Kevin Fernandes is remembered as a loving father to his young daughter. Josh Henderson was said to be a good man to his family. But both are dead because they criminally entered another man's home and were shot to death. Same for Ken Talley and Johnny Sok. The four of them died, and at least three others were wounded, in eight Seattle-area shooting incidents by homeowners since January. To some in the pro-gun crowd, this is a healthy trend.
After a retired Puyallup police officer shot and killed a man who was attempting to break into his home with three others on April 4, some commentators at ShootersNorthwest.com wished the ex-officer had been better armed. "Too bad he couldn't have full auto, maybe he would have got the other three dirtbags," said one. "They find any Skittles at the crime scene?" asked another, a reference to Trayvon Martin, the Florida teen who was packing only candy when he was allegedly murdered by George Zimmerman, who is claiming self-defense.
Apparently there is bad gun violence and good gun violence. Seattle police and Mayor Mike McGinn last week raged against a spike in deadly crime-related shootings on the street, while gun-rights activist Dave Workman thinks the recent accidental shooting deaths of several children were balanced by the increased body count of home intruders.
The Puyallup ex-cop told police he was asleep when burglars broke in, and he grabbed his gun and fired. One bullet struck Fernandes, 21, of Spanaway, who later died at a hospital where he was dropped off by his three co-conspirators, all of whom were later arrested. One of them had also been slightly wounded.
Fernandes played football and basketball and ran track at Bethel High School. In his Tacoma News Tribune obituary, his family said "He lived life with passion and truly loved his family and friends."
Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist says the homeowner—who claimed Fernandes came at him with a crowbar—acted in self-defense and won't be charged. "When you break into someone's home, you take the chance you will be shot," Lindquist said in a statement. "One burglar is dead, and the others will be held fully accountable."
That shooting came two days after a North Bend man killed an intruder who turned out to be drunk and high on cocaine, police say. Henderson, 30, broke into the home just before midnight April 2 while the man and his girlfriend were sleeping. Henderson's friends had dropped him off in the neighborhood because he was enraged and wanted to fight after a night out drinking. He reportedly banged on the doors of other homes before throwing a propane tank through the homeowner's sliding glass door.
Police said the homeowner barricaded himself and shouted "Leave my house! I have a gun! I don't want to shoot you!" but felt he had no choice. He fired at least three times after Henderson broke open the door to the room where the homeowner and girlfriend were hiding. "They're devastated," Interim King County Sheriff Steve Strachan said, telling reporters the homeowner feels he can never return to the house again.
Could the North Bend homeowner at least have tried to wound Henderson rather than kill him? "You do not shoot to wound," says Workman. "You fire at the center-of-mass. You do not, under this state's sensible self-defense statute, have any duty to retreat, and there is no requirement to wait for police to arrive." The state Supreme Court has upheld such standards.
But not all such cases are so easily justified. Last month a Marysville man, who shot at two teen boys who'd triggered a motion detector as they walked by his home, was himself arrested. The Associated Press reports that Kenneth Aubry told police he'd recently been burglarized and thought his car was being prowled, so he fired two shots in the dark. Charged with assault, Aubry has pleaded not guilty.
And sometimes when a homeowner shoots an intruder, it's murder. Last July, Keira Earhart, 39, of Arlington, was convicted of killing Ryan Rzechula, 25, who broke into Earhart's home. Essentially, Earhart hunted down Rzechula, shooting him in the back three hours after the break-in about a quarter-mile away. It took two trials, but jurors convicted Earhart of second-degree murder. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
As deputy Snohomish County prosecutor Mara Rozzano said after Earhart's second trial, "This is a tragedy of Mr. Earhart's making. He elected to pull the trigger."