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Self-Serve Justice

Katzenberger took the law into his own hands (WKRN-TV/ABC News)

Katzenberger took the law into his own hands (WKRN-TV/ABC News)

Vigilante justice is not something I normally endorse. After all, we have a system of law in the United States that is designed to dole out justice to those who deserve it. Granted, it can be very dysfunctional, but it is an important part of living in a civilized society… or so I’ve heard.

Occasionally, though—or perhaps more often than occasionally—things go horribly wrong and true justice is not served. When this happens, it is sometimes necessary for normal citizens like you and me to take more extreme action. No, I am not telling people to dress up as Batman and to start kicking criminals’ asses in their home towns and cities. I just know that the law can fail us and we all need to find ways to “pick up the slack” from time to time.

This is exactly what 25-year-old David Katzenberger of Giles County, Tennessee did recently. And though his actions may not qualify as true vigilante justice, they certainly aren’t that far off.

Rosacia and Griffis busted for theft! (WKRN-TV/ABC News)

Rosacia and Griffis busted for theft! (WKRN-TV/ABC News)

Last Thursday, Stacy Rosacia and her pal Christopher Griffis decided to start breaking into people’s cars to steal whatever they could find to support their drug habits. One car they robbed belonged to Katzenberger’s wife, who sells costume jewelry for a living. The criminals stole some of her jewelry and a few additional items before moving on to their next target.

Once Katzenberger realized what had happened, he called the police to report the crime. Of course, he didn’t stop there. Instead of relying on the authorities to track down the thieves, Katzenberger took pictures of the missing jewelry to store owners around town, hoping that one of them either knew the culprits or had seen them trying to sell the baubles they stole. And before he knew it, he had the lead he needed.

One local merchant reported that she saw Rosacia wearing some of the jewelry in Katzenberger’s photos. And then she “pointed him in the right direction,” as he put it later.

Katzenberger found Rosacia’s home, put on some gloves and started to dig through the suspected thief’s trash can, which was sitting by the curb at the time. There he found the pink jewelry bags his wife used to store her costume jewelry, as well as a note she had written. He immediately took this evidence to the cops, who arrested Rosacia and her partner a short time later.

“When I saw them, I knew that they had been caught,” Katzenberger said of his unofficial investigation. “They got them. I feel pretty good about that.”

After being apprehended, Rosacia confessed to her crimes and admitted to breaking into numerous vehicles around town.

“I have a drug addiction that caused me to make poor choices that landed me here,” she told authorities. “You do stupid stuff when you’re high.”

The evidence that led to the bust  (WKRN-TV/ABC News)

The evidence that led to the bust (WKRN-TV/ABC News)

Rosacia added that once she is released, she will make an effort to get clean and to be a better mother to her young children. I certainly hope this is the case and that one more evildoer finally comes back into the light.

Incidentally, Katzenberger is being praised by authorities since the information he provided helped solve as many as ten burglaries. Of course, they also recommend that citizens refrain from similar actions in the future, choosing instead to let law enforcement handle criminal investigations. Despite their flaws, I completely agree that the people who get paid to do this job should be allowed to do it without outside interference.

But what Katzenberger did was kind of cool, don’t you think? I just wonder what might have happened if the jewelry was real!

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