Saturday, December 29, 2007

Update on good neighbor Joe Horn

Joe Horn does not look like a vigilante. Overweight and ruddy-cheeked, he might pass for cherubic were he not 61 years old. Besides, cherubs do not kill people.

This will be a tense holiday period for Horn, who will soon learn whether he is to face a grand jury in Houston, Texas, to decide if he is to be tried over the killing of two burglars he saw raiding his neighbour's house. It is a case that has divided Texans into those who see Horn as a hero and those who see a reckless killer. But it is more complicated than that. Joe Horn is white. The dead burglars, Miguel Antonio Dejesus, 38, and Diego Ortiz, 30, were black and Horn's home has already been subject to a racial protest.

Horn rang police on November 14, when the pair broke into his neighbour's house. He was recorded telling the emergency call line that he was going to confront the men even as he was continually told to stay inside his home. He may have been emboldened by legislation, the so-called Castle Law, which was passed in Texas this year and gives people a stronger legal right to defend themselves with deadly force in their homes (or "castles"), cars and workplaces.

"Hurry up, man, because I am not lettin' 'em go," he told the emergency line. "I am going to be honest with you, I am not lettin' 'em go ... If I go out the front I am bringin' my shotgun with me ... I can't take a chance on getting killed over this. I am gonna shoot, I'm gonna shoot ... I have a right to protect myself, sir ... and the laws have been changed in this country since September the first and you know it and I know it ... and a shotgun is a legal weapon."

Warned that he could be hurt if he went outside with the gun, he replied: "Wanna make a bet. I'm gonna kill 'em ..." When told property rights were not worth taking someone's life for, Horn appeared immune to the instruction, as he gave a commentary: "They got a bag of loot ... Here I go, buddy. You hear the shotgun clickin' and I'm goin' ..."

The emergency transcript also detected Horn instructing the burglars, telling them that if they moved they were dead. The order was followed by the sound of several shotgun blasts.

A police spokesman, Captain Bud Corbett, says Horn's defence is the age-old issue of self-defence, and that he will not rely on the Castle Law, introduced in September. Horn instead says he was in fear once he rounded a corner of his house and was confronted by both burglars.

Corbett says comments by Horn during the emergency call were not necessarily relevant to what finally happened. "One can have a specific frame of mind one minute and a different frame of mind the next," Corbett says. "The frame of mind he has while he is in the house may not be the same state of mind when he was standing seven to 10 feet away. It was the deadly force statutes that were already in place [before September 1] that he was relying on when he says he came around the corner and came face to face with those people and they are on my property at that point."

Horn's account is that after he ordered the men not to move, they took off in different directions.

The bravado that seemed to fire up Horn before the shooting had left him when he returned into the house to tell the dispatcher in evident panic: "I had no choice ... They came in the front yard with me, man ... They came right in my yard." Although blasted at short range, one of the men managed to cross the street before collapsing and dying. The other ran to a nearby property despite mortal wounds. "It was that last little bit of energy and adrenalin they were running on," Corbett says. Further robbing the dead men of public sympathy was the revelation that both were illegal immigrants.

Police in Pasadena, Texas, handed their investigation report to the district attorney's office last week, but investigators were awaiting the results of final forensic analysis. "I have not heard of any physical evidence that contradicts [Horn's] account," Corbett says. Horn's lawyer, his friend Tom Lambright, did not return calls.


TX: Guard fatally shoots intruder: ""A man who reportedly sneaked into an east Dallas business late Wednesday was fatally shot by a man who was guarding the place, police said. ... A 24-year-old man who was hired to guard the business told police that he heard a garage door opening, but the remote-control opener had been stolen in an earlier burglary, McDonald said. The guard then confronted the man, McDonald said. The guard said the man approached him in a threatening manner so he shot him with a handgun."

Pa: 7-Eleven clerk shoots robber: "An Ingram convenience store clerk shot a would-be robber Christmas morning, then shot him again as he tried to flee, the store owners said. The masked bandit walked into the 7-Eleven on West Prospect Avenue about 4:30 a.m., said Vicky Bawa, whose family has owned the business for about 12 years. The intruder brandished a knife, jumped the counter and attacked the clerk, said Bawa, 25, of Robinson. The clerk, identified by Bawa as Kaelin Weber, 24, pulled out a handgun and fired. Bawa, who was not in the store at the time, said at least one shot hit the robber inside the store. She did not know on what part of his body. The man ran from behind the counter, out the door and across the street, she said. The gun-wielding clerk gave chase.

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