun.

    Second, I tend to be a little oblivious about things when it comes to “good” vs. “bad” neighborhoods…and that’s a good thing. It’s important to recognize when a neighborhood is relatively safe, and it’s important to recognize when it’s not. Most importantly, you need to be aware of your surroundings, so that you could avoid bad situations if possible, or act to diffuse the situation (whether it be like this guy did, or whether it be with a pistol, as so many others do).

    Third, just because you aren’t afraid of dangerous neighborhoods, doesn’t mean that your lack of fear is wise. Many of us live and work in places that are relatively nice, and so we are a lot more in-tune with danger when we see it–and when we see it, we don’t like it. I have been to places where I was sort-of comfortable to get out of the car to do things, but my wife was terrified to leave the car…and, most likely, she was probably right–this, despite the fact that we were living in a neighborhood at the time that was almost as bad! Of course, we moved a little later, and neighborhood was one of the reasons.

    Fear is a gift telling us that something isn’t right, and we need to be on our guard. Undoubtedly, it needs to be tempered by thought, but you could literally die if you ignore it!

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