We’ve all heard it a hundred times – ‘When Seconds Count, The Police Are Only Minutes Away.’ For a gun owner near me, it turned out to be all too true. KPTV.com reports that an unidentified homeowner in La Center, Washington called 911 to report a prowler at his house, and while the police were en route he called 911 again to report that the prowler had been shot. . .

The police arrived in time to find the intruder bleeding out in the driveway. He died the next morning. The cops have determined that the homeowner and prowler actually knew each other. They’re still investigating the shooting, but the homeowner was not arrested and has not been charged with any crime.

Washington isn’t expressly a ‘Castle Doctrine’ state (at least, not yet), but my state does allow the use of deadly force when the shooter reasonably perceives that they are in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury.

Washington law also imposes no duty to retreat when a person is in a place they have a right to be. This means that if a mugger, psycho or rapist have their way with you, you’re not faced with the grim choice of fleeing or submitting. The Evergreen State may not be a ‘Castle’ state, but it’s a ‘Stand Your Ground’ one.

So was this a justified shooting? Not much more is known about it yet, but we can draw inferences from what we do know. First, the homeowner called 911 before the shooting. This isn’t always possible, but if you can do it, it helps you prove that you’re the good guy; you want the police to help you and you’ve got nothing to hide.

Second, the homeowner called 911 again right after the shooting. Although you can’t always call for the cavalry before the shooting, you must call 911 afterward, as soon as your safety and security permit. If the police know that the Tango is already down before they get to your location, they’re much less likely to shoot you by mistake when they get there.

Third, the prowler was shot outside. This isn’t ideal for the homeowner, but it’s not necessarily bad. It depends on the details of what the prowler did and what the homeowner saw and perceived.

Had he lived, the prowler might have told the police he wasn’t doing anything wrong. He  might have spun some sad tale of being lost late at night and asking to use a phone, or similar BS. This can complicate things for a homeowner in a DGU, but not if the homeowner calls 911 before the shooting. This is part of why calling the police is so important.

Unless we learn something really disturbing about this case, I expect that the homeowner will not be charged with anything. The online ‘comments’ section of our local newspaper coverage is running about five to one in favor of the homeowner. This county has some shivering ninnies who shriek at any use of force in self-defense, but also has many rural homeowners who know how slowly time passes when you’re waiting for the police to arrive.

 

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16 Responses to Homeowner DGUs: Even The Castle Doctrine Isn’t A ’00’ License

  1. +1 for every legal point you made.

    In this case, the shooter called 911, hung up, and then called back to report the shooting. In your opinion, Chris, would it be better to leave the line open, as Sarah McKinley recently did?

  2. I’m a little confused on this point. What about the following makes this not a Castle Doctrine?

    RCW 9A.16.050
    Homicide — By other person — When justifiable.

    Homicide is also justifiable when committed either:

    (1) In the lawful defense of the slayer, or his or her husband, wife, parent, child, brother, or sister, or of any other person in his or her presence or company, when there is reasonable ground to apprehend a design on the part of the person slain to commit a felony or to do some great personal injury to the slayer or to any such person, and there is imminent danger of such design being accomplished; or

    (2) In the actual resistance of an attempt to commit a felony upon the slayer, in his or her presence, or upon or in a dwelling, or other place of abode, in which he or she is.

  3. The Castle Doctrine says that when an intruder is in your home you cannot be convicted if you shoot or kill them. Period. That doctrine is more protective of homeowners than Washington’s rule is.

    • A salient point of any Castle Doctrine is that there is no duty to retreat in one’s own home. Massachusetts has a weak Castle Doctrine in that (i) it is only a defense, (ii) that the shooter must be in reasonable fear of death or severe injury and not merely the commission of a felony. BUT a shooter in his own home in MA has no duty to retreat before using deadly force. That’s the heart of the Castle Doctrine.

      “Section 8A. In the prosecution of a person who is an occupant of a dwelling charged with killing or injuring one who was unlawfully in said dwelling, it shall be a defense that the occupant was in his dwelling at the time of the offense and that he acted in the reasonable belief that the person unlawfully in said dwelling was about to inflict great bodily injury or death upon said occupant or upon another person lawfully in said dwelling, and that said occupant used reasonable means to defend himself or such other person lawfully in said dwelling. There shall be no duty on said occupant to retreat from such person unlawfully in said dwelling.”

      If Washington applies a duty to retreat in one’s own home, then it isn’t a Castle Doctrine state.

      • Washington has no duty to retreat at all, even out in the street. It’s a Stand Your Ground state. It’s not explicitly stated in statute, but case law has found that you have the right to use lethal force to defend yourself against the threat of death or serious bodily harm anywhere you have the legal right to be.

  4. Sometimes it is interpreted strangely. For instance, if you have a fenced yard, then breaching the fence constitutes an invasion of the property but if you have no fence or property marker then it can be considered public space. Inside the main house is usually considered The Castle but out buildings, sheds and detached garages are a grey area.
    Walking out to your shed at the end of the property to investigate noises can be considered putting yourself in harms way by some people. Calling the cops and waiting for the Noise Maker to approach your house is a better option.
    NJ had a case where a homeowner shot and killed a thief stealing an ATV from his detached garage. He left the safety of his house to confront the thief and shot him when he tried to leave, or run him over (depending on whose story) and he got slammed for it.
    Despite NJ’s lack of castle doctrine he was in the wrong (IMHO) because he left his house and no ATV is worth killing over. If they were in his home or attached garage stealing stuff then he has a duty to protect himself because they are in the building with him. I understand an appeal acquitted him, I can’t find the links.
    This is why I advocate training for firearms users and definitely training for CCW permits. Too many people do not know what the law requires and make mistakes. But the libertarians won’t concede that point.

    • The point I won’t concede is a training requirement prior to the exercise of a constitutional right. Nothing more, nothing less. If it’s not okay for one right, it’s not okay for any of them.

  5. “But the libertarians won’t concede that point.”

    More accurately, civil libertarians won’t concede that point. One can be a strong proponent of civil liberties without being a big-L or little-l libertarian.

  6. “Had he lived, the prowler might have told the police he wasn’t doing anything wrong. He might have spun some sad tale of being lost late at night and asking to use a phone, or similar BS.”

    To summarize: leave no witness alive.

    • Totenglock sez: “To summarize: leave no witness alive.”

      OK – if you are ever in a DGU and the perp dies, something like this could be used as evidence against you.

      Remember that Google never sleeps and never forgets.

      • “…..and the perp dies, something like this could be used as evidence against you.”
        Imagine if in the process of killing the perp, he hits a bystander.

      • Because I pointed out that Chris was talking about all the horrible things the guy could have done in court and how Chris was strongly implying that it’s good that he died?

  7. Why do you say this? “the grim choice of fleeing or submitting” What is so grim about fleeing? I could understand calling it humiliating, or embarrassing, but grim?

    You say having shot the guy outside is not necessarily a bad thing. Are you saying that killing someone and calling it a DGU is NOT harder to sell when the dead guy ends up outside on the driveway? I disagree with that one too.

    • Fleeing and retreating can result in a route. Been in a near shooting situation and with the 3 Crooks outside and 1 in the car, retreating with Wife and 2 year old child would be a poor strategy.

      • Fleeing doesn’t always work out the way you think it does. You have a potential rape victim run away, the rapist will chase (most of the time), and the end result will be the death of the victim. In a mugging, you try to walk (or run) away, if the mugger has a gun, you’ll be shot. If he has a knife, most likely stabbed. Muggers and rapists don’t usually wear masks (this isn’t the movies), and the ones that on drugs at the time tend to not leave witnesses. Better to fight back, than anything else.

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