Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Prepare for the Worst, Hope for the Best

Violent Thugs Taken Down

“They weren’t there trick-or-treating.” Cleveland Councilman Mike Polensek.

Timothy Peak (pictured above) did Cleveland, Ohio residents a favor when he shot and killed Waymone Williams and, through his court testimony, sent Herman Jennings to prison for life.

Shortly after midnight on July 28, 2013, Peak, 26, pulled into the driveway of his home on East 128th Street. A detective later wrote that “Peak stated he went to the BP Gas Station with his friend **Joanie Jameson, 21, to get some chips, then they returned to his home. Peak stated he and Jameson talked with Peak’s brother—Jeremy Peak—for a short time and then they began to leave. Peak stated that they both got into his car but before he could put the key in the ignition, he saw movement at the window.”

Suddenly, the front door of the 2008 Chevrolet Impala was jerked open. Before Peak could react, two men reached in and grabbed his legs. The unknown men wore black clothing, black masks, and transparent latex gloves. They began trying to pull Peak out of the car. Waymone Williams was armed with a Smith & Wesson six-shot .38-caliber revolver while Herman Jennings held a crowbar. As Peak resisted, Jennings slugged him with the bar, opening a large gash above his right eye. Blood streamed down Peak’s face, momentarily blinding him.

Jameson described what happened from her perspective. “I look to my left,” she said, “and see two men attacking Timothy…No one was on my side of Timothy’s vehicle. I say, ‘Oh, my God’ and I realize that we are getting robbed and I know this is a life or death moment. I proceed to run to the door of Timothy’s house and attempted to enter the pass code into the door lock at least two or three times unsuccessfully. While I am trying to enter back into Timothy’s house, I heard one or two gunshots go off. At this point, the other suspect came and grabbed me and threw me onto the ground. The suspect took my purse…”

Three months before, Peak had obtained his concealed carry permit. Now his training kicked in and he reached for his gun, a .45-caliber Springfield Armory XDM semi-automatic pistol, in the pocket of the driver’s side door. Because of the blow to his face, he was light-headed, but knew he had to act quickly to survive. In his interview with investigators, Peak stated that Williams “pointed” the gun at him. Still inside the car, Peak turned and snapped off a shot at his tormentor. Williams fell to the ground, on his back, with his pistol still in his hand. From that position, he fired at Peak, then attempted to sit up. (Williams’ bullet was later found lodged in the gutter at the front of the house.)

By now, Peak had crawled out of the car and stood up. He attempted to shoot Williams again, but realized his gun had jammed. He cleared it, then fired twice more at his assailant who was sitting on the ground holding his revolver. Finally, Williams slumped over and lay motionless.

By this time, Peak’s brother, Jeremy, a Marine home on leave, had heard the commotion and opened the door for Jameson. Peak, in shock, walked around his car in a circle, still holding his handgun. Jeremy and Jameson yelled for him to come inside.

As Timothy entered, Jeremy took the gun and placed it on the kitchen table. Jameson then pressed a towel against Timothy’s wound in an attempt to stop the bleeding.

Within minutes, police arrived. An officer wrote that “Williams, dressed as a ninja and wearing latex gloves, lies on the driveway, left side of the vehicle…Near the garage door is a tire tool; on the ground near the driver’s door [are] 2 fired casings and a ring with keys. On the driver’s door frame is a wallet. On the roof of this auto above the right doors…is another fired casing.”

A black “doo-rag” and a pair of latex gloves lay on the ground near Williams. Detectives found his gun underneath his right leg. Jameson’s purse and many of its contents lay scattered across Peak’s yard near 128th Street. It seemed likely that the second attacker had fled in that direction.

Cops quickly sealed off the crime scene. Checking Waymone Williams, they found him deceased.  A post-mortem examination showed that he’d been hit by each of the three rounds Peak had fired.  The report revealed the robber had a “gunshot wound to the left anterior chest that traveled through the heart.” In addition, a second round had hit Williams in the right side, while the third shot went all the way through the right side of his chest.

Peak was transported to St. Vincent Charity Hospital where he received stitches for his head wound. He later returned home shaken and bruised, but lucky to be alive.

After identifying Williams through fingerprints, detectives visited his home. There they obtained his cell phone from relatives. Reading the text messages, cops found that he’d recently contacted Herman Jennings. Well-known to CPD officers as a violent career offender, Jennings had recently been released from prison after serving five years of an eight year sentence for a brutal assault. In that case, his victim “sustained a broken metacarpal, an orbital fracture, a detached retina, along with multiple head and eye lacerations.” In yet another assault, Jennings sucker-punched a passer-by and knocked out several teeth. The victim was hospitalized for a concussion.

It didn’t take investigators long to track Jennings down. He was arrested and charged with aggravated murder. (In Ohio, as well as many other states, an accomplice can be charged with murder if a death occurs because of a felony he or she commits.)

A court document explained the reason Timothy Peak was chosen as a robbery victim: “Jennings’ brother Terrell was a former co-worker of Timothy Peak, who knew that Peak had just inherited a substantial amount of money after the death of his father.” Terrell likely told Herman about Peak’s windfall.

On reviewing evidence at the scene, as well as DNA and gunshot residue, CPD officials determined that Peak had killed Williams in self-defense and would not be charged.

The story was slow to catch the attention of local media. But Cleveland Councilman Mike Polensek, outraged at the violence in his city, wouldn’t let it lie. He contacted reporters, stating “as far as I’m concerned, [the criminal] got exactly what he deserved—lead poisoning. If [Peak] hadn’t had that gun, we’d be reading about him in a two-paragraph story in the paper as another innocent victim of violent criminals looking to prey on him like jackals. [But the criminals] picked the wrong man this time.”

As happens so many times in these cases, citizens in Peak’s community rose up in outrage after learning that Herman Jennings had recently been released early from prison for another violent assault. They demanded changes in sentencing laws, sentiments which were roundly ignored by the professional politicians in Cleveland.

Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Blaise Thomas told reporters that “Herman Jennings displayed a level of violence that belies an utter disregard for human life. He belongs in prison for the rest of his life.”

On October 28, 2015, Jennings was convicted of one count of murder, two counts of aggravated robbery, and found to be a repeat violent offender. The ex-con was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 35 years.

**Not her real name

Thanks to the Cleveland Police Department for their detailed report on this case. While researching this incident, I found several newspaper articles about it, but not as many as you would think.

Robert A. Waters is the author of Guns and Self-Defense with co-author Sim Waters. For 25 years, Waters has researched defensive shootings and written about hundreds of such cases. He has penned four books describing in detail many legitimate self-defense exploits. In addition, he has chronicled hundreds of such cases on his blog, Kidnapping, Murder and Mayhem.

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