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Nov 26, 2012 by PATRICK EDABURN, Assistant Editor
As always I will try to reserve final judgement until the entire story is out but this certainly seems to go well beyond self defense to me.
First of all, anyone who deliberately breaks into another persons home has given up any guarantee they will leave again under their own power. That said, this guy appears to have killed in cold blood and with enthusiasm. He needs to pay the price for that. At his age it won’t be fun. Tragic.
After reading his account, I find it extremely hard to believe that a 17 yr old girl who has just been shot and fallen down stairs would have laughed when she looked up to see a man pointing a gun in her face!
These two teens had the great misfortune to invade the home of a psychopath. They were wrong, that isn’t a question. They were already disabled by his own admission. He basically confessed to murder, and proud of it! He should be put away for a VERY long time.
“Smith’s brother, Bruce Smith, told the Star Tribune of Minneapolis that the incident was the eighth burglary at Byron Smith’s home in recent years.
The only report the Morrison County sheriff’s office has for a break-in at the home was for one on Oct. 27. It shows Byron Smith reported losing cash and gold coins worth $9,200, plus two guns worth $200 each, photo equipment worth over $3,000 and a ring worth $300.”
Not that this justifies his actions, but it does add some perspective. It sounds like his anger and frustration had been accumulating. Is there such a thing as a breaking point?
People on drugs act really weird. People invading homes can tie you up and kill you very slowly. Obviously we need more details and this incident is pretty bizarre, but frankly until more facts come out I’m siding with the homeowner. Someone breaks into my house I’m assuming they are crazy psychos until I have solid evidence otherwise. It is unreasonable to expect a civilian interested in protecting themselves in their own home to assess a situation like that in a professional manner. It is unreasonable to scare the living crap out of a total stranger in their own home and expect a reasonable, proportioned, rational response. I’m perfectly willing to change my mind based on more information though.
I agree more facts are needed. Very odd happenings for small Midwestern town. Not an xpected venue for such events, if you heard it was a big city in a high crime area it would make more sense. I’m going to bet there isn’t much crime in this town. But in today’s world events like this apparently can happen anywhere.
Don’t discount small towns when it comes to heinous crimes. Meth and other drugs are quite common, and some crims will take advantage of quiet, distance between neighbors, and sparsely-manned police forces.
If the reports are correct then he basically confessed to murder. You should be able to defend your home without concern for those breaking in but you can’t tell cops you “finished them off” or other crap like that. If he said nothing I would be on his side and maybe the defense will say that he didn’t really understand what he was saying but he must be brought to trial with comments like he made.
Hmmmm…. I find it interesting that he worked for the State Department. And he used to travel internationally a lot. I assume for business. I also find it interesting that he was willing to kill two teenagers, even lie in wait for the second one, and then not call the cops because he didn’t want to bother them on Thanksgiving. Didn’t he think he might slightly inconvenience the teens when he shot them dead? I also find it interesting that it was after a conversation he had with his neighbor the next day that it was the neighbor who called the cops. This guy doesn’t seem to care that he killed two teens.
This is when we need our political leaders to step and and say something along the lines of, “Everyone should have the right to protect their home, but no one has the right to take the life of another unless it is absolutely necessary in self-defense.”
You should ALWAYS have the right to defend yourself on your own property. That needs to be the cornerstone of our fundamental rights. With what is known so far, these kids had NO RIGHT to be on his property, period.
He clearly acted stupidly by waiting 24 hours. Otherwise, unless more details come out later, I don’ t see that his use of lethal force was inappropriate.
I’m also not falling for “sweet, innocent children” nonsense. A 16 year old can easily be as lethal as a 25- or 30- year old..
Gotta side with EE, the property owner and self defense. Now if the man shot the kids in his yard and hid the bodies in a shed, that would be 1st degree…
slamfu: “It is unreasonable to scare the living crap out of a total stranger in their own home and expect a reasonable, proportioned, rational response.”
Yes, I agree, and this is the point that is often forgotten/ignored in criticisms of the castle doctrine, and the reason we give the benefit of the doubt to the homeowner in these sorts of cases.*
However, the shocking statements that he allegedly made to police undermine that doubt and the benefit that comes with it. With the standard caveat that we need more info and I reserve the right to change my mind, etc, etc, the info we have right now points to a man who may have acted first out of fear, but finished the job out of anger. I agree with you that people cannot be expected to behave rationally when they are threatened, but once the threat is gone, we should expect rationality to return.
*As an aside though, there is still a part of me that thinks there is something fundamentally wrong with a society in which when we hear someone walking around where they aren’t supposed to be, we assume they are there to hurt us instead of there to check on us because they haven’t seen us in a while and perhaps they think we’re getting a little senile, or because they have a flat tire in a storm and came to use our phone and we didn’t answer the door, etc. Perhaps, given the history of break-ins here, that doesn’t apply in this case, but this is something that concerns me in general with the castle doctrine. I suppose the point is made best by referencing the recent story of a man who unknowingly killed his son thinking he was a burglar.
I don’t know what to make of this. The version offered by the suspect doesn’t sound very credible. Remember he was a retired law enforcement officer trained in the use of guns not just some frighted homeowner peeing in his pants scared. I don’t buy he shot both multiple times in a panic. Sure you have a right to defend yourself but this guy went way overboard. It reminds of a mother I talked to one time about her daughter who had done a stretch in prison for killing her husband. According to the mother she was just defending herself from a husband that beat her. The problem was the daughter shot him nine times(probably had to stop to reload). What got her the prison sentence was the nine shots, it was a lot more than was necessary to defend herself. In both cases the respond was not proportionate to any threat that was apparent.
“What got her the prison sentence was the nine shots, it was a lot more than was necessary to defend herself. In both cases the respond was not proportionate to any threat that was apparent.”
This kind of thinking bugs me. People that subscribe to it, I just want to ask, have you ever been in a situation where you had to defend your life? You just don’t know the kind of adrenaline that comes with that. Not only that, but most people are very reluctant to kill another, even in self defense. They have to push up against a barrier that’s been in place against doing that their entire lives, and in a situation that pushes them over it, they go WAY over. Its natural. I’m not in the least surprised that someone who is pushed that far and starts firing at another empties the clip in the heat of the moment. The terror and adrenaline last well past the point of actual danger ceasing to be imminent. Even trained professionals have difficulty maintaining control.
I will say that how someone describes an event can often be the difference between it being considered a crime. You can describe an event two different way with both being accurate but each giving a different impression. Also after a traumatic event, because even with such seemingly heartless disregard it may have had a major effect on the shooter, some people cover such trauma with bravado affect a facade of uncaring. There also may be other issues having to do with the shooters mental condition.
There was not any statement in the article I read about the shooter ever being in law enforcement.
This kind of thinking bugs me.
As it should because it has such little bases in reality and more about trying to win, or prove a point, regardless of what really happened. Lots of self defense training would have one empty a firearm before halting fire in a in home attack.
“Remember he was a retired law enforcement officer trained in the use of guns not just some frighted homeowner peeing in his pants scared.”
I would point out, and purely speculating on my part, that he worked for State Dept. overseas. Some countries are VERY dangerous compared to the U.S. and could easily leave one with a higher sense of paranoia than would be necessary in the States.
Then again, it certainly feels like our society is fracturing at the seams sometimes, so maybe it’s justifiable paranoia anyway.
The mention that he was a security officer is here.http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2012/11/26/minnesota-murder-haile-kifer-nicholas-schaeffel-cousins/1727455/
Frankly I’m a little appalled by some of the comments trying to justify what this guy did. From the same article:
“After shooting her with both the Mini 14 and the .22-caliber revolver, he dragged her next to Brady. With her still gasping for air, he fired a shot under her chin “up into the cranium,” the complaint says.”
Where was the threat from an apparently unarmed 17 year old girl you have already shot twice?
This guy will probably spend the rest of his days in prison or in a mental hospital.
Yea ok, I’ve come around. This dude is starting to sound like he has some serious screws loose. Even he makes it sound like he didn’t think they were a threat at the time of execution. Just calmly took them out. Then waited a day, not because he was freaked out about killing and needed to talk to a lawyer, but so as not to disturb officers on the holiday.
Minor detail the girl was 18 and the boy 17
This guy — screws loose or not — is still a victim. People broke into his house. He didn’t shoot up a movie theater, he didn’t snipe at gas stations, he didn’t mail letter bombs. He was living by himself, not bothering anybody, and someone intruded on his life.
He was clearly wrong in not reporting it immediately. He is clearly a cold-hearted man. He clearly took it too far. But if they didn’t break into his house, they would still be alive.
Barky: “But if they didn’t break into his house, they would still be alive.”
True, but the issue here is how to deal with the man who killed them. And, with regards to that, the relevant point is “He clearly took it too far.”
slamfu, I’m glad your coming around, but to address your previous argument that it is understandable that the adrenaline and irrationality extends beyond the moment of danger, I understand the point. However, then we have to ask where the line is. What behavior after a moment of danger is acceptable and what is not? If a person breaks into a house and is shot, and then the homeowner runs out into the street and starts shooting randomly because he’s not thinking rationally, obviously such behavior could not be excused. In the end, while I have sympathy for someone who was put in a dangerous situation through no fault of their own, people are still responsible for their actions. When there is no doubt that excessive force was used, they need to be charged. I could understand issuing a lighter sentence than normal, however, if the defendant shows contrition and argues that he or she was not in his normal state of mind given the circumstances.
I’m totally with Barky on the fact that this man’s house was broken into by total strangers and that should count for something. However it is a mitigating factor, and not a carte blanche allowance to do whatever you want to those intruders. There does come a point where self defense, even scared out of your wits in your own home self defense ends, and criminality starts to shift to the homeowner. For instance, I don’t think anyone would say the man would have been justified in tying up intruders and torturing them to death. There is a line. I hope the justice system makes a sensible ruling here, made by people who have all the facts. But there should be a considerable allowance made for the fact this series of events was precipitated by these kids doing something very serious.
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