I’m out in the Philly suburbs right now, celebrating my mom’s 60th birthday. Like Goldy, I grew up in this area. It’s always interesting to come back and observe the numerous subtle differences that make this part of the country unique: the food, the accents, the Wawa’s. It’s like being in another country sometimes.
Our whole weekend was rearranged by the NFL playoffs. After the Giants beat the Cowboys last weekend and the Giants were scheduled to play the Packers for the NFC title at 6:30 on Sunday, we moved my mom’s birthday dinner from Sunday night to Saturday night (my dad and my brother-in-law are both huge Giants fans). My wife, a Seattle native, seemed amazed that we did that. Sports just matter a bit more in Philly. This is a city where the main newspaper’s sports section has its own letters to the editor section (see UPDATE). It’s not a place where this argument would work in order to move the pro basketball team to another city.
For the first game yesterday between the Patriots and Chargers, I went out to a bar in King of Prussia with an old high school buddy who I hadn’t seen in over two years. He’s been working in the mortgage industry for most of the last ten years. He’s had a front row seat for the unbelievable disaster that’s currently unfolding. He told me stories of people who went from having million-dollar salaries to being unemployed in less than a year, of a company that hired him that was clearly doing things that were illegal and was eventually indicted, and of an industry that used to be so lucrative, companies could afford to put him up in $500/night hotels and send him to the Grammy’s, but is now losing employees because people can make more as a cashier at Superfresh. Tomorrow night, he’s probably going to join me as I head out to Philly Drinking Liberally and shoot the shit about the “Big Shitpile” with Atrios.
For the late game, I went back to my sister’s place, expecting to see the Packers crush the Giants, but sadly seeing Tom Coughlin’s crew make it into the big game after Brett Favre’s miracle season ran out of gas. Now I have to brace for being the only person at the Super Bowl party rooting for the Patriots. Damn.
This morning saw some bad news. My dad got an email that his old co-worker’s son was the police officer killed in this SWAT drug raid in southeastern Virginia. He was a father of 3, killed by a 28-year-old man with no criminal record who shot through the door because he thought he was about to be robbed for the second time that week. As you might imagine, my dad isn’t quite sure what to make of my strong opinions on the drug war. Many people of his generation are so far entrenched in the mythology that has built up around the supposed dangers of drugs, that they don’t even question the methodology that has grown up over the years to fight it. While my parents saw raising a child out here in the sleepy suburbs of Montgomery County as a way to keep my sister and me from being caught up in the drug culture, it did no such thing. Drugs and corruption are everywhere, even here among the cul-de-sacs and strip malls. And the senseless tragedies that go along with it keep piling up.
UPDATE: In comments Piper says the Seattle Times also has a letters section in the sports page. Thanks for the correction.
Could you give me a call when you get back in town?
I could, but I don’t have your phone number. Send it to me in email, and I’ll give you a call Thursday morning.
My house was broken into once, but whenever I hear someone on the other side of the door, I don’t shoot through it. Must be a piece of garbage drug dealer. I hope he gets life.
Piper Scott spews:
“This is a city where the main newspaper’s sports section has its own letters to the editor section.”
So does The Seattle Times.
Hold on, everyone. I hear a voice on the other side of my front door. I have to go get my gun and shoot through the door. BRB.
The police were in the process of entering when the suspect decided to shoot at the people breaking in:
If someone had shot a burglar in EXACTLY the same way, would you still hope he gets life?
I’ve updated the post. Thank you.
5/7 Methinks this is someone who is a doubleplusgood doublethinker.
Lee, so are you saying that in some cases, it’s okay to shoot through your front door when you can’t see who’s on the other side?
If you have a reason to fear for your life, then yes, I think it can be justified. The full details of the case would have to be known, of course.
I’m just making sure that you’re consistent. Let’s take this case, for instance:
The guy saw two people in his neighbor’s house while his neighbor wasn’t at home and shot them. I’m certain that you were also demanding that this man be sent to jail for life because those two men could have been officers serving a warrant, right?
You have to go by the laws of the individual state, and what they say about self-defense. I don’t know what Virginia’s laws say. Some states have something in there about “not being able to escape.” That guy who shot those two who broke into his neighbor’s home said on the tape he’s “going to kill them,” even before he went outside, so it sounds like murder to me. Getting back to the guy who shot through the door, you say if I have a reason to fear for my life, then it can be justified. So let’s say my house was broken into last week. Now I’m scared. Someone today knocks on my door, or I hear some rustling on the other side of the door. I’m very afraid. I’m in fear of my life. I get my gun and shoot through the door. It turns out I just shot your daughter who was coming over to see if she could mow my lawn for $20. You would want me to be found not guilty of anything?
This sort of thing happens all too often, and it goes both ways. I remember one case in Seattle some years back when an SPD narcotics unit smashed through the door of the wrong house and shot some poor old man who spun around in his swivel rocker. He happened to be holding a TV remote in his hand, which one of the officers mistook for a gun.
Both that event and the officer’s death cited above are tragic, and consequences of a “war” that’s every bit as senseless as the one in Iraq.
The article is silent as to whether or not the trigger puller was the guy the cops were looking for. So if this upstanding member of the “well regulated militia” had chosen not to fire the worst that could have happened is that his door would have been busted down and he would be in jail, where he is now anyway. The best that could have happened is that his door would have been busted down, he would have been roughed up a bit, the cops would apologize for making a mistake and the city would buy him a new door. In either case, nobody would be dead.
Just another case of an asshole gunowner moron. Saturday, a young mother in North Seattle was killed in a pistol “accident”, and let us not forget the gunowner who offed her family in Carnation on Christmas Eve. We know that all morons are not gunowners, the question is, are all gunowners morons? I don’t think so, but I’m damn tired of whiny gunowners bragging about how responsible they all are, because obviously too many of them are not.
Responsible gun owner spews:
@11 “If you have a reason to fear for your life, then yes, I think it can be justified.” If you don’t know who is outside your door you may be afraid but that is not a good reason to fear for your life.
A responsible gun user never points a gun at anyone he does not intend to shoot and is also aware of what is to the front, sides and rear of the person targeted. A responsible and trained handgun shooter knows he may miss his target. Handguns are very difficult to use accurately. Especially in a high stress situation. That is why police shoot in bursts of three shots.
If this shooter could not see through that door he could not clearly identify his target. What he could do is retreat to a position in his home, where a person came through his door he could identify and attempt to shoot him. I say attempt because to be proficient with a handgun requires regular practice. Most homeowners do not practice and have no sense of when and how to use their weapon.
There is only one entrance to my apartment. I bought a shotgun after a refresher course in handgun use and home protection. I have it stored (out of sight) near a wall that I can stand behind and cover the front door. I will call 911 immediately. The intruder will have to come at me through a lighted hallway. I will be positioned in the dark. I have a plan on when and how to use my deadly weapon. The fool you wrote about who shot through the door did not. Like most gun owners in this country he shouldn’t be allowed to have a weapon without yearly training and certification.
Responsible gun owner spews:
By the way. I support gun control. Not the taking away of guns from civilians; but the required yearly training and certification of all gun owners.
Just because someone is scared does not mean they have a legitimate reason to fear for ones life. That’s why the facts of the case do matter.
In this case, the person inside the house heard someone trying to gain access. It apparently wasn’t someone ringing the doorbell or just talking on the other side of the door. If that’s really the case, then I think someone has a more legitimate claim to being afraid. That’s why people are starting to take a look at no-knock raids and wonder whether or not it’s smart to do this.
As a related matter, it’s now been common for criminals to pretend to be police in order to rob people. By making it so accepted that police can intrude into your home, we’ve created a situation where it’s difficult for people to protect themselves.
It’s good to see that you and others are able to see the problems in all of this. The details of the particular case are important, but if the police were in the process of breaking into the home and had not announced themselves as police, I believe that the defendant here potentially has a legitimate fear that he was being robbed.
Continuing on that, I think RGO in comment #15 is also raising some very good points. I tend to have a certain level of sympathy for laws that give the benefit of the doubt to a person who feels he’s defending his own life, but it’s also very possible that what this person did also crossed a line to being too reckless.
Either way, the point of my posting this is to remind everyone that none of this should really happen simply to try to stop people from taking recreational drugs.
Politically Incorrect spews:
Check out the NRA’s magazine to see incidences of responsible uses of guns to prevent crimes and/or save lives. Far too often the only thing we hear from the MSM is stories like the one above. On the whole, more guns equal less crime. Besides, do we really. really want only the government to have guns?
No one here is arguing that only the government should have guns. That’s far from the point of my post, and I don’t believe that’s the point of any of the other comments from anyone else.
Let’s all just hope that Britney Spears doesn’t waltz into Walmart and buy a gun.
Piper Scott spews:
Individual states do have differing standards for the use of deadly force. Before anyone thinks they know when they can or cannot use it, it’s best to consult your state’s statutes.
The usual standard to determine if deadly force is what’s called “the reasonable man” test. Under the appropriate law of the jurisdiction, would a reasonable person regard the threat such that deadly force is warranted. It’s an objective test, hundreds of years old, fully understood by the legal community, and easy for juries to understand and apply.
The following Washington statute, especially (3), might be helpful:
Use of force — When lawful.
The use, attempt, or offer to use force upon or toward the person of another is not unlawful in the following cases:
(1) Whenever necessarily used by a public officer in the performance of a legal duty, or a person assisting the officer and acting under the officer’s direction;
(2) Whenever necessarily used by a person arresting one who has committed a felony and delivering him or her to a public officer competent to receive him or her into custody;
(3) Whenever used by a party about to be injured, or by another lawfully aiding him or her, in preventing or attempting to prevent an offense against his or her person, or a malicious trespass, or other malicious interference with real or personal property lawfully in his or her possession, in case the force is not more than is necessary;
(4) Whenever reasonably used by a person to detain someone who enters or remains unlawfully in a building or on real property lawfully in the possession of such person, so long as such detention is reasonable in duration and manner to investigate the reason for the detained person’s presence on the premises, and so long as the premises in question did not reasonably appear to be intended to be open to members of the public;
(5) Whenever used by a carrier of passengers or the carrier’s authorized agent or servant, or other person assisting them at their request in expelling from a carriage, railway car, vessel, or other vehicle, a passenger who refuses to obey a lawful and reasonable regulation prescribed for the conduct of passengers, if such vehicle has first been stopped and the force used is not more than is necessary to expel the offender with reasonable regard to the offender’s personal safety;
(6) Whenever used by any person to prevent a mentally ill, mentally incompetent, or mentally disabled person from committing an act dangerous to any person, or in enforcing necessary restraint for the protection or restoration to health of the person, during such period only as is necessary to obtain legal authority for the restraint or custody of the person.
See also the SCOW opinion in STATE v. WALDEN Mar. 1997
131 Wn.2d 469, 932 P.2d 1237.
The following are what are known as “headnotes,” or short summaries of a case’s holding and reasoning. They should never be confused for the actual holding or reasoning themselves, but they’re useful for quick reference. From the Walden case:
 Criminal Law – Self-Defense – Instruction – Legal Standard. A self-defense instruction is invalid if, when read as a whole, it does not make the relevant legal standard manifestly apparent to the average juror.
 Criminal Law – Self-Defense – Instruction – Error – Nature. An erroneous instruction on the law of self-defense is error of constitutional magnitude that is presumed to be prejudicial.
 Criminal Law – Self-Defense – Burden of Proof – In General. Once a defendant charged with an assaultive crime has produced some evidence of self-defense, the defendant is entitled to a self-defense instruction and the State has the burden of proving the absence of self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt.
 Criminal Law – Self-Defense – Reasonableness of Apprehension – Subjective and Objective Test. Evidence of self-defense must be assessed from the standpoint of a reasonably prudent person, knowing all the defendant knows and seeing all the defendant sees. The defendant’s apprehension of great bodily harm and imminent danger must satisfy both subjective and objective tests of reasonableness. Subjective reasonableness focuses on whether all the facts and circumstances known to the defendant were sufficient to induce in the defendant a reasonable belief that force was required to defend against imminent bodily harm. Objective reasonableness focuses on what a reasonably prudent person similarly situated to the defendant would have done under the circumstances. The degree of force used in self-defense is limited to what a reasonably prudent person would find necessary under the conditions as they appeared to the defendant.
 Criminal Law – Self-Defense – Deadly Force – Great Personal Injury – What Constitutes. Deadly force may be used by a person in self-defense only if the person is threatened with death or great personal injury. “Great personal injury” is an injury that a person reasonably believes, in light of all the facts and circumstances known at the time of the threat, would produce severe pain and suffering if it were inflicted on the person or another person.
 Criminal Law – Self-Defense – Fear of Injury – “Great Personal Injury” – Instruction – Validity. An instruction that “great personal injury” or “great bodily harm” is more than an ordinary striking with the hands and fists establishes an impermissible objective standard. One might fear great bodily harm from a striking with hands or fists depending upon the facts and circumstances of the case.
 Criminal Law – Trial – Instructions – Incorrect Statement of Law – Inconsistencies – Considered as a Whole. An instruction that is internally inconsistent and contains an express misstatement of the law may not be salvaged by considering whether the parties are able to argue their theories of the case under the instructions as a whole.
 Criminal Law – Trial – Instructions – Harmless Error – Misleading Jury. Instructional error in a criminal trial is presumed to be prejudicial if the jury has been misled as to its function and responsibilities under the law.
 Criminal Law – Trial – Instructions – Harmless Error – Test. An instruction presumed to be prejudicial because it contains a misstatement of the law warrants a new trial unless the error is harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. Instructional error is harmless only if it is merely trivial, formal, or academic; did not prejudice the substantial rights of the aggrieved party; and in no way affected the outcome of the case.”
Read and ponder on this for several hours…
Piper, you’re in serious danger of becoming the next Richard Pope.
(That’s not a criticism, by the way.)
Roger Rabbit spews:
” … million-dollar salaries … a company … clearly doing things that were illegal … companies could afford to put him up in $500/night hotels …”
Anyone who witnessed this could/should have seen a crash coming. Clearly, this “market” was a hot air balloon.
Roger Rabbit spews:
“Thought the raid was apparently part of a drug investigation, police aren’t saying what if any drugs were found. They won’t even confirm that police had the correct address. But they have arrested Frederick and charged him with first-degree murder.”
IF the cops went to the wrong address, or IF the search warrant was based on bad info AND the homeowner had no involvement in drugs, AND the cops didn’t I.D. themselves, AND the homeowner fired AFTER the cops broke into his house and were INSIDE — the homeowner acted in lawful self-defense and should walk free.
Roger Rabbit spews:
“who shot through the door”
Hmmm … this guy probably is in real trouble, but unless he knew/should have known they were cops, he’s probably guilty of voluntary manslaughter at the most. First degree murder requires both premeditation and intent to kill, and if all he intended to do was frighten away the “intruders” with no intent to hurt anyone, his actions were reckless but would not constitute intentional murder. However, shooting through a door, as opposed to shooting someone who has kicked your door down, pretty much shoots down the self-defense argument (although it still might be viable, albeit a difficult sell, depending on the precise factual circumstances).
Roger Rabbit spews:
@11 I’m not sure what Texas law says, but in Washington, you wouldn’t get away with that. Washington’s laws do not allow you to defend your neighbor’s property with deadly force, because you’re not a cop — that’s considered vigilante behavior. You’re supposed to call 911 and let the police handle it. In fact, you’re not even allowed to use deadly force to defend your own property. The only time you can lawfully use deadly force in this state is to defend yourself or another person in imminent danger of death or grave bodily harm.
Roger Rabbit spews:
@12 As a general proposition, you can’t shoot THROUGH an exterior door when you don’t know who’s on the other side or what their intentions are. Common sense would argue against that, too — it could be the mailman or a meter reader. But the main factor here is that you’re not in danger when there’s a door between you and the potential intruder, so you’re not entitled to use force to defend yourself. Some years ago, here in Washington state, a woman who shot an abusive stalker boyfriend through the closed door of her apartment was convicted of murder. She would have been all right legally if he had kicked her door in, but he didn’t; she knew who was on the other side of the door, and was justifiably afraid of him, but she panicked and fired too soon, because he wasn’t an imminent threat when she killed him. There was a public outcry over this case, and while I don’t recall the details, she may have ultimately gotten her sentence commuted but the second-degree murder conviction was proper from a legal point of view.
Roger Rabbit spews:
@13 There was also a notorious case in Lynnwood where a SWAT team raided a home based on a bad tip from an unreliable informant that the homeowner was involved in an armored car robbery in which a guard was killed by the robbers. The homeowner was home, as was his wife and young children, and when the mother panicked and ran to protect her kids one of the SWAT officers killed her with his M-16. The city of Lynnwood ultimately paid about $4 million to settle the legal claims in that case, but the officer wasn’t prosecuted. Arguably he should have been. Although the SWAT team had a valid search warrant, and had the right house, it turned out this man was innocent of what the informant accused him of. There was some arguably reckless or at least negligent preliminary police work involved prior to the raid leading up to the decision to raid the house. But apart from that, there was no resistance encountered and it was simply a case of a jumpy cop startled by a sudden motion getting trigger happy. One must hope he left the police force, or at least was taken off street duty and relegated to a desk job, or at a minimum removed from the SWAT team, because that guy was too high-strung to go busting into people’s houses with his finger on the trigger of a machinegun.
I suppose Lee’s point in posting this story was to take issue with the drug war, or at least with the way we’re conducting it. The Lynnwood case was unrelated to drugs and points to a larger problem: The no-knock, go-in-locked-and-loaded police tactis that have evolved from drug raids into general police procedures. These tactics, if they ever had an validity or utility at all, should be limited to drug raids and should not be used in general law enforcement. Unfortunately, police departments (like other humans) and innocent civilians have to pay a price in blood before politicians and police bureaucrats learn anything.
And, in an era of homeowners made jumpy by a rash of home invasions, the cops don’t improve their odds of surviving these operations by dressing in plainclothes, shaving their heads, growing goatees, and looking for all the world like members of a biker gang — which is what that dead cop in Virginia looked like. In that case, it’s probably irrelevant, because the resident didn’t know what the cop looked like when he opened fire, but if someone who looked like the picture of that cop busted into my house and wasn’t wearing a bright yellow vest with “POLICE” in huge letters, I’d plug him too.
Roger Rabbit spews:
@14 “So if this upstanding member of the ‘well regulated militia’ had chosen not to fire the worst that could have happened is that his door would have been busted down and he would be in jail, where he is now anyway.”
Nope. The worst that could have happened to him is that he could have ended up dead, and if that’s what was honestly in his mind AND he was not involved with drugs and there were no drugs in the house, the most they’re going to get him for legally is acting recklessly — which is a manslaughter rap, tops. Unless he knew they were cops OR had drugs, there’s no way this guy is going up the river for murder.
Roger Rabbit spews:
@15 I agree with you, except it’s my understanding that police handgun SOP is to fire 2 shots, not 3 shots — the so-called “double tap.” And not just for accuracy reasons; both rounds are supposed to strike the target, and the second round, which should be about 1/3 second after the first shot (not 2 shots as fast as you can jerk the trigger), is insurance because with a standard 9mm police sidearm a single shot will fail to disable an armed assailant about 50% of the time. The “double-tap” puts them out of commission before the bad guy can get a round off about 90% of the time. The other 10% of the cops are SOL.
Roger Rabbit spews:
I read of one case years ago about a felon who was still shooting at the cops after being hit more than a dozen times with revolver fire, and he also survived the first hit with the 12-gauge; although mortally wounded, he continued firing until a second 12-gauge round hit him squarely in the chest.
Some are tougher than others.
Roger Rabbit spews:
@17 The legal test is what a responsible person would do in the same circumstances. In other words, a jumpy or excitable person is held to a standard of what an ordinary person would do, which is a lower standard than what a perfectly calm, professionally trained, person would do.
Roger Rabbit spews:
correction, what a “reasonable person” (not “responsible” person) would do
Roger Rabbit spews:
This is the so-called “reasonable person” or “ordinarily prudent person” test.
Lee's Wife spews:
For the record – I wasn’t “amazed.” I happened to find it strange that the birthday girl was TOLD when – and didn’t get to pick when – she celebrates her own birthday, is all. We “Seattle natives” are commonly misunderstood – even by those we are married to.