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Homeowner should not be charged
Feb 07, 2013 | 1544 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print

The opinions stated in this article are solely those of the author and not of The Davis Clipper.

A Cedar City man wrote that though he “usually enjoys the opinion of Cyclops”, he disagreed with a recent column. An 84-year-old Bountiful woman wrote this past week that Cyclops is her “favorite writer in the newspaper” and agreed wholeheartedly with another recent column. 

That was the intention of this column when it first appeared 28 years ago this month: to be an often-pointed look at a talked-about topic or incident. Aside from a letter that compared me to Satan, most of the comments have come from rational and concerned readers.

So we begin a 29th year with last week’s news that a Davis County homebuilder was booked into jail for “reckless endangerment” for defending his home and property from an apparent burglary. While I’ve never met the man, friends who know him say he is a cordial and peaceful neighbor. He’s not a “gun nut” or a fanatic; if he says “Make my day”, he’s referring to helping an elderly lady shovel snow.

The charges against him stem from an incident in which he arrived home to find a car with two strangers parked in his driveway and another man exiting the home carrying a pry bar. The homeowner took a gun from his car, ordered the man to drop the pry bar, and, when the vehicle backed out of the driveway, fired a shot at the fleeing car. When police arrived, the remaining suspect ran into the homeowner’s backyard and the man fired a second shot.

The arresting officer agreed that the homeowner did not “intend to hit anyone” with the two shots and that charges would have been more severe if he had intended to shoot any of the suspects. Still, he was booked into the Davis County Jail because he was “not authorized” to shoot into the field or at the suspect’s car.

“I know people are going to have a hard time with his being charged,” the officer admitted to an Ogden newspaper reporter. And he’s right. Neighbors came immediately to the man’s defense, noting he will face legal expenses for the mere act of defending his home.

Technically, maybe he wasn’t “defending” his home and property. The two strangers in the care were “getting out of Dodge” and without the pry bar, the would-be burglar was not an immediate threat. But just as in ticketing (or not ticketing) a motorist for speeding, policemen need to know when to blink.

There’s no history of the homeowner being a menace to the community. He didn’t fire the gun while surrounded by a bunch of schoolchildren. In his mind, he was doing his civic duty to apprehend a burglar and the two accomplices. Taking the homeowner aside and explaining the potential problems with discharging the gun would have been sufficient. Charges need not have been filed.

The man with the pry bar has been charged with one count of second-degree felony burglary and one misdemeanor count of criminal mischief. The other two suspects are being sought.

Maybe by the time you read this column, they will have been apprehended. And hopefully by the time you read this, the charges against the homeowner will be dropped and common sense will prevail. 

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