From Minnesota comes the news of a burglary, a shooting, and an arrest. I had intended to write a long post about it, but in strolling around the blogs this morning I found one that had already covered it perfectly — Lagniappe’s Lair. He got it right.
Read here. It’s the story of a homeowner who had been burgled eight times in recent years. When two teenagers broke into his home while he was there, he shot them. Clear self-defense, right? Not so fast…
… he shot Schaeffel when he came into view. When the teenager tumbled down the stars, Smith shot him in the face as he lay on the floor, looking up.
‘I want him dead,’ the complaint quoted Smith as telling an investigator.
He dragged the body into his workshop and then sat in the chair, the complaint said. When Kifer began walking down the stairs, he shot her and she fell down the stairs.
He tried to shoot her again with his rifle, but the gun jammed and Kifer laughed at him, the complaint noted.
‘If you’re trying to shoot somebody and they laugh at you, you go again,’ Smith, 64, told investigators, according to a criminal complaint filed Monday.
He then shot her several times in the chest with a .22-caliber revolver, dragged her next to her cousin, and with as she gasped for air, fired a shot under her chin ‘up into the cranium’.
‘Smith described it as “a good clean finishing shot”,’ according to the compliant, and acknowledged he had fired ‘more shots than (he) needed to’.
What’s the lesson for us? Very simple: guard your mindset!
When I talk about why we “shoot to stop the threat” rather than “shoot to kill,” I am talking about exactly this mentality. This man allowed his emotional reaction to the repeated burglaries to dictate his actions under stress. And … it isn’t good. The homeowner is in jail, charged with murder. If the facts that come out at trial are substantially the same as the facts reported in the news, it seems very likely that he’ll be in there a long time.
Right now, while you are calm and not under stress, make the decision that you will use deadly force only when legally justified, and that you will stop as soon as the threat stops. No one reading this page should become the next headline in a case like this. Don’t fall for legal myths about self-defense. Guard your mind!
More lessons to learn here? Sure …
One thing that made this story so bad — although it was certainly already bad enough! — was that the homeowner hid the bodies and did not call the authorities for more than 24 hours. He panicked after the shooting, and did not know what to do next.
If you own a firearm for self-defense, but don’t know what you should do immediately after defending yourself, I’d suggest you join the Armed Citizens’ Legal Defense Network so you can watch their videos. The ACLDN provides legal education for good people — not just about when you can or can’t use the firearm to defend yourself, but also about how to manage your legal safety before, during, and after a self defense event. When you join, they send out a good handful of very educational DVD lectures. Those six DVDs are alone worth the price of the membership ($85/year), but that’s not all you get when you join.
The main reason to join the ACLDN: they provide immediate financial and practical help to people facing the aftermath of a defensive shooting. This is not insurance. Insurance is good! But it pays out only after trial, if you get acquitted — it won’t help you avoid trial, it won’t provide up front money to pay the lawyer in advance as all lawyers require, and it’s to the insurance company’s advantage if you plea out or are convicted rather than acquitted. So instead of insurance, ACLDN exists to help you avoid those problems from the outset. First with prior education, then with practical help, expert advice, and immediate financial assistance after a self-defense incident.
There are other ways to get good legal information about self-defense, including classes from the Massad Ayoob Group (MAG). I can firmly recommend MAG-40 as an amazing, mind-blowing exploration of the legal, ethical, emotional, and practical decisions that surround the use of deadly force.
For those who want the short, simple version, I suggest reading the excellent article at this link: http://www.armedcitizensnetwork.org/3-most-common-post-shooting-errors. It’s enough to get you started down the right path.
I should add that there’s also a lot of very bad and very dangerous advice out there to avoid. Because I want you to stay safe and keep your family safe, I’d rather see you get it from a good source than from a questionable one. That’s why I recommend the resources above.
Good people should not end up in bad situations like this. While I’m sure you would never make all the mistakes this homeowner did, I’d like to see every one of my readers avoid making any of them. That’s why I say we — good people who own firearms for self-defense — should learn as much as we can, guard our mindset, and be prepared to protect ourselves after a criminal encounter just as we’re prepared to protect ourselves during one.
UPDATE #1: You can read the criminal complaint directly at http://www.scribd.com/doc/114525666/Criminal-complaint-for-Byron-Smith-charged-in-Little-Falls-shooting. Meant to include that link above, but somehow left it out.
UPDATE #2: Guilty. Sentenced to life in prison. Jury took only three hours to decide the case. http://www.startribune.com/local/257169671.html