This weekend, Caleb Gordley, 16, was shot and killed in a home that he mistook for his own after sneaking out for a party. The homeowner confronted Gordley on the stairs inside the home and said that the teenager ignored a warning shot. The shooting occurred after the failure of a “Castle Doctrine” law in Virginia’s General Assembly – a law that we have discussed previously on this blog that gives homeowners protections in the use of lethal force with anyone illegally entering their domicile. Ironically, the bill was shot down by gun groups that felt that the common law offered more protection.
Caleb was told that he could not go to the party because his room was not cleaned up. He decided to sneak out and his friends helped him get back in through a window. He had mistaken a similarly constructed home for his own. He had been drinking. The home is owned by Donald West Wilder II.
The scene is all too familiar to critics of Castle Doctrine laws. We have seen a long line of mistaken shootings of neighbors and others who go into the wrong house in developments with similarly constructed homes. There are also cases of standard home and workplace disputes that lead to fatal shootings.
In this case, there is the questioning of whether the first shot was a warning shot or a miss. However, in these circumstances, there is no alternative account to rebut the homeowner and police are left only with the trajectory of the bullet to confirm the account. The strongest case would be a round in the ceiling where there was clearly no attempt to aim at the suspect. When you add that the teen was drunk, the homeowner is unlikely to be charge presuming the forensics do not conflict with his account.
The Castle Doctrine law proposed in Virginia failed due to opposition from gun groups which did not like the requirement of an “overt act” by the intruder to justify a shooting. The gun groups felt that such a requirement is more restrictive than the common act and opposed the requirement that the intruder show aggression or threatening behavior.
Source: Washington Post