I’ve received a few notes from friends and students asking for my comments regarding the recent shooting in Pennsylvania involving a dispute between neighbors over snow shoveling. One suggested I write it up for public consumption – so, here it is.
On Monday, February 1st, in Plains Township, Pennsylvania, 47-year old James Spaide shot to death his neighbors, James and Lisa Goy (50 and 47 years old, respectively), over a snow shoveling argument.
According to the NY Daily News:
Neighbors told investigators that Spaide and the Goys had long been engaged in a feud that finally boiled over amid the snowiest time of the year. Plains Township, located about 15 miles southwest of Scranton, had been covered in 2 feet of snow when the fatal confrontation unfolded, officials said. “The Goys were shoveling the snow from their parking spots, shoveling the snow across the road, and throwing the snow onto Spaide’s property,” Salavantis and Binker said in their statement.
According to an ABC report, James Goy threw a snow removal “tool” at Spaide during their verbal exchange.
Spaide, as best has been determined, had no criminal record and was a Navy veteran with an engineering degree from Villanova University, as well as a bachelor’s degree from Wilkes University in environmental engineering. He had worked as a licensed engineer for the last 20 years.
Not exactly your run-of-the-mill sociopath.
I was unable to learn much about the Goys – there doesn’t seem to be any criminal past or police contact issues before the attack by Spaide – there was at least one other snow shoveling problem approximately two months ago, but the police were not involved. Other reports are claiming their was a history of arguments between these neighbors.
As is common with such events what we have for information is vague. Comments from witnesses and local residents, as well as “news reports”, are all we have to go on. It amounts to a whole lot of hearsay rather than substantial facts.
In this case, however, we do have a rather clear video (with audio) of the actual shooting. The link below is not edited or pixelated, so watch at your own risk. I’m only providing a link, not embedding the video – it’s up to you to decide to view it. Or, just take my word for it in the below breakdown of events.
Breakdown Of Events
The video starts when tempers are already boiling. Expletives and insults are flying, as are physical threats.
Spaide darts towards his home, and stands in front of his garage, the Goys are on the edge of their driveway across the street. Threats and name calling continue from a distance.
It’s not possible to tell if Spaide retrieved a handgun from his garage, or if he already had it on his person. My guess is that he retrieved it, and was the reason he retreated towards his home in the beginning of the video.
At 54 seconds the first shots are fired. 6 shots are fired at James Goy with little to no reaction from Goy. When the 7th shot is fired, he screams out in pain, then turns and begins running towards his home. My guess is that he was actually hit multiple times and simply failed to immediately realize it.
The 9th shot appears to connect with Lisa, and she immediately falls down.
The 10th shot looks to be fired in the direction of the retreating James Goy.
Spaide moves over Lisa, firing shots 11 and 12 from within 2 feet of Lisa’s head. Both appear to be hits.
Spaid then continues onto the Goy’s driveway, closing on James. He fires a 13th shot at James, which is slightly out of frame, but appears to be from right over the prone victim, as we can see his foot waving in the air.
At this point Lisa is attempting to sit up. She is still verbal after being shot what appears to be at least 3 times, with two of those to the head.
Spaide runs back to his house.
Lisa is sitting up in the middle of the street, still speaking – crying out for help and to her husband, James, who has gone quiet.
Two witnesses now come into fame, asking “what happened” and “are you alright?”
They render no aid to either victim.
Spaide re-appears from his home now carrying some form of AR15 rifle. Caliber unknown.
The witnesses (one who obviously sees Spaide) say nothing to him and leave the area.
Spaide fires two shots into Lisa’s head, muzzle approximately a foot or two away. She continues to move for another 20+ seconds.
Spaide then fires 2 more shots into James, and immediately retreats to his home. He disappears from frame at the 2:45 mark.
The video ends after 3-mintues and 16-seconds. During the last 31 seconds, no bystanders are seen or heard.
When police arrived on scene, they approached Spaide’s house and heard a single gunshot from inside.
Spaide took his own life.
#1 – As always – CARRY YOUR GUN!
In this case, whether it would have made a difference for the Goys is speculative. However, I’m not giving that advice to them, I’m giving it to you. As a potential bystander who may witness an attempted murder and then be presented with an armed attacker returning to the scene, it might behoove you to be able to defend yourself, no?
If it’s not on your person, you don’t have it!
#2 – Don’t start fights. DON’T ESCELATE!
The best way to do that is to mind your own business! Don’t infringe on your neighbor’s space.
The Goys’ did nothing deserving of being shot. Spaide’s actions were murder – the end. However, it’s obvious Spaide’s decision to shoot them wasn’t random, nor without, at least in his mind, cause.
That cause was disrespect of he and his property. Perceived disrespect is the fuel of enough violent interactions that we, as potential defenders, must acknowledge it in our pre-fight planning. It’s better to live to fight another day by acquiescence and letting things go than to fan the flames with ego and pride.
#3 – Bystanders are useless.
Don’t count on anyone coming to your aid; the cavalry is not on the way.
#4 – Obtain basic wound treatment training immediately – Carry the gear to do so on your person at all times.
#5 – If you’re awake, and your legs still work, get moving!
Attempting to do so on snow and ice brings its own challenges. Perhaps that should be part of your training, no?
#6 – Pistol bullet performance continues to be less than impressive. People shot with them don’t explode into a shower of sparks. Most, if they have the will to do so, can continue fighting, at lest for the very short term.
Understand that is a two-way street:
– When your attacker is shot, don’t expect him to stop attacking.
– When you are shot, keep fighting!
I’m curious what the final report will say concerning the rifle’s caliber. It did not seem to do the damage expected from a .223/5.56 round fired into a human head. It appears to have a short barrel, and, perhaps, a brace-style stock. Its report does sound louder than the attacker’s pistol did, however, there is no obvious evidence of the rounds passing through the victim. I have to wonder if it was chambered in a pistol or odd rifle caliber. We shall see.
These events are never pleasant. Study of them can often appear cold-hearted or “ghoulish.” However, study is how we learn.
To do so effectively, we must separate logic from emotion. Just as we should when our neighbor throws snow on our property and insults us.