King County prosecutors will be reviewing state self-defense statutes in weighing whether a former Marine was justified when he shot and killed a suspected car thief outside a relative’s Maple Valley home early Tuesday.
The man told King County sheriff’s investigators
he walked out of his aunt’s home shortly after midnight and confronted a man who was inside his Toyota pickup. Deputies say the former Marine, who was armed with a 9-mm handgun, had a concealed-weapon permit.
The man ordered the alleged car prowler to the ground and the suspect briefly complied, a law-enforcement source said. But when the suspect heard that police had been summoned, he got up and headed for a stolen Honda that his girlfriend had parked nearby, a law-enforcement source said.
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The Marine fired at a tire on the Honda, the source said.
The suspect responded by pulling out his gun and firing, said King County sheriff’s spokesman Charlie Akers.
The law-enforcement source said it appears the Honda was then driven toward the former Marine.
The gunfire that killed the alleged car thief did not harm his girlfriend, Akers said.
The man who was killed, a 27-year-old, has not been formally identified. His girlfriend, who was arrested in connection with an outstanding warrant for burglary, has also not been identified.
Akers said questions about self-defense have been brought to his attention.
“Is it possible he (the former Marine) could be charged with reckless discharge (of a firearm)? Maybe. Could he be charged with murder? I doubt it,” Akers said.
Authorities say the former Marine told them he received special training in how to shoot at cars while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Akers added that the alleged car thief was “bringing a gun to commit felony crimes.”
“I think self-defense goes out the window,” he said in reference to the dead man.
Property owners can use “reasonable force” to defend their property, Mary Fan, an associate professor of law at the University of Washington, said Tuesday.
“Usually, you can’t use deadly force to defend your property, but when it comes to self-defense laws, we are in the West and our laws tend to be more protective of the property owner,” Fan said.
“Bottom line is, your use of force has to be proportional,” she said.
Sheriff’s deputies were called to the shooting scene in the 21800 block of Southeast 236th Place at 12:12 a.m. after a report of someone trying to steal a vehicle and shots being fired.
Upon arriving, deputies found the alleged thief dead, Akers said.
The former Marine was questioned and released by deputies.
Kristin Hague, of Maple Valley, identified the former Marine as her nephew, according to KING 5. She said he was at her house for a family get-together.
Hague said her nephew saw the alleged thief and his girlfriend and confronted them.
“All I heard were gunshots, then I came outside and the man and woman were trying to drive away but the car wouldn’t go,” Hague said, adding that the man stood up with a weapon.
Hague told KING 5 her nephew “yelled ‘gun,’ and he pushed me to the ground to protect me.”
“He did it to protect me,” she said. “He loves his aunt.”
Hague said she performed CPR on the car-theft suspect and put pressure on his bullet wounds, but he did not survive.
Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @SeattleSullivan.