Can You Shoot a Peeping Tom – The “Fear Factor”
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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The homeowner had time to ‘arm herself’. In the same amount of time, could she have moved to a safe location and called 911??? Possible, but I wasn’t there.
She didn’t need to shoot he was outside and unarmed and shooting through a wall is a poor decision she should have locked herself in the bathroom and called police her life was not in danger now if he broke into her house that’s another situation
Definitely agree, even in Texas or in my case Arizona. Also it’s pretty careless just shooting through a wall. How can you be sure an innocent party isn’t in the line of fire?
This is definitely a case of where you want a “thinker” and not a “shooter”. The only possible variation I could think of was if the residence was out by itself on acreage without any nearby neighbors. Then possibly the shooter would be more inclined to act. Even then what if it was just someone who had broken down and was hoping to find help.
Not everyone has a cell phone or service could have been an issue. I would be willing to bet that charges eventually will be forthcoming. Time will tell.
I agree unless he was clearly armed and breaking into her house there was no reason to fire at him
Prayers for everyone involved! Sad situation honestly.
In my house we would never shoot through a barrier. My girlfriend knows what to do in an instance like that. We have set up several fail safes and defense locations.
It would take an exuberant amount of force and energy to break into my home. The Police would be well on their way if not already on site before anyone could make entry into my home.
Knowing that to be the case we would never have any reason to shoot through a barrier, unless for some reason we find ourselves in a full fledge stand off scenario.
I agree. The guy outside sure seemed to be up to no good, so the women was justified in being scared. However, since she was inside and guy was outside, I feel she should have left the room, called 911 and only use the rifle if he attempted to break in.
Avoidance if possible is always best
I hope she is not charged, someone lurking around at that time of night by your house looking in windows is doing it for bad reasons. Now if she is charged it won’t surprise me.
I may change my mind from my previous comment. Someone told me that he was outside the window watching her and masturbating. If true, that’s a whole different situation.
Sec. 9.42. DEADLY FORCE TO PROTECT PROPERTY. A person is justified in using deadly force against another to protect land or tangible, movable property:
(1) if he would be justified in using force against the other under Section 9.41; and
(2) when and to the degree he reasonably believes the deadly force is immediately necessary:
(A) to prevent the other’s imminent commission of arson, burglary, robbery, aggravated robbery, theft during the nighttime, or criminal mischief during the nighttime; or
(B) to prevent the other who is fleeing immediately after committing burglary, robbery, aggravated robbery, or theft during the nighttime from escaping with the property; and
(3) he reasonably believes that:
(A) the land or property cannot be protected or recovered by any other means; or
(B) the use of force other than deadly force to protect or recover the land or property would expose the actor or another to a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury.
Acts 1973, 63rd Leg., p. 883, ch. 399, Sec. 1, eff. Jan. 1, 1974. Amended by Acts 1993, 73rd Leg., ch. 900, Sec. 1.01, eff. Sept. 1, 1994.
You didn’t mention which state’s law you are quoting, but a quick search found that it’s Texas. So…in Texas you can protect property with deadly force when the theft is being committed using similar force, or at night. They didn’t cover that in my Texas LTC class.
What if it just happened to b the neighbor checking on the house because he saw a light on. Bam bam dead No way was she justified to use deadly force. She should be sued by the person heirs she killed.
Let me start by stating I am not a lawyer, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express some years back.
The facts as they have been related to this makes this a unlawful shooting. Remember there are five basic conditions that must be presence, as the above article began, these conditions were not met. There is also the AOJ triad to consider, that was not met either.
The real question is will Statute Law (As Written) hold up under Tort Law (as decided by a jury). Will the prosecutor want to push this? Is there any advantage for them to do so. Would a Grand Jury true bill this case or will they decided that a Peeping Tom being killed isn’t worth the trial? After all, we al have sisters, mothers, daughters and nieces.
But this is a problem with so many people who buy guns for protection but never invest in training for how to protect themselves legally.
are you serious. kill to protect property?
Yes, we are serious. It is a basic right of all mankind. And, yes, I do consider my property more valuable than his life, just like the thief does, by stealing it knowing I might kill him. He decides to start this mess by being a criminal. Texas state law has been challenged to the USSC repeatedly and found constitutional. Advise….leave people alone and don’t get shot.
For those females who are reading this, if you find yourself in this situation, consider 1) Turning off all lights except outside lights; 2) Arming yourself, if you have one; 3) Calling 911 and stay on the line until the officer arrives and 4) Make sure all your doors/windows are locked, which they should be every night.
As a 32 year military vet I have taught weapons training in the past and been asked similar questions My response is simple and direct: if I can move out of sight or escape from from a threatening individual, armed or unarmed, I’ll do so. There’s no prize in the civilian world for shooting. If I cannot safely get out of sight, or if any other individual is under threat by an armed individual, I’m probably going to place 2 rounds in center of mass. Also, any individual who continues to approach after being warned clearly of consequences is also a candidate target.
I absolutely agree 100% I have no doubt that she was scared, and that peeping Tom definitely shouldn’t have been there. But, the fact he was outside, and she was inside, and as far as we know, she didn’t see a weapon, therefore she was not in immediate danger and her life didn’t seem to be on the line, she shouldn’t have shot him.
A woman had an open window. Is a person looking in that direction a peeping Tom? No. All the anger in her response to kill is based on past hatred events. Would a female looking be different? All needed was to draw curtains, shades, blinds and go about her business. There is no expectation of privacy standing by an open window.
As a certified shooting instructor for Tennessee, Utah and Indiana, I have to agree with you! It is one of the things about the Constitutional Carry laws that scare me the most, as people need not to understand their rights, nor even prove they know how the firearm operates.
People make stupid choices all the time, including the Peeping Tom. But still …………
I am reading this as the grandmother of a 13 year old well developed(not by her own choice) child. She was recently stunned by the presence of a peeping Tom in her bathroom window as she finished undressing in that same bathroom. If I had a gun and was in that bathroom with her I would have shot him dead, no questions asked. Men can not understand what catching someone peeping in your window does to a woman or a child. How dare any man judge what he can not understand?
Mrs D Richardson, this article is an analysis of the legal justification of the person’s use of force. Your personal feelings aside, what you are describing as an action you would take is an illegal action. So I hope that should that ever happen you feel that a lifetime in prison is an acceptable consequence of that action. I’ll add that it probably isn’t the best idea to run around the internet posting publically about your willingness to commit violent criminal acts. That won’t be helpful in your trial one day should ever be in that position.
As an adult male I would have felt able to handle the situation without shooting. As for this lady there could have been several understandable variables. When he was just peeking and thought he hadn’t been observed he may have not been a danger. But as soon as he realized he had been seen the whole dynamic changes. If he realizes he’s been seen he may fear he has been recognized. He may realize she is about to call 911. If he is armed these 2 things could change the whole situation. As for her I think her options are changed also. She doesn’t know if he’s armed. She doesn’t know if her landline has been cut if she has one. She doesn’t know if he’s going to try to break in before she can call the police and we all know how long they take to arrive. She doesn’t know if he’s still outside the house or has fled.If that was my wife or mother it would be hard to imagine the fear they would have and it would be difficult for me to second guess whatever they did.
A very reasonable analysis. Thanks!
You bring up several good points. I agree with your line of reasoning in this instance. As a TX License to Carry Instructor (and retired police officer) I go over the application of TX deadly force laws with the class. In TX there has to be imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury and the force has to be reasonable. A number of criminal offenses constitute “reasonable” under TX law. You could try to make a case he was entering or attempting to enter the residence, which would constitute “reasonable” but I just don’t see where the reported actions to support that. Were the actions immediately necessary? I don’t see where actions of the suspect support that. Probable cause is based on certain, articulitiable facts, not supposition about what might occur. This all depends on the how the.DA wants to play it.
I live in TX and I don’t see where this described incident was justified given basic facts in the article. As for the Penal Code quote I’d stay away from deadly force regarding theft during the nighttime, and criminal mischief during the nighttime. The other part of the statute linked to that is recovered or protected by any other mea;s. One would have no way of knowing if your stolen property carried away by the thief would not have been recovered in the future by investigations. That being said and probable, deadly force wasn’t the only option available is always brought up in court. I wouldn’t take my chances in court that shooting someone running off into the night with my weed eater or having been tagging my garage was the last resort available to me.
Additional thoughts that could add to this woman’s reasonableness. Have there been recent home invasions in this area she is aware of? Has she a protective order against an abuser (whether this was him or not)? And other such questions that should come out in the investigation. Does she legally own the gun, is she mentally ill, handicapped, phone out of order, and on and on and on?
We live on a 3,300 ranch. If any female family member home alone spots a strange man looking in window.
That means he killed or disabled all four dogs in yard. Crossed 9 fences.
He will get shot.
I feel like anyone on my property after dark is a threat & a danger to myself & my family & that automatically puts me in fear for my life.
Also, my neighbors & friends all know to not visit me after dark without calling.
If someone is seen peeking in my windows, this ole boy will slip out in the dark of the night to play. 👍🏼😁
For several years I worked in the Apartment industry. We would conduct community awareness meetings and discuss simple basics, lock your doors and windows, call 911 etc. It never failed there was always some wanabe vigilante who would chime in with ” well if someone is beating on my door after dark I’ll just shoot thru the door. I would stop the conversation in its tracks and tell them what a stupid comment that was as the person beating on the door in the middle of the night may just be me, or a fireman trying to get them out of their building that is on fire. They usually shut up about then.
So, what your saying, is that strangers are allowed to trespass onto our private property and look through our windows and we are to do nothing but smile and wave and wait for them to break in while you are home and then kill you when you do come home. Cool. That’s pathetic. You trespass onto my private property and I find you looking thru my window, I’m going to shoot you dead between the eyes.