“I had to shoot him” – A (graphic) encounter between a homeowner and an intruder

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By Mike Sherman

RVer Safety: Chilling 911 call depicts deadly encounter between homeowner and intruder

Includes information from KOMOnews.com

A dramatic 911 recording was released Tuesday that depicts a home invasion that turned deadly.

Last week, a Seattle-area man shot and killed a burglar after he awoke to find the intruder inside his home. The homeowner called 911 to report a burglary at about 2:45 a.m. Monday, April 22, after hearing glass breaking downstairs. Audio obtained by KOMO News details the terrifying ordeal.


Operator: “911, what are you reporting?”

Homeowner: “My house is getting robbed right now.”

Operator: “Hey is that crashing I hear behind you? Is that them?”

Homeowner: “Yeah they broke the window out.”

Operator: “Are you armed?

Homeowner: “Yeah, I have a gun.”

Police said the 35-year-old homeowner was hiding in his bedroom closet while on the phone with the operator.

Operator: “Okay, your door locked?”

Then, gunshots are heard on the recording. According to KOMO, after about 75 seconds of muffled noise, the homeowner responds to the dispatcher.

Operator: “I heard shots — what happened?”

Homeowner: “I had to shoot him. He came after me… please hurry. He’s here on the ground. He’s hurt.”

Operator: “Where did you shoot him?”

Homeowner: “I don’t know, I just tried to shoot, I just tried to shoot for the guy, that was it.”

Officers and medics arrive moments later, but the 29-year-old unarmed burglar died.

Police say the homeowner will not face any charges.

“You have every right to protect your life and family if you are in fear of your life and safety,” said Ryan Abbott with the King County Sheriff’s Office.

Link to audio recording of this event, from KOMOnews.com.

Here’s a link to an interview with the 911 call taker, who was fairly new to the job.

Campers are truly blessed that something like this is extremely rare. It goes to the heart of prior discussions regarding events that can possibly take place, and the discussion concerning the decision to be armed.

I review articles that pop up often highlighting the results of citizen-involved shootings. Unfortunately, news reporters often fail to expand on the facts. Questions such as the distance to the nearest law enforcement officer when the call came in, the prior criminal history of the bad guy, did the victim alert the intruder that he was armed, was a warning shot fired.

One has to question the intelligence of anyone who would just break into a home in the middle of the night, breaking glass that announces their intrusion, not knowing if anyone is home. All too often the suspect is on parole or probation. When the media delves into the history of the suspect we are oftentimes shocked at the number of prior offenses he has been jailed for. The first question is always, “Why in the world was he out?”

Our safety and security relies on a judicial system to protect us. Unfortunately, the system is overloaded in many cases, and the next line of defense is what the private citizen decides to plan for, before tragedy strikes.

Note: We know what we discuss in this column may be controversial. While we invite your polite, constructive comments, inflammatory remarks will be immediately deleted.

Mike Sherman is a retired street cop and investigator with 30+ years of RV experience as a traveler, camp host and all-around advocate for the joys of living on the road. His articles are for general discussion purposes only – you should always consult your local authorities or legal counsel for specific answers if necessary. Write him at MikeShermanPI@gmail.com if you have questions, or leave a comment below. 

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21 COMMENTS

  1. I used to tent-camp and was curious if a tent would have the same status as a house regarding the “make my day” laws. Could I still have the legal protections afforded a homeowner in the event of an invasion by an intruder? I spoke with our sheriff about this and his feeling was that, indeed, the tent would be perceived as my “home” (at the time) and so I had the same protections of the law. I don’t know if this would extend to the rest of my campsite outside of the tent. Nor do I know if this theory has ever been tested in the courts. Still, good to know that the right seems to travel with us when away from the house. If anybody has input on this, I would sure like to hear it! Thanks

    • Don’t call it “make my day” laws — CCW holders are not Dirty Harrys looking for an excuse to blow someone away. Usually, opposite.

      What you’re effectively asking is “castle doctrine” — the right to assume home invaders are not breaking in to read the meter. Many states don’t have this policy at all. Those that do still “prefer” that you make an escape if that is a reasonable option. I would think someone enterring your occupied tent, you have the same right to defend yourself as whatever rights you have when on the street. If you’re not in the tent, it’s probably treated similar to your car, where you can’t use lethal force for burglary if there is no threat to your person.

  2. I am a soon to be retired police officer. I will always be armed until the day i pass. My family and home will be protected as well as i am able to. I dont often mention the sacrifices i have made because my career had afforded my family a very good life. But those who do not wish to work for what they have do not deserve my sympathy. To the homeowner who had to go through the trauma, u have my prayers… to the burglar u got what u had coming… raise ur children to be good people and they will be. Leave ur parenting to society and they will end up like this burglar…..

    • Thank you for what you have done for us during your career. Putting your life on the line for all of us.

  3. When seconds count the police are only minutes away. Always good to hear the victim was not hurt or worse.

  4. If you really want to know what’s happening to Seattle and have access to YouTube, please watch the documentary “Seattle is Dying” produced by KOMO TV. It has become known as “Freeattle” by addicts who’ve taken over the city; free tents, free food and powerless police who aren’t allowed to arrest for heroin possession of 3 grams or less (30 doses!). I’ve lived there since the 70’s and assure you such incidents are the new normal.

    • I have seen that video and it is a real eye-opener. There will be more such places in the near future.

    • Denver is working very hard to go this direction. Very sad to see from a 40+ year native.

  5. Excellent write-up. I was just discussing self defense with my neighbor yesterday who thinks it is terrible that churches are now training and arming people to protect parishioners as a result of recent events. He had no answer to my question, “Ok, then what do you suggest we do during the 10 minutes of shooting it takes the police to arrive?” It’s always terrible when someone has to go through a traumatic situation like this. This person will live with the emotional impact of having to kill someone…but the key words there are, “This person will live…”

    • I think it’s odd folks get shocked at arming churches. They HAVE become targets, so it’s rational and realistic to defend them. The “turn the other cheek” applies to blasphemers, not violence. Over and over, the Bible says to defend yourself physically, an eye for an eye. The wages of sin (murder definitely being a sin) is death. I try hard to avoid having to, but “will if must.”

  6. Another tip from a police friend – if you are armed and hiding from intruders give the 911 operator a password to give responding officers. That way you’ll know for sure who’s getting close to your hiding place. Anyone can say “Police, it’s safe to come out”.

    • As a retired law enforcement officer, this is not a bad a idea. If the dispatcher does not think of it, the caller should offer up the password. Typically, the dispatcher will stay on the phone line with the caller, so the dispatcher can tell the caller when the police have arrived on scene. The password could help if for some reason the caller is disconnected from the dispatcher.

    • Yes, password is good idea, although most cops enter dramatically enough you’d know it’s them. Time permitting, I’d also give the dispatcher a non-removable description of yourself and your location (“Bald fat white guy, 6’2′, making stand in the NW 2nd floor bedroom”). Don’t say “I’m wearing a brown hat” because that’s easily taken by attacker.

  7. Im not looking to shoot or wound anybody but defending my home and family IS going to happen, but seriously what kind of person breaks in a property and doesn’t consider the fact that they could be shot or atleast attacked by the owner or a dog. No reason to give a courtesy call out or a warning shot?

    • NEVER NEVER take warning shots. You’re wasting ammo, and it’s DANGEROUS reckless handling you will likely be prosecuted for regardless of any circumstances. I don’t expect to warn I’m armed, either — a threat is or is not serious enough to justify that, but let it be a surprise when you draw. “Leave NOW, and do not approach” is all the warning attackers should get. Anyone knowingly approaching IS a threat, don’t kid yourself.

  8. Mr. Sherman I appreciate your insightful articles. I live in the state of GA and have a concealed carry permit. Your articles give one many things to consider before you have an emergency. A local gun range posted a armed robbery incident last week where the owner shot the robber and killed him but he chased him out of the store to do it. Their advice is you can’t chase down a perp and kill them when the threat has been neutralized. Good advice to follow.

    • Correct. DO NOT pursue an attacker. Your goal is to end the threat, and if they flee that threat has passed. If they approach, stopping the threat may require using lead, but safety (not shooting) is still your goal.

  9. Alerting the intruder(s) that you’re armed might be just the ticket for them to locate and attack you. I would remain silent until, when and if they track you down. And then is not the time for a warning shot…

  10. Great writeup, Mike. As you say, there are many questions seldom discussed, and I suspect silence adds to the societal hoplophobia. People don’t think defense is “real” and certainly don’t understand the abruptness or awkward response that is typical. People question the defender wasn’t flawless when woken at 3AM by a crash in their own house. Urban people assume police are just a minute away, which isn’t true even in the city. I’ve called 911 three times, and response was about 40 minutes in situations where ‘jerk retreats or I drop the hammer,’ but LEO wouldn’t be in time either way. My current local PD claims a 20 minute response, which is still at least 19 min too slow.

    • Thank you for adding to my vocabulary, Wolfe. I like learning new stuff every day. 😀 —Diane at RVtravel.com

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