In Chapter 29, Sheriff Tate and Atticus examine Scout's destroyed ham costume and notice that there is a long, clean line in the material that was made from Bob Ewell's blade as he attempted to stab Scout. When Atticus comments that Bob was out of his mind, Sheriff Tate says that Bob wasn't crazy, he was just "mean as hell." Atticus is at a loss for words and cannot think of an evil enough person who would attempt to murder innocent children. Sheriff Tate then says,
"Mr. Finch, there's just some kind of men you have to shoot before you can say hidy to 'em. Even then, they ain't worth the bullet it takes to shoot 'em. Ewell 'as one of 'em" (Lee 165).
Heck Tate's comment may seem surprising because he is the Sheriff of Maycomb and such a crass comment would be viewed as unprofessional. One would assume that authority figures are more tolerant and understanding than to suggest that a person be shot before they get a chance to commit a crime. However, Sheriff Tate was fully aware of Bob Ewell's despicable, immoral character and was not naive enough to believe that Bob would not attempt to harm others. Tate was essentially commenting on Bob's evil personality. He knew that Bob had the capability of committing a horrific crime which is why he tells Atticus that there are just some men that need shot before you can speak to them. In hindsight, Bob Ewell should have been shot because he had done nothing but ruin lives and cause trouble throughout the entire novel.