If anyone deserves a 2-by-4 upside the head, it's a guy who would sadistically and repeatedly rape an 11-year-old he grabbed on her way to school.

And, yes, any time Philadelphia residents and police officers join forces to catch a suspect is a good day.

But there is something not quite right about official Philadelphia's response to the Kensington mob attack against Jose Carrasquillo, 26, whom police had identified as a "person of interest" in Monday's rape of the 11-year-old girl.

"I don't condone violence," said Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey, but then he quickly added that no one would be charged in Carrasquillo's beating.

That's the wrong response, even with this crime. We expect more from the law than a wink and a nod at our worst instincts. We follow the law not because we feel sympathy for suspects accused of the most heinous of crimes, but ultimately to protect ourselves, our families, and our communities.

This time, police think they have the right guy - and, if so, let justice fall like a 2-by-4. But what if, next time, the angry mob beats the wrong guy?

Let's at least investigate, as we would if police were caught on tape beating a suspect. Find out who did what. Then, consider the circumstances and exercise discretion in prosecution.

But don't just walk away and suggest that vigilante justice, while not condoned, has its place. Let alone, hand out a $10,000 reward to the boastful vigilantes.

That sends the wrong message and sets a dangerous precedent.