That’s what some are saying about the case of a white homeowner who shot and severely injured a 14-year-old black kid who had climbed the fence and was messing around his yard at two in the morning. Excerpts from the Times-Picayune story:
Police said the teen was near Landry’s vehicle when he was shot about 2 a.m. Landry’s friends said the vehicle was in the driveway behind a gate just a few feet from the house’s backdoor.
According to an NOPD arrest warrant, Landry shot Coulter from 30 feet away, evidenced by the distance between the blood found on the ground and the single bullet casing outside Landry’s house in the 700 block of Mandeville Street.
Landry told police that he approached the boy from his front yard, near his vehicle. As he grew closer, he said, the boy made a “move, as if to reach for something” — possibly a weapon — so Landry shot him, the warrant states.
NOPD Detective Nicholas Williams spoke with an unidentified witness who gave an account that differed from Landry’s, though the detective did not specify how. Williams wrote in the warrant that Coulter was not trying to enter Landry’s house and did not pose an “imminent threat” to Landry.
Marshall Coulter, who had been on medication for attention deficit hyperactive disorder, was awaiting trial for “stealing stuff,” his brother said.
“He would steal — he was a professional thief, sure,” David Coulter said. “But he would never pick up a gun, not in a million years. He was too scared to aim a gun at the grass, let alone aim it at a person. No way. Before he’ll ever pick up a gun, he’ll be your friend first.
“He’s still a little boy,” the brother said. “Who pulls a trigger on a 14-year-old? What if it was your little brother or your sister? How would you feel?”
But Landry’s neighbors and friends said they could understand where Landry’s actions. They said that Landry, who has a pregnant wife and baby daughter, believed the teen was trying to break into his house.
“Merritt is a friend. I can’t blame him one bit,” Charles Hazouri said. “He’s got a family. You’ve got to protect your own.”
A little boy? A 14-year-old out at two in the morning, a kid who had a police record for burglary, and who was a “professional thief” in the words of his own brother? Please.
I’ll wait for more information from the police before I decide if this shooting was justified or not, but I tell you, if I found a prowler in my backyard at two in the morning, someone who jumped the fence to get in there (versus a kid taking a shortcut), and it looked to me in the darkness like he was reaching for a gun, like Merritt Landry, I would have shot too. Trayvon Martin wasn’t breaking any laws, and nobody had any reason to think he was. Not so with Marshall Coulter, whose own brother even acknowledged that he was a hoodlum.
I’d say the lesson here is that you shouldn’t jump over the fence at two in the morning and prowl around someone’s yard. They might have a gun, and shoot you. Whatever the legal status of the homeowner’s act, Marshall Coulter brought this on himself.
Hazouri, who gave the tape to police investigators, said the neighborhood endures occasional waves of break-ins and other crimes that set residents on edge. He noted that a couple blocks away, on Spain Street, there had been a home invasion less than two hours before Landry shot the 14-year-old. In that incident, an armed man robbed three people inside a house, according to a police log.
Landry is the father of a baby girl, and his wife is pregnant, Hazouri said.
“He is one of the nicest guys,” Hazouri said. “You have a right to defend your home.”
Louisiana has some of the most expansive laws in the country that protect people’s right to use force to protect themselves inside a residence, business or car, said Dane Ciolino, a Loyola University law professor. But that right generally does not kick in until somebody is physically breaking into an occupied house or car, or trying to do so.
Like the Florida “stand your ground” law that attracted so much attention after the shooting of Trayvon Martin last year by neighborhood watch member George Zimmerman, Louisiana’s law specifies that a person does not have an obligation to retreat if he is attacked or his property is trespassed upon. But the law is very clear that any force used against a possible perpetrator must be “reasonable.”
Again, I’ll wait to see what facts caused the police to determine that this shooting was unjustified. Crooks like Marshall Coulter make life in New Orleans harder on everybody. Doesn’t make the shooting justified, but it does make it hard for me to feel sorry for Coulter.
UPDATE.2: Meanwhile, hours later, on the same street, but 11 blocks north:
A man was shot to death in the St. Roch neighborhood Saturday afternoon. New Orleans police said they responded to a report of a shooting in the 1600 block of Mandeville Street around 5 p.m and arrived to find a 38-year-old man who had received multiple gunshot wounds.
The man was pronounced dead at the scene. Several people claiming to be family members of the victim showed up at the scene, but none wished to speak about the incident, and police have not released the man’s name.
Gosh, I can’t imagine why anyone on Mandeville Street would fear for their lives in the face of an intruder prowling around their backyard at 2 a.m. It will be interesting to see how this plays out politically in New Orleans. A comment from the Times-Picayune website:
I’m a black female. I definitely do not see this as a racial issue and by no means is this a comparison to Zimmerman. ( Zimmerman is a racist.) I believe this man was rightfully so protecting his family. What stranger jumps your fence 2 in the morning and doesn’t have bad intentions. As a property owner who has a family, I would do exactly the same. Are we supposed to wait until we or family are physically harmed to react? The answer is no; protect before family is harmed. At 14 the kid should have been at home. It’s common, currently, for teens on bikes to rob and steal what working people try so hard to obtain. I sympathize for the teen’s family but I also empathize with the gentleman who was protecting his family. Black moms and dads please monitor the activities of your kids, particularly black male teens. Emphasize education!!!!!! Education changes mind sets. Teach kids to learn and earn a living and not take what others have earned.
[H/T: Reader J.P.]