Sunday, April 28, 2019

Idaho Case Illustrates Attacker Doesn't Need Weapon to Justify Armed Defense

Keven Custer

At about 8 p.m. on 5 October, 2018, 27-year-old Keven Custer went to his girlfriend's apartment to pick up some clothes that had been washed for him.

The clothes were not sorted, so to avoid an issue, he did not go through his girlfriend's laundry, and started to leave the apartment.

On the way out, 46-year-old Chris Gunderson stopped Keven, forced him to empty his pockets, and refused to let him leave the apartment.

Gunderson then struck Keven Custer and knocked out a tooth, cracking two others, knocking Custer to the floor.   From
Custer said Gunderson told him multiple times to empty his pockets. When the pockets were emptied, they contained a magazine with eight rounds, a phone and wallet.

A witness told police that the conversation between Custer and Gunderson rose from calm to confrontational quickly and Gunderson reached into Custer's pockets forcefully to remove the contents. The witness said he observed fear in Custer's eyes and it appeared Gunderson was robbing Custer.

"Keven repeatedly asked Chris to let him leave the apartment to which Chris denied and forcefully held Keven in the residence against his will," the report states regarding the witness account. "Chris, with a closed fist, then struck Keven in the face and Keven fell backward against a wall and then to the ground. Chris lunged at Keven aggressively and Keven retrieved his pistol and fired … "

Custer said Gunderson shoved him and punched him in the mouth causing him to lose a tooth.
Later, it was reported that Gunderson said he was attempting to disarm Custer in order to beat him, and that he (Gunderson) was high on meth, marijuana, beer and moonshine.  Keven Custer had a 9 mm pistol, a Springfield XDS, in a hip holster.

Gunderson continued the attack. On the floor, Custer drew the Springfield and fired six shots, striking Gunderson in the chest, abdomen, groin and arm.  Custer then fled the apartment. Custer called 911 and reported the shooting. When the police arrived, the unloaded pistol, magazine, and one cartridge were on the ground. Keven Custer was sitting on the curb, waiting for the police.

In the initial investigation, the shooting was treated as a domestic incident. Gunderson was unable to testify because of his medical condition.

Keven Custer always claimed the incident was self-defense. His testimony was supported by the physical evidence and at least one eye witness.

Keven Custer was charged with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. He refused to plead to a lesser charge and insisted on a jury trial.

The trial took two days. The jury deliberated for 90 minutes. On 17 April, 2019, Keven Custer was found not guilty by reason of self defense. At the trial, Chris Gunderson gave testimony about his use of multiple intoxicants before the incident. 

Gunderson was not armed with any weapon but his hands and feet (personal weapons). The intoxicants he had consumed are not considered weapons.

In the United States, more than twice as many  people are murdered with  hands and feet than with rifles.  From 2013 through 2017, 1582 people were murdered with rifles. In the same period, 3,393 people were murdered with personal weapons (hands, fists, feet, etc).

The standard for self defense in Idaho and most states is if a reasonable person, knowing what the defender knew, in the circumstances of the defender, would have believed they were in danger of death or great bodily injury, they may use deadly force to end the threat.

Many would consider having a tooth knocked out and two more cracked, "great bodily injury".

Keven Custer admitted he had used methamphetamine and marijuana in the past, but did not give specifics.

People who are experiencing difficulties, even with drugs, still have a right to defend their persons and their lives.

©2019 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

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