A woman in Texas shot a man claiming she was in fear of her life. The incident started shortly before 11 PM on Friday, September 10th. According to reports, while she was in her bedroom, the homeowner looked out her window. When she did, she saw an unknown male outside her home.
She said the man was looking in at her through the window. She armed herself with a rifle and shot several rounds at the man from inside her bedroom. The man was struck an unknown number of times and died at the scene. The woman claimed she shot the man in self-defense.
Is it Justified?
I want to start by saying we can only speculate based on the facts we currently have. Future revelations could shift the narrative considerably one way or the other.
Also, any opinion offered is not meant to Monday morning quarterback or make me feel better by claiming, “I would have done this or that.”
However, I thought it would be interesting to post something about the incident because I have a different opinion than many others.
Here is My Opinion:
My view is that based on the information that I've seen, the homeowner did not have justification for using deadly force. There are some basic use of force principles that lead me to this opinion.
People perpetuate a mistruth by saying “I was in fear of death or serious bodily harm” is like a Jedi mind trick. Somehow that thwarts investigators from determining your actions were not justified.
After all, you can use deadly force if you are in fear of death or serious bodily harm, right? I call this false belief, the “fear factor doctrine.”
I was in Fear of Death or Serious Bodily Harm:
Well, yes, fear is a component, but there is far more to it than that.
I don't doubt that the woman was in fear.
She may have felt like this person could harm her. And anything could happen. But is it likely to happen?
What would have to take place, for what could happen, actually to happen? That is an important question.
One thing we have to ask is, was the man an imminent threat?
He was outside the home, and she was inside the house. The man was on the opposite side of a closed (possibly locked) window from what we know. Is it reasonable to be fearful of an unknown man looking into your window? Yeah, of course. He could break the window and come in.
But given that the person is outside your home and would have to do several things to carry out actions that would be considered likely to cause death or serious bodily injury, he isn't a deadly threat. But what if he had a weapon? Wouldn't that change things? Maybe.
If he held a knife, could he stab the woman through a closed window? Nope. If he had a handgun, could he shoot her through the window? Yeah.
However, the woman gave no statement that we know of that she either saw a weapon or that he was found in possession of one when he died. We will come back to this point in a minute.
The threat must be immediate. Failing to intervene on your part would allow the attacker to use that force against you right now. It cant be something that could happen in the future if this thing or that thing happened.
Avoidance and Castle Doctrine:
Now I'll mention avoidance, which is intertwined with the duty to retreat. To be clear, the woman had no duty to retreat inside her home. In other words, she does not have to run to a different room of her house before using deadly force.
However, most people will immediately question why she didn't. If she were facing a jury, they couldn't hold this fact against her as it relates to a duty to retreat that she doesn't have. But it certainly would start their questioning if the force used was reasonable given the circumstances.
Is it more or less reasonable to retreat to a safer location inside a locked home rather than shoot through the wall at someone outside your home?
The force one uses must be proportionate to the force the threat displays. For example, I mentioned how things might be different if the peeping tom had a gun in his hand. If the person had a weapon capable of inflicting death or serious bodily injury from outside the locked window, her use of deadly force may be more proportionate.
As we have it, she used deadly force against an unarmed man who was looking through a window, because she was scared.
I don't wish anyone to find themselves in a situation where some unknown person is looking through your window. But we have to understand these principles of using force if we hope to stay out of an investigation, court, prison, or bankrupt.
Were There Better Options?
I am sure some will read this and think or comment, “I'd rather be judged by 12 than carried by 6.”
However, there is another option. How about, “I'd rather avoid both situations.”
In this case, the woman likely could have chosen avoidance and retreated to another room of the house, armed herself, and called the police.
If the peeping tom had turned into a home invader, there would be no question about her use of deadly force.
Also, consider some things that may or may not have been factors in this incident but result in similar outcomes.
Especially in condominium complexes or areas where homes look the same, midnight rendezvous of teenagers become deadly when one goes to the wrong house. I personally responded to this type of situation, although the shot teen survived.
The boy was in the act of climbing into the window, and the homeowner did not face charges—different facts, but a similar incident that could have started as a “peeping tom” call.
Another consideration is responding officers?
Sometimes silent intrusion alarms go off, and police get dispatched. I am not here to critique police tactics in response to these calls, only to say that police may be looking around your home for open doors or windows without you knowing.
In general, we should avoid shooting through walls and even glass if possible. Bullets that pass through walls can change course, and we may not always be able to see what we are shooting. Identifying the target is essential, no?
And the direction of a projectile passing through angled glass will be affected.
Of course, situations call for shooting through things, but we should do it when we have no better option.
My opinion is that this use of force is not justified legally.
But wait, she hasn't been charged, so doesn't that mean I am wrong. I could be wrong, and she may never face charges. Instead, police may charge her with some offense once their investigation is further along. Then she may be found guilty or acquitted of the charges. Who knows.
I guess the point is not to get wrapped up in the outcome of this specific case but rather look at the incident and learn how to avoid best being placed in the situation where others determine if you go to prison or not.
Sometimes people are not charged when they could have been.
And sometimes people are charged, and probably shouldn't have been.
And yes, when it is necessary to use deadly force, use it appropriately and proficiently. But when you can avoid using force, take that option.
Do you disagree or agree? Leave a comment.
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