Fred Sims: Fed Up and Fighting Back
December 18, 2002
It was the fourth time it happened, but the first time they saw it. Someone was stealing Frederick Sims’ car! He jumped out of bed, grabbed his gun, and ran out of the house to stop the thief. He was too late, so he hopped into another car and pursued his property.
His fiance heard three shots ring out while she was on the phone with 911. She feared that they were shooting at him, and he was hurt.
We can speculate on what was going through Fred Sims’ head at that moment. Perhaps it was he needed that car. Perhaps it was the police hadn’t helped him get his other cars back. Perhaps it was just outright rage that his family wasn’t going to benefit at all from the work he’d have to do to replace the car. Whatever it was, it was in there with a heavy dose of adrenaline.
No need to speculate on what was going through the thief’s head. That was a bullet from Fred Sims’ gun.
Two days later they pulled life support, and a 15 year-old boy died.
The thief, whose name was Carl James, had run away from home, dropped out of school, and was living on the streets and with friends. His best friend was in Remann Hall for a car they stole a couple of weeks before, but the police had given up looking for Carl for his part in that crime. If he had been caught, he probably would have been convicted of car theft for a third time. He had also been in trouble for other things before.
Fred Sims is 33 years old. After receiving an honorable discharge from the Navy, he embarked upon a career counseling developmentally disabled kids at Rainier School in Buckley. He lives with his fiance, and their four children. He has no criminal record.
There is no question that this is a tragedy. The question is whether or not the tragedy is justifiable homicide. Under that law, a citizen has the right to use deadly force to avert a felony. Car theft is a felony. Unfortunately, Pierce County Prosecutor Gerry Horne doesn’t think citizens have a right to protect or recover their property by force. He charged Fred Sims with manslaughter. He said "the policy of Washington law has always been to favor human life over personal property."
That’s too bad, because the same day as Horne filed the charges and made the comment, Tacoma Police spokesman Jim Matthies was explaining why property crime was on the rise. "Our officers with our staffing level have no time to prevent crime," was his comment.
So a kid who should have been in jail gets killed stealing a car that the police don’t have time to protect, and it’s the theft victim’s fault. There’s just something wrong with the picture.
The justice system let Fred Sims down. The justice system also let Carl James down. Carl James also let himself down. Fred Sims was trying to not let his family down. He’s the victim, not Carl James and damn sure not the state.
Gerry Horne had the chance to send a message to car thieves that stealing a car is a felony and you can die doing it. He chose to send a message to us that we can’t protect our property, even though the police department can’t either. It’s the wrong message Mr. Horne, and it’s a bald-faced lie if you tell us that you have no choice. It’s those of us who are fed up with criminals on the streets violating our rights who have no choice.
Free Fred Sims!
Some other things I've written about: