For starters – the Thanksgiving shooting in Little Falls seems, according to what we know, to be a textbook case of how not to shoot in self defense.
64 year old Byron Smith allegedly shot Nicholas Brady, 17, as he came down the cellar stairs – and then allegedly shot Brady’s cousin Haile Kifer, 18. He’s been charged with two counts of second degree murder.
And if the news accounts are accurate – and as we’ve learned, on all gun-related stories, we must distrust but verify the media, but this case seems fairly clear-cut so far – he’ll deserve the conviction. While you don’t have a “duty to retreat” in your home in Minnesota, you still have to have reasonable fear of death or great bodily harm (or, nebulously, to “prevent a felony”, which in practice had better mean “the felony of killing, kidnapping or raping you or your family”), and the force you use has to be reasonable – in other words, no finishing people off.
According to the complaint, Smith told investigators:
He heard glass breaking around noon Thursday while he was in the basement. It was the latest of several break-ins that he’s experienced. Brady started coming down the stairs, and Smith shot him with a rifle by the time he saw the intruder’s hips.
Unless Brady had a chainsaw running around hip level, there wasn’t a whole lot of fear of death, there…
Brady fell down the stairs and was looking up at Smith when the homeowner shot him in the face.
“I want him dead,” Smith explained to the investigator for the additional shot.
And there’s your “unreasonable force”, right there.
And let’s be honest; you hear the same kind of talk from all kinds of people; “it’s best to finish them off”, one yahoo told me in a bar, “because then they can’t sue you”.
I’ve never heard it from anyone that’s been through carry permit training, of course.
And just in case there was some corner of his legal case that wasn’t already utterly self-sodomized…:
Smith put Brady’s body on a tarp and dragged him to an office workshop.
A few minutes later, Smith heard footsteps above him. As in Brady’s case, Kifer too started down the stairs and was shot by Smith by the time he saw her hips, sending her tumbling down the stairs.
Smith attempted to shoot her again, but his rifle jammed, prompting Kifer to laugh.
Upset, Smith, pulled out a revolver he had on him and shot her “more times than I needed to” in the chest, he said.
Smith dragged Kifer next to Brady as she gasped for her life. He pressed the revolver’s barrel under her chin and pulled the trigger in what he described as a “good, clean finishing shot” that was meant to end her suffering.
Hint: virtually no deer-hunting etiquette is appropriate in self-defense shooting.
This is a case that should be used in self-defense classes as a punch-list of everything not to do in a self-defense case.
- You just don’t get to shoot on sight. Many juries will have a hard time accepting that you had a reasonable fear of death or great bodily harm if you shoot before you can fully see your perp in what amounts to an ambush zone.
- You do not finish them off when they’re down.
And above and beyond that? You call the cops immediately. And – it should surprise nobody – Smith did not:
Sheriff Michel Wetzel told reporters Monday afternoon that Smith explained to authorities that he didn’t call immediately after killing the two because “it was Thanksgiving. He didn’t want to trouble us on a holiday.”…Smith acknowledged leaving the bodies in his home overnight before calling a neighbor to ask about a lawyer and to request that authorities be notified.
Naturally, you should be on the phone with the police before the smoke clears.
And while I send my condolences to the victims’ families, of course, the kids had no business in his house. Note, unruly teenagers; you’re not immortal, and you’re only as safe as your least-informed, least-stable victim lets you be.
But here’s the fearless prediction; this case will be used as a chanting point against “Stand Your Ground” at the very least, and most likely against any sort of self-defense reform.
Not because this case has any merit as an example – no factor in this case has any bearing on “Stand your Ground”, and indeed has to have been one of the least-justified self-defense shootings I’ve heard about since Sgt. Jerry Vick’s shooter tried to claim it.
Not because Smith is a carry permit holder – while the records aren’t public, let’s just say his behavior is not that of someone who knew what he was doing.
No – because it involves two things that are catnip for anti-human-rights activists:
- Dead “children”
- Someone who is not, on the surface, a criminal doing something that is exceptionally rare among non-criminals; screwing up with a gun.
It’ll be wrong. It’ll be legally as well as factually void. It’ll be pure disinformation.
And as we’ve seen in the past two elections in Minnesota, legally/logically/factually void disinformation sells.
Just saying; if Heather Martens doesn’t put out a press release trying to tie this case to “Stand Your Ground” and/or concealed carry, I’ll be amazed.
Comments welcome at Shot In The Dark.