Shooting through a door is usually a bad idea. Your ability to see your target is at best obscured or totally nonexistent. And it may be difficult to show that you believed that you were confronting an imminent, deadly threat. Shooting through an inside door may be less problematic than one that’s an entrance to a building. A person who has retreated to a bedroom or bathroom and who has locked the door may have fewer options than someone who is defending an entrance door, but still isn’t recommended.
If someone has already broken into a residence, they have shown themselves to be a threat. This is the essence of the Castle doctrine in most states. But shooting through a door violates one of the cardinal safely rules: know your target and what is beyond it.
In one case in Las Vegas, the home owner, a fire department captain, wasn’t prosecuted for firing through his door and severely wounding an innocent bystander. Prosecutors ruled that his actions were reasonable, given the circumstances. The “reasonable person” standard applies to what the person making the decision knew at the time, not what the reality was.
“There need not be actual danger when somebody defends himself or herself,” the prosecutor said.
Whenever evidence of self-defense exists, Daskas explained, the burden shifts to prosecutors to disprove the claim. In this case, prosecutors determined they likely could not.
“We put ourselves in the shoes of the homeowner, and we ask ourselves, ‘Would a reasonable person in that situation have the right to defend himself and his family members from that apparent danger?’ ” Daskas said.
The shooting occurred at 2:00 a.m. when the homeowner was awakened by the banging on the door. The person banging on the door had a nearby party, was intoxicated, had left his car keys at the party and thought someone was playing a joke on him. The shooting took place in a neighborhood where the houses were quite similar to each other.
The victim, who had also attended the party, was approaching the door to tell the other partygoer that he was at the wrong house when the homeowner shot through the door a few inches from the peephole. In this case, the homeowner was sued by the victim. A settlement was reached for the limit of the homeowner’s insurance.
While shooting through the door was found to be justified in this case, it’s a bad idea. You may not have a great deal of time once the integrity of the door is breached. A damaged door, locks, or a broken window will go a long way to show that you were reasonable in your actions. The use of deadly force is more easily justified when the intruder has partly penetrated your defenses. A good example is this video from Washington state, in which the intruder with a machete destroyed the entrance door as he tried to force entry.
If you are thinking defensively, a stout security door or a stand-off barrier of some kind is a good solution. They will give you more time to assess the situation, and an intruder who has breached them will have shown a serious intent to violate the sanctity of your castle.
©2015 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.