I can't tell you how many times I've read comments on social media, or heard people say something like: It's my property, I'm shooting anyone who comes on my property uninvited. Not only is this mentality morally and ethically wrong, it also can lead to an unjustified use of deadly force.
I’ve included two recent incidents where people used deadly force “defending” their home.
KC Teen Shot by Homeowner—
In the first incident, a poor response to a late-night, unexpected knock at the door led to a poor split-second decision that led to a young man being shot, and the homeowner arrested and charged with First-Degree Assault.
The second incident shows an even more egregious failure to understand the legal and ethical use of deadly force. The lunatic actions of the homeowner in that case resulted in a young lady’s death and his arrest for Second-Degree Murder.
The first incident happened just before 10:00 P.M. on April 13th outside a home in Kansas City, Missouri. According to Fox 4 KC News, a 16-year-old kid called Ralph Yarl headed to a house on N.E. 115th Terrace to pick up his younger siblings. Instead, he mistakenly arrived at a home on N.E. 115th Street. That home was occupied by 84-year-old Andrew Lester.
According to police, Lester told them:
“He had just laid down in bed when he heard the doorbell ring. He picked up his .32 Smith and Wesson 1888 revolver and went to answer the door.
The front door of his home comprised an interior main door and exterior glass storm door, both of which were locked, according to court documents.
Lester said he opened the interior door and saw a black man pulling on the exterior storm door handle. Lester said he believed the man was attempting to break into his house and shot twice within a few seconds of opening the door, court documents say.”
According to the Yarl family, bullets struck their son in the body and head, but the police have not confirmed the number of rounds that struck Yarl, or where he was injured.
Based on their investigation, Police issued an arrest warrant for Lester, charging him with First-Degree Assault.
It’s possible that some piece of evidence may come out that shows Lester’s use of deadly force was objectively reasonable and lawful. Only a thorough examination of the evidence and a fair court process will determine if Lester's actions were lawful or not. That’s not what I want to focus on.
Instead, 84-year-old Lester, will probably go bankrupt and spend the later years of his life defending himself from a potential life-sentence in a shooting that was ENTIRELY avoidable.
How do You Respond to a Late-Night Knock at the Door?
Had Lester not opened the door to a stranger, he wouldn’t be in this mess, and Yarl would not be recovering from his injuries. A safe, tactical response to the late-night knock at the door is something I’ve written about for years, and is always met with mixed results. Many readers comment that they appreciate the advice, while others want to make sure that no one questions their right to act stupidly.
Not expecting anyone, Lester brought his gun to the door. If you don’t know who is at the door, aren’t expecting anyone and are scared enough to carry a gun, it’s quite simple. Don’t open the door. But it’s my right to answer the door however I want. Yeah, it just isn’t wise.
Doorbell cameras are inexpensive and provide the homeowner with an option to opening the door or even going anywhere near the door to talk to someone. If Lester had a doorbell camera, he could have seen and spoke with Yarl and quickly cleared up the confusion about the address.
If Lester didn’t have a doorbell camera, he could have spoken to Yarl through the door. Again, clearing up the confusion and avoiding using deadly force.
The point here is that, yes, Lester had the right to carry the gun and open the door with the gun in his hand. Heck, he could have opened the door naked with the gun in his hand. It just isn’t smart behavior if you want to avoid conflict. Why is it do you think that people who’ve been involved in violent confrontations try to avoid conflict? When you see people die, come close to death or faced a life-changing police investigation, you start to think before flirting with circumstances that could lead to that kind of thing.
Young Lady Needlessly Killed in Upstate New York—
That leads us to look at the second incident, and the blatantly depraved actions of 65-yer-old Washington County, New York man.
TimesUnion.Com reports that on the night of April 15th, three friends were in a car and looking for an address in a rural area of Washington County, New York. The friends mistakenly drove down the long dirt driveway of a home on Patterson Hill Road, belonging to Kevin Monahan.
None of the 4 friends got out of the vehicle, but when they realized they were at the wrong house, the driver turned the car around to leave. That's when Monahan came out of his house with a firearm and fired twice at the occupied vehicle.
One of those rounds struck 20-year-old Kaylin A. Gillis. The group drove six miles to get cell phone reception before they could make a 911 call to report the shooting and Gillis’ condition. Gillis died from her injury and was the only one struck by Monahan’s gunfire. Police didn’t release the type of firearm Monahan used in the shooting.
There are so many more examples of unhinged, irrational reactions by irresponsible gun owners. These aren’t examples of people defending themselves, protecting property or anything like that. These are examples of criminal conduct.
Avoidance is the Wise Choice—
If you have the mindset that anyone who comes on my property is leaving in a body bag, or post signs on your property that mention killing trespassers, you may be on the same path as these men who thought that they had the right to kill anyone who comes on their property. It’s not legal, and it's not moral behavior.
Avoidance is the best choice, because you'll survive the shootout you don't get into. But avoidance isn't always a choice, and it's then you need to have skills and a plan to respond accordingly. If you haven’t thought about your response to a knock at the door, and want to give yourself the best opportunity to avoid conflict, and have a proper tactical response if avoidance isn’t an option, consider checking out this course called Complete Home Defense-Tactics for Defending Your Castle.