Burglar or man just knocking on door? Homeowner opens fire — and could be charged

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MARYSVILLE, Wash. — A homeowner could end up in hot water after firing his gun at what he thought was a burglar.

But neighbors are rallying around the homeowner, who could be charged with a crime.

Cops quickly detained both the homeowner and the man the homeowner thought might be a would-be burglar, but investigators discovered that no crime had been committed — except possibly by the homeowner, who is the only person in the case that could face charges.

“I actually heard the handcuffs, I was like what?” said neighbor Ed Medford. “Locking him up in handcuffs, he’s protecting his property.”

The owner said he was awakened by someone trying to break into his home. Cops said the homeowner tried to hold the suspect at gunpoint, but the man took off and that’s when the homeowner fired off two shots at the stranger.

One of the bullets struck a tire across the street. Nobody was hit.

But when police caught up to the suspect, they said, he told them he only had car trouble and was looking for help.

“Whether his intentions were good or bad is irrelevant at that point,” said Commander Robb Lamoureux with the Marysville Police Department. “He just knocked on a door; it’s not a crime.”

But Medford stands by his neighbor, even though firing a gun inside city limits is illegal.

“You’re protecting your own home,” said Medford. “I don’t care what the issue is. If you come on to someone’s property without being invited or asked, you get what you get.”

But cops say situations like this are anything but simple.

“Yes, you have a right to defend your property, but not with another’s life,” said Lamoureux. “You can only use deadly force if you can articulate that I was in fear for my own safety.”

City prosecutors will have to decide whether to file charges against the homeowner. It’s a crime that could carry up to a year in jail and/or a $5,000 fine.

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19 comments

  • Sara

    If the burglar was running away, you obviously cannot shoot them. That’s just a fact. What you can do though is trick them into walking towards you or at least face your direction – THEN shoot them.

  • John Doe

    As a nameless King County Sheriffs Deputy once told me, “Make sure they are actually in the house and facing you when you pull that trigger, or at least facing you and in the house with no blood outside before the cops show up.”

    The guy screwed up, you don’t fire at someone once they start running and are outside of your house. He shouldn’t have pulled his gun if he doesn’t know how to use it, and if you can’t hit your target when they are framed by your front door then you have no business with the fire arm. He put everyone in the neighborhoods life at risk when he fired his weapon at someone outside of his house, one of the stray bullets hit a tree on the other side of the street, what if a kid had been there. He should, at the very least, lose his fire arms. I’m a full supporter of citizens bearing arms, but with that right comes serious responsibility and the need to properly know how to use them.

    • Alan Johnson

      Dear John Doe,

      WRONG! Again demonstrating that even the cops don’t always understand the laws of self defense. Attempting, IN ANY WAY, to alter the evidence will quickly be discovered by most police departments and get you arrested and potentially charged! And given the fact that 80% of handgun wounds are survivable (handguns are WOEFULLY underpowered anti-personnel weapons!) even if you shoot (justifiably) someone IN your house, he may still very likely (and often happens) run away, leaving blood outside your house.

      And WRONG again. On average, according to the FBI*, police miss SEVENTY to EIGHTY PERCENT of the time when they shoot at bad guys — and that’s with ALL their training, practice and conditioning to high stress situations. Do you suggest that they have no business with a “fire arm” [sic] (also known as a firearm)? Shooting in self defense is a highly, HIGHLY, stressful event, with no practical way to train with the same level of stress.

      *http://soldiersystems.net/2014/09/25/fbi-9mm-justification-fbi-training-division/
      GOOD article!

      P.S. For the record, I’m with you on the position that the guy screwed up, and should loose his guns.

  • Leonard Owens

    what it doesn’t say if the suspect real had a car, or in fact was it broke down? does he have a record? and why did he run away if innocent? Since our Mayor Jon Nehring has welcomed a huge amount of homeless people into Marysville crime has gone up, I’ve been living here 16 years and in the last 3 I’ve seen homeless, panhandlers, prostitutes walking up and down state st. homes broke into, by criminals knocking on doors then knowing no-one was home kicking in the doors, a lot of them on 100th by fred myers. cars, work vans broke into, graffiti, and more.

  • SOJ

    Plain and Simple, he had NO cause to fire on the guy. Even Police cannot shoot at someone running away, unless they are a danger to the Public. What makes this man so special that he can open fire? And, he obviously isn’t even well versed in firearms safety! I would be willing to bet that he is just another fool that bought a gun and never once went to a range to shoot the thing. Fools and Guns, more dangerous than criminals without them.

  • Jana Wheeler

    The police need evidence that the homeowner intended to seriously injured the man, or kill him. We don’t know the whole story. Nor should we because it may taint the trial, should there be one.

  • Patrick Wright

    That is completely incorrect. If they have no weapon and don’t pose an immediate threat of causing you ‘Grievous bodily harm’, you do not have permission to use deadly force. Even if they are on your lawn. Now if they had broken into your home through a window or a door, then yes you may get away with shooting them in a non lethal area such as the leg or the arm. Don’t be like Zimmerman.

    • casey c.

      Unfortunately in our state you must only shoot to kill. Or you risk being sued by the person you shot who will win in court. You must only shoot if you are in fear of your life, and the person is coming in your direction. You do not however have to move from a location to flee you may stand your ground and judge your attacker accordingly.

    • Alan Johnson

      “Don’t be like Zimmerman”??? You mean, when someone has you on your back, and is felonious assaulting you, just let him do it??? You know, Patrick, the Jury — with ALL the evidence — found THAT to be the case.

      And PLEASE, don’t give me that red-herring argument that Martin was just armed with a pack of skittles. One punch, JUST ONE PUNCH, can kill a person. Google “Ricardo Portillo” a soccer referee who was killed in Salt Lake City in May 2013 after being hit ONE TIME by a 17 year old boy!

      Ask ANY police officer what he is trained to do if someone has him on his back and is assaulting him. (He’ll pull his gun and shoot the guy!)

  • IP 145.344.032

    The experts, both in the story and in comments, amaze me.

    Police claim, “Whether his intentions were good or bad is irrelevant at that point,” said Commander Robb Lamoureux with the Marysville Police Department. “He just knocked on a door; it’s not a crime.”

    Did he really, “just knock” on a door? Why is this LEO attempting to taint the jury pool? Was he banging on it? Was he yelling too? Could this suspect’s action have put the homeowner in a heightened state of fear? Was he attempting to ascertain if someone was home before he kicked in the door? Has it happened in the neighborhood before? Was he carrying burglary tools? This blanket statement of “he just knocked on a door; it’s not a crime” is completely BS. And to state none of what happened before matters to establish if the homeowner was in fear for his own safety {or the safety of others} is also BS. If the homeowner had a reasonable belief that the suspect was attempting to break into an occupied home, the homeowner has ever right to stop and detain this suspect so he doesn’t pull this same home invasion on a less prepared neighbor, (or his elderly mother?). There is where the homeowner can solid claim a defense, and a true peace officer, (as opposed to the revenue generators we have now), would be defending this man’s attempt to protect his community from this suspect.

    Also, depending on time of day and how he “just knocked on a door” he likely established probably cause to stop and detain him. It certainly warrants further investigation and if the suspect had been beating down the door of Officer Lamoureux’s house last night you know damn sure he would have stopped this man from running away, (and the off-duty officer would have used force, up to and including deadly force to detain the suspect).

  • fred

    I’d gladly pay more in taxes to have burglars locked up for much longer than currently happens. I heard some dirt bags on a bus one time discussing the merits of theft and how there’s really no significant risk to them if they do get caught. Send burglars to prison for 10 years each offense and the rest of us can begin to feel safe in our own homes.

  • FraudTracker

    I’d run, too, if some tool was pointing a gun at me and I thought he was stupid enough (which apparently he was) to use it. His assumption that someone was breaking in was merely an assumption until the guy illegally crossed the threshold. It is not illegal to walk on someone’s property with no intent to do harm ….up to and including knocking on the door. If this guy had “burglary tools” as someone suggested, I’m guessing cops would have arrested him for probable cause, rather than the homeowner. I’m really tired of frightened old men whose first response is to shoot and ask questions later. This is not the wild wild west any longer. We live in a community where we are required to be responsible citizens. All this guy had to do was call the cops and stand in his house with gun in hand waiting for the guy to break in — then and only then does he have rights — and those rights don’t include killing someone unless there is intent to do bodily harm.

  • tired worker

    I wonder if the neighbors would be so surportive if it was a friend or kid who knocked on that door and was shot to death. If he was inside I would say he had the right but outside and running away, thats attemped murder. Didn’t catch the street name so I could make sure I never go on it.

  • derp

    Gun happy Marysville morons . . “JUST BLAST EM”!!!! . . DURRRRRR!!!! . . He knocked on my door so I tried to blow his head off!!! . . It’s muh sekkund amenymentz rightz!!!