A Series of Unfortunate Decisions: Pennsylvania Snow Shooting

Image via WNEP

By now many of you have probably read a headline that goes something like, “3 Pennsylvania neighbors dead after fight over snow shoveling, authorities say” that covers a neighborhood dispute in Plains Township, PA one week ago. In some instances it has been reported as being Philadelphia, but that’s a stretch.

Other headlines focus on the AR-15 used near the end of the incident.. go figure.

The incident was video and audio recorded by a surveillance camera and paints a clear picture of the events as they unfold. These aren’t “Good Guys” and/or “Bad Guys,” these are three neighbors and they are throwing enraged words, snow implements, and bullets… over shoveling.

The video is brutal, on all accounts. There is a lot to unpack from it.

The Event

Around 9:00 A.M. on Monday, James and Lisa Goy were killed by James Spaide after the three got into a heated argument over the Goys pushing snow into Spaide’s yard, Spaide then killed himself in his home. The Goys left behind a 15 year old son who is reported to be special needs.

This is… or was an ongoing and years longstanding dispute between Spaide and the Goys, that is now permanently resolved, according to accounts from the neighborhood.

The three minute video I viewed of the surveillance opened with the dispute in the middle of the small road between the two properties. The Goys are yelling at Spaide and Spaide is yelling back at them. The Goys call Spaide a “fucking faggot” and tell him to go back to where he came from, they mutually call each other ‘scum,’ I do not know if Spaide is foreign born or homosexual but the Goys were fully engaged in throwing verbal slurs and allegedly had thrown a snow brush or scraper at Spaide at this point. Spaide was equally verbally engaged.

Spaide then goes back into his house while the Goys keep yelling at him.

Spaide returns with a handgun. The Goys keep yelling at him, calling him a pussy and and saying he doesn’t have the balls to do it and more in that vein. I’m not kidding… it is in the audio, its high school drama between three people aged 47 to 50, and now a gun is involved.

Spaide opens fires, the audio records several shots before the James Goy reacts as if he is hit, the Goys continue yelling through the shots, James Goy then exclaims that he’s been shot by Spaide and is seen retreating beneath the camera into their parking area. Spaide turns the gun on Lisa Goy and shoots her several times at close range, she drops to the ground in the road, injured.

[Certain reports have alleged Lisa Goy was armed and started shooting first. I do not see evidence to support that theory. We do not see Spaide react as if he is being shot at, he does not shoot at the person allegedly shooting at him until after shooting James Goy (larger and more threatening). The evidence supports the theory that Spaide fired on the Goys after continued verbal provocation, not a weapon drawn by Lisa.]

After both Goys are injured, Spaide returns to his home. The Goys can be heard calling for help and continuing to verbally antagonize Spaide. Neighbors come out to “help” by asking the clearly wounded and bleeding Goys if they need help, until Spaide returns with a rifle.

The neighbors back off as Spaide reemerges and approaches Lisa Goy, who is in the road, still bleeding. James Spaide then tells Lisa Goy she, “should have kept her fucking mouth shut.” and executes her at close range with the rifle.

James Spaide then walks up the drive to James Goy, off camera, and asks, “who is the pussy now?” then executes James Goy at close range with the rifle.

Spaide then returns to his home where authorities found him dead with a self inflicted gunshot wound.

The Aftermath

The internet is abuzz with speculation and sympathy for one or the other side in this dispute and a corner of the web is already crying that this event was “staged” (because they claim that every time about every major event ever) and completely ignore the wisdom of Occam’s Razor. The simplest solution or explanation is often the correct one.

The simplest explanation is: We had three average garden variety suburbanites get into a stupid fight over snow shoveling and they all died. They all willingly, and on camera, participated in this fight. They all willingly, and on camera, participated in the fight’s escalation. No, people are not ‘better’ than this, they reach this level of dumb all the time, ask anyone who regularly deals with the public, but it doesn’t result and severe injury or death enough to curb the behavior at a species level.

Human Ego

Emotion drove this event, but it followed a brutal logic for those paying attention. The decisions made by both sides of the argument were arrived at through the tainted logic of ego and anger. Nobody in the situation decided to take ego and anger out of their decision making process. Three people are dead. A young man is orphaned, perhaps having directly witnessed his parents execution… over snow. Every choice the three make, while “wrong” objectively and unfortunate in the result, makes sense through the lenses of anger and ego.

Anger and ego are human traits, we all have them, we all experience them, and it is our practiced discipline and cold logic that best keeps in check our ‘hot logic.’

Cold Logic Lessons

There are several takeaways from this incident. The traditional ‘Good Guy/Bad Guy’ relationship does not apply, in that the ‘Good Guy(s)’ are based on which side of the stupid argument you emotionally resonate with more, and not the ‘Law-Abiding Non-Antagonist vs. Criminal Antagonist’ relationship that we standardize on. The subjective ‘good guy(s)’ in this situation are entirely on the viewers emotional sympathies to select or not, and the objective ‘good guy(s)’ don’t exist.

This type of situation happens, humans are emotive creatures that do not respond well to antagonism. We also possess the easy capacity to be antagonistic to someone we don’t like. Remember this, “You are the villain in somebody’s story.” It is a wise check on your own perspective, of your ego and altruism, that other perspectives exist, and that their perspectives to them are every bit as valid is your perspective is to you.

So with that in mind let us break down the cold lessons of James Spaide, James Goy, and Lisa Goy

Your ego can kill you, don’t let it.

This one is simple, do not let your desire to “win” an argument overshadow your absolute obligation to be around to safeguard your family. Antagonism, even responsive to a challenge, rarely leads to good outcomes. Prison is filled with people who “had to” kill somebody.

Your opposition is under no obligation to play by your “rules” for this fight. They never are.

The Goys show a classic case of a human phenomenon known as disassociation, there are several manifested facets (observable symptoms, if you will) of disassociation but one of them is an absolute convicted belief that your perception of the events occurring is the only one, and the ‘right‘ one. You ascribe rules to the situation and cannot believe when those rules are broken. This isn’t ‘I can’t believe the Lions won that football game,’ it is a total denial and rejection of the facts at hand. Humans are very good at doing this and it is very bad for them.

The Goys are absolutely astounded that Spaide shot them, they don’t even stop verbally sparring with him once shot. The Goys disassociated with reality and came up with their own. In that place of make believe, Spaide would not shoot them. Even when Spaide started shooting at them, and then shot them, the Goys continued to ‘live’ by their established rules for this argument in which Spaide would not actually shoot them and they would ‘win’ because, “he’s a pussy.”

The Goys never got to the ‘Oh, F&#K!” moment of realization where this situation was in no way under their control, they never logically acknowledged that Spaide, the man with the gun that they are actively antagonizing, has just as much say in how this event goes as they do. And that man consciously chose to go away and bring back a guntwice.

You all can recognize that moment. It was the first time you hit black ice or hydroplaned your car and the machine, the situation, which was utterly under your control up until that point is suddenly not. Or even more, you aren’t driving, someone else is and it is their control, or lack thereof, that is driving your chance of injury or death.

Now take that moment of panic and awareness of your lack of control and apply a motive. The “car,” a participant in the situation, now actively wants to hurt or kill you. Where before it was simply uncaringly dispassionate physics, now it wants to harm you. Terrifying? Absolutely, unless you’re disassociating from the situation and none of those things merit a spot in your brain because, in your mind, they simply can’t happen.

Your adversary has no obligation to reason. They do not have to think as you do. They do not have to lose. They get to define what winning is for them.

This tangents off the disassociation.

James Spaide “won” the argument. It was not a positive outcome. He is dead. The Goys are dead. Spaide left the Goy’s son a special needs orphan. Nothing good happened.

But James Spaide set the terms of “winning” as ‘kill the Goys,’ a couple who he had an ongoing hostile association with. It is no stretch to theorize that he considered them the antagonists, or villains to use the earlier term, even if the Goys thought similarly about Spaide in some way or form. Differing perspectives grants the opportunity for these scenarios under hostile conditions.

Handguns and Rifles…

This is perhaps the coldest lesson we can observe. The fact that multiple handgun rounds left two people wounded but semi-mobile. It is likely that shock contributed to their immobility as much as or more than the injuries they had sustained. Handgun wounds have a low fatality percentage for several reasons. The Goys used their limited but available mobility and cognizance to continue the fight, not in a way geared toward their survival… but in one that was continuing the argument as if it were still only a verbal brawl.

A rifle at close range is a different story. This is the cold calculus of physics. When Spaide returned with the long gun the results were final, despite being at a similar range to the handgun.

If someone threatens violence, with ability and opportunity, believe them and act accordingly for your survival.

Lisa Goy can be heard telling James Spaide to, “go ahead” after he returned to the confrontation with a handgun.

This is not telling the drunk guy at the bar who threatened to kick you ass, but can barely stand, to go shove it, this is someone motivated enough in this confrontation to leave it and return with the direct means to end your existence. That should be and needs to be a threat you appreciate, you cannot afford to be wrong. We risk our lives every single day and tomorrow is never guaranteed to us, but we usually work to scale those risks to manageable levels, not escalate an avoidable one to deadly.

The Goys orphaned their son with special needs. Yes, Spaide pulled the trigger, committed the murders, but Lisa Goy can be heard giving him the literal ‘go ahead’ and is then shocked when he does so, as is James Goy.

You. Cannot. Afford. To. Be. Wrong.

Especially with dependents.

Don’t Hasten The Day

Keith Finch
Keith is the Editor-in-Chief of GAT Marketing Group editor@gatdaily.com A USMC Infantry Veteran and Small Arms and Artillery Technician, Keith covers the evolving training and technology from across the shooting industry. A Certified Instructor since 2009 he has taught concealed weapons courses in the West Michigan area in the years since and continues to pursue training and teaching opportunities as they arise.