You may remember a 2018 shooting incident out of Abilene, Texas, that made national news. The people involved were arguing over a mattress one man left in an alley dumpster. One of the involved men died from gunshot wounds. Almost five years later, the two men arrested in that shooting received their verdict and sentencing.
When it happened, we discussed the shooting in this episode of the Concealed Carry Podcast. For those who have forgotten and need a refresher, or never heard of the lunacy that happened on that day, here is a recap.
Recap of the Texas, Mattress Shooting—
The deceased named Aaron Howard and his girlfriend, called Box, moved next door to the Millers. According to Box, about 4 months after they moved in, and a couple days before the shooting, she and Howard threw a mattress into a dumpster in the alley beside the homes. It appears that several residents shared the dumpster.
Box said that on the morning of the shooting, she and Howard found the mattress in their yard. She said Howard threw it into the dumpster again. Then 67-year-old Johnnie Miller came out of his home, removed the mattress from the dumpster, and threw it back into their yard. According to Box, Howard told Johnnie Miller to put the mattress back in the dumpster and he refused. It was at this point in the incident that Box says Johnnie “pulled a pistol from his shorts”.
Cellphone Video Captures Part of the Incident—
Here is where a cellphone video recorded by Box starts. When the video starts, we see Howard, Johnnie Miller, and his son, Michael Miller, standing near the dumpster. Johnnie holds a pistol in his right hand, pointing it straight down at his side. Michael is standing behind Johnnie and has a shotgun resting, muzzle up, on his right shoulder. Howard is unarmed.
In the video, we hear Howard screaming and cursing at Johnnie with only a couple feet at most separating the two men. Johnnie tells Howard if he comes closer, he is going to kill Howard. Howard says he is going to kill Johnnie and asks someone to get him a BB gun. Box involves herself deeper into the situation by screaming at Johnnie.
Howard directs his anger at Michael by cussing at him, telling him he's going to kill him, and calling him derogatory names. Michael returns the insults and starts cussing and screaming at Howard. And of course, Box injects herself into the situation and screams at the Millers.
Shooting Caught on Video—
The video shows Box walk toward Johnnie Miller and she says “you're not gonna shoot my husband.”
We can't see what is happening, but according to news reports, Box stepped in between Howard and Johnnie and an unnamed person handed Howard a baseball bat. Johnnie Miller tells Howard, “if you come within 3 feet of me, I'm going to kill you,” Howard says, “you're dead.”
The video is shaky, we here several shots fired but don't see what Howard was doing with the bat when Johnnie fires. Box says Howard never raised the bat toward the Millers.
It's reported that Johnnie's shots struck Howard in the forearm. We see Michael level the shotgun toward someone out of camera view—but know to be Howard. He racks the shotgun and fires at Howard, striking him. We hear Box call “Aaron,” crying and screaming.
I've included the video below.
Please be aware that while there isn't any gore, there is a lot of filthy communication.
The Legal Outcome—
Prosecutors arrested and charged both Millers with murder, and offered them 25 years in prison for a guilty plea. They refused the deal and said they would take their chances with a combined jury trial.
A jury convicted Johnnie Miller of murder, but the jury returned a sentence of only 17 years in prison, considerably less than what prosecutors offered him. Based on his age, it appears Johnnie will probably die in prison.
The same jury unanimously found Michael Miller not guilty of murder.
My Opinion and Observations—
I just want to start with what should be the most obvious takeaway—this entire incident should have never happened. There are incidents that we have little or sometimes no control over, for example, someone choosing to target you in a carjacking. This isn't one of incidents. Instead, this incident began several days earlier when, instead of talking to his neighbor, one of the Millers took a mattress out of the dumpster and throw it back on Howard's lawn.
Nobody involved, that includes Box, and the friend who provided Howard with a deadly weapon, had the self-control, or wisdom, to walk away and call the police. All of them had to get the last word, had to make sure they were the king of the trash hill.
How stupid is it that one dude is dead, another will die in prison, and another spent 4 years facing murder charges and has to live in the aftermath of a terrible incident that never should have happened, all over some trash.
By legal definition, Howard is the victim in this case. But does anyone wonder what Howard would've done to Johnnie or Michael Miller if they didn't have firearms? The larger Howard would have made good on his threat to kill them. And no, I'm not making excuses for the Millers, but I'm certainly not calling Howard a true victim. He was only a victim because he brought a bat to a gun fight. Had they swapped tools, the Millers would be the “victims.” Box would likely have screamed and recorded the incident, but instead of screams of terror, they would have been screams supporting Howard releasing his vengeance on the Millers.
The point is, everyone involved actually got what they wanted. They all wanted confrontation and violence. Not many people go into a fight expecting to die, and I don't think Howard thought the Millers would shoot him. I don't think Box thought the Millers would shoot Howard. I don't think the friend who gave Howard the baseball bat thought the Millers would shoot him. But they all wanted a fight, and anyone going into a fight needs to understand there is always a risk you're going to get hurt or die.
It's hard to say if the Millers went out there hoping to shoot their neighbor. But they certainly did nothing to avoid having to shoot their irrational and irrate neighbor.
I don't know what these people's lives were like before this incident, but rational people don't behave like this. Those who are angry and disgruntled and lack joy and contentment do. Which one are you? There is a simple Bible truth that comes to mind whenever I hear stories like this: Romans 12: 17-18 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.