Police: Pharmacist Shoots Teen Who Tried To Rob Him

Confronted by two holdup men, pharmacist Jerome Ersland pulled a gun, shot one of them in the head and chased the other away. Then, in a scene recorded by the drugstore's security camera, he went behind the counter, got another gun, and pumped five more bullets into the wounded teenager as he lay on the floor.

Now Ersland has been charged with first-degree murder in a case that has stirred a furious debate over vigilante justice and self-defense and turned the pharmacist into something of a folk hero.

Ersland, 57, is free on $100,000 bail, courtesy of an anonymous donor. He has won praise from the pharmacy's owner, received an outpouring of cards, letters and checks from supporters, and become the darling of conservative talk radio.

"His adrenaline was going. You're just thinking of survival," said John Paul Hernandez, 60, a retired Defense Department employee who grew up in the neighborhood. "All it was is defending your employee, business and livelihood. If I was in that position and that was me, I probably would have done the same thing."

District Attorney David Prater said Ersland was justified in shooting 16-year-old Antwun Parker once in the head, but not in firing the additional shots into his belly. The prosecutor said the teenager was unconscious, unarmed, lying on his back and posing no threat when Ersland fired what the medical examiner said were the fatal shots.

Anthony Douglas, president of the Oklahoma chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, called it an "execution-style murder" and praised the district attorney for bringing charges. Ersland is white; the two suspects were black.

Parker's parents also expressed relief that Ersland faces a criminal charge.

"He didn't have to shoot my baby like that," Parker's mother, Cleta Jennings, told TV station KOCO.

But many of those who have seen the video of the May 19 robbery attempt at Reliable Discount Pharmacy have concluded the teenager in the ski mask got what he deserved.

Mark Shannon, who runs a conservative talk show on Oklahoma City's KTOK, said callers have jammed his lines this week in support of Ersland, a former Air Force lieutenant colonel who wears a back brace on the job and told reporters he is a disabled veteran of the Gulf War.

"There is no gray area," Shannon said. One caller "said he should have put all the shots in the head."

Don Spencer, a 49-year-old National Rifle Association member who lives in the small town of Meridian, 40 miles north of Oklahoma City, said the pharmacist did the right thing: "You shoot more than enough to make sure the threat has been removed."

Barbara Bergman, past president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and a professor at the University of New Mexico School of Law, likened the public reaction to that of the case of Bernard Goetz, the New Yorker who shot four teenagers he said were trying to rob him when they asked for $5 on a subway in 1984.

Goetz was cleared of attempted murder and assault but convicted of illegal gun possession and served 8 1/2 months in jail.

Bergman said those who claim they used deadly force in self-defense have to show they were "in reasonable fear of serious bodily injury."

The pharmacy is in a crime-ridden section of south Oklahoma City and had been robbed before.

The video shows two men bursting in, one of them pointing a gun at Ersland and two women working with the druggist behind the counter. Ersland fires a pistol, driving the gunman from the store and hitting Parker in the head as he puts on a ski mask.

Ersland chases the second man outside, then goes back inside, walks behind the counter with his back to Parker, gets a second handgun and opens fire.

Irven Box, Ersland's attorney, noted the outpouring of support for the pharmacist, including $2,000 in donations, and said: "I feel very good 12 people would not determine he committed murder in the first degree."

Under Oklahoma's "Make My Day Law" — passed in the late 1980s and named for one of Clint Eastwood's most famous movie lines — people can use deadly force when they feel threatened by an intruder inside their homes. In 2006, Oklahoma's "Stand Your Ground Law" extended that to anywhere a citizen has the right to be, such as a car or office.

"It's a 'Make-My-Day' case," Box said. "This guy came in, your money or your life. Mr. Ersland said, `You're not taking my life.'" The gunman "forfeited his life."

Box said that another person might have reacted differently, but he asked: "When do you turn off that adrenaline switch? When do you think you're safe? I think that's going to be the ultimate issue."

If convicted, Ersland could be sentenced to life in prison with or without parole, or receive the death penalty.

Jevontia Ingram, the 14-year-old boy accused of wielding the gun in the robbery, was arrested Thursday. The district attorney on Friday filed a first-degree murder charge against him, as well as against a man accused of being the getaway driver, and another man suspected of helping talk the teens into the crime.

The charges accuse all three of sharing responsibility for Parker's shooting death.


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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by Jack Location: Rockmart,Ga on May 30, 2011 at 05:37 AM
    I've been robbed at gun point,and i can tell you at first hand it's a sick hepless feeling, knowing some one has your life in thier hand at that moment. I don't think the old man wanted this to happen, but he did what he had to in the moment, to protect his life not the money. If i had a gun the night i was robbed i may have unloaded the whole clip on them, i was so scared and angry. And i am a young black father of two,that was robbed by two young black men, just beacuse i was asking them were a apartment number was. And i still wish everyday that i was able to defend my self that night.The old man doesn"t deserve life or the death penatly. Period!
  • by Obama Snake Oil Co Location: Washington on Jun 5, 2009 at 01:36 PM
    Assumptions; first you assume a head wound incapacited this kid. If he was on crack, that was just a scratch. Secondly, was he laying on the floor threatning the guy? we don't know, we live in a civilized society, however, not all of us are. Once they pulled guns, it was all over. Not only does he have to protect himself and money, what about the drugs he has? He has narcotics so he is armed. Sorry folks, it just goes to show you to keep a second clip around. Making assumptions shouldn't be part of the posts here, you simply don't know the facts. Lastly, if the kid would have lived, I am sure he would have sued the pharmacy for damages, it happens all the time. So he sues for facial damage from the bullet wound and a jury feels sorry for him, they give him whatever the jury and judge decide. Folks, sorry, this is reality. You are better off in NC making sure the robber doesn't make it.
  • by To Alex on Jun 4, 2009 at 10:04 PM
    so where does it stop Alex, say an armed guy tries car jack you, you pull out a gun shoot him in the face and he falls to the ground wounded and incapacitated. Do you have the right to get out and execute this person? Because if you think you do, that sounds alot to me like you think you should be judge,jury and executioner and thank god we don't live in a land that allows that. It's pretty obvious that the threat was neutralized and this guy decided that protecting himself wasn't enough that he would rid the world of this "threat". We as a civilized society can not and will not allow this kind of vigilantism. The amount of people who think this guy did the "right" thing on here is really scary too me.
  • by Alex on Jun 4, 2009 at 05:33 PM
    To the guy who wrote TO SAM. A gun in the hand is better than a cop on the phone. He did not seek out this criminal the criminal came to him. The bad guy for once rolled the dice and died. May he rot.
  • by To Sam on Jun 3, 2009 at 02:46 PM
    trying to protect himself my butt. The kid was laying on the ground with a freaking head wound. He was no longer a threat then the pharmacist, who was totally justified in firing the first shot, decided that he would dish out the punishment as well. That is vigilantism plain and simple. And once you let the vigilantes take over then you really devolve into chaos. If you think this kind of behavior is appropriate then you should probably look into relocating to a less developed country. We have law enforcement and the justice system for a reason, not that its perfect but it is what WE have so if you can't follow those simple rules find a country that doesn't have them.
  • by Sam Location: Williamston on Jun 3, 2009 at 12:45 PM
    I have a serious problem with what the DA in this case is doing. When you have two guys come in with guns and threating to rob you, then the right thing is to come back up and shoot them, for # 1 your own protection and # 2 the stores cash assets that you are handling. If it was me I would have shot the punk myself. Anybody who goes up like that and robs someone for money deserves to die, no exceptions. I also have even more of a problem with the this sorry crook of the NCAAP butting in running his mouth and praising the crooked DA for bringing out a first degree murder charge on someone that is just trying to protect their own self. My God thats asinine! I will guarantee if that pharmacist had not shot any more, then he would have been killed. As far as the parents, they apparently must be some terrible parents. The mother comes up and says "He did'nt have to shoot my baby like that" yes he did cause her son is dangerous and apparently she thought it was okay to rob someone.......
  • by Someone's Baby Location: Somewhere on Jun 3, 2009 at 03:23 AM
    "Put me on the jury and I'll show you justice." - NOT GUILTY!
  • by anon Location: wallace on Jun 2, 2009 at 11:32 PM
    well let's see. the THUGS brought the problem to the HANDICAPPED pharmacist. the thugs got some of his medicine. as the saying goes, an enemy in action is still a threat as long as he is breathing. dead man don't talk. give him a medal and a reward. baby face should have been in school or home mowing the grass or homework. hey NAACP, ain't WHITE a color to? why would you want to advance this cause? he should have been doing something positive. where do i send money to his defense fund or award fund?
  • by Delta Location: Greenville on Jun 2, 2009 at 04:18 PM
    What difference does it mkae, the thug was already shot in the head, a few more rounds did not change anything. Hommie was probably dead from the head shot. If anything the thug was put out of his misery. By the time he took all those drugs he was goin gto steal he probbaly would have ODed anyway. You can"t slap these thugs on the wrist and say don"t do it anymore, yo uhave to fight fire with fire and say we are not going to take it anymore and make crimmal society realize thier is consequences.
  • by Alex on Jun 2, 2009 at 05:34 AM
    Lets se, former military and a pharmacist. So he has actually contributed to the world and our country. THe other just some street thug everyone wants to cut a brek because he had a momma. Wake up people. The only reason he should have shot this guy 5 more times was if he did not have more bullets.
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