Charles Dorsey considers his elderly neighbor to be “family,” and so when he saw a pair of men breaking into her home, he grabbed his gun and went to her aid as his sister called 911.  He encountered the two burglars and held them at gunpoint. One of the men acted aggressively.

That was a mistake.

Police say a local man won’t be charged in a shooting that left a burglary suspect injured.
It happened early Tuesday afternoon inside a home in the 6700 block of Wakefield Drive on the southwest side of town.
According to the police report, Charles Dorsey, 62, pulled the trigger during the incident. He is the neighbor of a woman whose home was being burglarized.
The suspects are identifed as Termaine Braxton, 32 and Anthony Roberts, 36.
According to a police report, Dorsey saw the men run into the home and took action.
Once inside, he ordered them to come out of a back bedroom and lie on the floor. While he held them at gunpoint on the living room floor, Dorsey’s sister called 911.
Dorsey said Roberts was wounded after he fired a warning shot when the suspect tried to crawl towards him. Roberts was hit in the left forearm. He was taken to UAMS for treatment.

Fortunately, the elderly neighbor wasn’t at home during the burglary, though when she returned home she was shocked to discover what occurred. Both men involved in the burglary face criminal charges. Dorsey was determined to have acted lawfully by police.

While laws vary from state-to-state, it is worth pointing out that Dorsey’s decision to arm himself and then confront the burglars is typically only lawful because he felt his neighbor was home and in danger. If he knew she was away from home—off traveling, for example—then his decision to arm himself and confront the burglars might have been a crime.

Why?

As a general rule of thumb, armed self-defense of yourself or another human being is lawful if you have reason to believe that they face an imminent, proximate, lethal-force threat. Mr. Dorsey thought these two men were breaking into an occupied residence where an elderly woman was living, which constituted in his mind that imminent, proximate, lethal-force threat, according to the common “reasonable man” standard.

Law enforcement and the local prosecutor obviously agreed up to this point.

If he had grabbed his gun and attempted to stop the men for burglarizing the home if he knew she wasn’t home, he might be in trouble, as confronting someone with a weapon over property crime is illegal in most jurisdictions.

Things got a little more interesting  in this instance when one of the burglars (Roberts) started towards Dorsey, and Dorsey shot him in the arm with a “warning shot.” I have very little doubt in my mind that if Dorsey was faced with an anti-gun prosecutor that he would have been charged with assault with a deadly weapon or a similar charge, with the explanation that Dorsey should have retreated and that “warning shots” are an admission that they didn’t face a threat that justified a lethal force response.

Fortunately, Arkansas is a state not given to an irrational fear of weapons, nor a culture that gives criminals more rights than the citizens they prey upon.

Nicely done, Mr. Dorsey, but next time, don’t fire warning shots.