Sometimes my grade school science teacher would veer from science altogether and instead begin class by telling us about an interesting news item that he had read or heard about.
Although it’s been nearly a half century since I sat in this class and with great interest listened as one of my all-time favorite teachers spun what I believed then and to this day still believe were golden threads of valuable knowledge, there’s one story he told us that I never forgot.
Because it was one of those subjects which landed the listener on one side of the fence or the other with no in-between straddling, he believed that even we, young as we were, should hear about it and then decide for ourselves on which side of that particular fence we wanted to plant ourselves.
It seems there was a homeowner whose house was repeatedly being broken into by the same thief. Naturally the homeowner called the police numerous times hoping they could catch the guy and put an end to these break-ins. But apparently the police either didn’t have enough officers available to adequately patrol the neighborhood or they simply brushed off the matter entirely.
Believing this thievery would continue unless he took matters into his own hands, the homeowner decided to set a booby trap for the burglar and for all time take care of the matter himself. So using little more than some string and a few hooks, he affixed a shotgun to a chair and then pointed the rigged contraption toward the window that the thief seemingly always used to gain entry to the house.
Obviously when cocked and loaded the gun would then automatically fire the moment the lock was pried and the window opened.
It didn’t take long before the trap was sprung and the burglar got what most would think was clearly deserved recompense. Somewhat prematurely thinking this ended the story, every kid in class either shook his/her head in total approval or mumbled something like, “Yeah, the guy was asking for it and he finally got it.”
But then our teacher told us to hold on to our horses because there was much more to the story. It seems the prosecutor immediately brought charges against the homeowner claiming he had done little more than carry out a planned execution and therefore, I suppose, had violated the burglar’s pursuit of his Constitutional thievery rights or something.
If memory serves, the homeowner was charged and ultimately tried for manslaughter. I really don’t recall the specifics of the legal jargon, but ultimately it was determined that had the guy caught the burglar coming through the window and shot him at that point the law would have regarded it as having been a no harm, no foul shooting.
But because he had rigged the gun to go off whenever the window was tampered with, irrespective of him being home or not, the law considered it to be a premeditated act, unjust to the burglar, and treated it accordingly.
Coincidentally enough, just recently a similar event took place in Virginia. According to a news article I read, a homeowner was experiencing something akin to what our guy in the above anecdote was dealing with.
These two individuals had on an occasion or two before broken into this guy’s house while successfully managing to avoid being nabbed by the police. Frustrated, this homeowner likewise decided to take care of the problem himself. He waited outside one following night to see if these two would be brazen enough to try it again and, sure enough, they were and they did.
The homeowner, who was armed, entered from the back of the house to confront these determined, if not stupid, burglars. An altercation ensued, at which time one of the burglars was slightly wounded by a gunshot to the face.
Both bad guys then ran from the house with the homeowner in hot pursuit, where another struggle took place. After himself being struck in the puss by the bad guy with the non-life-threatening gunshot wound, as the bad guy was running away, the homeowner took aim and shot him again in the nether region.
For good measure, the homeowner then took a few shots at the vehicle that both men had since entered and in which they were then attempting to hightail it away from the scene.
Because Virginia law stipulates that one person cannot shoot another person who is simply trespassing and who has not demonstrated any intention to do bodily harm to the one he’s trespassing against, the homeowner was deemed in the wrong and formally charged with unlawful wounding as well as shooting into an occupied vehicle.
For this he was given 30 days in jail and required to forfeit his concealed carry permit. He will also spend the next two years on supervised probation, according to the report.
The prosecutor in the case said, “A trespasser, you cannot use deadly force against. If you have a problem with trespassing, the best bet is to call the police or swear out a warrant.”
After my science teacher told us about the fate of the guy who rigged the booby trap in order to protect his family and belongings when the police would not or could not do it for him, I remember the entire class, to the student, experiencing feelings of complete disbelief and anger.
You might say it was déjà vu all over again when, after learning the Virginia homeowner’s fate, this particular former science student again experienced hauntingly similar emotions.