On Sunday, 53-year-old Patricia Cosby was greeting a neighbor on her Detroit street when a stray pit bull attacked her. She called out to the neighbor, Michael Williams, who has a concealed-pistol license, for help. Williams took out his gun and fired.
But instead of hitting the dog, the bullet struck Cosby, killing her.
“She begged me to help her, and I ran down trying to help her,” a mournful Williams told a local news station on Tuesday. “And this dog trying to attack, attack, attack — ’til I found my left hand, and the gun went off. And she said, ‘Mike you shot me.’ And I picked her up. It just hurt me so bad.”
The shooting took place in the North End of Detroit, which the New York Times has described as having “some of the city’s most glorious homes and some of its harshest blight.” Budget cuts have sapped Detroit’s police force, leading to slow response times on some calls. In 2013, Police Chief James Craig encouraged residents to arm themselves to fend off criminals. Permits for concealed gun shot up — as did self-defense shootings, leading a local gun-rights blogger to credit a “Craig effect.”
So far this year, 16 people have been shot in self-defense in Detroit, four of them fatally, according to the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive. By comparison, 25 people have been shot in self-defense this year in Chicago, a city with four times the population.
Among the incidents:
- On Sunday, a 29-year-old man trying to rob two men outside a supermarket was shot and wounded by one of them, who had a concealed-pistol license.
- On August 1, a 38-year-old man with a concealed-pistol license fatally shot a 40-year-old man who stabbed him as they fought over a $100 debt.
- On April 16, a 20-year-old man shot and wounded two police officers he mistook for burglars. He blamed neighborhood violence for the “terrible” miscalculation, for which he was sentenced to two years’ probation.
- On March 21, a 21-year-old man breaking into his ex-girlfriend’s apartment was fatally shot shot by the woman’s brother.
- On March 4, a 31-year-old man was fatally shot by his ex-girlfriend. The woman, a licensed concealed carrier, claimed he was choking her when she fired, and a judge ruled that she acted in self-defense.
People who hold pistol licenses in Michigan are required to undergo live-fire training and pass a shooting test on a range. But in 26 states, there are no such training requirements, and 12 states no longer require any licensing or training before gun owners carry concealed handguns in public.
A bill that would make Michigan the thirteenth so-called permitless-carry state passed the Michigan House in June but has stalled in the Senate.
Detroit police have not said whether Williams, who volunteers with neighborhood patrols, will face charges. But Cosby’s father doesn’t think he should.
“He was trying to save her,” he said Tuesday.