Doesn’t Jibe With the 911 Tape

Apparently the Pasadena man who shot two burglars who were stealing from his neighbor’s house is remorseful about the incident.

Lambright contended that Horn was startled to find the burglars just 15 feet from his front door when he stepped onto his porch. “He was petrified at that point,” the lawyer said. “You hear him say, ‘I’ll shoot. Stop!’ They jumped. Joe thought they were coming for him. It’s a self-defense issue.”

You can hear the complete 911 tape here. I didn’t hear “I’ll shoot. Stop!” I heard “Move, n’yer dead!” followed by shotgun blasts. Syd had a lot more on the event here. John Lott had this to say:

I am however bothered by the advice given by the 911 operator not to go outside to intervene. It appears as if the 911 operator is giving advice that would cover all such cases and I don’t see how that is at all responsible.

Given the circumstances, I’m not sure I disagree with what the dispatcher did. The dispatcher doesn’t know this guy from Adam, and for all you know he might end up causing more problems than he’s fixing, and the dispatcher had reason to believe that was the case.

But he’s a 911 dispatcher, not a family friend offering sage advice. His job is just to keep a lid on everything, and from his point of view, a fella wandering around the scene of a crime with a shotgun is trouble waiting to happen. From my point of view, a residential burglary is a job for the police, but if I’m reasonably confident my neighbors are home, or hear screams or other such, am I going to listen to the 911 guy saying not go outside? We all have to think about what’s right, and keep in mind that agents of the state will act as such, and are more concerned about a good outcome for them, rather than the people directly involved.

I don’t think this guy in Pasadena exercised judgment that was even in the same universe as good, and his lawyer will have quite a job cut out for him. Legally, I believe he’s quite likely a murderer. Whether or not a Texas grand jury will see things that way, we’ll see. I won’t suggest that if they fail to indict it’s a travesty of justice.

19 thoughts on “Doesn’t Jibe With the 911 Tape”

  1. Morally he may be a murderer, but legally, I doubt he is guilty of anything but discharging a firearm in city limits.

  2. Texas law is actually pretty limiting on the use of deadly force to protect property. Uncle lays out what the law is in his post. I think they will have a hard time getting a Texas grand jury to hand down an indictment against him, though.

    Either way, we don’t know what happened when he stepped outside. It’s possible they did rush toward him, and he fired. The biggest piece of damning evidence he has is that 911 tape. He was correct to inform 911 that he was armed, but the bluster that followed is going to greatly complicate his defense.

  3. As far as the Grand Jury not indicting; there’s been a lot of stories recently that – at least in the Dallas area – Grand Juries will in fact indict a ham sandwich. Read an interesting article recently about people who had very clear self-defense arguments that were indicted and forced to plead out because the prosecutors just kept coming after them.

    I don’t know about this case, I really don’t.

  4. I find it morally reprehensible that so many of us claim submission to crime is the proper response of a citizen. It is not. We have a duty to society every bit as binding as that of the police. We do not get the advantage of qualified immunity and crooked prosecutors who almost always side with police no matter the circumstance.

    I find it morally reprehensible that so many of us relieve ourselves of duty and conscience because we have hired a professional force to do for us what we fear to do for ourselves and our neighbors.

    Oddly, I do not find it morally reprehensible if a man declines to become involved because of fear of the criminal or because he is not mentally, physically, philosophically, or morally prepared to do what may be necessary if he involves himself. I, however, will view that same man with pure disdain, if not outright disgust, if he tries to convince me that his decision is based on morality and others who shoulder their responsibility to themselves, family, neighbors and society is a murderer.

    It would not be long before we were all back hiding in caves from the marauders if these weak sisters become our definition.

  5. It’s true that Grand Juries don’t do their job these days, because people don’t know they don’t have to follow the letter of the law if they believe this application of it is inappropriate.

    It’s all going to hinge on what happened when he left the house, but that 911 tape is going to be damning. The best thing we can do is to remember 911 dispatchers aren’t our friends, and anything we say to them is evidence that will be used against us.

    As I said, I don’t think this is a justifiable shoot, based on the evidence I have. But there are circumstances when I think it’s imperative to get involved. This isn’t one of those cases, but there’s no good to come of complicating things by blabbing on with the 911 guy.

  6. One of the reasons I’m conflicted is that I *do* find the current attitude of “F you, I’ve got mine” or “better you than me” to be less than desirable. This isn’t the lady who got beaten to death in broad daylight in central park, but the guy was trying to give a shit about his neighbor’s stuff, which is admirable.

    At the same time, without knowing more than what we do, what this guy did is questionable. Did he give adequate warning, was he too quick on the trigger, etc? But I wasn’t there – I don’t know (and probably can’t know) what the situation was.

    I can say I probably would have gone out the door, with a round chambered and ready to fire. I would like to think I’d give more of a warning before shooting.

  7. He’s probably guilty. I’d say to give the miscreants a chance to run away unless they are visibly armed or threatening. Or just try to hold them at bay.

  8. If I was on the GJ – I’d vote down a murder charge, but might pass a manslaughter or negligent homicide charge. I’m sure the prosecutor will go for Murder with trimmings, though.

  9. If the only evidence was a running thief clearly shot in the back, I might agree the prosecutor would only go for manslaughter or negligent homicide. I think he/she could use the tape as evidence of intent, basically that he intended to kill the burglars rather than let them make off with the loot, but I think a talented attorney could argue he wasn’t meaning to kill anybody.

    I’m probably agreeing with you on what I’d do on the GJ. I don’t think I could go for murder either.

  10. You hear on the tape “Move, n’yer dead!” followed very quickly by shotgun blasts. That would portend that they moved. But in which direction? In which manner? Did they move at all?

    Two on one, there’s a force disparity issue, so weapons or not may not be an issue. Two men can kill a third easily without weapons.

  11. Incidentally – I read someplace (I think either Uncle’s or Ahab’s) that the NRA offers insurance for legal defense costs relating to a shooting incident. (Via a regular insurance provider)

    Anyone heard of that?

    Also, since it was a shotgun… Any thoughts about having the first one in the tube be a less-than-lethal round? (Rock-salt, beanbag, birdshot, etc)? Obviously, it’d have to be pump or break, since IIRC most less-than-lethal loads won’t cycle a semi.

  12. They do, but you have to win your case. If you’re convicted, you’re SOL. It’s also expensive.

    I think LTL rounds are bad news, because LTL rounds have the potential to be lethal. I wouldn’t use them. Pepper spray is a reasonable non-lethal alternative to a firearm.

  13. Pepper spray has enough problems regarding deployment and potential immunity/allergy that I wouldn’t put my trust in it. Plus, it’s another doohickey to carry/grab.

    But I can see your point on LTL loads still being potentially lethal.

    I guess I’d rather kill someone deliberately through misapprehension of circumstances than accidentally because of a LTL round that turned out to be lethal after all.

    Much better to not have to shoot, though (as the vast majority of defensive firearms uses end up being).

  14. I should have stated that more clearly…. pepper spray is not a substitute for a firearm. It’s an alternative to firearm fired LTL rounds. If someone is presenting you with a deadly threat, I wouldn’t use OC. But if you’re in the “force” realm and not the “deadly force” realm, it beats having to fight a guy hand to hand, and possibly lose.

  15. More info on the case here. Looks like they will be going to the grand jury.

    The question will be whether it was reasonable for Horn to fear the men and whether his earlier threats on the 911 call showed he planned to kill them no matter what, said Fred C. Moss, who teaches criminal law at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

    “That’s what makes it so hard and that’s why we have juries,” Moss said.

    Pretty much. A lot of “community activists” are wondering why he’s been allowed to go free. Perhaps that’s because he’s an innocent man. People too often forget that whole bit about innocent until proven guilty.

  16. No – I know you were trying ot get at pepper spray as a substitute for LTL firearms rounds.

    I’m just not sold on pepper spray as an effective LTL weapon – primarily due to it’s disturbing habit of affecting everyone nearby, and secondarily because I know people who can “shake it off” (knew in college, anyway).

    As for hand-to-hand as force, not deadly; I don’t think I can exactly subscribe to that, either. It’s less-than-lethal, true, but at the same level as say, rock salt or a beanbag round. I’m not sure there is *any* level of force that is both effective in almost all cases, safe to the wielder, and reliably non-lethal.

    While philosophically I’d love to have such a beast, right now I don’t think we have have anything between harsh language and potentially lethal. The directed energy weapons they’re trying out now might be, but they’re not exactly man-portable yet, either. There’s a case of needing better battery tech. Also, the ones I’ve seen are more intended to drive off the target than to incapacitate for any longer than the beam is on-target.

  17. He’s not a flight risk and he’s not a danger to the community. No need to keep him in – and there’s something about “Excessive bail shall not be required” in some obscure legal document somewhere…

  18. I guess I am just one of those evil “It is just stuff…” people. During the San Diego Fires a month ago, I left 95% of the stuff in my apartment, simply because I knew it was replaceable, and I knew the important thing was getting myself and Better Half out of the city. I cannot see myself then turning around and killing someone over it. That said, if someone comes into my bedroom in the process of ransacking my apartment, they had better be wearing very heavy armor.

    That said, if this definitely was a self-defense situation, in that he told the burglars not to move, and they started moving towards him, well, hell, I would probably shoot them too. But in a situation like that, was he sure they were moving towards him? Did they just jump because they heard someone behind them? Hindsight is 20/20 and all that, but at the time, those kinds of decisions can be difficult.

    In this particular case, the tape is damning… Way too easy to get something beyond “basic self defense” out of it when he was saying crazy things like that. I was not there, and we probably do not have access to most of the evidence on this event, but I am definitely leaning towards the side of legal and moral murderer.

    ‘Course, for future reference, it might be something of a tossup as to whether or not you stay on the line with the 911 operator once you made your report… Or we all just make a note to mind what we say (valid advice juse about anywhere, these days, what with more and more recording features available to Big Br… er… the government).

  19. To me – it’s not the “stuff” aspect that potentially warrants deadly force; it’s the trespassing with intent.

    IMHO, it is moral for the building-dweller to employ potentially deadly force to prevent his home from being burgled, within reason. And the neighbor was apparenlty a close friend of the building-dweller; so (again, IMHO) the neighbor was acting in the interests of his friend.

    Here’s the big caveat to go with this, thouhg; if the building-dweller had acted in the manner that the neighbor did, I would be just as concerned about his judgement and the “righteousness” of the shoot.

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