Last week, 75-year-old Savu Cirligel spoke with Des Moines, Iowa police about multiple burglaries taking place at his home. Cirligel’s home had been involved in a fire last year so he wasn’t permanently staying at the residence.
“They (the burglars) cleaned my whole garage,” Cirligel told The Des Moines Register.
After discovering most of his belongings in the garage had been stolen, Cirligel took his gun and decided to stay in the home over night. He waited in a bedroom to see if the burglars would return.
“‘I got tired. I said, ‘I’ve got to do something. … I cannot sleep, I cannot eat, I cannot work OK,’ while worrying about the burglaries, he said.”
Shortly after 11:45 p.m., a woman wearing a headlamp and a scarf walked into the residence. She saw Cirligel with his firearm and made it known that her boyfriend was outside with a firearm.
Cirligel told the woman repeatedly that he didn’t want to shoot. He grabbed the woman by the arm to force her out of the house. That’s when she resisted and the fight moved outside.
As the homeowner yelled for neighbors to call the police, the woman took her scarf and began to strangle Cirligel, forcing him to fire his weapon.
“I was sure, I’m going to die, when she choked me that hard,” he told The Des Moines Register.
To keep from killing the woman, Cirligel aimed his gun at her lower torso. Once the woman was hit with the round, she fell to the ground, asking him why he shot her.
“Why did you shoot me? It is against the law for you to shoot me,” the woman said, according to police reports of the incident.
The woman ran to a car and called the cops a few blocks away, saying she had been shot. Investigators later learned the shooting took place at Cirligel’s residence.
“I feel so sorry for her,” Cirligel told The Register. “I wish I never have to use the gun. … But I was so scared, when she choked me so hard and tried to pull me to the ground.” He added that he was also scared because the woman repeatedly said her boyfriend was nearby with a gun, but Cirligel said he never saw an armed man.
Officers found the black headlamp and a glove, as well as a small amount of blood, at Cirligel’s home. Right now the case is still under investigation.
Cirligel had purchased his handgun relatively recently, and he had never fired it before, he said. He bought it for protection, but never intended to shoot anyone, he said.
According to Des Moines police spokesman Sgt. Paul Parizek, both Cirligel and the woman could face criminal charges, depending on what the investigation uncovers. If Cirligel’s story about the woman choking him checks out, he would be exonerated of all charges. He would have been well within his right to defend himself.
“The preliminary investigation indicates she had an unlawful right to be on that property,” Parizek said. “He has a right to interfere with a felony.”
Under Iowa law, a person has the right to defend themselves if they believe they are in danger. The only time deadly force cannot be used is to protect possessions.