James Spiers is 38, a single father, a good shot, and one Hell of a good man if you buy into Hemingway's grace-under-pressure standard.
Until last Thursday he delivered for Pizza Hut. Friday he got fired.
But at least he's he's alive, as is one Kenneth Jimmerson, 19, at present resident in a Des Moines hospital with three bullet wounds, courtesy of Mr. Spiers.
About ten p.m. on that Thursday, Spiers walked into the entrance of an apartment building, warm pizza in hand. He was, he reports, greeted by Jimmerson who placed a handgun to his head. Bad move, Kenny.
Just as bad as whatever you did to earn a rap sheet for harrassment, assault, and weapons violations. Not bad for a lad of 19.
The blow-by-blow details of what happened next are, as you would expect, not totally clear, one of those incidents which probably never will be precisely reported.
No matter. It ended with the disarmed Jimmerson bleeding on the ground.
Mr. Spiers got out of it with his life, his cash, and the pizza. As far as we know he is out only what the civil court system might do to him. And three cartridges.
Spiers called the cops and met them in the parking lot where he — no fool — immediately knelt and announced to Officer Friendly that he had two handguns in his pockets, his and the unfortunate young thug's.
At least the right cops responded. Spiers was not charged, and press reports suggest police might have offered him a small congratulatory smile.
The predictable contingent is already on the internet, wailing that Mr. Spiers over-reacted. The popular line is that he shot Jimmerson over “a measly twenty bucks.”
While some may be constructed of different mental Legos, I think that with a stranger's pistol to my head, the amount of money in my wallet and its relative measliness would be rather far down on a list of my immediate concerns.
It turns out that Spiers had a valid permit to carry a concealed handgun. Under Iowa law he committed no crime. But down in Dallas, Texas, macho capital of the nation, sphincters loosened.
The word came down from Dallas, from the big Pizza Hut corner offices: “Fire the SOB!”
Pizza Hut, you see, forbids its drivers to carry weapons. The VP for Human Resources, one Vonnie Walbert explained: “…we feel it's safest for everybody.”
Well, Vonnie, it certainly is safer for adventurous miscreants looking to pick up a little pocket change by sticking loaded guns into the ears of the men and women who cement Pizza Hut profits by delivering your soggy pies.
But maybe Mr. Spiers, who worked faithfully for you for ten years, doesn't fit into your “everybody” category. A human resource, perhaps, but really now, just a bottom-of-the ladder human-resource grunt, easier to replace a case of cheap tomato paste.
We know what really worries Vonnie and her bosses, and it has as much relation to safety as Bill Clinton does to morality.
It's the corps of wrongful-something lawyers. As sure as you exist, a regiment of this outfit is at this moment heating up the phone lines for a chance to be first in line to sue Pizza Hut, its parent company, Mr. Spiers, the apartment owner, and the company that made the guns. And God knows who else.
When the lawyers call, Pizza Hut can smugly proclaim its own victimhood. “He violated a firm company policy. Had we known of it we would have taken action. When it did come to our attention we acted promptly.”
Yes, Vonnie, you acted promptly to assure the nation's small-time hoods that they never again need to fear robbing your delivery people.
While nothing prosecutors do surprises me, it looks as though Mr. Spiers will not be charged. His permit to carry his handgun protects him from criminal-law abuse for having the gun when he needed it.
This of course raises the issue of what will happen when the next honest citizen wards off a gun-wielding criminal with a pistol for which he did not successfully beg a Mother Gov permission slip. Essentially, he will be jailed or not depending on police whim and the opinion of the local DA, and to Hell with that old saw about us being governed by laws rather than men.
Of course, he might beat the rap. Then he has to worry mainly about how to recover from personal bankruptcy. And to survive the civil suits.
There's a small movement building to support James Spiers, and I hope it succeeds. If the past is a guide, he'll soon be defending himself against civil actions from a thug and his family.
It perhaps isn't even totally beyond reason to think Pizza Hut itself might sue him. After all, he violated a condition of employment, exposing the company to all sorts of ungentle publicity. Suing the poor guy who was just trying to stay alive to be a father could nicely muddle the legal waters.
That probably won't happen, of course, but I'll wager it's getting more thought down Dallas-way than “stand by our man,”
Pizza Hut is owned by a very big organization called Yum Brands. It operates out of Louisville, Kentucky, and the CEO is a fellow by the name of David C. Novak. You can, if you want, give the folks there a call at 502-874-8300.
Yum also owns Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Bell, Long John Silver's, and A&W. While I'm not really big on boycotts, if you want to take the hint you'll gain a real shot at getting rid of those love handles you've been worrying about.
I've never envied people like Mr. Novak, though in this special case I'd like to have his job for one day to carry out a brief but comprehensive agenda:
Make James W. Spiers of Des Moines, Iowa, Employee of the Month.
Replace his three cartridges.
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