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What Would You Do?

Robert Waters
Author, The Best Defense


"When it comes to your child, you don't know what you'll do," said Memphis, Tennessee resident Patsy Tankersley. "I knew I had to protect my daughter."

It was January 26, 1994, and the mother was home with her six-year-old. Late in the afternoon, Tankersley stepped onto her carport. Two men who were hiding outside grabbed her. She had seen them loitering in the neighborhood earlier, but had thought nothing about it. The assailants used a knife to force the terrified mother back into the house. During the struggle, Tankersley was stabbed in the chest.

Once inside, the men robbed her.

"They said they wanted my purse," Tankersley told a reporter from the Memphis Commercial Appeal. "I told them they could take it and showed them where it was. I thought they'd leave."

But they didn't.

"Take your pants down!" one of the intruders commanded.

When she refused, the second assailant grabbed her daughter and placed a knife to the girl's throat.

Tankersley then told the men she'd do what they wanted.

They ordered her to go into the bedroom and come back out naked.

Instead, Tankersley returned carrying a .22-caliber revolver. She blasted four shots at the home invaders, hitting one in the chest and sending the other man fleeing.

During the attack, the child's throat was slashed, later requiring 18 stitches. Despite the wounds, both the mother and daughter survived.

Lance Corporal Rayna Ross was a single mom, and a U. S. Marine.

She had recently broken off a brief romance with another Marine, Anthony Goree. But the mentally unstable man wouldn't leave her alone. Her attorney, Evans Roberts, summarized what happened to her.

"After [weeks of] being stalked, harassed, beaten, and held against her will," Roberts said, "LCPL Ross did the right thing. She pressed charges. Her assailant was arrested and confined to the brig after an armed assault of Ross in her battalion office. [But] based on the recommendation of a reviewing officer, Goree was released and almost immediately absented himself from the base. Despite the best efforts of the Marine Corps and the Prince William County, Virginia police, he was not found--until his final attack on Ross."

It happened at 3 a.m., June 23, 1993.

Ross and her daughter were asleep on the same bed in their Woodbridge, Virginia apartment when Goree pried open the sliding glass door. Once inside, he kicked down her bedroom door and attacked her with a bayonet. Shielding her daughter, Ross fired two shots from a .380-caliber semi-automatic handgun, killing Goree. (She'd bought the gun a few days earlier because of Goree's threats.)

The Prince William County Police Department quickly ruled the shooting justifiable. Investigating detective Richard Cantarella testified,

"There was no question that this was self-defense. I believe this guy was in there to do some serious bodily harm or to kill her."

But after reviewing the case, the Marine Corps recommended that Ross be court-martialed. Their reasoning was that she was a "spider woman who lured men into untenable positions then dumped them."

"I'm appalled, but not surprised," said Patricia Ghormley, a former Marine and Director for the Military Project of the Women's Resource and Education Institute. "They couldn't get a single conviction in Tailhook, but, by God, they're going to get her."

The National Rifle Association rushed to Ross's aid, hiring a former Marine to be her attorney. She was eventually acquitted, but was forced to resign from the Marine Corps.

March 16, 1996 was just another day for the owners of Southwest Precious Metals in Richardson, Texas. Robert Shelton was at the counter of the store and his wife, Becky, was working in the office when two men entered. One took a position near the door while the second man walked to the glass counter. He asked to see a 1-carat diamond ring. As Shelton reached down to retrieve the ring, the man yanked a 9mm semi-automatic pistol from his jacket.

He pointed it at Shelton and pulled the trigger.


The weapon jammed.

The robber then vaulted the counter and attacked Shelton as the second robber fled.

Becky Shelton heard the commotion and grabbed a .38-caliber revolver. The struggle was desperate now, with the robber knocking Shelton to the floor in a violent assault. Again and again the assailant stuck the gun to Shelton's chest and pulled the trigger. Each time it jammed.

As the battle spilled into the doorway of the office, Becky Shelton stood up and aimed. She fired six times, striking the robber with each shot and killing him.

Police ruled the shooting justifiable homicide.

I have a question for the gun-banners:

In these cases, what would you have done?

Mr. Waters is the author of The Best Defense: True Stories of Intended Victims Who Defended Themselves with a Firearm.