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Old June 19, 2009, 06:06 AM   #60
Senior Member
Join Date: November 28, 2004
Location: Silicon Valley, Ca
Posts: 7,117
Let's see here... we have 2 versions of the same story.

The OP described what appeared to be a simple tresspass with the teen leaving behind a crack pipe. Trooper's version says the teen was trying to B&E the homeowner's vehicle when he was confronted.

Fact: Homeowner is 69 years old.
IMO, whether he's on oxygen or reasonably fit and able bodied, he's still 69 years old. The body does not recover from trauma as easily, bones are more brittle and the body does not recover from organ damage very well.

Fact: The trespasser/attempted-thief is 17 years old.
Even if he is a habitual crack user, he is likely in much better physical shape than the homeowner. It is typically true that a 17 year old will be faster, more agile and think faster than the senior citizen too.

Fact: The neighborhood has had a rash of thefts and burglaries in recent weeks. This may have sensitized the area residents to the presence of strangers.

Fact: In one confrontation in the recent period a neighbor armed with a shotgun had a difficult time scaring away a burglar. This indicates that some of the criminal element is not easily dissuaded by armed confrontation.

Whether the initial confrontation was "wise" or "prudent", the fact remains that you're legally within your rights to tell a trespasser (or someone fiddling with your vehicle) to get off your property.¹ Trespass is a low-priority crime in most communities. Once the police are called, expect your call to be handled only when no other serious crimes are on the call-list for your area and surrounding beats where your beat officer might have to back-up another officer. That means response times between 15 minutes and 3 hours, if at all.

The teen was told to leave during the initial confrontation and the teen did leave. According to reports, after the confrontation, the elder man found a crack-pipe left behind by the trespasser. Now, whether in the yard or car, he found it on his property and is within his rights to hold or dispose of it.

The teen returned a second time. We do not have the exact sequence of events that unfolded. At some point, the senior armed himself with a .22 rifle. This may have been prudent -- we do not know the size of either man. An argument ensued² and the senior citizen ordered the teen to leave yet again. During this period, after being ordered to leave the propery, the teen started towards the senior citizen who had a rifle. We do not know if the senior citizen could have easily retreated in complete safety.

According to Trooper's report, the elder man used an oxygen tank to assist his breathing. This puts him at a serious physical disadvantage for obvious reasons.

We do not know the demeanor of the teen when he returned. However, having dealt with a few crack users myself and listening to local PD, it is less than likely that the teen returned and said "Golly, mister, I'm sorry to be annoying you once again, but I left a personal item behind that I would like to retrieve." It is likely the confrontation was tense and angry.

Given a 69 year old man with an oxygen tank to assist his breathing, he does not have a lot of easy mobility. Running any minor distance is probably very difficult. He's facing a teenager who is 4 times younger than he is. If the teen is of large stature, this furthers the disparity between the two.

Fact: The teen returned and apparenty initiated the 2nd confrontation³. He initially started to "walk away" but then, turned and "approached" the Senior from an unstated distance.

Regardless of the prudence of either confrontation, the senior citizen was within his rights to tell the teen to leave. Telephoning the police would have been one way to handle the situation. But a low priority call for county sheriffs usually means a relatively long response time.

The largest gap here is the tone of the 2nd confrontation and the sequence of events. For instance, was the elder man inside his home talking through a loose screen door? Or on the front porch, rifle in hand?

The teen does not have to be physically imposing to be a serious threat to a 69 y/o on oxygen. But a "criminal-minded" teenager returning to trespass AND instigating a heated confrontation, THEN approaching a senior citizen holding a rifle, IMO, is a serious threat.

The teen is hostile, argumentative and undaunted by the presence of a firearm and he's decided to approach the elder man. That's not rational - most people would want to increase the distance between them an a gun wielding man. So he's hostile, argumentative AND irrational. Plus the senior is at a physical disadvantage in movement and physical stress.

I'm inclined to give the senior the benefit of the doubt here.

It seems to me that some of us are quick to question the wisdom of the elder man's choice to confront the teen and/or confront him whilst armed. Yet, there is no criticism of the youth's wisdom in confronting, arguing and then approaching an armed man on his own property. Nor of the teen's alleged possession of a crack-pipe. Or critical thinking of the disparity of force between the two men. There are several discussion threads about the dangers posed by an opponent who is up to 21 feet away being able to rush you before you can defend yourself. Yet, this danger is not even discussed, though it is relevant.

If threats were made by the teen during the initial trespass confrontation, then arming himself with the rifle may have been prudent for the senior citizen. The possession of the rifle, in theory, is to protect himself against attack, not to enforce his demands for the teen to leave. In this case, he believed the teens approach was a serious danger and used the rifle to stop that danger.

¹ In fact, in some areas, police will not even respond to a trespass call until after you have told the person to leave.
²According to news reports.
According to the original news article.
I say criminal-minded in reference to Trooper's account of the teen attempting to B&E the vehicle.
The evidence thus presented indicates as much. He fired only when the teen approached him. As opposed to taking a shot to "scare" the teen into leaving, or using multiple shots to kill the teen.
BillCA in CA (Unfortunately)
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