Self-Defense Tip: Don’t Confront Suspicious People In Your Back Yard

Self-Defense Tip: Don't Confront Suspicious People In Your Back Yard

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Don’t confront suspicious people in your back yard with your gun. If you think you have a prowler, call 9-1-1. Not only that, get your gun and have it ready, but don’t leave the safety of your home to confront anyone. Instead, play it smart. Call the police and wait for officers to arrive.

Just last week, my doorbell rang at 11:30 p.m. My sleepy puppy became a snarling attack dog in about half a heartbeat. Looking out a window, I saw a utility vehicle parked in front of my house. After putting Cujo away, I cautiously opened the door with one hand on a holstered gun.

Turns out the man outside my home needed to do an emergency utility “locate” for the power company. He needed to work in my back yard. In turn, I thanked him for letting me know.

His explanation summed up his reasoning in a single sentence: “Yeah, well, I kind of have an allergy to bullets.”

We shared a chuckle, and I told him he had nothing to worry about unless he came in through a broken window.

Even if my dog had alerted me to someone in the back yard, I would never go outside to confront them. Call 9-1-1, maybe? You bet. I might even break out the 12 gauge in case the person wanted to use my patio table as a battering ram on my back door.

Why would I stay inside? Because legally and tactically, staying inside is the smartest course of action. After all, the best way to win a gunfight involves not engaging in one.

So, just how badly can things go by leaving one’s home with a gun to investigate a suspicious person?

Just last week, a man in Owensboro, Kentucky saw a strange person shining a flashlight on the ground behind his home.  Instead of staying inside and calling law enforcement, 63-year-old David Turley (pictured above) decided to grab his gun and investigate.

Minutes later, Turley had bullets zinging past him, and he shot back. Mr. Turley had no idea he had just wounded a police officer. The cop had lost a suspect during a foot chase and, moments later, saw Turley holding a handgun.

WFIE has the story:

We spoke exclusively with the homeowner who shot an Owensboro police officer.

It happened shortly before 6 a.m. Wednesday in the area of 5th and Hathaway Streets, which is just a few blocks away from the Ohio River.

Kentucky State Police say 63-year-old David Turley mistook Officer Zachary Morris as a suspicious person. We’re told Morris was raised in a family of law enforcement officers in Greenville and has been with the Owensboro Police Department for two years.

Troopers say Morris responded to a call of a suspicious person around 5:30 a.m. and once he arrived, someone matching the description took off. Morris chased him but lost sight of him behind some houses.

“I heard some commotion over there by the fence,” said Turley. “I saw someone standing there with a flashlight on the ground, so I walked over to see what was going on. As I got closer, POW POW! And when he did, I had my weapon by my side and I just pulled up and fired and I started toward the ground to take cover.”

Turley told Katie Kapusta that he was shot at twice and returned fire four times. He had no idea anyone had been hit until more police units arrived.

Just because the Kentucky State Police released Turley doesn’t mean the homeowner has escaped legal jeopardy. A prosecutor will look over the case and consider whether to file charges.

In the meantime, hopefully Mr. Turley is reconsidering his eagerness to defend his back yard from suspicious people.

At the same time, the rest of us can learn from the Turley’s life-changing experience.


  1. avatar jwm says:

    If I’m safely inside my house I’m not leaving to check out activity outside. I’ve been shot at and I’ve shot back. It ain’t something I want to do to protect a lawn mower. That’s why we have cops.

    And I’ve watched cops and a perp jumping over fences all through my neighborhood. As the guy in KY found out that could be a cop back there. In CA cities we usually have fences around our back yard. But in KY not having fences is pretty normal.

    On seperate occasions in rural WV I opened my door at night to have a skunk, bear, wild turkey and deer in my yard. That bear sat on his fat ass and looked at me like ‘Yo, can you spare a cup of sugar’.

    1. avatar Moon pie says:

      One night a few years ago I witnessed a unicorn landing in my back yard. I was too impressed to react.

      1. avatar jwm says:

        Is it true they shit rainbows of skittles?

        1. avatar Jay Birdsall says:

          They do when you shoot them!

    2. avatar Sgt Bill says:

      Each situation is different, depending on what I see from my windows (after motion lights come on). We have become too dependent on the “authorities” to handle every situation. I you live in a rural area like I do it can be 45 minutes or more until a deputy can check out the noise in your backyard. They would get pissed if every resident did this. They expect us to handle what we can and call them on the big stuff.

      1. avatar BFife says:

        No deputies on duty 3 am to 6 am in this county.

    3. avatar Garrison Hall says:

      “It ain’t something I want to do to protect a lawn mower. That’s why we have cops.”

      Sounds good. Only problem is that when you do call the cops they tell you they can’t be bothered by backyard property crime. And anyway, you should just let your insurance replace your stolen property. The bottom line: the cops ain’t commin’ . . .

      1. avatar Curtis in IL says:

        That would be a gross overgeneralization. Maybe true in your neighborhood. Not in mine.

        1. avatar YuGo HuGo says:

          A gross over generalization indeed. No way to know how, when or if the police will respond until you use your head and call 911 and even then there is nothing in my yard–front or back–that is worth risking my life. S&S is best anyway you view it, that is, play it Smart and Stay Safe. Besides even if you succeed and wound or kill the intruder, do you really want the hassle that will surely follow?

      2. avatar jwm says:

        You do you. I’m saving my gunfights for what’s important.

        1. avatar Garrison Hall says:

          Your point is well taken, but my experience tells me that if a thief comes to your property and successfully steals something of value there’s a high likelihood that he’ll keep returning . . . until he’s stopped.

        2. avatar jwm says:

          It’s also a regional thing. I live in CA. Going out at night to confront a thief will get me in worse trouble than letting the thief get a plastic flamingo out of my yard.

  2. avatar SurfGW says:

    Good advice. You only make yourself a target if you leave the safety of your house and you may not be able to explain yourself in front of a jury.

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      Shit, you may not live to meet the jury.

  3. avatar Big phucker says:

    That’s negative. My back yard is 400 yards deep. I get my rifle and I snipe the prowler from the house, in self defense.

    1. avatar Philip Czekala says:

      Big Phucker you should change your name to Dumb Phucker because you win the Big Wazoo Award for the stupidest answer here.

    2. avatar Hay Nonnymoose says:

      400 yards is NOT self defense.

  4. avatar former water walker says:

    Hmmm…this very scenario came up an hour ago at my abode. My spouse found a black ski mask tucked inside a liitle desk she had just put by the garage yesterday. SOMEONE had apparently been in our backyard last night. Since we’ve had an increase in crime(RAPE,burglaries and assaults) I’m concerned. It took me years to convince my wife to always be armed. She’s still not taken to carrying a gat but usually has “something”. The po-leece are generally WORTHLESS…I’m not chasing some lowlife but I would scare the chit out of him. YMMV

  5. avatar FedUp says:

    Just because the Kentucky State Police released Turley doesn’t mean the homeowner has escaped legal jeopardy. A prosecutor will look over the case and consider whether to file charges.

    Hahaha, good one.
    Now pull my other leg.

    The only one who might be worthy of charges is Zach Morris for attempted murder of a law abiding citizen.
    No charges will ever be filed, but he meets the legal requirements for them. If he were charged, I’d expect him to play the ‘performed according to my training’ card.

    1. avatar Jay says:

      Exactly what I was thinking. It’s dark he doesn’t even know who he’s shooting at. The officer must be a pants shitter. You can’t just start shooting at someone. I believe you need to identify your target first. IDK maybe identify yourself as police. It’s reasonable to think if you’re in someone’s yard in the dark with a flashlight they may think you’re a tresspasser up to no good.

      1. avatar Ansel Hazen says:

        Other accounts of this story point out that Morris failed to identify himself as LE. I hope he can admit that this failure on his part didn’t get himself killed.

    2. avatar James W Crawford says:

      FUBAR? Yes.

      Attempted murder? NO.

      The cop and the homeowner should share a beer and thank God that neither got killed.

      1. avatar NATAWS9 says:

        Attempted murder? No. Gross negligence that could have resulted in manslaughter, yeah, probably. A police officer is just a public service career choice. They are still just citizens. Trying to kill an innocent person should get your thrown in prison. That’s the way a just society should operate, in my opinion.

        The homeowner acted in self defense. That line from the article quoted above is bullshit to scare you into being a passive sheep.

    3. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      Well said FedUp.

  6. avatar That One Guy says:

    Wait a minute….

    Cop enters a darkened back yard. Cop attracts attention of homeowner with his flashlight. Homeowner investigates his own yard with a firearm. Cop fails to identify himself as an officer and blindly shoots at homeowner who returns fire.

    ….and this is somehow the homeowner’s fault?

    1. avatar NATAWS9 says:

      It isn’t, I don’t really agree with the premise of this story at all. A police officer was reckless and almost got himself and someone else killed.

  7. avatar Justin Case says:

    What would Joe Biden do…

    1. avatar Philip Czekala says:

      Joe Biden would just laugh like the silly hyena he is. 😉

  8. avatar rosignol says:

    …the cop shot first? On a ‘suspicious person’ who ran away, was not behaving aggressively, and had not been identified as armed?

    Does the Owensboro PD have a use-of-force policy? Are these actions consistent with it?

  9. avatar little horn says:

    and where did that officers bullets go????

    1. avatar Philip Czekala says:

      Those bullets went to Dunkin Donuts because it was break time. lol 😉

  10. avatar SkyMan77 says:

    Cameras around the perimeter of your house are worth every penny… In three seconds I’ve got eyes via my smart phone from just about anywhere (or the console hard wired to them in my house, no internet required)… Plus video evidence as everything is recorded…

    1. avatar Jon in CO says:

      This. Absolutely indispensable equipment. Don’t even need to worry about having a company monitor. Just keep it recording on a 30 day loop, 24/7, and it’ll pay for itself the first time something happens.

  11. avatar kahlil says:

    Are we sure the cop’s name is Han? Based on what was shared the officer was in the wrong and shouldn’t have fired without knowing who or what he was shooting at. I hope the homeowner isn’t scapegoated here.

    1. avatar FedUp says:

      I can’t imagine anybody being stupid enough to scapegoat the victim here.

      I know if a prowler opened fire on me in my own backyard and somebody in my county persecuting attorney’s office swore out an arrest warrant on me for returning fire, my elected persecutor would be my ex-prostituted attorney in a year’s time.

      1. avatar Kahlil says:

        Agreed, but our politicians are not the brightest lot. WOuldn’t put it past someone with an agenda to try to use him as an election point.

  12. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    To say that we should not investigate a suspicious person in our back yard because they could be a police officer and shoot at us for investigating — I think that is a bit much.

    I think a much more compelling reason to be hesitant to investigate a suspicious person in our back yard is the fact that he/she could have additional accomplices that you cannot see.

    Going into the dark all by yourself is dicey.

    1. avatar kahlil says:

      I didn’t get the impression that we should be worried about the person being a cop. I came away with more or less what you said – we should be wise about how we go about doing it and ensuring that there isn’t more than one perp out there along with using our house as a controlled environment.

  13. avatar Aaron says:

    so, cops can shoot at an innocent homeowner in the homeowner’s backyard, and if the homeowner shoots back, it’s the homeowner who is being considered for charges?

    1. avatar Cris stevens says:

      I thought the same thing, what happened to an officer identifying himself?

  14. avatar Cooter E Lee says:

    Like most farmers, I have a very significant investment in equipment outside my house. I’ll be damned if I’d let someone drive off or tow off my stuff. I’ll go full Joe Biden on your ass with a tactical shotgun you come creeping around at night, law or no law.

    Besides, the backhoe is parked up the hill by the house. If I don’t investigate and they make off with my baby, then I have to track them down and bury them by hand.

    1. avatar arc says:

      This. AFAIK, deadly force is justified in preventing a loss of livelyhood. Farm equipment is livelyhood, as are crops and livestock.

      Both the lawn chair and the tiller are property, but a tiller will probably be seen as livelyhood in the eyes of a court.

    2. avatar Philip Czekala says:

      …to lazy to dig a hole by hand eh! All you really need to do is buy insurance or are you also to cheap for that? I didn’t realize that backhoes were that high on the “steal me first” food chain list.

  15. avatar Marach says:

    If someone is in my back yard, they have driven 13 miles off the paved road and scaled a 15 foot fence with 4 strands of barb at the top. Damn straight I’ll defend my home and family.

    1. avatar Philip Czekala says:

      Somebody scaling a fifteen foot fence is probably an illegal alien and you better not shoot them because they have more Constitutional Rights than you, especially if they are pregnant and going into labor. 😉

  16. avatar Ark says:

    The worker is right to be cautious. There is a lot of “castle doctrine” misinformation out there and a lot of dumb people who believe they have the automatic right to terminate anyone on their property for any reason.

    1. avatar arc says:

      Even if there is a right of way, if the property owner asks you to leave, you have to leave. There is no stand there and argue about it, unless you want trespassing charges filed. This has been in and out of courts for ages, it also depends on the state as to what answer you are going to get. Showing up after dark to check meters, or do any other DAYLIGHT BUSINESS HOUR work, carries obvious risks.

      There was a repo man who got himself killed while trying to repo a vehicle from private property. To my knowledge, the shooter dodged jail. Here is the key piece of info: Repo men are citizens too, and they are bound by every law John Doe citizen is, that includes trespassing laws. You can’t cut peoples locks, jump their gates, or break into someones’ garage.

      Obviously, mileage varies by state.

      I answer the door pretty much the same way as the article mentions. Dogs bark at something outside and I take my desk gun to go find out whats going on. Talk softly but carry a big stick, as the saying goes, no problems yet. With the border crisis getting worse and an out right invasion coming. I need to finish my 300blackout pistol as a security gun for when I’m out and about.

  17. avatar GS650G says:

    Also install motion activated lights on the sides and back of your property. Besides the obvious advantage of discouragement it allows you to see if it’s a cop or an intruder armed.

  18. avatar New Continental Army says:

    Well, if you live in sticks like I do, you can be like the guy down the road from my place and have 9 Pitt bills trained to attack. I don’t care what someone might be carrying, if they hop that fence, their ass will get torn up.

  19. avatar Kap says:

    I like all the Macho crap about what the home owner is going to do to the trespasser in his or her yard, Very few states allow you to just shoot someone trespassing on your property. Texas, {after dark and gates closed if gated.} other than that it’s like pi**ing into the wind!
    however that said, back in the day I know of more than a few country types that home loaded rock salt for shot guns (less than lethal and hurt like hell} and used that load on all kinds of Varmints.

  20. avatar arc says:

    Sit inside and call the cops doesn’t work in the countryside when all shorts of shit-for-brains people come and go. The last contractors out here decided to crawl over the damn fence rather than ask if there was a gate. They couldn’t even be assed to put a cinderblock BACK on our side of the fence. Now I have go over there and get it back when I finally get around to it.

    I absolutely ask who the fuck is outside and I bring my I heat too, otherwise I would be calling the cops every other day and they would probably either charge be with false reports or just ignore the call by the time its actually an emergency.

  21. avatar Jackass Jim says:

    Calling the cops where I live is essentially useless. Here in suburban Spokane County WA, just 2 or 3 miles from the nearest cop shop, 911 response is mind-numbingly pathetic.

    In the past year, I’ve called 911 for assistance only to have the cops show up over an hour later. One time it took over 2 weeks (yes, I did say two weeks) and then the responding officer showed up unannounced banging on my front door around 10:30 pm on a Friday night. I answered the door with a revolver in my hand behind my back. The dimwit Spokane County Sheriff’s deputy didn’t have a clue.

  22. avatar Mike says:

    If I see someone out in my yard I will go out to investigate, with my EDC in a holster on my side. Only if that person becomes violent will my handgun come out to defend myself.

    Imagine walking down the road with your family, kids ball goes into a yard, kid or dog goes into the yard to retrieve ball. Man with shotgun appears and confronts your kid/dog. What would you do?

  23. avatar Shwiggie says:

    I live in the middle of 80 acres: any stranger I notice walking around my place in the middle of the night isn’t there by accident, for any good reason, or alone. I’d call 911, certainly, but it’ll be with the knowledge that any response is at least 30 minutes away unless a deputy happens to be patrolling our side of the county. The “suspicious person(s)” will be told from a healthy distance to drop what they’re doing/stealing and leave before the law arrives. But if they happen to take it up they will leave feet-first and riddled with a number of 0.30 inch holes. That’s neither to posture, nor is it machismo speaking: it’s just a matter of fact. I won’t be robbed blind or threatened at my own place because I was scared to stand up for me and mine.

  24. avatar JoeVK says:

    We had a guy peeking in the kitchen window at the back of the house several times during the spring and early summer this year. My son has caught him several times. Usually when he was outside walking his bike around to the back of the house to put it inside the mudroom inside the back door. He would round the corner and there the guy would be, cupping his hands up against the glass to peer inside. My son would yell “HEY!”, mostly out of surprise, and the guy would run off. Sometimes my son would chase him to the edge of the yard (ill advised, I know. I told him as much). I ended up installing a motion light on the back of the house, but it didn’t deter him much. He still did it, just not as often. We did finally figure out who it was. The guy who lived downstairs from a friend of ours down the street moved away, and it dawned on us, that the description my daughter and son gave (the only ones who ever saw him snooping around) matched perfectly to the guy who moved, who we found out later was a convicted pedophile who moved constantly because he refused to register his address.

    1. avatar Philip Czekala says:

      Somebody should give that asshole a permanent address in the local Boot Hill.

  25. avatar Gralnok says:

    Nope. I have large walls made of cinderblock and mortar. I have a great distrust of utility workers. They can do their job just fine without prowling in my backyard. Someone who does that to me without prior notice, will be confronted, chased off or detained, and if they become troublesome, they will be shot. Sassing me might also earn some heavy metal poisoning, since I’m not that good at comebacks. They are on my property without permission, that’s trespassing. If someone is threatening you in your home or property, you can defend yourself.

    1. avatar Philip Czekala says:

      Ya know Trespassing in someone’s yard is not really a Capitol Offence punishable by death.

  26. avatar Steve Eisenberg says:

    I shot a red squirrel from the safety of my home. I would never confront it outside on an equal footing.

    1. avatar Philip Czekala says:

      Steve, that’s a very smart position for you to take. Red Squirrels are very aggressive and dangerous and they can bite your nuts right off. Ouch!

  27. avatar Jory Malone says:

    From the mix of responses, it seems obvious this varies from one region of the US to another. Texas, for example, has very strong property defense laws. It seems a good tactic would be to have floodlights on your property you can activate. Here in Arkansas being in the city limits versus being outside the city limits can make a huge difference in police response times. On a weekend, I dealt with a pair of attempted murders inside my home held by gunpoint, and the police response time was around 6-7 minutes. A couple of miles away that would have been over an hour. Your house is always a tactical advantage, but I’d want some forward observation capability. NODs, thermal devices, and floodlights are all pretty cheap these days. Home invaders are usually groups of people in this area, and they may stage in your backyard for their planned assault. I wouldn’t want to be blind waiting for them to assault my position when they may have a force of multiple armed individuals. In our area, they’ve also used the tactic of breaching multiple entry points into homes.

  28. avatar Tom says:

    Shotgun blast in the air usually clears the premises.

  29. avatar Jason says:

    First, if trespassers are prowling around your house before you notice, your perimeter security sucks. Second, always identify your target. Shooting first and asking questions later works great in Hollywood. Try telling it to a judge. I personally know of an individual who went out to investigate suspicious noises and shot at a bush thinking it was an animal. Turns out he shot a teenage child, who knew his daughter at school and killed him. He went to jail for manslaughter. Third the engagement scenario depends on you and your preps. If you are trained, proficient and have taken proper security measures that will put the odds in your favor, then you may be tactically correct in eliminating the threat, however legally justifiable is a different story. Better do your homework. If you are a lone home owner with a personal weapon and no idea of what threat you are facing when you step out the front door with no security measures in place, then it’s probably smarter to stay inside and wait for the cops.

  30. avatar Xair says:

    It depends if you’re in the city. Rural folks living on acerage that is posted is different. That’s not to say know what your shooting at, and staying indoors is a good tactic if you can observe trespassers

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