Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Ken McElroy

Vigilantes or Necessary Justice?

CL: Do you think the shooting of McElroy will ever be "solved"?

CHERYL: No. I believe that somewhere out there is someone who did it, or knows who did it, and will take that information to the grave. I have a friend who wrote and recorded a song about the McElroy shooting. One of the phrases in the song is, "When it came time for cries of justice, we realized that it was just
us." Sadly, that seems to be exactly the way it was.

JOYCE: I certainly hope not. Unless someone makes a death-bed confession and then moves into the Great Beyond and out of the clutches of the judicial system, that is one killing that needs to be left unresolved.

CL: Were the killers vigilantes?

CHERYL: I had always had a problem with the label "vigilante."

JOYCE: The media was first to use the word "vigilante"...They were harking back to the Wild West days when townspeople took the law into their own hands and executed criminals, mainly before they could be tried in court. The word "vigilante" is derived from the Latin word "vigiles," the night watchmen/firemen of Rome. They patrolled the streets of the city and responded to fire calls with the help of the city police. During the great fire of Rome in AD 64 they were responsible for saving thousands of lives while fighting a fire that burned for seven straight days. Basically, they were men doing a terrible job under the most horrific of circumstances. A lot of times people like that are called "heroes." I have to agree with the premise that the average citizens shouldn't take the law into their own hands. That's what we have courts and judges for...(But) when a person is set loose by the courts to go back to the community they have been preying on, what recourse do the citizens of that community have then?...To this day I do not believe there was a conspiracy to kill Ken McElroy. I think the events that led up to his death were coincidence on top of coincidence that were finally blown apart when he came into town that day like he owned the place. People had had enough....Justice was finally served. It wasn't in the way most of us would have wanted. But sometimes you just have to take what you're given and be satisfied with it.

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