castle

In news not from feudal Europe in the 1500s, a man was shot and killed in Greenville, South Carolina Saturday night after apparently trespassing on the grounds of a Germanic castle.

A trespasser was shot and killed by a homeowner on private property in Greenville Co., according to deputies.

The Sheriff’s office says they received a call about a suspicious person on a property on Altamont Road and that the homeowner fired a weapon.

The coroner has ruled the death a homicide.

When deputies arrived, they found one person dead on the property.

A 911 call was placed by the property owner to report a suspicious person on the grounds of the estate. The home owner then armed himself and went to investigate. There was then an altercation of some sort, and the home owner fired at least one shot at the suspect.

The suspect subsequently died.

It is going to be interesting to see how this shooting plays out from a legal perspective.

As a general rule of thumb, castle doctrine—real or figurative—applies when someone enters or attempts to enter the home. There is no information in any of the stories about the shooting that suggests the trespasser attempted to enter the residence. They instead suggest he was shot somewhere on the 30 acres of the castle’s grounds.

Frankly, this doesn’t look very good for the homeowner from the perspective of castle doctrine, and seems murky even under “stand your ground” laws.

“Stand your ground” laws basically state that people do not have a duty to retreat from an attacker before using deadly force in self-defense. I’ve yet to read any implementation of the law which says that you can go looking for trespassers and instigate a confrontation and then be justified in using deadly force.

There are of course subtleties in every state’s laws and we don’t have the exact details of what occurred, but the general strokes of the story—that the homeowner knew someone was out there and went looking for them—does not seem to play in his favor.

Do you think this will be classified as a legitimate use of deadly force, or did the homeowner’s decision to go looking for the trespasser after calling for police set the stage for criminal homicide charges?

Update: Sloan Ellis, the attorney for the homeowner, has provided Bearing Arms with the following statement.

On Saturday morning, March 19, Allen Stephenson was attacked at his home by a man who he did not know.

After repeated requests by Mr. Stephenson, the individual, later identified as Mr. Whitman, would not leave. Instead, he became hostile, and attacked Mr. Stephenson with a knife. Mr. Stephenson had no alternative but to defend himself with his shotgun.

During the incident, a witness called the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office who promptly responded. Mr. Stephenson has cooperated fully with the authorities and will continue to do so.

At this time, we have no information on Mr. Whitman or his motives.