“Police initially received a call of a breaking and entering into the home in the Fairview section of the city,” masslive.com reports. “When they arrived, they found the teenager on the ground suffering from a gunshot wound to his abdomen, [Chicopee Police Department Puboic Information Officer Michael] Wilk said. “It was determined that three parties went to the residence believing it to be (the home of) a friend. One party, the victim, was banging on the outside door, when the homeowner shot through the door, striking the male.”
Investigators found the victim and a friend were drinking alcohol at a nearby home. The two friends were confused while walking in the neighborhood and believed they had arrived at the home of another friend, said James Leydon, spokesman for Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni, said.
Lovell, the homeowner, tried to communicate with the victim, who was still knocking on the locked door, Leydon said.
“When a pane of glass broke, the suspect fired a single shot, striking the victim,” Leydon said.
When Chicopee Police arrived they immediately started providing emergency medical care and the 15-year-old was rushed to Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, where he was treated but died later, Wilk said.
The homeowner, of course couldn’t have known that the people who were breaking into his home were merely drunk and disoriented. He “tried to communicate,” but they persisted to the point of breaking a window.
The article even goes so far as to use the passive voice “when a pane of glass broke.” Why not “when a pane a glass was broken?” If the unidentified teen didn’t intend to break the glass, I would expect some pretty heavy pounding on the door to cause a pane of glass to break.
Note that the 15-year-old was already engaged in illegal activity — underage drinking. Not that anyone should die for the offense. From the comments:
Springfield 61 10 hours ago
Some of us know those kids. Assuming they weren’t to be feared is a blind statement. They were under the influence, walking down the street yelling and not only continued to bang on the door but apparently broke the glass. The homeowner did call 911 to report the attempted break in. Any one of us could have been that homeowner and could very well fear for our safety. I’m not saying that the homeowner should have shot a gun but again we weren’t there. For the people who assume 15 year old kids aren’t to be feared haven’t been around today’s youth. People don’t know their backgrounds and there is more to the story than has been reported. It is still under investigation.
In Massachusetts, there’s no presumption that someone breaking into your home reasonably puts you in fear for your life. You have to prove that your life was in danger. Here’s the Massachusetts castle doctrine [via goal.org]:
Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 278, Section 8(a): 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.
That leave a considerable amount of wiggle room for a prosecutor to file charges. Compare that to the law in Colorado, CS 18-1-704.5:
18-1-704.5. Use of deadly physical force against an intruder.
(1) The general assembly hereby recognizes that the citizens of Colorado have a right to expect absolute safety within their own homes.
(2) Notwithstanding the provisions of section 18-1-704, any occupant of a dwelling is justified in using any degree of physical force, including deadly physical force, against another person when that other person has made an unlawful entry into the dwelling, and when the occupant has a reasonable belief that such other person has committed a crime in the dwelling in addition to the uninvited entry, or is committing or intends to commit a crime against a person or property in addition to the uninvited entry, and when the occupant reasonably believes that such other person might use any physical force, no matter how slight, against any occupant.
(3) Any occupant of a dwelling using physical force, including deadly physical force, in accordance with the provisions of subsection (2) of this section shall be immune from criminal prosecution for the use of such force.
(4) Any occupant of a dwelling using physical force, including deadly physical force, in accordance with the provisions of subsection (2) of this section shall be immune from any civil liability for injuries or death resulting from the use of such force.
I recall a similar case in Colorado, where a drunk individual was dropped off at and tried to break into the wrong house. As in the Massachusetts case, the homeowner called police and told the drunk to leave. As in the Massachusetts case, after the drunk broke a window, the homeowner fired and killed the drunken intruder.
The Colorado prosecutor determined that the homeowner was justified in his actions and no charges were filed against him. Under Massachusetts law, the homeowner is allowed a defense after charges are filed. He also faces civil liability. In the Massachusetts case, the homeowner is in for a rough ride, and may end up impoverished and bankrupt as a result.
Know the specific laws in your state.
©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.