Should Virginia woman have been arrested for protecting daughter?

Jay Busbee
The Sideshow

A mother trying to protect her daughter from a group of boys fired a handgun into the air. The boys dispersed, but the woman was arrested. The question: did her actions deserve arrest, or was she justified in her use of a gun?

More information: Saturday morning, Lakisha Gaither, 35, of Woodbridge, Va., says a teenage acquaintance of her daughter's showed up at her home with a group of boys. The teen was angry with her daughter Brianna Stewart. Moment later, according to Gaither, a group of about 10 boys surrounded her daughter and one of them hit her daughter in the face. "He didn't walk away. He hit her and kept coming for her," Gaither told NBC Washington.

At that point, Gaither stepped away from the fray and unholstered her gun, which is legally registered. She fired a shot into the air. She did not leave the area, and waited until police arrived. At that time, she was arrested and charged with reckless use of a weapon.

"I just wanted this group of guys to disperse," Gaither told The Washington Times. "I didn't know what they were going to do. I wanted him to stop hitting my child."

The Prince William County Police Department’s approach is this: citizens should not use weaponry in confrontations that are not life-threatening. "You can't fire into the air," Officer Jonathan L. Perok told the Washington Times. "Once something goes up, it comes down. There's the possibility of causing property damage, injuring someone or killing someone. In an apartment complex, the odds of that bullet coming down and striking something are very high."

No injuries or damage was reported. Gaither was later released on her own recognizance.

Later, fearing for her daughter's safety, Gaither sent her daughter to her grandmother's house in Fairfax, Va. Sunday morning, Brianna Stewart went missing. Police are investigating her disappearance.

As for the charges against Gaither, she is under orders from her attorney not to speak about them.

Gaither's story is reminiscent of that of Marissa Alexander of Jacksonville, Florida, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing a shot she claimed was a warning at her estranged husband in 2010. Ms. Alexander has been granted a new trial

While there are clearly extenuating circumstances on both sides of the issue, the story boils down to this: should Gaither have fired into the air? Should police have charged her with a crime? Where is the line? Offer your thoughts in the comments below.

Contact Jay Busbee at or on Twitter at @jaybusbee.