Oklahoma City Confronted by two holdup men, pharmacist Jerome Ersland pulled a gun, shot one of them in the head and chased the other away. Then, in a scene recorded by the drugstore’s security camera, he went behind the counter, got another gun, and pumped five more bullets into the wounded teenager as he lay on the floor.
Now Ersland has been charged with first-degree murder in a case that has stirred a furious debate over vigilante justice and self-defense and turned the pharmacist into something of a folk hero.
Ersland, 57, is free on $100,000 bail, courtesy of an anonymous donor. He has won praise from the pharmacy’s owner, received an outpouring of cards, letters and checks from supporters, and become the darling of conservative talk radio.
District Attorney David Prater said Ersland was justified in shooting 16-year-old Antwun Parker once in the head, but not in firing the additional shots into his belly. The prosecutor said the teenager was unconscious, unarmed, lying on his back and posing no threat when Ersland fired what the medical examiner said were the fatal shots.
Anthony Douglas, president of the Oklahoma chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, called it an “execution-style murder” and praised the district attorney for bringing charges. Ersland is white; the two suspects were black.
But many of those who have seen the video of the May 19 robbery attempt at Reliable Discount Pharmacy have concluded the teenager in the ski mask got what he deserved.
Irven Box, Ersland’s attorney, noted the outpouring of support for the pharmacist, including $2,000 in donations, and said: “I feel very good 12 people would not determine he committed murder in the first degree.”