Saturday, April 07, 2007

California shootings offer contrast

Forget protecting your property. It's anybody's who wants it

An off-duty Sacramento County sheriff's deputy fatally shot a man who she said had crept into her Roseville home late Tuesday night and tried to sexually assault her. Hours later, in a south Sacramento neighborhood, a father of four shot and wounded a teenager who he said was trying to break into his car. Sou Saechin, the 42-year-old father, was trying to protect the family car, his wife said Wednesday. Sacramento police arrested him on charges of assault with a deadly weapon. The deputy, who authorities say was acting in self-defense, remains free.

Their cases illustrate where the legal lines are drawn when it comes to using deadly force to protect yourself or your property. "The law does not want people to use deadly force unless they absolutely have to," said Ruth Jones, a professor of criminal law and procedure at McGeorge School of Law. "In the situations when someone is at risk of physical injury to themselves or others, you can meet that kind of deadly force with deadly force of your own." However, Jones said, "merely protecting your property is insufficient reason to use deadly force."

News of the two shootings generated heated debate on the Internet and on radio talk shows throughout the day Wednesday. Nearly all of the dozens of comments posted on sympathized with both Saechin and the deputy. Many readers thanked the deputy for, as one person wrote, "saving the county the money it would have cost to prosecute the thug." Some online readers called Saechin a "hero." Many others said they would have done the same thing and pleaded for the law to be changed.

Conservative talk show host and freelance Bee columnist Tom Sullivan sympathized with Saechin's case and made it a topic of his radio program Wednesday. Late in the afternoon, Sullivan bailed Saechin out of Sacramento County jail, saying in an interview on KCRA that he believed Saechin feared for his safety and the safety of his family.

The deputy has been placed on paid administrative leave, a standard procedure when an officer is involved in a shooting, sheriff's Sgt. Tim Curran said. She has been with the department about three years. She told investigators she came home about 10 p.m. Tuesday to find the intruder in her home on the 1600 block of Sierra Gardens Drive. Police identified the intruder as Charles David Williams, 40, of Roseville. Investigators do not know Williams' motive for entering the home, but they don't believe that he knew the deputy, Roseville police spokeswoman Dee Dee Gunther said. Gunther said Williams tried to sexually assault the deputy when she confronted him; the deputy shot him in the master bedroom. According to police, he was shot in the head and pronounced dead at the scene. Officers would not say if Williams had been arrested in Roseville before, but Officer Jerry Wernli said the department has "had contact with him in the past."

Police are not releasing the deputy's name because she is the victim of an attempted sexual assault. Williams' body lay in the home for more than 17 hours while police investigated the scene. The neighborhood just off Douglas Boulevard, a main thoroughfare in Roseville, is typically rather quiet, neighbors said.

Charles and Patricia Rachoff, who have lived in the neighborhood 17 years, said they were watching television and their front door was open when the shooting took place, but they heard nothing. "The dogs didn't even bark," Patricia Rachoff said, referring to the deputy's two small dogs. "And they always let you know someone is on the property." Rachoff said the deputy rents a room from the homeowner, a male law enforcement officer.

Laurie Kubicek, an assistant professor in the division of criminal justice at Sacramento State University, said when people find intruders in their homes, the law is "going to presume they have a reasonable fear for their safety." "It's 'the home is your castle' principle," Kubicek said. The same protections do not apply to someone trying to defend property that is threatened outside a home, legal experts said.

In the two years the Saechin family has lived on Rock Creek Way, their pickup truck's catalytic converter has been stolen and another car has been broken into, said Ian Saetane, Saechin's wife. Four homes on their block have been burglarized -- including one across the street. So when Saechin saw the home's motion light flicker on about 3 a.m. Wednesday, he went outside to investigate and saw three boys trying to break into the family's Honda Civic, his wife said. Moments later, Saetane heard gunshots. "He was just trying to protect our property," a tearful Saetane said. She said her husband was trying to scare the alleged thieves away when he fired his gun and that "he didn't want to kill anyone."

Saetane said her husband was fearful he may have hit one of the alleged thieves, so he went inside and called police. Officers responded to the scene and arrested Saechin. The boy who was hit -- who was not identified but is a juvenile, according to Sacramento police Sgt. Matt Young -- was dropped off at an area hospital, apparently by his alleged accomplices, with injuries that weren't life-threatening, police said. It is "very possible he may be arrested," Young said.


Tennessee drama: "There's been a shooting this afternoon in Chattanooga. Police say a 38 year old man was shot twice trying to invade a home on West 39th Street just before 3pm this afternoon. Investigators say the man came to the door with a gun drawn. They say the home owner acted in self-defense and fired with his own weapons, fatally wounding the would-be home invader on the porch of the home. Officers say more than likely charges will not be filed in this case. So far, names have not been released."

No comments: