To shoot or not to shoot... Homeowner charged for shooting fleeing burglar wannabe

Posted by bubah1mau 4 years, 5 months ago to Philosophy
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"At common law, the fleeing felon rule permits the use of force, including deadly force, against an individual who is suspected of a felony and is in clear flight. Force may be used by the victim, bystanders, or police officers."

But does it apply in this case? Could an Objectivist convict and sentence this homeowner/shooter to a lengthy prison term for manslaughter?

[There's no category for "Crime" so I chose to list this posting under "Philosophy" because I believe the question of whether to punish the homeowner or not is essentially one determined by philosophy of law.]
SOURCE URL: http://www.twincities.com/2017/01/30/minnesota-homeowner-who-reported-home-invasion-arrested-after-1-shot-dead/


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  • Posted by chad 4 years, 5 months ago
    To attempt to enter a home by forced entry is an attempt to do harm, what follows after is the fault and responsibility of the those who perpetrated the threat of assault. To say that there was no longer any threat is incorrect, if the criminals were allowed to 'freely' disappear then it would embolden them to return at a time more convenient for their intent. The homeowners desire to merely stop the criminals is what should be considered, not disarming him because it didn't go well for the criminals. That an immoral illegal act has consequences beyond perhaps what is considered rational by any not involved is none of their business. The fault of all consequences after the initial assault lies with those who perpetrated the crime.
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    • Posted by 4 years, 5 months ago
      I agree that the would-be burglars MIGHT be emboldened as you suggest. But a warning shot or two close in, over their heads, would make them think twice about returning; and a close call-- clearly being shot at-- might even make them reconsider their careers as burglars.

      In the meantime, the homeowner could be put on notice that his property is at risk and take additional precautions. There is something to say for not firing with intent to kill until you "see the whites of their eyes."

      Being charged with manslaughter isn't the same as being convicted. I hope that the homeowner here finds a way to convince the jury that he was only attempting to fire such a warning shot as has been suggested. (E.G. how dark was it when the kill-shot was fired? Was the kill-shot a ricochet? Etc.) With proven intent to fire only a warning shot, a jury is likely to be more sympathetic to the defendant.
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  • Posted by $ blarman 4 years, 5 months ago
    I have a hard time bringing this level of charges against a homeowner protecting his property and person - fleeing perpetrators or not. People - especially criminals - need to understand that choices have consequences. Violating someone's home and potentially threatening their lives IMHO justifies the use of deadly force even in retreat. That may not be a popular stance, but in the heat of the moment, one doesn't get the time to think through everything and you have no idea if the perpetrator is going to try to come back later.
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    • Posted by $ pixelate 4 years, 5 months ago
      I was thinking the same thing ... actions have consequences. And I appreciated your adding the fact that one does not know if the perpetrator will return. This also sends a clear message to would-be perpetrators -- that kind of behavior is not acceptable.
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  • Posted by $ allosaur 4 years, 5 months ago
    When I worked for the Alabama Department of Corrections, I could legally shoot a fleeing convicted felon in the back if I had to. That would include an inmate I took to a courtroom, a hospital or a funeral.
    I could also shoot any "free world person" assisting an escape; but if that person ran away, I could not use deadly force.
    Alabama prisons are surrounded by two fences and there is a "one fence rule." Should you see an inmate climb the first fence, you were to fire a warning shot. When the inmate attempted to climb the second fence, you were to as trained "aim at center mass" and to "shoot to stop."
    In other words, you were not to shoot any inmate who gives up or cannot go any farther for any reason.
    During my 21 years I shot no one but fired three warning shots. Two of those shots stopped a total of three inmates making an escape attempt and one stopped a fight that was beginning to endanger two fellow officers.
    The only time I took aim at someone's center mass is during the second escape attempt and after I fired a warning shot. The guy stopped. So I did not take that second shot.
    As the back gate tower officer, I "racked a round" a couple of times to stop troublemakers from harming an officer in the sally port. There's just something about that "click-click" sound that can chill an inmate's blood.
    In or out of uniform at home? (I'm now retired). I was already trained to know you just can't shoot a fleeing (unconvicted) felon in the back. Even if he had just kicked in your door. At that point you may want to shoot him oh so much, but do not do it. .
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    • Posted by 4 years, 5 months ago
      Interesting commentary. Yes, I would hope to get a lethal round off while the individual is still coming toward me, either while "kicking in" my door or while framed in a window. In Montana we have the "Castle Rule" that would give me the privilege "on the way in"--but not on the way out as you suggest.
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      • Posted by $ allosaur 4 years, 5 months ago
        The law is the same in Alabama.
        I would not advise shooting a shot burglar or a store robber who is lying still on the floor a second time, especially if you are being video recorded.
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  • Posted by Zenphamy 4 years, 5 months ago
    Use of force for self defense of self and property is appropriate as long as it is only that necessary to prevent or stop the violation of rights. Once the person(s) has stopped attempting to violate rights, no further force is appropriate. I don't agree that Manslaughter II is appropriate, maybe just negligence or accidental.
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    • Posted by $ MikeMarotta 4 years, 5 months ago
      I agree with the premise, Zen. The problem with the manslaughter conviction is the prison sentence, as prison does nothing for anybody. (Yes, I recognize that the unremediable predator may need to be isolated forever, but that is the smallest number of people ever imprisoned.) In a case such as this, in a world of objective law some other penalty would be applied to better effect.
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      • Posted by $ Abaco 4 years, 5 months ago
        As I type this a coworker of mine's son is waiting for verdict on his manslaughter case. This young man will gain nothing from spending time in prison. Society will gain nothing from it. Doesn't matter. The young man is developmentally disabled. That's why we're creating more developmentally disabled young men. Easier to feed off of.
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      • Posted by Zenphamy 4 years, 5 months ago
        My thought is a misdemeanor charge at most.
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        • Posted by $ MikeMarotta 4 years, 5 months ago
          The Objectivist premise is that force is only sanctioned in retaliation to a threat or an action. A fleeing felon is no longer a threat.

          Compared to a human life, the property is worth nothing. The right to property is worth everything. The stuff itself is unimportant. Title is law and law is civilization. But material goods are replaceable, which a human life is not.

          That is why, for example, for a small social grace, a mere gift is not as meaningful as a handwritten letter. The gift is a thing and we have a plethora of things. Time is irreplaceable, so the time you spend writing the letter speaks to the importance of your intent.

          One of my criminology professors liked to toss out the easy talking point that 20% of the goods in the market have no clear title. If you goto your local flea market with 100 vendors, about 20 of them will be selling stolen goods. No one cares. The losses were written off by the last owner and everyone moved on to the next opportunity long ago.

          As a security guard, I worked a couple of weeks supporting railroad security at a staging yard. They drove up and down the trains with a spotlight looking for broken seals. When trains stop at these points in the middle of nowhere, the thieves know to expect that. They hit and run, grabbing whatever they can unload from the car as quickly as they can: crates on pallets of tennis shoes or sewing machines or machine screws... it all goes back into other market channels. I do not condone the theft, but I only point out that Playboxes and motor bearings are like grains of sand. There's only 6 billion humans and about 60 million of them are geniuses, but we have over a billion cell phones...
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        • Posted by $ MikeMarotta 4 years, 5 months ago
          In most places, a misdemeanor conviction brings one year in the county jail. Again, while imprisonment itself is a known failure, in the context of Objectivism, wrongfully taking a human life is more than a "misdemeanor."
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  • Posted by NealS 4 years, 5 months ago
    I'm all for a homeowner protecting his property. There are a lot of things that come into play on any case. One out of three of my children (boy) had some encounters where he could have been shot, or shot at, due to his misguided direction. Fortunately the law caught him early enough and he learned the easier way. It cost him two years of his life at age 14. We thought at least he was safer incarcerated than on the streets. In fact it was his mother that turned him in when we got notice they were looking for him. At what age should a perpetrator just be shot? Should we required everyone wear their age on their back?

    I look at it as kids are kids, and shooting someone fleeing without any hard evidence that a crime was even committed is not a good shooting. Is it poor judgement, or just someone that was angry enough to actually want to shoot someone? Most people do not practice owning a gun, they never think about the different scenarios until it becomes an issue. It’s almost like driving a car the first time. Each case has to be evaluated on its own. We’ve been robbed, the police (in my mind) were totally negligent in charging the perps, they had records a mile long. They got away with taking over $100,000 of our property. My wife had to buy new bedding because they took our pillow cases to haul some of the loot, and therefore actually touched our bed in the process. It took her over a month before she could even sleep in it again. Police shrugged their shoulders even though a neighbor got the license number of the car that they loaded the stuff in. Police claimed they could not prove the owner of the car was the driver so they informed us “no case”. What a crock, I was furious. I wrote the police chief and the mayor to no avail. Hindsight tells me I should have filed a civil case, but I was so dumbfounded by the lack of police action. It took them several weeks to even track down the license plate and the car. When they found and approached the car the owner he took off running, and they “had no reason to chase him”. They were only there to “talk” to him. He apparently had a right to just run if he didn’t want to “talk”. So they towed and impounded the car, search it, found a high end radio with serial numbers scratched out and later when he came to pick up the car arrested him for possessing possible stolen property. He got his car back and nothing else happened because they couldn’t track the radio to a rightful owner.

    What should the law do about adrenaline, temporary insanity, and all the other reasons perpetrators get shot these days? Based on the above, and that my special needs daughter could have been in the house at that time by herself, you can guess what might happen if I caught someone ransacking inside my home. Outside I’m not so sure, I would hope they would just trap themselves some way. Having a teenager that could have been shot himself I can also understand having the discipline to not shoot might be a better decision. Being a combat veteran I’ve already experienced throwing up after killing someone, so it might make it much easier the next time. In the back, didn’t matter either because we knew they’d be coming back, might as well take them out now. Could I use that as a defense, the Army taught me, and made me do it? I just hate scenarios where the perpetrator becomes the accuser. There really are no answers, only our laws and how we interpret them at the time. People are the cause of most of our problems.
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  • Posted by Eyecu2 4 years, 5 months ago
    I find it unconscionable that he had to surrender the rest of his weapons. Essentially this man has defended himself and now he has been made defenseless in the face of criminals that have been angered by him defending himself.

    As for him being charged for killing the fleeing Burglar. I would support him being rewarded for removing a piece of trash from the gene pool.
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  • Posted by jdg 4 years, 5 months ago
    I could not convict that person. The law does not permit killing to defend property, but it ought to.

    As for "there is nowhere for a fleeing felon to go", that is wishful thinking. There are plenty of poor neighborhoods where most people will refuse to tell the police anything, and quite justifiably so as long as so many kinds of behavior that aren't wrong remain criminalized.
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  • Posted by $ MikeMarotta 4 years, 5 months ago
    Like much in "common" law, the historical development of "fleeing felon" was not derived from first principles with careful examination of the facts.

    One summer night, I was on patrol with a young partner in campus safety and we had this discussion. (I was completing my associate's, and had one class at the U to get started. He had his BS in crim and was at the community college for the certified police academy. When he graduated he was hired by a federal agency.) You get a call to a robbery in progress. As you pull up, the perps come out shooting, and your partner goes down. Do you stay with your partner or pursue?

    I brought it up because it was a discussion from a class I took a couple of years earlier in Frontline Supervision. (It was my first job in security; and the company offering the class was state-certified. Three other government agencies were in the class with me.) The LAPD called for "relentless pursuit." You can do nothing for your partner. Call it in. Follow the felons.

    "Thanks, Marotta," he said sarcastically. "Now I know where you stand..." I explained about the LAPD. He said: "Where are they going to go? You cannot shoot anyone in a uniform, not a cop, not a school crossing guard, that every other cop in the world won't hunt you down."

    That applies to the fleeing felon.

    Maybe in the Middle Ages, you could hide in Scotland or somewhere... Here and now, there is nowhere for a fleeing felon to go. They cannot even leave the planet without being tracked. They are better off hiding in a cave for the rest of their life, which is to say, to imprison themselves. With cameras everywhere, nothing is done unseen.
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    • Posted by CircuitGuy 4 years, 5 months ago
      "Here and now, there is nowhere for a fleeing felon to go."
      If this were 150 years ago, and the people who tried his door knob could conceivably go West and escape any punishment, would trying to shoot their tire or their horse be more justified? Would the shooting at their be more justified 30 years ago than today.
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  • Posted by $ Radio_Randy 4 years, 5 months ago
    Stand in the doorway and make them go out a window. If they try to get past you...shoot in "self defense".

    To me, the biggest problem, here, is that of personal property. If a burglar knows I can't shoot him for simply taking my stereo, he knows he can get away with it. What does he have to fear. By the time the cops arrive, he'll be long gone.

    People say "Well, that's why you have insurance.", but why should I and everyone else have to pay increased premiums so thieves can steal my stuff?

    How about this one...a guy is raping my neighbor, but runs when I approach with a gun. Do I shoot him? Do I let him get away? Why are we even having this discussion...that's what I would like to know.
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