It’s impossible to gauge the intensity of fear Kameron Gines may have felt before he allegedly fatally shot 27-year-old Brent Copeland three times at close range.
And we may never know details because Gines refused to speak to police after the shooting last month at the Good Trip convenience store at 27th Street and Indiana Avenue.
After reading the police report, I can’t help but think calmer heads could have prevented the deadly encounter.
But Gines, an employed father of three small children, may have been unable to think clearly when he allegedly shot Copeland, according to a conflict resolution expert not affiliated with the case.
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Annette Lantz, executive director of the Center for Conflict Resolution, concluded Gines may have been fearful after Copeland engaged in a fistfight with one of Gines’ associates and then, according to witnesses, pushed Gines from behind. Gines shot Copeland after the push, witnesses told police.
“When we’re threatened, stimulus hits our emotional brain first, and our thinking brain shuts down,” Lantz said. “Our emotional brain (the amygdala) tells us how to react and triggers the fight, flight or freeze instinct.”
So why didn’t Gines retreat instead of brandishing his weapon?
That’s hard to determine, Lantz said.
“An experience we had in the past, even as a child can trigger fear or anger, and that emotion overrides our ability to choose or think through a situation,” she said.
Gines’ father, Keith, believes fear is what compelled his son to act. Kameron Gines already had survived a shooting. He has yet to return to full strength, his father said.
“I know my son, and I know his spirit,” Keith Gines said. “I truly believe he was afraid.”
Latahra Smith, founder of the non-profit advocacy group KC Freedom Project, believes Kameron Gines acted in self-defense. He legally owns the gun he is accused of using.
Kameron Gines had no duty to retreat after he was assaulted, Smith said. She labeled Copeland the aggressor and wants prosecutors to drop the case.
Gines is in jail on second-degree murder charges with a $100,000 bond.
“If you look at the charging documents,” Smith said, “this is a classic example of self-defense.”
On Wednesday, Smith will lead a group protesting the charges in front of the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office. Gines is scheduled to appear in court on Thursday.
Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker couldn’t discuss specifics of the case but said a team of investigators determined there was sufficient evidence to charge Gines with a crime.
That’s a crime I think could have been avoided. And while it’s reasonable to question the charges, the larger question is how to de-escalate future conflicts.
“Any of them could have walked away early on,” Lantz, the conflict resolution expert, said.
But that type of thinking under duress takes work, Lantz said.
“People don’t just wake up one day and know how to resolve conflict peacefully,” she said. “They have to be taught and they have to be shown.”
Despite his son’s predicament, that is an idea the elder Gines can support.
“We have to teach our kids how to think critically about some of the situations they end up in,” Keith Gines said.