Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Anecdotal Information on Home Invasion - Use of Deadly Force

Home invasion victim

I just got a comment on a post from earlier this year, Weapons first or last?, which brought up the subject of use of deadly force in home invasions. Specifically, whether you should use that force in response to the invasion. The comment:

Although I appreciate your focus on prevention in the latter part of the post. I have to disagree with your shoot to kill advice. There are laws that govern use of force, when it is appropriate to escalate etc. Your readers should be warned that escalating force without LEGAL justification can result in charges leading to conviction. If you were to fatally injure an unarmed intruder in your home, you would find yourself being charged with far worse a crime than your aggressor.I believe there is even a major motion picture about a situation similar to this titled "Felon".

During my recent time with a retired police officer (see Real-life Pit Bull Encounter) was home invasion, which is defined as, "burglary of a dwelling while the residents are at home." I've had several posts on what type of response you should have, or how you should prepare for the possibility of home invasion.

As we compared notes on burglary (I don't remember why the subject came up), the gist of our conversation was that true home invasion is actually pretty rare. Most are accidental - burglaries where someone isn't supposed to be home. For example, a home is usually burglarized when the residents are known to be away, or during the day. During those times, if someone is at home, it's likely that the burglar will attempt to flee, because he's after your property, not you, and wants to get away, not hang around.

The most frequent cases of intentional home invasion may be where the invader is an acquaintance (or relative) or former partner ( or spouse) of the resident, and intends harm to said resident, usually murder, rape, or robbery. In other words, someone breaks into your home because they know you are there, and want to harm or harass you while you are present.

Take the Sean Taylor case. The NFL star was known by the invaders (one was formerly employed at the home), were not supposed to be in the home (it was during the NFL season), and they were armed, though didn't plan to harm the family. This was a situation where Taylor's presence in his own home precipitated a crime going from a property crime (burglary), to a violent crime (murder).

The point of this post is to make the distinction between the types of crime, and how serious it is if someone actually breaks in while you are there. If that happens, the invaders probably mean you harm, and protecting you and your family is your responsibility.

In context, the original post (Weapons first or last?) was addressing whether one should use firearms against a home intruder. My point was that, "weapons should always be your first resort, not the last. My reasoning is that, if faced with an unknown threat, especially an intruder that is so bold as to invade an occupied home, you should assume a deadly threat to your family." My position, after assuming that all other steps are taken to make the home a hard target, and assuming the invaders probably know that you are home and are coming in anyway, you are justified in using a weapon. The commenter is correct that use of deadly force may constitute a crime if not justified. I will clarify my opinion:

  1. If you have a chance (or a choice), make sure that everyone in the home is BEHIND you and in as safe a place as possible. There are many cases in the news of inner-city shootouts that kill residents in their homes because bullets keep going until they stop. That means that you want everyone you care about behind you, if possible.
  2. Call the cops - let them know where you are, meaning your full address and WHERE YOU ARE IN THE HOUSE. Make sure you let the dispatcher know that you are armed, and give a description of your appearance. For example, "My family and I are in the second-floor bedroom furthest back. I am a five foot, nine-inch white male with a beard, and wearing a blue t-shirt and boxer shorts. I am armed with a small semi-automatic pistol." For a good example of why you want to do this, go here.
  3. Let the intruder know that you are there, armed, and that law enforcement has been called. Do this while staying on the phone so that it's recorded by the dispatcher (almost all 911 calls are recorded). Do this in a loud, clear voice.
  4. If you believe the lives of you or your family are in danger, do what you have to do.

Consult with legal authorities in your state. Is that clear enough? Comments are welcomed.

For more information:

Crime Doctor (for great tips and information)
TDA Weapons first or last?
TDA Equalizer saves the day
TDA "...he was just standing there with a gun pointed at my face"
TDA Bringing a gun to a knife fight?
FBI Uniform Crime Reports
Civilian Gun Self-Defense Blog (for examples of use of force situations)
Google News (news stories)

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