Texas Man Who Killed Daughter’s Molester Won’t Be Charged

A grand jury found that beating a child molester to death is an authorized use of deadly force.

A Texas man who beat a man he caught molesting his 5-year-old daughter to death will not be charged, as a grand jury found him to be within his rights.

AP (“Texas man will not be charged for beating daughter’s molester to death“):

Hearing his 5-year-old daughter crying from behind a barn, a father ran and discovered the unthinkable: A man molesting her. The father pulled the man off his daughter, authorities say, and started pummeling him to death with his fists.

With his daughter finally safe, the father frantically called 911, begging a dispatcher to find his rural ranch and send an ambulance.

“Come on! This guy is going to die on me!” the man is heard screaming on the 911 call. “I don’t know what to do!”

A recording of the tape was played during a news conference Tuesday where the Lavaca County district attorney and sheriff announced that the father will not face charges.

In declining to indict the 23-year-old father in the June 9 killing of Jesus Mora Flores, a Lavaca County grand jury reached the same conclusion as investigators and many of the father’s neighbors: he was authorized to use deadly force to protect his daughter.

“It’s sad a man had to die,” said Michael James Veit, 48, who lives across the street from where the attack happened in this small community run on ranching and the Shiner beer brewery. “But I think anybody would have done that.”

The family ranch is so remote that on the 911 tape, the father is heard profanely screaming at a dispatcher who couldn’t locate the property. At one point, he tells the dispatcher he’s going to put the man in his truck and drive him to a hospital.

“He’s going to die!” the father screams, swearing at the dispatcher. “He’s going to fucking die!”

I don’t know the nuances of Texas law on self-defense but it certainly seems reasonable that a man would be able to use force, even deadly force, to protect his daughter here. Whether it mattered under the law or not, it would seem to strengthen his case that he called 9-1-1 and seemed genuinely concerned that the victim would die if not given medical attention.

As a moral and precedential matter, this circumstance is very different from a vigilante revenge killing, which I absolutely believe should be prosecuted. Here, though, the man was acting in the moment to protect his daughter from an ongoing violent crime. Had he picked up a gun or a farm implement rather than beating the man to death, it would be even less questionable; the only issue that raises any red flags here is the repeated blows, presumably well past the moment when the assailant stopped being a threat. But the combination of fear, anger, and adrenaline makes that perfectly understandable.

FILED UNDER: General
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. My understanding is that Texas’s “Defense of others” law explicitly includes saving someone from an ongoing sexual assault as an example of what would be called justifiable homicide, so it would clearly seem to apply here.

    Even if it didn’t, though, this man would have had a clear cut case of Extreme Emotional Distress to any homicide charge that would have been brought against him given the circumstances of the incident. More importantly, I don’t think there’s a jury on the planet that would convict under these facts. The DA and the Sheriff made the only call they could here.

  2. Racehorse says:

    I agree that given the facts, this was the right and only decision. If this man had been charged with anything, it would have provoked a huge, justifiable outcry. I have not heard if this predator had a prior record and was out roaming around seeking more victims. No excuse for crimes against children.

  3. PJ says:

    I guess the defense for the next honor killing will be that the father thought her daughter was being sexually assaulted.

  4. PJ says:

    Make that his daughter…

  5. anjin-san says:

    He was defending his daughter, and he showed genuine concern for the life of her attacker once she was safe. I don’t see how he committed any crime. Seems like a stand up guy to me.

  6. PD Shaw says:

    Where is Al Sharpton?

  7. sam says:

    @JJ

    As a moral and precedential matter, this circumstance is very different from a vigilante revenge killing, which I absolutely believe should be prosecuted. Here, though, the man was acting in the moment to protect his daughter from an ongoing violent crime.

    Agree completely.

  8. Just Me says:

    I think the fact that the beating was to stop the assault rather than him hunting down the perpetrator after the fact and that the man did stop while the man was alive and called 911 makes the facts pretty much justifiable. Even if the man was charged I think this case has jury nullification written all over it.

    A 5 year old has no real ability to stop an adult from assaulting them-I think the beating may have crossed the line-but in that moment and given it was fists and not a weapon knowing where the line is may be more difficult.

  9. Brian says:

    One problem I have – every one of these stories says the man was caught molesting, but there’s no physical evidence mentioned that I saw. I may have missed a story where there was, but if I didn’t, seems like a rather big deal.

  10. PogueMahone says:

    Had he picked up a gun or a farm implement rather than beating the man to death, it would be even less questionable

    I think the beating may have crossed the line-but in that moment and given it was fists and not a weapon knowing where the line is may be more difficult.

    I don’t follow.
    I don’t see how grabbing a weapon would change the situation. Hypothetically, had the father grabbed a shovel on his out past the barn, then beating him to death with a shovel…
    Or if the father had a significant weight disadvantage over the perpetrator, then grabbing a weapon to assist him in defending his daughter…

    Either one of those situations wouldn’t affect how I would view his actions.

    It would seem to me that beating him to death with his fists over having a weapon would be an irrelevant fact.

    BTW, what, in that circumstance, be viewed as a weapon? What if he had picked up a rock? What if he had kicked him in the head with a steel-toed boot? What then?

    No. He did what he did while defending his daughter from being raped. Full stop.

    Cheers.

  11. michael reynolds says:

    I might want to use a baseball bat. You can hurt your fists doing that.

  12. mattb says:

    Generally speaking, this probably would have had the same outcome in a “duty to retreat” state, like NY, as well.

    As noted, the man acted in the moment and in defense of an individual physically incapable of defending herself. In a situation like that there is no immediate duty to retreat as long as the other person is in danger.

    Additionally the fact that he stopped hitting the individual, retreated and called 9/11 also stood in his favor.

    BTW @PD Shaw: if you’re doing what I think your doing, that’s a brilliant comment and points out some of the stark differences between this case and another recent infamous example.

  13. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Rather than attempting to indict him they should have given him a commendation letter.

  14. John D'Geek says:

    @Brian:

    One problem I have – every one of these stories says the man was caught molesting, but there’s no physical evidence mentioned that I saw.

    Depending on what kind of molestation was involved (and I don’t want to know), there may not be physical evidence. “Molestation” is a rather broad word.

    As someone who’s been molested, I say “good for the Father”. Not particularly compassionate, I know, but it’s where I’m at …. Now, “Dad”, make sure you get your daughter some professional help (find a trauma specialist that works with children) — it’s easier right after than long after.

  15. Franklin says:

    Assuming we have the facts, I feel more pity for the father than anything. He did the right thing, sure, but his daughter was molested and he had to kill someone.

  16. mattb says:

    @PogueMahone:

    BTW, what, in that circumstance, be viewed as a weapon? What if he had picked up a rock? What if he had kicked him in the head with a steel-toed boot? What then?

    To that point curb-jobs with any type of shoe (not just steel-toed) are increadingly (and rightfully) being prosecuted as weapon based assaults.

    I’m not entirely sure about James point about weapons either…

    the only issue that raises any red flags here is the repeated blows, presumably well past the moment when the assailant stopped being a threat. But the combination of fear, anger, and adrenaline makes that perfectly understandable.

    This is one area where, if the man had previous fight training (boxing, martial arts) he could get in trouble. However, the bar — in terms of know when enough is enough — is set far lower for the average citizen for exactly the reasons James mentions.

  17. PJ says:

    The father was beating the pedophile to stop the assault of his daughter?
    How exactly would that work out?

    This isn’t someone beating a vicious dog that has locked its jaws on another person trying to make the dog release its jaws and retreat.

    Think about it.

    The article says that the father pulled the pedophile away and then started to beat him. I’m pretty certain that pulling away the pedophile ended the assault and put the daughter out of any kind danger.

  18. anjin-san says:

    I’m pretty certain that pulling away the pedophile ended the assault and put the daughter out of any kind danger.

    I’m pretty certain you don’t know what you are talking about. “Pulling someone away” does not end an attack. The assailant might have overpowered the father and turned his attention back to the girl.
    If someone is attacking a member of my family, I am going to make sure they are good and stopped, not pull them away and ask them politely to cease and desist.

    I am also willing to cut the father some slack for a “heat of the moment” situation.

  19. James Joyner says:

    @PJ:

    The article says that the father pulled the pedophile away and then started to beat him. I’m pretty certain that pulling away the pedophile ended the assault and put the daughter out of any kind danger.

    So, it’s your contention that a violent criminal, once taken a foot or so away from his victim, is no longer a threat? Even from the comfort of my keyboard with no predators in sight and my daughters miles away, it seems to me that such a person remains quite dangerous and likely to lash out. He could attack the father in fear of being identified and prosecuted. Getting the jump on the father, he could render the father incapacitated or worse. At such point, he could resume his previous activity.

    Certainly, a few blows to the head with the fists would mitigate that possibility.

  20. Graham says:

    @Brian:

    The revolting details, via HuffPo

    Emergency crews responding to the father’s 911 call found Flores’ pants and underwear pulled down on his lifeless body. The girl was examined at a hospital, and Lavaca County District Attorney Heather McMinn said forensic evidence and witness accounts corroborated the father’s story that his daughter was being sexually molested.

  21. mattb says:

    @PJ:

    The article says that the father pulled the pedophile away and then started to beat him. I’m pretty certain that pulling away the pedophile ended the assault and put the daughter out of any kind danger.

    And you would be wrong. And @JJ and @Anjin are right.

    The attack/assult does not end until the individual engaging in the assault either (a) retreats from the scene, (b) is unable to continue the attack (either by choice or incapacitation), or (c) the victim has safely escaped the attacker and fled from the scene.

    There is no guarantee that once the person is pulled off they will shut down. Further, the individual might turn his attack on the father. Or that the girl was in a position where she could retreat (she might still be on the ground or otherwise unable to immediately retreat under her own power).

    And having pulled people off of other people in the midst of an assault and in fights, I can say that they are often coming off hot and swinging.

    BTW- IANAL but IAAMAASDI (I am a martial arts and self defense instructor … and not the “boot to the head, Ed Gruberman” type).

  22. michael reynolds says:

    If horror movies have taught us anything it is that you don’t just bash the monster once, then squeal and run away. You put him down. You make sure he stays down.

  23. PJ says:

    @anjin-san:
    @James Joyner:
    @mattb:
    I’d say that the article is really not enough information to make a clear judgment about this.
    Few blows? How many blows did the father land?
    Did the pedophile try to retreat?
    Was the daughter able to escape or not?
    Was the pedophile armed?

    Emergency crews responding to the father’s 911 call found Flores’ pants and underwear pulled down on his lifeless body.

    If his pants and underwear was pulled down, then what kind of threat was he?

  24. anjin-san says:

    @ mattb

    I knew someone in high school that lost an eye pulling one guy off another in a fight. “Pulling someone off” in indeed an inherently dangerous situation.

  25. mattb says:

    @PJ:

    I’d say that the article is really not enough information to make a clear judgment about this.

    Fair, but it also means that you don’t have enough information to back up your claim either.

    All I can do, in lieu of those facts, is talk about statistical and anecdotal information about fights and these sorts of situations. And based on that information, I can tell you that James and Anjin are totally correct.

    @PJ:

    If his pants and underwear was pulled down, then what kind of threat was he?

    You would be surprised.

    Look, if you’ve seen my contributions to other threads on self defense, I can tell you I’m not a “kill kill kill” type — I have huge problems with SYG laws as they have been written. But as someone whose been trained in and to teach pragmatic self defense (and been in and observed a number of these situations, as well as talked a lot with LEOs), I can tell you that you would be entirely surprised at how people in all states of dress and undress can mount a dangerous attack

    We don’t know all the facts in the case, the Grand Jury did. And given the wide latitude that a Grand Jury has and my own understanding of these cases, I think that they reached the right decision.

  26. michael reynolds says:

    @PJ:

    If his pants and underwear was pulled down, then what kind of threat was he?

    Imagine Mike Tyson. Scary dude.

    Now imagine Mike Tyson with his pants down. Not scary?

    Only if you can’t imagine him pulling them back up and kicking your ass. I think you’re having a failure of imagination, here.

    Guys who get punched frequently get back up. And a father protecting his child is under no obligation to follow Marquess of Queensberry rules. His obligation is to remove the threat, absolutely, positively, beyond any likelihood that the threat might have a second wind.

    That’s why cops are trained to shoot to kill. Because even with a bullet in them a dangerous guy can still be a dangerous guy.

  27. PJ says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Imagine Mike Tyson. Scary dude.

    Now imagine Mike Tyson with his pants down. Not scary?

    I’d agree, but I’d also would like to point out that if the pedophile had looked like Mike Tyson we would most likely have known that, because, without a doubt, that would have been pointed out again and again.

  28. george says:

    @PJ:

    The article says that the father pulled the pedophile away and then started to beat him. I’m pretty certain that pulling away the pedophile ended the assault and put the daughter out of any kind danger.

    Perhaps, if the father was the equivalent of George Foreman and could hit hard enough to stun him with one punch. Otherwise, probably not. You only have to watch fights in hockey, or MMA, to see that being pulled away, or even hit several times, doesn’t guarantee that you take the fight out of someone. In fact, being pulled away and then left alone might well of given the pedophile to either overwhelm the father and go after the daughter again, or to pull some sort of weapon and kill the father and continue on to do the same with the daughter. Talk to a cop if you doubt those scenarios – violent offenders aren’t like school kids who stop fighting because a teacher pulls them apart.

    I think the father took the only safe course of action, given that his five year old daughter was at risk if he misjudged the situation. That includes continuing the beating until he was sure – if you’ve ever watched (or better yet, trained) MMA, then you’ll know it can be very hard to judge when someone is finished. Its fairly common for someone to weather the storm, and then come back to win, especially if the person on top gives them an opening.

    I think most of us, in that situation, with a five year old daughter at risk, would err on the side of caution (and that means, ensuring that the attacker really is done before letting up).

    I suspect he just did it out of father’s instinct, but even if he’d had time to think it through, I don’t think he could do anything other than what he did.

  29. wr says:

    @PJ: “I’d say that the article is really not enough information to make a clear judgment about this.”

    If we were on a jury, I’d agree with you. But as someone whose sole role in the affair is reading about it on the internet. it’s enough for me to wonder why anyone would keep arguing about it.

    And I’ll argue about just about anything…

  30. PJ says:

    @george:
    The pedophile had his pants and underwear pulled down.
    I have yet to see that in a MMA fight, I might have missed it though.

    There’s all his MMA/Mike Tyson/etc talk.
    Considering that most of us don’t look like that, it’s highly probable that the pedophile didn’t either.
    Can’t find a photo of the pedophile, but according to the reports he was 47.

    And I do think that arguing from the MMA/Mike Tyson perspective is quite a bit like bringing up “ticking bomb” scenarios to justify torture…

  31. Graham says:

    @PJ: How would you have handled it?

  32. PJ says:

    @Graham:

    How would you have handled it?

    Honestly, I don’t know.

  33. mattb says:

    @PJ:

    Honestly, I don’t know.

    And that speaks to the problems of second guessing self defense actions in the harsh light of day.

    What we do know — if the HuffPost report is true — was that there was medical evidence of molestation going on. And if the attackers pants were down, things could easily have been on the way to rape (if not there already). You have a traumatized young girl. You have a father walking across this. You have someone who had already proven themselves capable of physically assaulting a child — not to mention who had just been discovered in the midst of an act that would most likely lead to the end of their life as they know it (criminals don’t want to be caught).

    Add all that up — and the fact that this fathers actions were reviewed by a grand jury and they opted not to pursue charges — and I think it takes a bit of arrogance to think that simply pulling the guy of the child ends the self defense situation.

    I’m not suggesting that he should have been killed out of vengeance (not my style, I’m anti-death penalty). I’m not happy the guy is dead.

    But going so far in the opposite direction is unrealistic.

  34. anjin-san says:

    Can’t find a photo of the pedophile, but according to the reports he was 47

    So what? One of my oldest friends is 62, and he looks quite harmless. Every other Saturday, he does submission fighting with guys who are a lot younger than he is. He has been involved in martial arts for 40+ and knows all kinds of ways to do wicked damage very quickly. Someone who assumed that he was a harmless middle aged dude in a confrontation might be very sorry.

    You are making all sorts of assumptions about the threat presented by the molester. A father protecting his child cannon bet her safety on an assumption, he has to be sure. Frankly, I don’t see what you want to cling to your argument.

  35. grumpy realist says:

    And note that the main difference between this case and the one-we’re-all-thinking-about-in-Florida: this was a decision by a grand jury. It wasn’t a police chief and bunch of officers deciding it on their own.

  36. george says:

    @PJ:

    The pedophile had his pants and underwear pulled down.
    I have yet to see that in a MMA fight, I might have missed it though.

    It doesn’t take long to pull your pants and underwear back up – most of us do it in seconds every morning. Moreover, it’s not that hard to fight with them pulled down – I’d be willing to bet that say George St.Pierre or Anderson Silva could spot you pulled down pants and still beat any of us who’ve posted here quite easily.

    Now the chances are that the pedophile doesn’t fight as well as a trained fighter, but if that was my 5 year old daughter at stake (and remember, if the father loses the fight there’s a good chance the daughter either gets raped again, or killed), why in the world would (or should) the father take that chance? Playing probability is fun and all, but not when its your defenseless daughter’s life on the line.

    We don’t know what would have happened if the father had stopped beating on the pedophile. And that’s the whole point – the life of his five year old daughter lay in the outcome. If it was just the father (ie if the father had been attacked, no daughter involved) you might have a case. But since the father was the only security that five year old had, then I’d say the pedophile threw away his right to play probabilities the second he went after the daughter (as in he’d probably not have attacked and overwhelmed/killed the father if he’d just been pulled away).

  37. JakesForLuck says:

    I applaud the father. I am shocked he had to use his fists, I thought everyone in Texas carried a firearm…

  38. michael reynolds says:

    @PJ:

    Well, no offense, but either you are lacking in imagination, or you aren’t a father, or you shouldn’t be.

  39. Barry says:

    @Doug Mataconis: I agree, and started out very skeptical.

  40. Barry says:

    @Brian: “…but there’s no physical evidence mentioned that I saw. …”

    That’s critical. If the prosecutor didn’t present such evidence to the Grand Jury, then the situation is rather different.

  41. matt says:

    @JakesForLuck: Remarkably a lot of us don’t have a gun..

  42. Nick says:

    Good!! That scumbag got what he deserved! I wouldn’t of given two squirts of piss that he was going to die. I wish this would happen to more of these criminals and that the swing in this country would go to protecting the victim and shitting on the criminals instead of the way it goes in most states and gives the criminal more rights than the victim.