OKLAHOMA CITY – A pharmacist accused of pumping six bullets into a teenager during a robbery attempt was released on bail Thursday in a case that is stoking debate about self-defense rights.
Jerome Ersland, 57, was released from Oklahoma County Jail on $100,000 bond. A condition of his release is that he have no access to guns.
His release was greeted with cheers and howls in the courtroom Thursday as supporters — and the district attorney prosecuting him — argued that he is at risk of being robbed again when he returns to work at the pharmacy, KOKH 25 reported. Ersland can leave his home to go to work but must wear an electronic monitoring device.
He faces a first-degree murder charge in the May 19 shooting of Antwun Parker, 16, and could face a possible death penalty if convicted.
Ersland shot Parker once in the head inside the pharmacy, prosecutors said. A security camera videotape shows that he chased another teen outside, but then returned and shot the unconscious Parker five times in the abdomen.
An autopsy determined Parker was alive after being shot in the head and died from the abdominal wounds.
The slain teen was unarmed, prosecutors said.
A 14-year-old boy, whose name was not released, was arrested Thursday for his alleged involvement in the robbery attempt.
Ersland's attorney, Irven Box, said the pharmacist acted out of a sense of self preservation during a life-threatening crime. No jury will convict him, he said.
District Attorney David Prater said Ersland was justified in shooting Parker once. But Ersland went too far when he shot Parker five more times while he lay unconscious on the floor, he said.
Defense attorneys said the case will test the limits of self-defense laws adopted in Oklahoma and other states that have expanded a person's right to use deadly force when attacked in their homes, cars and businesses.
"The force has to be reasonable if you feel that you are about to be the victim of great bodily harm or injury," said attorney Jay Clark of Cincinnati, a member of the board of directors of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
Attorney Richard Jaffe, of Birmingham, Ala., also an NACDL board member, said Ersland's defense will require exploration of his state of mind at the time of the robbery attempt.
"You're really almost in a mental field of combat," Jaffe said. "We don't know how many times the pharmacist felt threatened or whether there had been previous violent attempts against him."
State Rep. Randy Terrill, a hard-on-crime advocate in Oklahoma's legislature, criticized the district attorney.
"This charge is absolutely wrong, wrong, wrong," he said. "It is Monday morning quarterbacking at its worst. It gives more deference to armed robbers than to the man acting in self defense."