Virginia Homeowner Shoots Fleeing Burglar

UPDATE: Ooops. Wrong Arlington. This is Arlington, WA, not Arlington, VA. My bad. Washington Revised Code self-defense statute justifies homicide here:

Homicide is also justifiable when committed either: (1) In the lawful defense of the slayer, or his or her husband, wife, parent, child, brother, or sister, or of any other person in his presence or company, when there is reasonable ground to apprehend a design on the part of the person slain to commit a felony or to do some great personal injury to the slayer or to any such person, and there is imminent danger of such design being accomplished; or (2) In the actual resistance of an attempt to commit a felony upon the slayer, in his presence, or upon or in a dwelling, or other place of abode, in which he is.

So it would appear Washington State is pretty similar to Virginia in this respect.

This Arlington man is probably going to trial:

In a police affidavit, Earhart reported that he received an alert on his cell phone Monday that was triggered by his house alarm. He rushed home, saw a man running out and chased him. Earhart told Snohomish County Sheriff’s deputies that his wife’s jewelry was missing and that he had been burglarized before and was frustrated by the crimes.

A few hours later, Earhart again called 911 and told deputies he was looking for the burglar in an area near his home. Neighbors reported hearing shots fired.

On Wednesday, a neighbor called 911 to report finding Rzechula’s body in a nearby creek bed. Rzechula has a criminal history. The jewelry found in his pockets matched what was taken from Earhart’s home.

Earhart has no criminal history. He has a concealed-weapons permit and is a registered gun owner. Records show he was the victim of previous burglaries and thefts.

Virginia, if I recall, is one of the few states that still has self-defense as part of common law rather than as part of statute, meaning it’s an affirmative defense raised in court. Virginia’s court cases show that deadly force may not be used or threatened in defense of property. It may be used, under Virginia law, “to save life or limb, or prevent a great crime, or to accomplish a necessary public duty.”

Hopefully Mr. Earhart has sufficient reason to fear for his life, and has retained a good attorney, but I suspect proving his innocence is going to be very costly for him. It is never a wise idea to employ deadly force in the protection of property. It’s almost guaranteed that you will be forced to explain your actions to a jury, which is a position one never wants to find themselves in.

8 thoughts on “Virginia Homeowner Shoots Fleeing Burglar”

  1. One of the commenters there makes an interesting point about a case from many months ago in which an on-duty cop shot and killed a drunk driver in his car (8 shots, in the back)… cop charged with manslaughter. This guy gets charged with 2nd degree murder.

    Things that make you go ‘hmmm’.

  2. This happened only a few miles from my house. While I feel for the homeowner in this case, I fear he went to far and self defence will be hard to prove.

    There is one part of the self defense statue in Washington Law: If you are found not guilty, the state has to pay all your attorneys fees!

  3. Oh no wait, the guy probably just bled out in the creek bed, otherwise the shooter would probably have taken the trouble to recover his jewlery.

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