"Marine Of The Year" shooting — an update

Now that the initial buzz over the story of Marine Sergeant Daniel Cotnoir’s firing a ahotgun has abated, more details are emerging. And my earlier piece’s “oops” appears to have been a smidgen premature.

According to the later stories, at around 2:00 a.m. on Sunday morning, he was awakened by a very loud, very rowdy crowd leaving a night club next door. He called the police, who didn’t respond. He yelled out his window at the crowd, and someone tossed a juice bottle through his window, shattering it and sending shards of glass around his bedroom — where his wife was. And he has two small children also living in the apartment.

At that point, he grabbed his legally-registered shotgun and fired at a clear spot in the crowd. He didn’t hit anyone directly, but two fragments did hit two people — including a fifteen-year-old girl.

(This brings up the question of what a 15-year-old girl was doing outside a night club that serves liquor at 2 in the morning, but I digress.)

Cotnoir told police (who didn’t hustle to his noise complaint, but came running when they heard a shot had been fired) that he believed he had been shot at — it was later that the object that shattered his window and cut his hand was not a bullet, but a bottle. He also said that his shot had been a “warning” shot, and by his record that’s a safe assumption — if he’d wanted to hit anyone, he certainly could have.

From what I can see so far, it was an extreme reaction, but within the realm of acceptable. He had legitimate reason to believe that he and his family were in imminent danger, and he responded to drive off the threat — especially in light of the police’s non-response, and past history of non-responsiveness.

But this is Massachusetts. Common sense is never a valid excuse. Cotnoir’s lawyer knows that, so he’s using a second line of defense. Sgt. Cotnoir is undergoing court-ordered psychiatric examination, and his record of having had prior counseling after returning from Iraq is letting some folks paint him as “poor man, driven crazy by Bush’s illegal, immoral war.”

That’s the angle the Boston Glob is taking. They dug up some old stories on Cotnoir, sent someone to his arraignment, and spun the rest. It’s the easy approach, the lazy one. Just skim the facts, and latch on to the ones that support your own agenda.

The Boston Herald decided to get radical, and actually do some reporting. They went to Lawrence, talked to Cotnoir’s neighbors, talked to police, talked to local leaders. And the picture they painted was in stark contrast to the Glob’s story.

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