Racist "Neighbor" Vigilantes Who Arrested Moving-in Couple Are Arrested
You may remember this story about Jean Kalonji and his wife Angelica, the purchaser of a foreclosed home in Newton County GA. While changing the locks on their new home, they were threatened and held at gunpoint by two of their white neighbors. When the local sheriff deputies arrived they arrested the Kalonjis without checking to find out if they were the homeowners, and took no action against the men who threatened and assaulted Jean and Angelica with their firearms and held them against their will for no apparent reason other than that 61 year-old Jean Kalonji was black.
Well, it seems the Newton County Sheriff's Department has had a change of heart about the actions of these two vigilantes (though the Kalonji's lawyer's meeting with the Sheriff and the local DA on Monday may have helped clarify the situation for them). Yesterday, Robert Canoles and his son, Branden, were taken into custody and charged with "aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal trespass." Frankly I am surprised, but also grateful that the Newton County authorities reversed themselves and made the proper decision to charge these two morons. These idiots took it upon themselves to assault a 61 year old black man and his 57 year old white spouse and cause them to fear for their lives merely for lawfully occupying their own property. Nonetheless, shamefully, both men reacted with defiance and an utter lack of remorse at what they had done to these two innocent people.
Porterdale resident Robert Canoles said he has no second thoughts about interrupting what he thought was a robbery in progress Thursday night at his neighbor's house -- though he is now facing criminal charges just days after deputies lauded his armed response.
Canoles said he and his teenage son, Branden, heard noises from the once-foreclosed home next door, vacant for seven months. They grabbed their AR-15s and snuck up behind a man and woman fiddling with the front door lock.
For roughly 10 minutes, the Kalonjis -- who moved to the U.S. from Zaire in the late 1990s to escape persecution from the brutal Mobutu regime -- stood nervously, arms lifted over their heads, backs turned to the gunmen.
"I didn't know who they were," Jean-Joseph Kalonji told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Monday. "Were they there to rob us?"
The situation could very easily have resulted in the shooting or death of either Jean or Angelica. The Canoles are very fortunate their stupidity and the desire to take the law into their own hands did not result in a much greater tragedy. I don't know what my reaction to being confronted by two men with AR-15 rifles on my own property might have been, but I can imagine that if Mr. or Mrs. Kalonji had said the wrong thing, or demanded that the Canoles leave their property, or if either had had a panic attack (my likely reaction), or otherwise acted in a manner that the Canoles could argue justified "self defense," they might very well have shot either or both Jean and Anjelica Kalonji dead. Certainly the Canoles' statements indicate they have little understanding of the illegality and injustice of their actions. They don't deny what they did in the least. They don't give a damn regarding the fear and suffering they needlessly caused the Kalongis. Indeed they still seem to consider themselves the heroes of this sordid tale.
And the sad thing is that these gun-toting fools had the support of the local law enforcement officials who at the time of the incident arrested the Kalongis for "loitering and prowling" while letting the men with the guns walk away free.
Canoles, meanwhile, said he was praised by the responding officers.
"The police told me I did a good job," said Canoles, 45, who was never questioned that night. He spoke again with deputies on Friday and said he was cleared of any wrongdoing.
Thank god someone higher up in the Newton County justice system reevaluated that initial response. Rewarding vigilantism by bigots only begets the potential for more acts of violence by racists using their guns to "protect their neighborhoods" from anyone with a darker skin tone than their own. If you think I am employing hyperbole here and overreacting, just read this quote by Canole Sr. on Monday before he was arrested:
"I don't know what they can charge me with," Canoles said late Monday afternoon, before the interview with authorities. "This is my Second Amendment right. Look, this is the country out here, and we protect our own."
His second amendment right to "protect his own?" If that doesn't speak to a racist mindset that led to his pulling a gun on the bi-racial couple who were his new neighbors, I don't know what does. And by the way, Mr. Canole, the Second Amendment doesn't give you the right to pull a gun on an unarmed man and his wife on their own property just because they aren't one of "your own." The very idea that the Second Amendment gives people a free pass to use their guns to threaten and assault anyone they like is absurd on its face. The right to "bear arms" does not give one carte blanche to ignore our criminal laws, which Mr. Canole and his son clearly violated.
I sincerely hope both father and son are convicted and serve time in prison for what they did.
Ps. Take a good look at the Canoles' mugshots at the link to the AJC story on this arrest. I would have thought they were robbers, too, if they had "snuck up" on me at my home brandishing AR-15s.