A Reminder About Using Deadly Force

A Minnesota man is facing manslaughter charges after he allegedly shot at a group of young men after they tried to break into his home. One of the men later died at the hospital.

According to Fox 9 in Minnesota, David Allen Petterson, 65, told the dispatcher he fired his gun at a car leaving his property after what he thought was an attempted burglary. Three people were found in the car later, which was pulled over by police responding to the initial call. One man was reportedly hit by Petterson’s gunfire and later died.

Petterson told investigators that he was in bed around 7 a.m. when he heard a disturbance near his deck and went to investigate. He reportedly saw a person jump from the deck and move toward the car, at which point he went for his .45 caliber handgun to shoot the tires of the car. He claimed to be approximately 10-feet from the car when he fired. Petterson is in jail and facing second degree manslaughter charges.

Mr. Petterson has yet to stand trial, and we don’t know all the facts. But this story should serve as a cautionary tale. So far it appears that he fired on suspects while they were not in his home and may have been in the process of fleeing the scene. A case for deadly force will have to be made, but “fearing for your life” is not a simple thing to prove. Know the law.

You can’t fire on vehicles as they’re driving away from you. In many cases, you can’t shoot through doors. You can’t always assume that you can use deadly force to defend private property. You must be in imminent danger. In this case it appears, so far, that Mr. Petterson’s life was not in danger. Lives were ended, lives were ruined on this morning. Including that of Mr. Petterson.