Long Island Man Arrested for Firing Gun Into Ground To Scare Off Alleged Gang Members

There is an interesting case out of Uniondale, New York where a homeowner was arrested for firing a weapon into the grass to scare off what he described as a mob of gang members. George Grier had a lawful AK-47 and confronted what he described were gang members who were threatening him and his family.

Grier confronted five men who he said taunted him to use the gun and were soon joined by a large group of as many as two dozen gang members. He proceeded to fire the warning shots into the grass. The police use ShotSpotter technology that tracks down gunshots and arrested him for a D felony reckless endangerment.

Grier admits that he never saw anyone pull out a gun.

Today, I will be covering in class “the castle doctrine” in torts on when a homeowner can used lethal force in defense of his home. Long Island has previously been the focus of such cases. This is fascinating since 20 gang members could be viewed as producing a reasonable fear in Grier. Just yesterday we discussed the case of Courvoisier v. Raymond, 23 Colo. 113 (1896), where a man chased a group out of his home only to fire when a man approached him outside his home from the stone-throwing mob. It turned out to be a deputy sheriff but the court found that Courvoisier could rely on reasonable mistaken self-defense.

In this case, the alleged mob was likely on Grier’s property and within the curtilage of the home. Assuming the castle doctrine or “make my day laws” do not apply, there remains the question of whether (without the appearance of a gun in the crowd) Grier was acting reasonably in firing the warning shots into the ground. Moreover, the elements of the crime include some relatively high required showings by the prosecution.

I believe the following is the relevant state provision:

§ 120.25 Reckless endangerment in the first degree.
A person is guilty of reckless endangerment in the first degree when,
under circumstances evincing a depraved indifference to human life, he
recklessly engages in conduct which creates a grave risk of death to
another person.
Reckless endangerment in the first degree is a class D felony.

He will likely argue that firing a gun into your lawn is not an act of “reckless endangerment” that “evinc[es] a depraced indifference to human life” Moreover, he can challenge the notion that such an act created “a grave risk of death.”
Source: CBS

Jonathan Turley

34 thoughts on “Long Island Man Arrested for Firing Gun Into Ground To Scare Off Alleged Gang Members

  1. How would a bullet behave if fired into the grass, would there be any danger that it would ricochet and hit any of the gang? I imagine if one replaced the grass with concrete there would be such a danger.

  2. Carlyle, a round fired into a lawn would have no chance of a ricochet unless it hit a rock or something similarly hard. The average lawn would absorb the round totally, even if the shot was at a shallow angle. An AK-47 round should penetrate ordinary lawn dirt several inches.

  3. Bastard ought to be glad they weren’t jacking a car in Michigan or on someones property in Texas. There would have been body’s to carry. I wonder how that census worker is doing that got shot by an Attorney in Texas…..she was asked to leave the property….1.2.3.4.ready…..aim….fire….yep….that is what she did…

    Gang members and property. Sounds like justifiable indifference to me….But then again…I was lucky enough to have been born in Texas…the rest got here when they could…lol…dubya don’t count..

  4. This is just part of our indoctrination; if they cannot take away the right to own guns, they will intimidate us out of the right to use them by making bogus arrests at every opportunity. There is a meaning to words and “grave risk” is not just ANY risk, it is a risk that a reasonable person would EXPECT to produce death in another person. No gun owner would ever EXPECT firing rounds into the lawn to produce death in another person, the point here was a WARNING: “This gun is loaded, it works, I know how to use it, and I will defend myself with it.”

    Further, if he had a “depraved indifference to human life” he would have fired upon the gang members he feared, not tried to warn them by firing into the ground. Let me also assert that taunting the man to use the gun is a veiled threat in and of itself, it conveys the message that the gang believes the man doesn’t have the courage to use the gun and therefore the gun does not protect him from their actions. As a demonstration of willingness to use the gun, firing into the ground seems like a better way than shooting a person with it.

    Good luck, Mr. Grier.

  5. Anonymously Yours
    I was lucky enough to have been born in Texas…the rest got here when they could…lol…dubya don’t count..

    =============================================================

    Yes, he does

    On the subject of the thread: I don’t own a gun and have no idea how to fire one or clean one or handled one. If I went into a shop to buy one the police could legitimately arrest me for “depraved indifference to human life” …..

  6. If there were 20 cops that all shot 1 unarmed gang banger, you can bet it would be justified, because they were in fear for their safety.

  7. First of all, we have a big problem when Prof. Turley can write “George Grier had a lawful AK-47…” What the hell are we thinking allowing regular folks to possess AK-47s? If you ask the question, “What is the #1 weapon of mass destruction in the world today?”, a good answer is “the AK-47.” It’s the weapon of choice from the Taliban to limb-hacking madmen in central Africa to South American drug cartels because it is such a good tool for harming and killing human beings. I’m positive that police officers across the country have nightmares about walking into a situation where they have to face off against someone with an AK. We draw a line and say that certain classes of weapons are just too destructive for the average citizen to possess – I say that weapons like AK-47s are well beyond that line, based largely on the number of rounds they can fire, the fact that those rounds can penetrate several standard construction walls (and some body armor) and just how deadly those rounds can be if they hit someone. Scalia can “polish his muzzle” all he wants while he fantasizes about holding an intruder at bay with a handgun in one hand and a phone calling the police with the other. AK-74s aren’t appropriate for protecting your home and family.

    —————————-

    Tony C. wrote, “No gun owner would ever EXPECT firing rounds into the lawn to produce death in another person…” If he had said “most gun owners,” I’d totally agree. I suspect that most gun owners don’t have much of a clue about how bullets ricochet, what’s buried in a lawn or what bullets do when fired into the air.

    Nonetheless, if I was on a jury, and presented with this story, I can’t imagine that I would conclude that firing into his lawn met the standard of “evinc[ing] a depraved indifference to human life”

    But more to the point: in order to strengthen your “castle doctrine” defense, can you ask the mob questions? “What do you plan on doing to me or my house?” or “Should I feel threatened by you?” As long as someone in the mob replies, “We’re going to kick your [rear end}” or “Yeah, you should feel threatened by us,” would that give you “license” to fire off a few shots?

  8. Just a couple of thoughts on tomdarch’s comment above. He states,

    “…based largely on the number of rounds they can fire, the fact that those rounds can penetrate several standard construction walls (and some body armor) and just how deadly those rounds can be if they hit someone.”

    The AK-47 is not much different than an ordinary hunting rifle found in the hands of hunters and sport shooters everywhere. The muzzle velocity of an AK-47 is 2,300 feet per second. The muzzle velocity of a 116-year-old Model 1894 Winchester 30-30 deer rifle is 2,684 feet per second with a 110 grain bullet. A modern deer rifle such as the .270 Winchester has a muzzle velocity of 3,603 feet per second with a 90 grain bullet. There is not much in the way of body armor those rounds will not go through either. The ONLY difference is the magazine. The AK-47 has two standard magazines that hold either 20 or 30 rounds. Most hunting rifles will hold up to five rounds. It is illegal to own a fully automatic rifle without a Class III Federal firearms license, so the privately owned AK-47, like the typical hunting rifle, is semi-automatic. In summary, the average modern deer rifle has a higher muzzle velocity than the AK-47, shoots more accurately and delivers more foot-pounds of energy on the target. You just cannot pull the trigger more than five or six times without reloading.

  9. tomdarch-
    “It’s the weapon of choice from the Taliban to limb-hacking madmen in central Africa to South American drug cartels because it is such a good tool for harming and killing human beings.”

    It’s a very good weapon, no doubt. But the reasons it is so ubiquitous are that they are cheap, easy to maintain, easy to use, and the Soviet Union dumped massive numbers of them upon the world for decades.

    “We draw a line and say that certain classes of weapons are just too destructive for the average citizen to possess – I say that weapons like AK-47s are well beyond that line, based largely on the number of rounds they can fire,”

    Any magazine fed gun can fire lots of rounds. You can even buy 30 round magazines for handguns.

    “the fact that those rounds can penetrate several standard construction walls”

    So can 00 buckshot. And 9mm ball ammo. And almost any center fire rifle round.

    “(and some body armor)”

    Almost any rifle round will defeat the type of body armor that cops use. Those vests are designed to stop handgun rounds, not rifle rounds. A round from an AK will go through them, but so would a round from virtually any hunting rifle.

    “and just how deadly those rounds can be if they hit someone.”

    Hunks of metal fired from guns are deadly period, the AK isn’t particularly deadly. If you had to choose between being shot by an AK or grandpa’s pretty wood-stocked deer rifle, you’d much rather be shot with the AK.

    “AK-74s aren’t appropriate for protecting your home and family.”

    Why?

  10. The “facts” presented are sketchy at best. Were these truly gang members. how did the harassment of this homeowner begin and what part did he play in inciting it? None of this is clear from the facts presented.

    That being said and in light of the Professor’s class presentation of the “Castle Doctrine,” my standard would be anyone who enters my house by stealth and uninvited would draw the full force of deterrent I could muster at their own peril. Then again I’ve read to many thrillers whereby once the intruder gains control of you, the danger of torture/death multiplies.

    I’ll take a pass on this one until more facts come to light.

  11. Two things here jump out at me.

    One: we have only the story of the defendant as to there being a “crowed of gangbangers” outside his house. The exact number of people and any gang affiliation is uncorroborated. “Gang members” is also a racist code word, so he there’s a distinct possibility when the offender says “gang members” he means “black people.” Needless to say, I’m extremely skeptical of the threat the defendant faced.

    Two: Assuming the threat was legitimate, firing a warning shot is a prima facie reckless act. Police officers are strictly trained never to fire warning shots, and with good cause. The laws of physics are cruel and bullets can bounce, deflect and otherwise go places the shooter never intended. The defendant may have aimed at the ground, but he could have easily ended up wounding or killing one of the people in the group outside his home.

    So, even if the defendant can prove he was in immediate fear of his psychical safety, he could still be found guilty, simply because his action in response was reckless. Ironically, he might have had a stronger defense if he had aimed for and struck one of the “gang bangers” than he does now from his decision to play cowboy.

  12. Actually, reading the provision again I can’t see any way that a warning shot would not full under it, even if the defendant feared for his life, unless there’s a statutory defense providing for it.

    Self-defense entitles you to use force against someone who endangers your safety, it is unlikely that it allows you to reckless put others at risk of death, which is exactly what firing a warning shot entails.

  13. “What the hell are we thinking allowing regular folks to possess AK-47s?”

    You don’t actually know what an AK-47 is, do you? Or why it’s relevant to preface it with “lawful.” If you did, you wouldn’t be writing hystrically about weapons of mass destruction.

    Let me ask you this: would you feel more comfortable if it had been a hunting rifle in this story? If you answered yes, continuations, you don’t know anything about firearms, which is fine, except for the fact you’re writing about them like as if you did.

  14. There’s more context if you read the source article:

    ….George Grier said he had to use his rifle on Sunday night to stop what he thought was going to be an invasion of his Uniondale home by a gang he thought might have been the vicious “MS-13.” He said the whole deal happened as he was about to drive his cousin home.

    “I went around and went into the house, ran upstairs and told my wife to call the police. I get the gun and I go outside and I come into the doorway and now, by this time, they are in the driveway, back here near the house. I tell them, you know, ‘Can you please leave?’ Grier said.

    Grier said the five men dared him to use the gun; and that their shouts brought another larger group of gang members in front of his house.

    “He starts threatening my family, my life. ‘Oh you’re dead. I’m gonna kill your family and your babies. You’re dead.’ So when he says that, 20 others guys come rushing around the corner. And so I fired four warning shots into the grass,” Grier said. ….

    …. Nassau County Police Lt. Andrew Mulraine, head of the gang unit, said MS-13 has 2,000 members in the county.

    The man’s actions sound reasonable to me, especially if his claim of the uttered threats are true.

  15. Otteray Scribe:

    “It is illegal to own a fully automatic rifle without a Class III Federal firearms license”

    The rest of your post was great, I just wanted to correct you here. You do not need a Class 3 FFL or any FFL for that matter, to own a fully automatic weapon. You pay a $200 tax stamp, put in for a background check and other paperwork, get your local sheriff to sign off, and then mortgage your home and children to come up with the money to pay for the gun itself. That’s pretty much it.

  16. Mespo you read my mind – Gran Torino – but remember how it ends

    At least you have the right to bear arms, in UK even owning a walking stick can get you in trouble with Mr Law

  17. Jason, good catch. I knew that at one time, but went into brain lock when I wrote that comment. A friend of mine, who is both a lawyer and psychiatrist, has three full auto weapons, two Thompsons and an M-16 and he told me–at great length–what he had to go through to be able to buy and keep them.

    Where I went off track is that the same guy and I discussed forming a small corporation to buy, sell and do some gunsmithing (a hobby of mine) for full auto weapons, which of course required a Class 3 FFL. We never followed through when we found out what the insurance premiums would be.

  18. Sam D. 1, September 8, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    “What the hell are we thinking allowing regular folks to possess AK-47s?”

    You don’t actually know what an AK-47 is, do you? Or why it’s relevant to preface it with “lawful.” If you did, you wouldn’t be writing hystrically about weapons of mass destruction.

    Let me ask you this: would you feel more comfortable if it had been a hunting rifle in this story? If you answered yes, continuations, you don’t know anything about firearms, which is fine, except for the fact you’re writing about them like as if you did.

    ———————————————

    Quite simply, it’s nuts to have hunting rifles in “urbanized areas” (towns, suburbs and cities) for exactly this reason. Isn’t it smarter to store hunting rifles out where they are used, in farmhouses and at gun clubs, than to take them into a home in a neighborhood? In the “defending the home from an intruder” fanta.., er, I mean scenario, isn’t it a terrible idea to end up struggling over either an AK or a hunting rifle, where an accidentally fired round can go through several walls and a floor and hit your own kid in his/her bed?

    My point is that since the current Supreme Court has taken a black Sharpie and crossed out the “well regulated militia” part of the 2nd Amendment, and created the new “individual” right to “bear arms,” we need to take a closer look at where we draw the line between what’s reasonable for the general public to possess and what’s not. I’ll put it a different way: I think that a hunting rifle that can hold 20 to 30 rounds and can be easily modified to go from semi-auto to full auto is over the line.

    And no, I’m no gun expert. Growing up in and living in Chicago, I’ve seen more scars from bullet holes in friends who were caught in crossfire, dead bodies and bullet holes in my own home than I’ve seen AK-47s in person. I’m more knowledgeable about what guns do to human bodies than the intricacies of muzzle velocities.

  19. tomdarch-

    “Isn’t it smarter to store hunting rifles out where they are used, in farmhouses and at gun clubs, than to take them into a home in a neighborhood?”

    So if I live in a city but hunt or shoot for recreation, I should have to own rural property or be a member of a club to store my guns?

    “In the “defending the home from an intruder” fanta.., er,”

    This is insulting as well as ignorant. I can give you a link to a website that aggregates news stories of normal people defending themselves successfully with firearms every day. You might think of it as a fantasy, but it’s reality for a hell of a lot of people.

    “I mean scenario, isn’t it a terrible idea to end up struggling over either an AK or a hunting rifle, where an accidentally fired round can go through several walls and a floor and hit your own kid in his/her bed?”

    I can provide thousands of real incidents but you’ve come up with a very specific and rare scenario that apparently should cancel them out. And this is supposed to justify banning or greatly regulating an entire class of weapons that is rarely used in crime.

    “we need to take a closer look at where we draw the line between what’s reasonable for the general public to possess and what’s not. I’ll put it a different way: I think that a hunting rifle that can hold 20 to 30 rounds and can be easily modified to go from semi-auto to full auto is over the line.”

    Again I ask, why? Long guns in general account for a tiny percentage of crime weapons, less than 5%. And out of that class, many are shotguns or something other than the dreaded “assault” weapon. Fewer still are hunting rifles. Also, the AR-15 class of weapons is one of if not the most popular type in the country right now. And it makes an excellent home defense weapon. It is light weight, has low recoil (making it easily wielded by people of all sizes and strengths) and it actually over penetrates LESS than many handguns and shotguns (depending on the ammo used). Again, why should it and weapons like it be banned?

    Fully automatic weapons, legal or not, are for statistical purposes a non-issue.

    “And no, I’m no gun expert. Growing up in and living in Chicago, I’ve seen more scars from bullet holes in friends who were caught in crossfire, dead bodies and bullet holes in my own home than I’ve seen AK-47s in person. I’m more knowledgeable about what guns do to human bodies than the intricacies of muzzle velocities.”

    If you are going to take a strong stand on any issue, you should make an effort to know what you are talking about. Any gun can do horrible things to bodies, that is an emotional argument that has nothing to do with going after an entire class of weapons.

  20. My dear tomdarch,

    You have missed some logical points in your argument. For example, bringing rifles into towns or suburbs. Let us stop and think about this for a moment. Most gun owners use the firearm for hunting, far more so than shooting at a range. Also, many firearm owners do not go to a range for target shooting. Given a suitable backstop, such as a dirt embankment, many people plink away at tin cans, paper targets and empty soft drink bottles–all very safely. In many areas around the country, there are no gun clubs or shooting ranges. Also, many clubs and ranges work like public golf courses. You show up, pay your fee, shoot some rounds off and go home. No membership and no ongoing fees.

    Suppose you are a hunter who goes out and bags a deer, some squirrels or a duck or two. What are you going to do with the gun? First of all, it must be disassembled, cleaned, put back together and back into the gun carrying case. Then where are you going to stash it? What farm house? I do not own a farm house. What gun club? In the woods where we are likely to find wild game, there are no gun clubs. I am not going to go looking for a firing range or club that might be over in the next county thirty to fifty miles away while I have meat in the back of my truck that is going to spoil if I do not get the carcass cleaned, cut up and refrigerated. Furthermore, the only gun club anywhere near my home has no storage facility. Why is that, you might ask?

    The reason is simple. No one would use such a storage facility. A decent rifle or shotgun may cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars up to the the price of a late model used car. I have an attorney friend who has a $15,000 shotgun he uses for competition skeet shooting. Do you think he is going to go off and leave that piece of hand-crafted Swedish hardware at some gun club storage shed? Do you think I am going to leave my antique .50 caliber black powder rifle with just anyone? I don’t think so. I keep it in a locked gun cabinet when at home, which is where it belongs when not in use.

    My friend, I think your concerns are misplaced. Before making an argument, it is best to get your facts and casualty statistics in good working order before engaging in said argument.

  21. “I’m more knowledgeable about what guns do to human bodies than the intricacies of muzzle velocities.”

    You were the one who brought up the supposedly greater killing power of the AK47 vs. other firearms. Yet when given evidence that you were wrong, you’re response is “I don’t care the intricacies of muzzle velocities”, which is reads more like “I don’t care about the intricacies of facts if they contradict my specious argument.”

    It’s quite clear that you have no intellectual honesty and any conversation with you is a waste of time.

  22. I have been reflecting on this comment by tomdarch:

    “I’m more knowledgeable about what guns do to human bodies than the intricacies of muzzle velocities.”

    I daresay I have seen more dead bodies than tomdarch. My family has been in the funeral business for more than a century. The first time I ever saw a dead body in the morgue, it was a hobo that had misjudged his jump onto a freight train. I got quite an anatomy lesson that day. I was five years old.

    I recently worked on a case where a fellow got upset with his wife and the closest thing to hand was his golf clubs. Worked her over pretty good with a five iron. Then there was argument over a pool bet and the weapon of choice was the pool cue. Or the guy who got upset with his father while out on the patio. He picked up a fancy cast iron patio chair and beat his father to death with it. Those are three examples of murders that resulted in more carnage than any gunshot I ever saw, with the exception of the man who put the muzzle of a 12 gauge shotgun under his chin and pulled the trigger. Even then, the patio chair did a bit more damage than the shotgun.

    I do not know why I bothered to write this. The referred commenter seems to be logic-proof.

  23. It is sad the police sided with the criminals. He should have lied and said he saw a gun. Instead he was honest to his own detriment. I can’t see a jury convicting him. I live in PA and a guy saw someone trying to break into his car. He fired warning shots in the air, which is much more dangerous. The cops didn’t do anything. We have a stand you ground law. New York and especially NYC need to allow people to defend themselves and their family.

  24. This is the exact reason why so many knuckle heads are running around doing nothing but disturbing law biding citizens. I’m sure those retards that were in front of his house were starting problems. He shot a warning shot in to ground? Good….they should be thankful it wasn’t one of their heads. I’m so sick and tired of all the BS with gun laws and restrictions brought upon the majority because of stupid actions of the minority. If we had more laws in NY like there are in TX there would be less of ts BS as most people would think twice of doing things such as these, or even worse, shooting up areas where there are gun free zones, like schools. I know it’s off topic but when was the last time some idiot ran into a court room and tried killing people there? or ran into a police station? not going to do it since there are armed people in there…..you fight fire with fire and guns with guns…PERIOD…dam country is raising nothing but a bunch of pu**ies in the last 20 years.

  25. Thanks , I have recently been looking for information approximately this subject for ages and yours
    is the greatest I’ve discovered till now. But, what about the conclusion?
    Are you sure concerning the source?

  26. Come see why this product is for everyone and why Nerium’s business model may be perfect for
    you, too. 95 you can become an Independent Brand Partner which
    will allow you to earn commissions on product sales, buy products
    at wholesale prices and sponsor other Independent Brand Partners.
    Lantana’s tiny flowers blossom in groups of round clusters.

  27. Excellent post. I was checking constantly this blog and I am impressed!
    Extremely helpful information specially the last part :) I care for such information a lot.

    I was looking for this certain info for a very long time.
    Thank you and good luck.

  28. I all the time used to study piece of writing in news papers but now as I
    am a user of net therefore from now I am using net for articles,
    thanks to web.

Comments are closed.