Pulling for Phillip

Near-death brush with the law spurs man to turn his life around

Phillip Pope broke into a business Jan. 16 and was yanking stereos out of cars when police found him. He charged officers, wielding a crowbar, when an officer shot him twice in self-defense and wounded him. He was sentenced Wednesday to four years in prison.

We’re so glad the officers weren’t hurt. We’re relieved his one-man crime spree was stopped in its tracks. We think the four years behind bars is well-deserved.

And now we’re just pulling for Mr. Pope.

We must say, burglary sticks in our craw about as much as any nonviolent crime out there. There are many more heinous crimes but, at least among nonviolent types, few as patently offensive as violating someone’s home, business or auto and taking what they’ve worked for.

Every day people get up early or stay up late. Some work from dusk to dawn, some of them at multiple jobs. They work in factories and stores and drive trucks and haul our everyday goods to us so we can be comfortable and well-fed and even smell nice. Many juggle kids and their schedules along the way. These are the workers and their products that make the world go ’round.

Other people wake up when they like, watch daytime television, maybe hang out with friends and sling back a few beers or snorts and play some pool. Then, when the sun goes down, they figure it’s safe. Under what they hope is nighttime’s cloak of invisibility, they break into homes and cars and businesses and freight trucks and simply take what the workers have produced and the drivers have transported and what the more honorable among us have, or would’ve paid good money for.

These are the low-life criminals hiding in our midst.

And frankly, we’re fed up to the gills with them.

But we’re pulling for Mr. Pope now – because he shows serious signs of turning his life around but good.

The 27-year-old Augustan, who still carries one of the bullets in his body as a painful reminder, remarkably credits his shooting for turning on the light. The near-death experience, he says, inspired him to leave a drug habit behind and try to turn his life around.

“I really am sorry for it,” he told the judge. “I want to make this right.”

We sincerely hope he does make it right – and not just with society. The young man has a long life ahead of him, and it can still be a great one if he plays his cards right. He’ll have to battle through prison and all the perils that entails. Then he’ll have to prove the skeptics wrong – and after so many jailhouse “conversions,” the public will be skeptical. All the while, he’ll have to overcome temptations and doubts and detours.

The good news is that he won’t be making that journey alone. Judging from the support of family and friends demonstrated in court, he’s got a head start on a new life. And, of course, none of us is ever truly alone.

This is the season of new life, of being saved, of forgiveness.

Season’s greetings, to Phillip Pope and to the Richmond County deputies who may have inadvertently put him on the path to a new life. May they all be in our prayers.

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