LONG BEACH, Calif.— Prosecutors deciding whether to charge a California man who says he fatally shot a violent burglar in the back in an alley as she fled his home face a difficult decision because the case falls in a gray area involving self-defense, a legal expert said Friday.
Long Beach homeowner Tom Greer, 80, told a TV station he began firing after his collarbone was broken during an assault by the woman and a man that Greer discovered in his home.
Long Beach police Chief Jim McDonnell says the homeowner shot at 28-year-old Andrea Miller in an alley.
Greer said he fired at the burglars inside and outside his home, even though the female burglar told him not to shoot because she was pregnant.
Gus Adams, 26, her suspected accomplice, was later booked on suspicion of residential burglary and murder and was being held on bail of just over $1 million. The murder charge is possible because Adams is accused of participating in a felony that led to a death, McDonnell said.
Under California law, homeowners have a right to protect themselves with deadly force inside their homes and in the immediate vicinity – such as a patio – if they feel they are in imminent danger of great bodily injury or death, said Lawrence Rosenthal, a former federal prosecutor who teaches law at Chapman University.
But this case enters a gray area because Greer, by his own account, chased the burglars and fired at them outside his home as they were fleeing, Rosenthal said.
Miller and Adams, who had histories of similar crimes, were unarmed, McDonnell said.
Greer had been burglarized three times before and believed the same suspects were responsible.