Armed Utah Resident Threatens Use of Deadly Force to Stop Men Fleeing Police

An armed southern Utah resident threatened use of deadly force to stop two men from fleeing police.

Armed Utah resident

Photo by: Adam Bailey

A resident in the small town of Leeds, Utah which is located 16 miles north of St. George heard a large noise on his property and went to investigate. The resident discovered two men had crashed into his fence while fleeing from police. The Leeds homeowner who was armed with a personal firearm threatened use of deadly force to keep the men detained by gunpoint until a law enforcement officer was able to take them under arrest.

Helpful, but was it justified?

The homeowner was likely alarmed by the pair of men crashing into his fence, however was he justified brandishing a firearm to keep the men from fleeing again? Fortunately for all parties involved, the pair fleeing police did not attempt to continue running or threaten the homeowner in any way. Authorities arrived shortly after and the two were booked into Purgatory Correctional Facility on a variety of misdemeanor and felony charges. Had the men tried to leave however, would the homeowner have been justified to use deadly force? Is leaving the scene a reason to defend oneself?

Threatening force in defense of person

Utah Code 76-2-402 states: “A person is justified in threatening or using force against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that force or a threat of force is necessary to defend the person or a third person against another person’s imminent use of unlawful force.” Someone crashing into a fence may be startling at first, however unless more aggressive actions were taken, it likely would not necessitate threatening use of using deadly force against the other party for them merely attempting leaving the scene. Luckily in this case, deadly force was not used and the home owner was seen as an outstanding citizen for remaining calm while helping police.

Utah laws regarding firearms

Utah residents are encouraged to study Utah laws regarding firearms, so they will know for certain:

• where they are allowed to carry firearms,
• when they are allowed to brandish a weapon; and
• When they are justified in using deadly force.

Anyone facing charges for improper use of a firearm should seek legal counsel.

Aggravated Assault for Defending Home from Intruder

A Salt Lake City man was arrested for aggravated assault for defending his aging mother-in-law’s vacation home from an intruder.

The stake out

Photo by: Mesa Tactical

Photo by: Mesa Tactical

51 year old Glen Decker and his wife are caretakers of his mother-in-law’s home in Salt Lake City which is used mainly for vacationing. Upon regular inspection of the home, the Decker’s realized that someone had been breaking into the residence. To put a stop to the burglary, the vigilantes armed themselves and hid out in the dark unlocked home; hoping to catch the thieves red-handed.

Bait, set, trap

The potential repeat offenders took the bait of an apparently vacant home and let themselves in unlawfully, only to be confronted by the Decker’s waiting inside. With a gun in hand, Glen Decker ordered the two thieves to stay put until police arrived. The female suspect complied, while the male suspect decided to make a run for it instead. As the intruder tried to flee the home, Decker shot him once in the abdomen. The chase continued outside the home as the runaway burglar made it to his get-away car only to have the vehicle shot at multiple times by Decker. The suspect later checked himself into the hospital in serious condition for a single gunshot wound to the stomach and Glen Decker was arrested for aggravated assault and weapons charges.

Stand, not chase

Photo by: Elliott Brown

Photo by: Elliott Brown

Utah has a stand your ground law detailed in Utah Code 76-2-402 allowing residents to protect themselves or others from danger by using deadly force if needed. What some may not realize is this does not give permission to be confrontational. The stand your ground law only applies if “the person reasonably believes that force is necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury”. If a suspect is not posing an immediate threat, there is no justification in using deadly force; stand your ground laws would likely not apply for someone who is chasing an unarmed party.

La casa de mi familia

While Utah may not encourage residents to chase and shoot persons who are committing a non-violent crime, there are laws allowing homeowners (and possibly caretakers) to protect their place of residence from intruders. This is known as Castle Doctrine. Utah’s version of Castle Doctrine is found in Utah Code 76-2-405 which discusses “force in defense of habitation”. This law has certain stipulations that must apply in order to use potential deadly force in defending a home. The resident must believe that force is necessary to prevent a violent intruder or to “prevent the commission of [a] felony” in the home. Also, “the person using force or deadly force in defense of habitation is presumed ( . . . ) to have acted reasonably and had a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or serious bodily injury ( . . . )”.

Aggravated assault

Aggravated Assault

Photo by: Chris Heald

Granted breaking and entering is against the law, it does not allow a person to detain a suspect with physical force or violence. If a violent intruder tries to enter your home, stop them; if they attempt to retreat, let them. It is not up to everyday residents to take the law into their own hands unless they feel they are in danger. When someone’s actions have the potential to cause unnecessary serious bodily harm or death, that person may face charges of aggravated assault. Someone found guilty of aggravated assault faces the same penalties as the individual facing burglary charges. Both are considered third degree felonies punishable by up to five years and prison and a possible fine of $5,000. Anyone facing charges stemming from an attempt to stop an intruder should contact a criminal defense attorney immediately to avoid serving time behind bars with the burglar.

Deadly Force Justified in Utah- Legally Defending Self and Home

The majority of states have laws in place that protect residents and homeowners if they ever need to use deadly force while defending their self or home. Since the laws differ from state to state, it is important for individuals to understand exactly what their rights are in their state if they feel threatened by another person.

Stand your ground

frankieleon

frankieleon

Many states including Utah have a law in place that allows a person to use deadly force to defend themselves against an attacker as long as they are someplace where they are legally allowed to be and not voluntarily in a relationship with the attacker. This is called a Stand Your Ground law. According to Utah Code 76-2-402, “A person is justified in using force intended or likely to cause death or serious bodily injury only if the person reasonably believes that force is necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury to the person or a third person as a result of another person’s imminent use of unlawful force, or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.”

Duty to Retreat

Photo by: bark

Photo by: bark

Other states that do not have Stand Your Ground laws may have a contrary rule called Duty to Retreat. While Utah doesn’t have Duty to Retreat laws presently, there is discussion about it in the future. Duty to Retreat laws require that individuals make an effort to leave a situation in which they feel in danger or threatened. If a person tries to retreat but is unable to get away successfully, then they are justified in using deadly force to keep themselves from being harmed. If the threatened individual makes it inside their own home, the laws again differ depending on what state they are in. Some states argue that a home is a “safe zone” and therefore once inside, the threatened individual cannot use deadly force to protect themselves. This is not the case in Utah, as they have laws to justify homeowners who use deadly force if they are threatened when at home.

Castle Doctrine

Photo by: Steam Pipe Trunk Distribution Venue

Photo by: Steam Pipe Trunk Distribution Venue

Castle laws, otherwise known as Castle Doctrine are laws that allow homeowners to protect their self and home from threatening individuals who are attempting to break into their residence. Utah has a version of castle doctrine in place called “force in defense of habitation”. There are stipulations about how and when this would apply however. Utah Code 76-2-405 states that a resident is justified in using deadly force when:
“He reasonably believes that the force is necessary to prevent or terminate the other’s unlawful entry into or attack upon his habitation; however, he is justified in the use of force which is intended or likely to cause death or serious bodily injury only if:

(a) the entry is made or attempted in a violent and tumultuous manner, surreptitiously, or by stealth, and he reasonably believes that the entry is attempted or made for the purpose of assaulting or offering personal violence to any person, dwelling, or being in the habitation and he reasonably believes that the force is necessary to prevent the assault or offer of personal violence; or

(b) He reasonably believes that the entry is made or attempted for the purpose of committing a felony in the habitation and that the force is necessary to prevent the commission of the felony.

(2) The person using force or deadly force in defense of habitation is presumed for the purpose of both civil and criminal cases to have acted reasonably and had a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or serious bodily injury if the entry or attempted entry is unlawful and is made or attempted by use of force, or in a violent and tumultuous manner, or surreptitiously or by stealth, or for the purpose of committing a felony.”

Utah’s Castle Doctrine also applies to any building or structure that is attached to the property where someone may be inside such as a garage or a shed. Deadly force is not justified during the theft of personal property unless someone is inside that property and feels threatened such as a carjacking of a vehicle that is occupied.

Be informed about defense rights

Photo by: F Deventhal

Photo by: F Deventhal

It is important to study and be informed about rights regarding defending self or home. Therefore if the time ever came that an individual felt the need to use deadly force, they would feel confident in defending their actions. For those who are up-to-date about laws regarding when it’s acceptable to legally defend self or home, a criminal defense attorney would still be a wise addition to any criminal proceeding regarding justified use of deadly force.