Florida gas station store owner Mehedeun Hasan, 22, is facing a charge of attempted murder after shooting Rennie Defor, Jr. as he was trying to steal beer worth $36. It is another example of the common law rule that you cannot protect property with potentially lethal force.
Defoe walked out of the convenience store with three 18-packs of Natural Ice beer to his Toyota Camry. Hasan ran after him with his 61-year-old father. Hasan first run in and grabs a handgun. On this way out, he drops the gun and kicks it.
Hasan shoots at the car and Defoe is hit. Defoe later crashes the car and is taken to a hospital with gunshots to the left arm and chest. Defoe has a criminal record that includes charges of robbery, domestic battery and drug possession.
Common law cases often involve the use of snare guns to protect property since direct use of force often involve claims of self-defense rather than defense of property. In famous cases like Bird v. Holbrook, 4 Bing. 628, 130 Eng. Rep. 911 (1825), courts have ruled that “[n]o man can do indirectly that which he is forbidden to do directly.” Not only are such devices viewed as immoral (because human life is more valuable than property), but dangerous because such devices cannot tell the difference between friend and foe. The case however also has been cited for the long-standing rule that no property is viewed as more valuable than a human life. That does not mean you cannot take steps to protect your property and a case of protection of property can become protection of self (with the right to use higher levels of force) when the suspect resists or attacks.
The attempted murder charge in this case is higher than some past cases of battery or assault. It is even possible under the common law for a felon to sue for civil damages, though such successful cases are rare. In the famous case of Katko v. Briney, 183 N.W.2d 657 (Iowa 1971), the defendant owned an unoccupied farmhouse left to him by his parents. It was repeatedly broken into despite no trespass signs and boards on the windows. Briney then wired the house with a snare gun and shot Katko. He was found liable. While this case also addresses the common law rule against man traps or snare guns, it was premised on the principle that that no property is worth more than a human life. The court held:
“The intentional infliction upon another of harmful or offensive contact or other bodily harm by a means which is intended or likely to cause death or serious bodily harm, for the purpose of preventing or terminating the other’s intrusion upon the actor’s possession of land or chattels, is privileged if, but only if, the actor reasonably believes that the intruder, unless expelled or excluded, is likely to cause death or serious bodily harm to the actor or to a third person whom the actor is privileged to protect.”
Jurors do not hold much sympathy for shoplifters or burglars suing their victims.
Castle doctrine laws (or “Make My Day” laws) have in some cases been extended to car or businesses. Some are called “Make My Day Better” law. The pursuit of the victim presents a challenged even under some of these laws. We have seen other cases of pursuit that have resulted in criminal charges against the owners.