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
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.”