The local news reported a recent incident where a homeowner was in his garage with a shotgun and fired a warning shot out of the garage and hit someone who later died. The homeowner was arrested and has been charged with murder. The circumstances surrounding the shooting are vague, but for sure 911 was called multiple times before the shooting and was called immediately after. There are several issues with the calls, primarily the homeowner telling the operator he was armed and was going to secure the neighborhood and then calling back and telling them he fired a warning shot as he is allowed to do by law. There is no law which allows a warning shot and in practice a warning shot is of no use with the exception of old Western movies. If you are willing to shoot, you are aiming to stop a threat. I think the scenario played out with the party happening two doors down, the homeowner confronting those at the party and having words, and eventually culminated in the person who was shot and killed being in front of the garage. Only two living people know what actually happened and the account of one is in the article linked above. It would be interesting to hear how the homeowner tells the tale.

So what should have happened? First and foremost confronting a group of people is a bad idea unless you have a group of people. Simply call the police and let them deal with the issue. If your property is being vandalized then prepare to defend yourself, but never tell anyone you are “locked and loaded.” You can in NC defend yourself and you would be within your rights to eliminate a threat if you are in your home or car without question, but firing a warning shot after telling the operator about your intention does not play well as an imminent threat of great bodily harm. Never, ever fire a warning shot, you are always and only firing to eliminate a threat.

I suspect the homeowner will get some serious jail time and probably a manslaughter conviction. The DA could press forward with the first degree murder charge, but I don’t think that would stick and I know I have enough reasonable doubt that I would not be able to convict on that charge. This is a tragedy for the homeowner and the family of the man who was shot. I’m not sure the truth will ever come out, but had the homeowner simply called 911 and omitted the firearm information and then later held that warning shot until a shot was required he’d be back home with a Castle Doctrine defense.

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