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Almost no one disputes your right to protect yourself, your loved ones or your property when you’re threatened. OK, there are some. But one of the key aspects of this right is that the defender has to have a reasonable fear of death or bodily harm before using deadly force. It’s also a good idea not to warn the police that you’re going to kill the next burglar you catch on your property…

Jovan Milanovic, an auto lot owner in Colorado Springs, had been burglarized and told police he would shoot any burglars who returned. Sure enough, a couple of weeks later, Robert Fox and Brian Corbin jumped the fence. Milanovic and two relatives were ready for them.

Corbin testified he saw two armed men charge out of a building and run in their direction, one of them shouting “we’re gonna get you” in an obscenity-laced threat. Corbin, who escaped by climbing over a car and jumping a fence, said he felt a bullet pass by him as someone fired four gunshots.

Fox was standing inside a small shed when a .45-caliber rifle bullet passed through the shed’s door and pierced his heart.

Milanovic probably thought he was in the clear when local prosecutors decided the men’s actions didn’t rise to the level of criminality. Or a jury wouldn’t convict them. Either way, none of the three were charged. But as OJ Simpson famously found, avoiding a criminal conviction doesn’t mean you won’t be liable in civil court where the standard of proof falls from convincing all members beyond a shadow of a doubt to majority rules based on a preponderance of the evidence.

Jurors found that Fox’s death was the result of “willful and deliberate” conduct by Jovan Milanovic, who was accused of firing the rifle, and Novak, who supplied the semiautomatic Heckler & Koch that Milanovic used in the killing.

The three men were accused of keeping an armed vigil over the auto lot and firing on the first burglars they saw. The men were angry over a series of thefts that began when someone broke in a week earlier and stole keys to customers’ automobiles as well as keys to buildings on the property.

Under Colorado’s self-defense laws, the use of deadly force is justified only under the “reasonable belief” that it’s necessary to prevent serious bodily injury or death. The jury found that none of the men had a legitimate claim of self-defense.

Property rights are not a lawful defense for using deadly force in Colorado, and the state’s so-called Make My Day [castle doctrine] law, which sets lower standard for using force, applies to households, not businesses.

Fox had knives in his pocket and one strapped to his leg. It isn’t clear if the defendants were even aware that he was armed, though. A six person El Paso jury awarded Fox’s daughter $300,000 on Friday.

While a large award to a criminal’s family is infuriating under almost any circumstances, Milanovic and his buddies left themselves wide open to the always unpredictable tender mercies of a jury. And they were damned lucky to have avoided jail time. The morals of this story: Know the castle doctrine laws in your state, if your state has one. [If not, call your representatives.] If you can avoid using a gun, do it at almost any cost, short of your life. And keep your mouth shut.

[h/t AI stalwart Patrick Brown]

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  1. This sounds like it could come out of the UK. Luckily in my state you cannot be sued in civil court in this type of situation. The intruder did not deserve to die but you take your chances when you break into someone else’s business at night.

  2. 3 guys with fire arms should have just scared the hell out of those 2 guys unless the 2 bad guys pulled there guns out…then that is a different story…

  3. Sigh, the court system…

    That’s what we’ve devolved to…criminals giving criminals money.

    Why bother even sneaking or mugging anymore? Just punch in a car window and sue the owner for your glass cuts.

  4. All self-defense shooters should have instant access to a cheap, prepaid “burn phone.” Then, in the event of a shooting, the shooter can drop the phone next to the dead guy. When the cops arrive, the shooter can tell Five-0 that he thought the cell phone was a gun. Since this excuse worked for cops in Mesa, AZ, Bakersfield and San Francisco, CA, Chicago, IL, New York City and who knows how many other jurisdictions, I think it’s only fair that it be used by regular citizens, too.

    Cops used to have to carry cheap “drop guns” that they could toss down next to a corpse that they terminated. Thanks to cell phones, that practice has been abandoned as unnecessary, saving the local police a fortune.

    /sarcasm off

  5. Colorado sucks because their one of the nine COMMIE states that won’t let me carry in their silly state no matter what. I’m not surprised that these guys got screwed for shooting some lowlife scum who would have most likely killed them if they were unarmed. This is what happens when you live in a COMMIE wasteland.

  6. Just like everyone else on this site, I support the right to self-defense. However, self-defense means protecting your own life when you have exhausted all other means. These guys deliberately staked out, which could be ruled as “looking for trouble.” The article does not say whether the burgulars presented immediate deadly force.

    We need to stop treating every citizen who shoots at someone we consider a “bad guy” as a saint and instead look at the individual situations. If the burgulars looked as though they were reaching for weapons, that would have been justifiable. Unfortunately, these bad guys were only attempting to steal without using any force. If anything, the shooter is lucky he wasn’t convicted.

    • Yeah, funny how that was on their own property and it is called staking out, lol! I will have to remember how someone, at home, when a burglar attempts to break in, can be sued in civil court because being at your property is apparently “staking out”. Sounds like they had a crappy lawyer.

      Would the incident have occurred if the crooks had not committed the first crime of breaking and entering, nope. So their choices and actions incited the victims, pretty hard to prove otherwise.

      We should then see the accomplice be charged and sued for this as well as legal precedent has long been established that any criminal accomplice to an incident where one is killed, is charged with murder also.

  7. Sorry Dan, but I have to protest about your referring to me in this way:

    “Almost no one disputes your right to protect yourself, your loved ones or your property when you’re threatened. OK, there are some.”

    I think you know better than that and so do your supporters. Maybe you were joking, I’d like to hear that, but it’s a shame no one brought it up, you know, for honesty’s sake.

  8. Telling the cops that you will kill somebody is never a good idea. Killing somebody you don’t have to is never a good idea either.

    I always have my ECG on my person when I’m home, and almost always when I am out and about. Does that mean I’m “staking out” my home at all times, and usually “staking out” the public domain when leave the casa?

    mikeb302000 – I didn’t see you mentioned with any specificity. If the shoe fits…

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