Responsibility and terrible decisions

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I’m sure by now everyone has heard of the horrible mass shooting that happened in Orlando this week-end. So many people died for pretty much no reason.

While it would be a very interesting topic, I am not writing about gun laws, radical Islam, homophobia, etc. What caught my attention is one particular witness that was at the Pulse bar during the events. I am talking about that guy:

Door blocker

This man was interviewed by several media outlets since the shooting, and he has described his perspective of the events. The thing that struck me was the part where he describes that after getting out, he blocked the door. His reasons appear to be that he wanted to block the murderer inside.

According to his own words, when he held the door, he heard the gun shots getting closer and closer, but he also heard banging on the door. Common sense seems to tell us that this put a lot of people in danger by preventing them from leaving, and probably got some killed. Even his words tell us that, obviously, the people banging were scared customers, and not the shooter, because if he was still approaching, he wouldn’t be able to reach the door to bang on it.

Some people reported that this guy is an actor (Luis Burbano).

Luis Burbano

They certainly look similar, but it’s not officially confirmed yet. Obviously, some people think it’s a conspiracy by someone to cover up the fact that other witnesses said the doors were blocked, while others think he was an accomplice playing the victim. Let’s assume that those conspiracy theories are false because they are very hard to prove as of now.

If that guy was really a scared customer of the bar, who had most likely taken a couple shots during the evening, reacting to the horror of a shooter in a crowded and dark building, and in the heat of the moment, he actually thought blocking the door was the right thing to do. Nobody can say that they would act perfectly, or even rationally in this predicament, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. Let’s also assume that his choices (blocking the door) got one person killed for the sake of argument.

How responsible is he?

Obviously, the murderer is the guy with the gun. But if you help him, you’re usually an accomplice. If you help him by accident through poor decision-making during the events, even if that was not your intention, you still helped him.

The problem with this kind of situation is that the extreme level of stress can make anyone irrational. You don’t hold a little kid responsible for taking a candy bar at the shop without paying, you don’t hold a mentally handicapped person responsible for most usual crimes (but you usually detain them in some facility to prevent further criminal activity). In this situation, the inability to analyze the situation was only temporary, but the consequences were still very important.

Would you hold the guy responsible for it?

If you answered yes, then I hope you are ready to take responsibility for any mistake you make if you are ever in a life or death situation while intoxicated and probably near-blind and near-deaf because of darkness, loud music and gun shots.

If you answered no, what if 5 people died because of him blocking the door? Would you still not hold him responsible? How about 10 or 15? In the realm of hypothetical situations, how many people have to die from a mistake like that before holding the person responsible, and throwing them in jail? 100? 500?

My point is that this is a really grey area. If the guy is indeed telling the truth, there’s no way he doesn’t understand that he might very well have locked some people to their deaths in there. He probably feels very very guilty at this point. He probably already holds himself responsible. Do you agree with him?

Just for the sake of argument, try to replace Mr. Burbano with someone you know, like a parent, a lover, a child. Does this change your answer? Would you look your already traumatized and ashamed children in the eyes and tell them they killed some people?

Honestly, I have no idea how this kind of situation should be treated. I feel bad for the guy (again, only if it’s not a conspiracy and he was genuinely trying to help), but I certainly feel worse for the people banging on the door who mighthave been left to die by one of the other victims.

Either way, the whole thing is very sad, disturbing and horrible.