You can read it here, or I can give you a synopsis. Two Minnesota teenagers broke into the home of an older man who lived alone. He'd had a number of break-ins in recent history. He got a gun, went downstairs and shot them multiple times. The boy went down first, and the homeowner shot him again. He told police the girl was laughing at him when his gun jammed, so he shot her. Minnesota has a law allowing a homeowner to use deadly force if burglars are breaking into his home, but prosecutors decided he used more force than was necessary and charged him with second-degree murder. The families of the popular teenagers are outraged and say they were role models who didn't deserve to die.
I have many thoughts on this situation, but I'm having trouble expressing them clearly. Hopefully this blog post reflects what I am trying to say.
First, I wholeheartedly agree with the final statement. They didn't deserve to die. They also probably weren't great role models if they committed felonies for fun, and the homeowner didn't deserve to kill them.
I can't really put myself into this situation, because I don't own a gun, I never want to own a gun, and I don't think I could ever fire a shot at a person who was robbing me. Nothing I own is worth the baggage I would carry around for the rest of my life for that. If I thought I was in danger or someone I loved was in danger, the situation could theoretically be different, but again, since there wouldn't be a gun available, it's never really going to come up. Because of this, I have a hard time understanding how the homeowner responded the way he did, which I think was wrong.
But. Minnesota allows for deadly force in this case. Prosecutors can argue that it's excessive, but really, can you get more excessive than deadly? Maybe he didn't "need" to kill them (obviously), but the law allows him to. Deadly means the force caused death. There's not much beyond that. The man used deadly force against people who broke into his home. As far as I can see, his actions are legally, if not morally, defensible.
I could definitely argue that the law needs to change. I don't think defending your house is worth killing someone. I also think that having a gun makes you more likely to use a gun (and deadly force) when not having a gun would necessitate a different, less deadly reaction. (This is obvious, but I'll say it anyway: if you have a deadly weapon, you are more likely to use it. Had George Zimmerman not had a gun with him, he probably would have been way less likely to pick a fight with Trayvon Martin.) Now, defending your life, defending your family — I could listen to those arguments. But not property. The law, however, is not being charged with murder.
The whole situation is just tragic. The man didn't have to shoot them, certainly. That's even more clear now. I don't know what was going on in his head, other than he didn't want to be a victim anymore and he didn't know who was breaking in. But they should not have broken into his home. There is at least some excuse for the homeowner doing what he did. There is no excuse for the teenagers doing what they did. And that doesn't change the fact that they were teenagers who didn't do something stupid and died because of it.
One commenter had words far beyond the usual wisdom of online commenters:
You dance the dance, you pay the fiddler. If you break into homes, bullets are an accepted job hazard. The homeowner may have overreacted in this case, but these so-called role models knew the risks when they chose to break into an old man's home on Thanksgiving, as did this old man when he opted to defend his home in excess. There are no good guys in this story, just another example of the sick sad world we live in.