MAYWOOD, Ill. — A jury Tuesday acquitted a gas station owner charged with violating a municipal anti-handgun ordinance by grabbing a gun and exchanging shots with two men who had just robbed him.
The jurors rejected the prosecution's call to treat the charges against Donald Bennett as a simple violation of an ordinance that prohibits residents of the Chicago suburb of Oak Park from private possession of handguns.
Assistant Village Atty. Bruno Graziano had asked the jury Tuesday to return a guilty verdict, saying: "You heard Mr. Bennett say he did have that gun (and) he did fire that gun."
Calls Case 'Ridiculous'
Bennett's defense attorney, Michael Goggin, called the trial a "ridiculous case" and said: "The police have charged the victim of an armed robbery with an ordinance violation. . . . The real issue is were the right people charged in this case."
A former Cook County state's attorney testified that residents have a right to keep a handgun in their homes or businesses under state law, and Goggin argued that Bennett did not violate the law because it says guns may be transported through the suburb if they are inaccessible and unloaded.
Bennett, who lives in nearby Hanover Park, carried his unloaded gun in a case under the seat of his truck, but took it out, loaded it and fired during the March 26 robbery, in which cash and jewelry worth $1,200 were taken. No one was hurt, and the robbers got away.
'Open Field for Crime'
"If you lose the right to defend yourself, anytime you stop a criminal, they'll arrest you and it will be an open field for crime," Bennett had said outside the courtroom Monday.
"I'm not a lawbreaker," said Bennett, 43. "If I wasn't shot at, I wouldn't have shot back."