Byron Smith waited in his basement with energy bars and bottled water. When the boy and girl snuck into his house, he stood his ground. Fired. Again. And again. Over their bodies. Over her screams. Then he delivered a five-minute vigilante tirade over the corpses. We know this, because he recorded it all:
Smith, 65, says he was defending his Little Falls, Minnesota, home that Thanksgiving in 2012. His castle. But he crowed gleefully for the deaths of 17-year-old Nick Brady and 18-year-old Haile Kifer, shooting them again after they were down, just to be sure, blotting out her voice with his shots and calling her a "bitch."
On the basis of that recording—embedded below—and the fact that he dragged the bodies into a tarp so as to avoid blood on his carpet, he is now serving life for first-degree murder. And if his actions and words don't make you wonder whether America's penchant for paranoia and armaments has gotten out of hand, nothing will.
Here is who he killed:
Be warned—this is the audio recording of two teens being shot to death, and an armed madman rationalizing his act with every NRA comic-book cliché that ever ejaculated from the mouth of a fatuous wannabe vigilante. It is not easy to hear. But it is important.
Even if you do not listen, read the transcript of Smith's post-killing rant below. But you should listen to the audio.
I'm safe now. Cute. I'm sure she thought she was a real pro. I feel a little bit safer. I'm totally safe. I'm still shaking a bit, but a little bit safer.
I refuse to live in fear. I am not a bleeding heart liberal.
I felt like I was cleaning up a mess. Not like spilled food. Not like vomit. Not even like diarrhea, the worst mess possible.
In some tiny little respect I was doing my civic duty. The law enforcement system wouldn't do it, I had to do it. I had to do it.
They weren't human. I don't see them as human. I see them as vermin.
This bitch was going to go through her life spoiling things for other people. Stealing, robbing, drug abuse. It's all fun, cool, exciting, and highly profitable, until someone kills you. Like I give a damn who she is? "Oh, sorry!"
I try to be a good person. I try to do what I should, be friendly to other people, help them when I can, try to be a good citizen, not cheat people, be fair. And because I'm a good person, they think I'm a patsy, I'm a sucker. They think I'm there fore them to take advantage of.
Is that the reward for being a good person? And if I gather enough evidence, they might be prosecuted. If they're prosecuted, it might go to court. If it goes to court, they might be found guilty. And if they're found guilty, they might spend six months, two years in jail, and then they're out, and they need money worse than ever, and they're filled with revenge. I cannot live a life like that. I cannot have that chewing on me for the rest of life. I cannot, I refuse to live with that level of fear in my life.
I don't want this post to read as a defense of kids who do break-ins. Nor is it a denial that people have a right to feel safe in their own homes, and to take reasonable measures to that end. But we have grown so deranged that reasonable doesn't look reasonable anymore.
The rhetoric of self-defense has grown so crude, so kneejerk, so unironically on-the-offensive—along with the stereotyping of petty criminals as all violent leeches whose lives are forfeit—that it's grotesque, and it's time to fix it, on every level and in every way possible. Is listening to this tape hard? So is having the conversation about how we fix our broken, insecure, paranoid society before all of America becomes Inner America, before every man is a heavily armed island citadel.
[Photo credit: AP]