This story serves to not only reinforce our recommndation not to fire warning shots, but also to reinforce the Reasonable Man Doctrine in law.
According to NBC12.com and other sources, a man in Virginia heard a commotion behind his house late at night. When he saw men dressed in black in his fenced back yard, he ran upstairs and got his gun to defend his home. What the homeowner didn’t know was that the police were responding to a report of a prowler and were at the wrong house.
The homeowner came back downstairs and issued a challenge, “Who is that? Who is that? I have a gun!” He was met not with police officers identifying themselves, but with a pair of red lasers on his chest, at which time the resident moved and fired a warning shot, then ran out of the opposite side of the house to secure the help of a Virginia State Trooper who lived across the street.
Police challenged him midway across the street and arrested him for reckless discharge of a firearm, completely ignoring the reasonableness of his actions.
After a bench trial guilty verdict was overturned, and a second trial on the misdemeanor charge, a jury needed just a few minutes to come back with an acquittal. One jury was quoted after the trial as saying, “The Commonwealth really didn’t have a case. It wasn’t reckless, so it didn’t take a lot of discussion.”
Ouch, that had to sting the prosecutor.
What’s more, jurors said they believed the homeowner showed great restraint only firing one round.
Police, of course, disagreed, claiming that the officers always kept their firearms pointing at the ground the whole time.
However jurors disagreed, citing the fact that cops admitted using their tactical flashlights attached to their guns in the course of their search. One juror said, “You can’t be doing both at the same time, that’s contradictory.”
Yeah, well said.
Reasonable men and women in Virginia found the homeowner’s actions were reasonable and restrained, not reckless.
It’s not a happy ending for the man charged though, as he’s been unable to find a job as prospective employers learn of his arrest for reckless discharge of a firearm and decline to offer him a job.
That’s okay, though, as he’s moving forward to sue the city for negligence for the ordeal. That should bring him five- or six-figures to live on for a while.