Is it a good idea to get involved in an alleged drug deal gone wrong?

It’s big news — a shooting incident in the parking lot of the Augusta Walmart on a Sunday evening. Four individuals arrested, two armed civilians involved after the initial shooting stopped. The situation raises many issues I’ve posted about before, and one new one:  the idea of civilians intervening in an alleged drug deal gone wrong.

Sure, the governor advocated for the idea, but how safe is it?

Having lived and worked among the populations at the heart of this epidemic for over a decade, my answer would be, probably not very safe — whether armed or not. I’d also say it’s not safe to park far away from businesses with large parking lots, like the Augusta Walmart because such parking lots are prime locations for drug dealing, day or night. The same goes for parking lots outside convenience stores and fast food restaurants — basically anywhere where high levels of car traffic are a norm.

And it’s not only Augusta.  I was listening to a former dealer get interviewed recently, and we were sitting at a fast food restaurant one morning in another Maine town.  The interviewer asked where locals go to conduct drug transactions. The young man had been staring out the window, and upon hearing the question, he looked at the interviewer, smiled, and said that he had just watched one happen a few minutes before.

It’s all about knowing what to look for.

It’s also about knowing what not to get involved with, whether armed or not. The out-of-state heroin and crack suppliers use a two-way pipeline to move their product here in Maine. It’s a pipeline that insists on payments or pounds of flesh.

It’s not a pipeline to get your name on as someone interrupting the flow. It’s a pipeline that shows no mercy. Bystanders have no way of knowing the numerous variables or other players that might be involved beyond what is being witnessed at a given moment.

Contrary to the fantastic ideations of some of the commenters on the BDN article about the event and our governor, this pipeline is not the domain of armed civilians. The folks who get arrested here in Maine are linked to other folks higher up the pipeline. They are not lone wolf dealers easily eradicated one at a time.

From my limited understanding, those folks higher up the pipeline track their product and their people who carry it very carefully. They want and get details when things go wrong.

The decision to intervene in such situation and potentially become one of those details of what went wrong is a serious one that may involve unknown short- and long-term risks. I appreciate the intent of the interveners, but I agree with law enforcement advising civilians not to get directly involved except as witnesses.

I’m a firm believer in Second Amendment rights, and I’ve blogged about supporting concealed carry in Maine. However, I’m also someone who has had a front row seat to our state’s addiction epidemic as it has developed. Whether armed or not, citizens should think very carefully about getting involved in what looks like a drug deal gone wrong.

Calling the police is a good idea, as is jotting down license plate numbers and other relevant information. Clearing out of the area and keeping others from entering it is a good idea. Getting directly involved may not be such a good idea, no matter what Governor LePage has advised.

Patricia Callahan

About Patricia Callahan

Trish is a writer who lives in Augusta. She has worked professionally in education and social services.