The parents of a teen who was shot and killed when he drunkenly entered a neighbor’s home and was mistaken for an intruder believe it was murder, not self-defense.
After a night of drinking, Caleb Gordley, 16, was killed when he entered a home near his own in Sterling, Va. The homeowner believed Gordley was a burglar and fired his gun at the teen several times.
Gordley’s parents initially forgave the shooter, Donald West Wilder, but new details in the police report, released to them nearly five months after the incident, have changed their minds.
“At no point, from the homeowner’s…testimony, the account of the events, did he ever describe Caleb in any way being aggressive,” Shawn Gordley, Caleb Gordley’s father, told ABC News’ “20/20.”
An autopsy report also confirmed that Caleb Gordley died from a gunshot wound to the back.
“He shot him in the back,” Caleb Gordley’s mother, Jennea Gordley, who is divorced from his father, told “20/20.” “If you’re really in fear of danger of your life and your family’s life, why would you allow a person…that appeared to be dazed to you, walk right past you and then you shoot him in the back?”
Gordley’s parents are claiming their son was “murdered” because he wasn’t described as acting aggressively, and because he was shot in the back.
The law doesn’t see it that way, and for good reason.
It isn’t the homeowner’s responsibility to provide substance abuse counseling, an intervention, or attempt to interrogate an unknown figure who forces his way into a home in the middle of the night and refuses to comply with commands at gunpoint.
Mr. Wilder had mere moments to react to a confusing and chaotic situation, and was faced with an unknown person he didn’t know refusing to comply with demands and continuing to proceed upstairs even after a warning shot, and after the first aimed shot hit him.
Precisely what should Wilder do in such a situation? According to Gordley’s mom:
“You could have…shot him in leg,” Shawn Gordley said. “Instead he lined himself up at the perfect angle to shoot a hollow point bullet through my son’s lung and explode his chest and then a fourth shot at his head for good measure.”
You are either justified in shooting to stop the threat using lethal force, or you are not justified in taking the shot at all.
In my opinion and understanding of the situation, Wilder went above and beyond the call in attempting to communicate with the home invader first, and then firing a warning shot (which is both a tactical and legal mistake, though a good-hearted one) before finally shooting Caleb Gordley.
I understand the family’s pain, but Caleb Gordley’s death is the direct result of his own actions. If he had not gotten so blind drunk that he didn’t know where he was and couldn’t communicate or respond to the commands of the homeowner, then he would still be alive today.
Caleb Gordley put that bottle to his head and pulled the trigger.
I’m very sorry, Mrs. Gordley, but your son wasn’t murdered.
He committed suicide, and has no one to blame but himself.