Homicide vs. Self-Defense
Our agency was contacted by the decedent’s family to review the official records, reports and photographs of a homicide by gunshot wound to determine if the evidence and circumstances were consistent and supportive of self-defense, the official findings; or pre-meditated murder, as they believe transpired. It should be noted that the Manner of Death of Homicide, a medical determination, is undisputed – only the legal findings.
The provided information included that the decedent and spouse were having an extended visit and staying in a guest house of family, with undisputed access to the main home as needed. The fatal incident occurred when the decedent entered the main house, as had been regularly done, and was shot multiple times by a family member resident of the main house. Although the spouse of the shooter was present in the house, the incident was not eye-witnessed. Similarly, the spouse of the decedent, in the guest house, also was not an eye witness.
By report, the shooter informed law enforcement that in previous days a verbal argument had transpired between the shooter, the decedent and spouse; also stating the decedent had made unspecified threats. The decedent’s spouse reported that there was a verbal argument, but no one threatened another and, to keep the peace until planning to leave in just over a week, had stopped entering the home or having any contact with the shooter. There was no indication they could not use the main house as needed, but had chosen not to in order to avoid further confrontation with the shooter. The decedent’s spouse further reported, that because the shooter had reportedly taken a number of narcotic prescription pain medications with alcohol, the decedent was concerned and was checking on the shooter. They had recently advised other near and distant family members of the growing volatility of the shooter.
By report, the shooter’s spouse had attempted to remove the firearms when the shooter had fallen asleep in a living room chair, but had become angry and found the firearms and returned to the chair. The shooter continued to consume alcohol and stated the decedent would be shot on sight. Scared, but also having witnessed several incidents of irrational behavior that eventually subsided, the spouse did not report this.
By report, the shooter stated being threatened and was protecting himself from threats made by the decedent. The shooter stated the decedent was larger and younger compared to being older and disabled.
Review of the official records, reports and photographs did not dispute that the decedent was fatally shot multiple times upon entering the home. The front door was separated from the living room by a wall that extended approximately ten feet. The decedent was prone on the floor, feet towards the door. The gunshot entry wounds were the right arm into the right lateral torso and right lateral torso only; there were no other gunshot entry wounds. The shooter was aware of the entry; however, the decedent would not have been aware of the position of the shooter. The decedent’s spouse reported that they would both barely open the door and say ‘knock knock’ before fully entering, and it was believed that the decedent would have done the same at that time.
Multiple relatives of the shooter reported having knowledge of the pre-incident events, including the verbal arguments and altercations. It was determined that no other persons were present or witnessed these events. It was variously reported that the shooter had made multiple telephone calls to relatives and stated that he had been threatened and ganged up on by the shooter’s spouse, decedent, and decedent’s spouse. There was no information to support these assertions as factual or having had occurred. No person contacted made any follow-up with the involved persons to determine a) the veracity of the stated threats; and b) the endangerment of any involved person.
Independent investigation determined that the front door was unlocked, as was usual, so that the relative guests could enter the home as necessary; a prima facie continued invitation into the home. There was no expressed or stated warning of being uninvited. There was no information or evidence supporting any threats by any individual. When the decedent entered the home, the shooter made no inquiry as to who was entering. When asked of this, it was stated that only one other person lived in the home and that person was asleep in their bedroom. The shooter stated concluding that it was an intruder, and specifically the decedent entering the home with intent to do harm.
Moreover, when questioned as to the level of being threatened and reporting the same to law enforcement, the shooter stated that it was blown over – except the decedent and spouse were sensitive about an even earlier public disagreement that had not been disclosed to law enforcement. Prior to the events detailed to law enforcement, the relative guests, shooter and spouse all went to dinner. During the course of the dinner a verbal disagreement ensued and the shooter labeling the decedent and spouse as domestic terrorists. The shooter had become so angry as to abandon the dinner and spouse. The shooter’s spouse expressed concern at the public verbal anger and labeling people as terrorists. The shooter responded that they were too sensitive. It was after this that the decedent’s spouse inquired with the shooter’s spouse about the events and the second verbal argument ensued – which was the only argument reported to law enforcement by the shooter.
Investigation concluded the following by preponderance:
- Applicable law of self-defense had two elements: a known or perceived threat; and b) uninvited entry. Both elements were determined absent;
- The unlocked door was previously expressed as an invitation for entry and remained so, per the decedent’s spouse and shooter’s spouse;
- The shooter had never previously before had a firearm on or near for personal or home defense;
- The shooter remained in the living room, with a loaded handgun, in wait specifically for the decedent;
- Although not required by law, the shooter did not give any verbal warnings;
- The shooter’s spouse reported multiple statements of the shooter that blood would be shed and if the decedent ‘came in the door I will shoot. Do you understand?’;
- Multiple social media posts by the shooter supported that these statements of shooting the decedent;
- The shooter’s spouse, decedent and decedent’s spouse could not see these social media posts - only the shooter and his family could;
- No person, having been aware of the threats, made any attempt to warn or contact any person involved; and
- Upon being confronted by both spouses and responding law enforcement, the shooter expressed no emotions of the event. Most telling was the statement, “I did what had to be done.”
The evidence suggests and supports that the shooter had, with premeditation, fatally shot the decedent with the intent to claim self-defense.
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"We speak for the deceased. To them we owe the truth." AFI-LLC intro video http://youtu.be/OgsvtbSk8fg - Death Investigations and Injury Causation
Dean A. Beers, CLI, CCDI and Karen S. Beers, BSW, CCDI
Cheyenne WY Licensed Private Investigators (No. OL-15-31146)
Board Certified Legal Investigator / Expert Consultant (national)
Board Certified Criminal Defense Investigators
Certified in Medicolegal Death Investigations / former Deputy Coroners
Associates in Forensic Investigations, LLC
A Rocky Mountain West Agency
Expert Consultants and Legal Investigators
Personal Injury, Negligence & Death in Civil, Criminal and Probate Litigation
www.DeathCaseReview.com ~ beersda@DeathCaseReview.com
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