A Harris County (Texas) homeowner shot and killed a man he said was breaking into his pickup truck. Based upon the circumstances we currently know, the homeowner may face both criminal and civil charges that may very well ruin his life.

According to investigators, the suspect was breaking into the homeowner’s pickup truck just before 5 a.m. The vehicle was parked in front of a house in the 12100 block of Oak Park Drive when the owner spotted the man inside the truck and went out with a gun. Deputies said  the suspect had an object in his hand  and the homeowner, fearing for his life, shot the suspect one time, killing him.

Somehow the injured man ended up in a ditch near a neighbor’s house. Officials are investigating if he was running away at the time of the shooting.

Deputies said he was alive when the ambulance arrived but died just as Life Flight landed.

Let’s be very clear: if a criminal has broken into your home, castle doctrine, which traces itself back to Roman times, justifies the use of deadly force, pre-supposing that anyone breaking into your home intends to use violence against you.

That was also just as clearly not the case here.  The thief was inside the homeowner’s vehicle, which wasn’t parked in his garage, or the even the driveway, but on the street.  There is no presupposed justification to use deadly force on the street just because someone is stealing from your truck.

Both county prosecutors and attorneys for the dead man’s estate are going to focus intently on why the homeowner left the comparative safety his home and apparently closed the distance with the thief to the point he could see the criminal’s hands.

There also seems to be a question of whether or not the homeowner shot the thief while he was running away. If he shot the unarmed thief while the thief  was running away, then the homeowner’s defense of, “but I thought I saw something in his hands,” isn’t likely to save him from prosecution.

No physical items that you may have in your home is worth putting your life or the life of your family at risk to defend by unlocking your home and stepping into the darkness. You don’t know if you’re running into high school kids pulling a prank, a junkie looking to steal petty cash and items looking for a fix, or a cunning home invasion crew looking to sucker you into opening your door and walking out into an ambush.

Hit your home’s exterior lights. Call the police. Call out a warning from a darkened upstairs window. Whatever you do, don’t put yourself into a position where you’re putting your life (and the lives of your family or roommates) by leaving the relatively safety of your home for the danger of the unknown. Police tell us repeatedly that this is exactly what they’re there for, and officers I know absolutely love the possibility of catching someone in the act of committing a crime.

Let the authorities handle instances like this, folks.

We’d hate to see a bad decision end up costing you your liberty or your life.