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"Marine Of The Year" shooting -- an update

Now that the initial buzz over the story of Marine Sergeant Daniel Cotnoir's firing a ahotgun has abated, more details are emerging. And my earlier piece's "oops" appears to have been a smidgen premature.

According to the later stories, at around 2:00 a.m. on Sunday morning, he was awakened by a very loud, very rowdy crowd leaving a night club next door. He called the police, who didn't respond. He yelled out his window at the crowd, and someone tossed a juice bottle through his window, shattering it and sending shards of glass around his bedroom -- where his wife was. And he has two small children also living in the apartment.

At that point, he grabbed his legally-registered shotgun and fired at a clear spot in the crowd. He didn't hit anyone directly, but two fragments did hit two people -- including a fifteen-year-old girl.

(This brings up the question of what a 15-year-old girl was doing outside a night club that serves liquor at 2 in the morning, but I digress.)

Cotnoir told police (who didn't hustle to his noise complaint, but came running when they heard a shot had been fired) that he believed he had been shot at -- it was later that the object that shattered his window and cut his hand was not a bullet, but a bottle. He also said that his shot had been a "warning" shot, and by his record that's a safe assumption -- if he'd wanted to hit anyone, he certainly could have.

From what I can see so far, it was an extreme reaction, but within the realm of acceptable. He had legitimate reason to believe that he and his family were in imminent danger, and he responded to drive off the threat -- especially in light of the police's non-response, and past history of non-responsiveness.

But this is Massachusetts. Common sense is never a valid excuse. Cotnoir's lawyer knows that, so he's using a second line of defense. Sgt. Cotnoir is undergoing court-ordered psychiatric examination, and his record of having had prior counseling after returning from Iraq is letting some folks paint him as "poor man, driven crazy by Bush's illegal, immoral war."

That's the angle the Boston Glob is taking. They dug up some old stories on Cotnoir, sent someone to his arraignment, and spun the rest. It's the easy approach, the lazy one. Just skim the facts, and latch on to the ones that support your own agenda.

The Boston Herald decided to get radical, and actually do some reporting. They went to Lawrence, talked to Cotnoir's neighbors, talked to police, talked to local leaders. And the picture they painted was in stark contrast to the Glob's story.


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Comments (24)

'This brings up the questio... (Below threshold)

'This brings up the question of what a 15-year-old girl was doing outside a night club that serves liquor at 2 in the morning, but I digress'

It's Lawrence, remember?

I understand the man's reac... (Below threshold)

I understand the man's reaction, and I am sympathetic - but "in the realm of the acceptable?" I just cannot bring myself to go that far. Firing a warning shot into the air would have been acceptable. Firing in the direction of the crowd crossed the line.

Jeff, that's the downside o... (Below threshold)

Jeff, that's the downside of being a good shot, I suppose. You're sure you can take closer chances with those sorts of shots because you "know" where it will go.

Maybe he forgot he wasn't using an M-16 anymore?

Maybe he forgot he wasn'... (Below threshold)

Maybe he forgot he wasn't using an M-16 anymore?

Bullets bounce too, and they do more damage than a shotgun. And a bullet that bounces will still kill, but buckshot from a shotgun, although it hurts, rarely can kill a human from more than a few feet away.

Sounds like he was just careless all around.

"in the realm of the accept... (Below threshold)
Bill K:

"in the realm of the acceptable"

What a joke.

Maybe he forgot he wasn'... (Below threshold)

Maybe he forgot he wasn't using an M-16 anymore?

Whether he was used to an M-16A4 or an M-4, he was most likley pretty skilled with a shotgun as well. Especially in Iraq, it's a very necessary tool in urban warfare.

I also doubt that he fired "buckshot" into the crowd as he'd need quite a large open area to make sure that no one got hit. More likley, a slug load that shattered when it hit the traffic island.

If I thought someone had taken a shot through my window and I had to protect my family from an unruly crowd, I don't know if I would be aiming for an open area. Considering the circumstances, he showed restraint.

I would have loved to have seen the looks on the faces of the punks who threw the bottle through his window when they saw and heard the shotgun blast.

Someone tried to break into my house one night by pushing in a window air-conditioner. Problem was, it was right over my bed and the air-conditioner landed on me. He was little surprised when I grabbed his wrist and stuck a .357 against his temple and pulled back the hammer.

My point is, I have a family too and if he had broken in through a different window and I had caught him in the house I would have shot him first and asked questions later, nothing is more important than the safety of my children.

Last winter some kids were ... (Below threshold)

Last winter some kids were making noise outside so I went out to yell at them. They threw snowballs at my door. The snowballs had ice in them that broke apart and went everywhere. So I shot at them.

Is that acceptable, or just in the realm of acceptable? It was just a warning shot.

mantis:So, when th... (Below threshold)


So, when they did that, was it two in the morning, and did you know they were throwing snowballs? If not, you're being pretty disingenuous.

Overall, it's an extremely different situation than the one described at the top of the page.

Jeff, firing a warning shot... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

Jeff, firing a warning shot into the air is quite possibly the dumbest thing one can do. Those shots just don't evaporate, they come back down -- and often injure or kill people a huge distance away. He shot at the ground, and two people received minor injuries from fragments.

Oh, and mantis: did that snowball shatter a window right next to you, slicing your hand open and showering your wife with shards of glass? With your children in the next room? At 2 in the morning?
Outside a place where a little while ago a high school athlete was shot and permanently crippled?


Firing into a crowd is NOT ... (Below threshold)
Just John:

Firing into a crowd is NOT acceptable.
I'm not sure what "a clear spot in the crowd" even means.

Were either of the two people he injured responsible for the broken window? Or were only guilty of being too close to "the clear spot"?

Did the 15 year old girl represent a threat to his family?

And wouldn't you think you could find a better place to raise your kids than next to a bar?

mantis,Well, for o... (Below threshold)


Well, for one thing, what you are describing never happened so it is just fantasy.

Anther thing, do you live in an area that is notorious for gang related crime? Were they from a club accross the street that is known for problems? Are the teens and slightly older crowd in your neighborhood known to be armed as many ganbangers in Lawrence are (I guarantee you that someone in that crowd was armed)? Did you call the police first? Did they become unruly and start firing bottles through your windows in a room where your family sleeps?

You are an idiot. Go take a nap with littleboy.

Just John,Where do... (Below threshold)

Just John,

Where do you live? Not everyone has the choice to live exactly where they want. And, not every bar is filled with idiots, he works at the funeral home next door -- given a choice he would probably prefer to live elsewhere.

Do you have kids and has your family ever been attacked by a mob? If not, how can you be so sure of what you would do?

You are entitled to your opinion, but if you were in his shoes and the cops refused to show up, you might be surprised by what you may feel forced to do in order to protect your family.

Also, to clear up the warn... (Below threshold)

Also, to clear up the warning shot v. shooting through a clear spot issue.

A soldier is trained in crowd dispersal in a much different way than a police officer. In a war zone, warning shots fired into the air accomplish pretty much nothing except making a loud noise and drawing more of the wrong types to the scene. Plus, those types of crowds have seen it before and are not afraid of "warning" shots.

A soldier is trained to find a clear spot near the crowd and to fire at it with non-lethal rounds if he has them or with his best discretion if not. It works like a charm most of the time. People react much differently to a muzzle blast aimed in their direction. Any "warning" shot fired by the military is always directed near the intended target, it has the intended effect and retains resonable control of where the round is going to end up.

Plus, like Jay said, firing a round into the air is just stupid. The round is going to come down somewhere and Sgt. Cotnoir knew this.

I'm sure we will learn even more about what happend as time goes on -- I'm pretty sure we'll find that Sgt. Cotnoir was at least justified in feeling that he needed to protect his family and reacted without the intention of lethal force, but to drive back a crowd that was getting out of control.

I have kids. Within 6 mon... (Below threshold)
Just John:

I have kids. Within 6 months of the first I moved to a much nicer neighborhood with much better schools.

I have to drive a lot further to get to work. But that's how I take care of my family.

I don't see the upside for him: If the crowd was unarmed, he overreacted. if the crowd was universally armed, he ran the risk of more injury to his home and family.

What a bunch of gunslingers... (Below threshold)

What a bunch of gunslingers we have here!!!

I don't see anything wrong with what the ex-marine did. Once someone has shown violence toward you and your home, all bets are off. Sorry.

He is getting a raw deal. He should move to Texas. We like gunslingers here.


I have kids. Within 6 mo... (Below threshold)

I have kids. Within 6 months of the first I moved to a much nicer neighborhood with much better schools.

Lucky you. As Mesablue pointed out, not everyone has the same financial options you have.

Uncaring rich [email protected]@rd.


When I read the first Yahoo... (Below threshold)
angela b.:

When I read the first Yahoo story, I dug up some old stories on Cotnoir, too.

It turns out that he has been complaining about the noise at the club since 1998. In response to his complaints, a police officer began [url=http://www.eagletribune.com/news/stories/19981119/FP_001.htm]harassing him[/url] by writing bogus tickets.

I live in Texas and feel that he tried to go thru proper channel first before making this last choice.

Ok Jay, yes, my hand was cu... (Below threshold)

Ok Jay, yes, my hand was cut, it's a bad neighborhood with gangs, and it was two in the morning with my kids in the next room. Does that make it acceptable?

And mesa,

Well, for one thing, what you are describing never happened so it is just fantasy.

Good work, detective!

I guarantee you that someone in that crowd was armed

Really? How can you guarantee that?

Did they become unruly and start firing bottles through your windows in a room where your family sleeps?

Firing bottles? Did they have a bottle cannon or something?

Do you have kids and has your family ever been attacked by a mob?

So let's see here, man is upset with people on the street making noise, opens his window and yells at them, they throw bottles at him, and you call that "his family being attacked by a mob"? Interesting.

Anyway, so my snowball story is not the same thing. Then what is it about this situation that makes shooting into a crowd of people justified? It was late? A cut hand? The man has kids?

I wonder how many of you would think this was acceptable if the man hadn't been a well-known marine, but was just some guy.

Earlier today (can't find i... (Below threshold)

Earlier today (can't find it now), Drudge had an item re Massachusetts planning to do psychiatric screening on returning soldiers... ugh! Screening for what? Obviously, being in a war is traumatic. Screen them and do what? Take away citizenship? Enforce drugging? Be committed? Be stigmatized?

It may be that the soldier-shooting-into-crowd event reported in this post is meant to become a justification for MA's psychiatric screening plans.

mantis, I go to Lawrence se... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

mantis, I go to Lawrence several times a week. (For work, not pleasure. And they have to order me to.) They have HUGE gang problems, and there have been several shootings in that area -- at least one at that particular club that is still unsolved and left a star athlete (HS basketball) paralyzed for life.

Let me turn that around: your bedroom window has just been smashed by an unknown object (they didn't determine it was a juice bottle until they recovered the label). There is a loud, belligerent mob down below. Your wife has been endangered by flying glass, and you're bleeding from your hand. Your tiny children are sleeping in the next room over. And you've called the cops several times, with no result.

Anyone with a lick of sense would feel that they and their family was in imminent danger, and take action to protect themselves. And as mesablue said above, soldiers are trained to fire "warning shots" in the direction of a mob, not in the air -- which Cotnoir did.

OK, that explains it. I forgot you don't have a lick of sense. My apologies.


Soldiers are also trained o... (Below threshold)

Soldiers are also trained on proportionality, but it doesn't matter, because this is not a warzone, those people were not terrorists (or armed even). We have laws in this country, and they aren't excused simply because the offender is a soldier and has a soldier's training. Have you noticed that cops (you know, the ones in charge of law enforcement in this country), are not trained to fire shotguns into crowds? I wonder why that is.

Anyone with a lick of sense would feel that they and their family was in imminent danger, and take action to protect themselves.

If that was in fact the case, and he felt he was in imminent danger, why didn't he call the cops and report he was being attacked? I imagine they would respond to this a little differently than a noise complaint. But certainly you're right, any one with a lick of sense would just grab the shotgun and shoot into a crowd of people on the street below. Totally understandable.

Speaking of when to shoot a... (Below threshold)

Speaking of when to shoot and when not to, I'm wondering if you are going to post an update to this, now that some more information has come out. Just curious.

Wow, what a lot of kneejerk... (Below threshold)

Wow, what a lot of kneejerk reactions. Frankly, I read both news articles and I thought the Globe showed more reporting. Whenever someone takes vigilante action against punks, it's always easy to find neighbors who will say "good for him." That was the entire Herald article. The Globe went to his arraignment and interviewed former comrades of Cotnoir. And their reporting was far from unsympathetic. I certainly felt like I got a lot more of a sense of what makes Cotnoir tick than I did from the one-dimensional Herald article.

I can see all of the wheels turning here. Cotnoir's lawyer says he's suffering from stress, but we know that's not true. He's only saying that because Massachusetts is hostile to people defending themselves. They'd rather paint him as "poor man, driven crazy by Bush's illegal, immoral war." I'd like to point out that none of that is supported by either article, but it does fit into a simplistic, black and white, left vs. right view of the world.

The fact is that the guy had what had to be one of the most stressful jobs in the military. It's no secret that many soldiers have trouble dealing with stress after returning from combat. That doesn't mean they're crazy ticking time bombs, but it does mean that sometimes they need help in dealing with it. But because this guy was a soldier we're so quick to lionize him. Read both articles. He drives down the streets of Lawrence wondering which cars might have bombs in them. Soemeone throws a bottle at his window and he describes it as a round. He had been arguing with his wife. He was already in counseling. Isn't it even a possibility to you guys that he overreacted? Is it possible that he's going "What did I do? I could have killed someone."

All this talk about how he's trained to fire into an open spot is ridiculous, like he's the picture of self control. If he wanted to hit someone, he would have? Hey, he didn't want to hit someone and he did, which makes him really in control. And tell me, if you walk out of a club and there's a guy yelling out his window to be quiet, and some idiot in the crowd throws a bottle at the guy's house, and you see the guy point a shotgun at you, aren't you withing your rights to shoot first? You're all gunslingers, right? Or do you say "Well, the crowd was being loud, and someone did throw a bottle, so I guess I just have to stand here and be shot." My point isn't that the crowd was full of innocents, it's that not everyone in the crowd deserved to be shot at (if anyone did.) This story is being painted like the crowd was advancing on his house, which I don't think was the case. If we're so sure people in the crowd were armed, then how exactly is he protecting his family by initiating a shootout? And by the way, Hector Paniagua was shot outside a different club, so it's not like this was a total war zone.

I'm sure it's a sign of the... (Below threshold)

I'm sure it's a sign of the End Times or something, but given the current information I think mantis is right on this one.

I feel sorry for the guy and I believe he honestly feared for his family's safety. But the proper response to a vague and undefined threat like that is not to discharge a firearm at a group of people. One drunk jerk in a crowd throwing a bottle does not make the whole crowd a target.






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