Case Study: West Virginia Woman Stops Graduation Party Shooting

As concealed carriers, one of the best training tools we have is to study a variety of self-defense cases and learn from them.

By evaluating these situations and looking at what went wrong, what went right, and how it might have been handled differently, we gain a better understanding of how these incidents unfold and become better prepared to defend ourselves.

In May, a bystander fatally shot a man who fired a rifle into a crowd gathered for a party in Charleston, West Virginia. Let’s break it down.

Incident Breakdown

On the evening of May 25, 2022, a group of around 40 people was attending a graduation party outside of an apartment complex in Charleston, West Virginia.

The partygoers were enjoying their celebration when a vehicle came speeding through the parking lot. Concerned for the safety of the children playing in the area, someone confronted the man driving – later identified as 37-year-old Dennis Butler – and asked him to slow down.

While it’s unclear what exactly happened during the encounter, Butler reportedly left the area, then returned shortly after with an AR-15-style rifle, according to the Associated Press.

It was at this point that Butler began shooting into the crowd of people gathered for the party. A woman attending the gathering quickly drew her pistol and fired at Butler, shooting him several times. Luckily, nobody else was injured in the incident.

Once the threat was neutralized, the party-goers called the police. The woman who shot Butler, along with several witnesses, waited at the scene for authorities to arrive and fully cooperated with the police investigation.

Case Note: It is critical to remain at the scene of the incident until police arrive so that you can provide a statement. Anyone who witnessed the incident should also provide statements to aid in the investigation.

Once police had assessed the situation, they applauded the woman for her quick actions saying she likely prevented a mass shooting and saved the lives of those at the party.

“Instead of running from the threat, she engaged with the threat and saved several lives last night,” Chief of Detectives Tony Hazelett told news outlets the day following the incident.

The Aftermath

Immediately following the initial police investigation, the case was turned over to the Kanawha County Prosecutor’s office for review.

West Virginia is a shall-issue, permitless carry state, according to the USCCA. Open carry is legal for anyone 18 years or older and does not require a license. A permit is not required to concealed carry a weapon for those over 21 in West Virginia, and adults aged 18-20 are permitted to concealed carry so long as they have a Provisional Concealed Handgun License.

Authorities found that the woman responsible for shooting Butler at the May 25 incident had carried and used her firearm legally. And, in the same AP article, Hazelett announced that no charges will be filed against the woman.

"She's just a member of the community who was carrying her weapon lawfully," he said in the article. "And instead of running from the threat, she engaged with the threat and saved several lives."

According to a BBC article, police are unsure how Butler obtained the rifle he used to shoot into the crowd. They did say he had an extensive criminal history – including at least one felony conviction – making his possession of the AR-15-style rifle illegal.

So, what do you think?

Reflection

After learning the details of the encounter, it’s time to reflect on what happened and how you might have handled the same situation.

Do you think the situation was handled appropriately? Why or why not? Do you think there was anything that could or should have been done differently? How would you have handled the same situation? Be sure to share your thoughts on this case with us on social media @VedderHolsters.

Knowledge is power, and analyzing incidents like these can only serve to better prepare you to respond appropriately in the event you are faced with a similar situation. For more resources on training, information on local gun control and concealed carry laws, and general CCW tips, check out the U.S. Concealed Carry Association.

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