If I ever hear the dreaded sound of a burglar prying or smashing his way into my home in the middle of the night, I pray I’ll have time to equip myself with the ne plus ultra of home-defense tools: a 12-guage shotgun. Your tastes may run to pistols or carbines in such a situation, but I’m reaching for my 870. To paraphrase Massad Ayoob, within 25 yards there is no more effective tool for neutralizing deadly threats than an ounce or so of 00 buckshot. Ayoob never said anything about rubber buckshot, but Portlander Tim Wallace never got that memo. . .
Portland’s KOIN News reports:
One man is in custody after a North Portland man fired rubber pellets at him during an early morning home intrusion.
Tim Wallace said he and his wife had come home late Thursday night to find their back gates open and items outside their home rearranged. Thinking someone may have been at the house earlier in the night, before going to bed Wallace grabbed his shotgun, just in case.
Around 3:45 a.m., Wallace heard a noise outside his bedroom window and when he got up and went outside to investigate, he found a man charging down at him.
“I grabbed my shotgun and went out the door and the minute I turned into the breezeway there was a guy coming right at me,” Wallace said.
Owning the gun for over 40 years, Wallace has always kept the gun loaded and in a safe, but with a unique approach: “I always keep it loaded with three shots of non-lethal, after that they’re lethal.”
Wallace fired off one round that hit the man in the shoulder as he fled the area near the 7000 block of North Seward Avenue.
“When that gun went off, I don’t think that shotgun was 6 inches from his shoulder–he was that close to me.”
In an attempt to escape, Wallace said the man then pedaled down the street on a bike.
“I fired two more shots, not aiming at him but just to scare him.”
The unidentified burglar found hiding behind a nearby church and was taken into custody. He’s damned lucky to survive, because a nearly muzzle-contact gunshot with any ammo, even blanks, is potentially lethal. He’s still hospitalized as I type this, probably because the rubber buckshot penetrated fairly deeply into the muscle and cartilage of his shoulder.
And what about Mr. Wallace? He survived the attempted burglary but he’s not out of the woods yet. A shotgun, when fired at a distance of six inches, constitutes deadly force. Even when it’s loaded with less-lethal ammunition. Wallace made a big mistake when he stepped outside to confront the burglar, and he made another big mistake when he fired at a wounded and fleeing scumbag who no longer constituted a threat.
I don’t think I even need to address the stupidity of firing warning shots at a fleeing suspect; there’s just no tactical or legally-justifiable reason for it.
I’m all for defending our homes from criminal intruders (and after other recent burglar shootings I hope that Portland-area burglars start to get the message that their career sucks) but the line that separates a DGU from a felony assault can be thinner and fuzzier than we think. Don’t stumble over it, like Wallace may have done. And if you do, for God’s sake don’t ‘cooperate with authorities’ like he’s also doing.