Shooters Stand Their Killing Grounds

After a Kent produce farmer shot and killed an unarmed intruder yesterday, a commenter posted the following on the KIRO-TV website:

“My favorite story about this kind of thing occurred in South Central LA about 30-years ago. A guy trys to rob a liquor store with a knife. The store owner shot him 6-times and killed him with a .357. The excited, gushing, TV gal from KTLA asked the owner, ‘But why did you shoot him 6 times?’ The store owner’s dead pan reply, ‘That was all the bullets I had.’ You got to love that store owner.”

King County investigators are still compiling information on the Kent shooting to determine if it was justified. The farmer used a shotgun to the kill the young male intruder; a second burglar was held by the farmer and arrested at the scene.

The incident follows one last month in Maple Valley when an ex-Marine shot and killed a suspected truck thief. Investigators are still reviewing that case. Also in September, a Seattle man wounded a suspected boat thief who was ramming yachts in Portage Bay. And in May, an Issaquah homeowner shot an intruder who broke through his front door in a bold daylight burglary that turned into a robbery. The two men struggled before the homeowner fired two shots, wounding the suspect. But there he stopped, and called police.

“One mistake the home owner made,” wrote a KOMO-TV online commenter about that shooting. “He didn’t kill the piece of crap.”

America’s shoot-first cowboys do seem to love our righteous shooters, especially when they lethally stand their ground. Last year, when I wrote about eight home-invasion shootings here in the first four months of the year, commenters overwhelmingly supported the gunners who killed four intruders and wounded three others. (The web comments were lost in a Weekly computer changeover this year but some of them are recounted here).

As one wrote, “I think the ‘author’ of this piece is missing one fundamental and inalienable rule about life. There are victims and there are survivors. I won’t be a victim. So guess what category that leaves. No one, I mean no one has the right to come into my home unbidden to steal from me or do me, or my family harm.…God didn’t make all men equal. Samuel Colt did.”

Actually, Colt made some unequal - those who bring knives to gun fights. But that hasn’t necessarily stopped ground-standers from using lethal force when a 911 call might save them misery and spare a life. As we reported last year, one local homeowner tracked an unarmed burglar for a quarter mile, shooting him in the back and killing him hours after the break-in; the homeowner is now doing 12 years for second-degree murder.

Under state law, those who enter property illegally face the universal risk of legal execution - justifiable homicide by a shooter claiming imminent danger - even if a homeowner is reluctant to fire.

The North Bend man who killed 30-year-old Joshua Henderson last year, for example, had shouted “Leave my house! I have a gun! I don’t want to shoot you!” But Henderson, who had struggled with mental illness and was reportedly drunk and high on cocaine, had thrown a propane tank through a sliding glass door and then broke into the bedroom where the homeowner and his girlfriend were hiding. The victim felt he had no choice but to shoot.

Still, homeowners who’ve had the opportunity to call for aid have utilized the humane option. Ironically, the man killed above, Josh Henderson, broke into an Eastern Washington home nine years earlier. Rather than kill him, the homeowner held Henderson at gunpoint while the victim’s wife dialed 911.

Why didn’t he shoot him? a gushing TV gal might ask. Because his six bullets were just as effective unfired. You got to love that homeowner.

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