Saturday, March 22, 2008

Life and Death at Mr. Money USA by Robert A. Waters

The U. S. Supreme Court recently heard a case involving the Second Amendment. In a few months, the justices will decide whether the “right to bear arms” is an individual right. The following story illustrates one reason the framers of the Constitution included the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights. [Prison photo of Thomas Porter Wiley.]

On August 10, 2004, at 11:00 a.m., Mr. Money USA in Haines City, Florida was open for business. Judy Foster, co-owner with her husband, stood behind the counter of the check-cashing store. She was alone.

The front door opened and two men rushed in. They wore sweat-pants, hoodies, and had purple latex gloves on their hands. Both men brandished handguns.

“You’re gonna give it up!” Thomas Porter Wiley shouted as he ran toward the counter. A long-time thug, he’d never worked a day in his life--he robbed people for a living. When he ran short of cash and drugs, he sponged off his long-suffering girl-friend. His street name was “Booger-man” and he’d just been released after serving four years in prison.

Taurean Brown was his partner. Another career criminal, the two had stolen a white 1989 Chevrolet Caprice the night before to use as a getaway car. They hired another ex-con, Zachery Bernard Geddis, as their driver.

Judy Foster kept a loaded .38-caliber revolver beneath the counter. As the robbers raced toward her, she reached down and grabbed the gun. She later said, “When I saw the guns drawn and the two men coming at me, I defended my life. When they are rushing at you, I felt I had no other choice. If I [had] made another decision, I might not be here talking about it.”

Foster leveled her gun at the robbers and fired. Caught by surprise, Wiley and Brown stopped dead in their tracks. It looked to Foster like they’d run into an invisible wall. As she continued to fire, Wiley slumped to the floor. Brown turned and sprinted for the door.

Through the smoke, Foster watched Wiley get up and stumble away. She continued to fire, emptying the gun. Wiley made it to the door, and Foster last saw him lumbering toward a waiting car. Then she called 911.

It was over so quickly that the robbers never had a chance to fire a shot.

As Haines City police and Polk County deputies converged on the scene, a call came in to the dispatcher. The getaway car had been located and there was a body inside.

Officers responded to the Redwood Apartments in Lake Alfred. The apartment manager told investigators that two tenants had come to her and reported “a person they thought was dead [was] inside a car” outside. After a quick check of the Caprice, she called police.

Other witnesses at the apartment identified Geddis as the driver of the car. They said he drove up, parked the car, and sprinted away. He was arrested and quickly gave up his cohorts. He stated that Wiley had asked him the night before if he wanted to “make a quick $ 500.” Geddis agreed and the following morning the three drove around Mr. Money USA several times to make sure no police cars were in the area.

According to his statement, Geddis drove into the parking lot and waited while his cohorts ran inside the store. Almost immediately, he heard gunshots and saw Brown run back to the car. Wiley followed shortly, screaming that he’d been shot. He piled into the empty front passenger seat.

Geddis drove to Kentucky Street where Brown ordered him to stop the car. He jumped out and got into a waiting Buick. Geddis then drove to the Redwood Apartments in Lake Alfred, parked the car, and fled.

An autopsy report revealed that Wiley had bullet wounds to “the lower right side of his abdomen” and “two [flesh] wounds on the decedent’s left shoulder.” The wound to the abdomen was fatal--it perforated the liver, the duodenum, the aorta, and the kidney.

Geddis was later tried for second-degree murder (under Florida law, all perpetrators can be held responsible for murder if someone dies during the commission of a crime). He was acquitted of that charge but convicted of attempted robbery. Geddis is currently serving a five-year sentence for the crime.

Taurean Brown eluded officers for several months but was eventually arrested and accepted a plea for attempted robbery. In addition, he was convicted of multiple drug offenses and sentenced to fifteen years in prison.

When the men entered the store, Foster later recalled, “All I could see were eyes and guns. I have a gun at knee level [underneath the counter] and I just reached under, brought it out and started shooting.” At first she thought she’d missed, then she saw Wiley go down.

Investigators quickly ruled that the shooting was justified. No charges were filed against Foster.

1 comment:

Becky said...

Thank you for your post. This is my sister in law and it is discribed precisely as it happened to my knowledge. Thank god that my petite little sis in law was prepared for thugs like this. They messed with the wrong person that day. She is small but well trained, ready and able to protect her life when threatened or violated. Survival is a great motivator.Kudos to her!!!