What you are about to read sounds like an urban legend, but it is true. I contacted its author, William Fishburne and he sent me the article and the photo at the bottom of the page.
BREVARD, Jan. 19, 2008 â€“ Retired Army Green Beret James T. (Smokey) Taylor got his court martial this weekend and came away feeling pretty good about it.
Taylor, at age 79, is one of the oldest members of Chapter XXXIII (The Larry Thorne Chapter) of the Special Forces Association. He was placed on trial by fellow Chapter XXXIII members under the charge of â€œfailing to use a weapon of sufficient caliberâ€ in the shooting of an intruder at his home in Knoxville, TN, in November.
The court martial, of course, was very much tongue in cheek. The event itself was deadly serious.
Taylor had been awakened in the early morning hours of November 5, 2007,when an intruder broke into his home. He investigated the noises with one of his many weapons in hand.
â€œIt was just after Halloween, on Monday morning at 4:30,â€ Taylor said. I heard this commotion at the door and grabbed my fishing gun, a little .22 revolver, to see what was going on. I got to the front door and this fellow had ripped my security door out of its frame. He said, â€˜youâ€™re going to have to kill me. Iâ€™m coming in.â€™â€
When a warning to leave went unheeded, Taylor brought his .22 caliber pistol to bear and shot him right between the eyes.
â€œI was about four feet away from him when I shot,â€ Taylor said. â€œLooking back now, Iâ€™m glad he didnâ€™t die, but that boy had the hardest head Iâ€™ve ever seen. The bullet bounced right off.â€
The impact knocked the would-be thief down momentarily. He crawled out of the house then got up and ran down the street. Taylor dialed 911 and Knoxville police apprehended the wounded man about 200 yards away, hiding in a hedgerow.
Complicating the case, as well as the court martial, the offender was released on bail but failed to appear for his court date. Knoxville police said the man was homeless. They did not know his whereabouts or why he had been given bail.
The charges brought against Taylor by his fellow Green Berets were considered to be serious. He is a retired Special Forces Weapons Sergeant with extensive combat experience during the wars in Korea and Vietnam.
â€œCharges were brought against him under the premise that he should have saved the county and taxpayers the expense of a trial,â€ said Chapter XXXIII President Bill Long of Asheville, NC.
The trial was held at the Hampton Inn in Brevard, part of the groupâ€™s regularly scheduled quarterly meeting. Long appointed a judge, Bert Bates, a defense counsel, Jim Hash, and a prosecutor, Charlie Ponds. All are retired Special Forces non-commissioned officers with extensive combat and weapons experience.
Ponds outlined the case against Taylor, emphasizing that the citizens of Knox County were going to be burdened with significant costs to again apprehend, and then prosecute and defend the would-be burglar.
â€œProper choice of a larger caliber gun would have spared the citizens this financial burden,â€ Ponds said, â€œwhile removing one bad guy from the streets for good. He could have used a .45 or .38. The .22 just wasnâ€™t big enough to get the job done. Hash disagreed. He said Taylor had done the right thing in choosing to arm himself with a .22.
â€œIf heâ€™d used a .45 or something like that the round would have gone right through the perp, the wall, the neighborâ€™s wall and possibly injured some innocent child asleep in its bed. I believe the evidence shows that Smokey Taylor exercised excellent judgment in his choice of weapons. He clearly remains to this day an excellent weapons man.â€
Hash then floated a theory as to why the bullet bounced off the perpâ€™s forehead. â€œHe was victimized by old ammunition,â€ he said, â€œjust as he was in Korea and again in Vietnam, when his units were issued ammo left over from World War II.â€
Taylor said nothing in his own defense, choosing instead to allow his peers to debate the matter. The jury, consisting of all the members of the Chapter, discussed the merits of choosing a larger caliber weapon as well as the obvious benefits to society of permanently deleting the intruder so he would never again threaten any private citizen.
The other side of the coin, that of accidentally causing injury to a completely innocent citizen if a more powerful gun had been used, also gained considerable support.
Following testimony from both sides, Judge Bates determined the charges should be dismissed. The decision was met with a round of applause. In fact, there was strong sentiment expressed that Taylor should receive an award for not only choosing wisely in picking up the .22, but for the accuracy of his aim under difficult and dangerous conditions.
After the trial Taylor said the ammunition was indeed old and added the new information that the perp had soiled his pants as he crawled out the door.
â€œI would have had an even worse mess to clean up if it had gone through his forehead,â€ Taylor said. â€œIt was good for both of us that it didnâ€™t.â€
Meanwhile, back in Knox County, the word is out: Donâ€™t go messing with Smokey Taylor. He just bought a whole bunch of fresh ammo.
Tribune Editor Bill Fishburne is a member of the Larry Thorne Chapter XXXIII of the Special Forces Association.
In a recent email, Mr. Fishburne verified that he interviewed Smokey, and that, “…he is one of our most revered and honored members. After his military career, Taylor went on to graduate from the FBI Academy. His second career was working as deputy chief of security for the TVA. All in all, I would rank him as one of our most successful and accomplished members.” (James “Smokey” Taylor is third from the left in the photo below.)
Chapter XXXIII of the Special Forces Association is named in honor of Larry Alan Thorne, a Special Forces officer who served in Finland in WWII, escaped Soviet persecution after the war, and died as a member of the United States Army in Vietnam. His story has been immortalized in a book (Soldier Under Three Flags by H.A. Gill), and was the inspiration behind John Wayne’s character in the movie The Green Berets (ANC).
He is buried at Arlington National Cemetary. A wonderful synopsis of his life and service can be found on arlingtoncemetary.net.