Most people seem to understand that just because you might have a legal right to do something, it doesn’t automatically make that action morally right, intelligent, or the right course of action to pursue.
The fatal shooting of a man in Wise County, Texas is just the latest example of a bad decision that led to an unnecessary death.
At 4 a.m. Friday, Spencer Crandall, 31, began to knock on his neighbor’s door and ring the bell, Wise County Sheriff David Walker said. Craig Rigtrup was inside with his wife and 14-year-old daughter and didn’t know the early morning intruder.
Rigtrup called 9-1-1 to report someone was trying to break in.
“The homeowner armed himself and went outside,” Walker said. “That’s when he saw a man trying to jump a fence that was between his house and his neighbor’s home,” later clarifying that Crandall was trying to climb a privacy fence into Rigtrup’s backyard, about 40 miles northwest of Dallas.
The two fought in Rigtrup’s yard.
“At some point, (Rigtrup) backed away from the man and told him he was armed,” Walker said. “The man kept saying he needed to get inside of the house.”
Then Rigtrup fired one shot at Crandall’s chest, killing him. Deputies arrived to find him dead on the front porch.
The man who was killed, Spencer Crandall, had been suffering from ruptured disks in his back. He had begun sleepwalking sporadically as a side effect of the muscle relaxers he’d been prescribed to help deal with the pain. His wife had found him outside on a previous occasion and was able to lead him back inside without incident.
Rigtrup was right to call 911 and report that someone had attempted to enter his home and was wise to arm himself against a potential home invader.
He made a foolish decision, however, when he left the safety of his home to investigate outside his home. This was a serious tactical mistake that could have easily left him dead and his family defenseless if the man knocking on his door had been part of a set-up for a home invasion.
This case sounds eerily similar to a November 2013 incident in Georgia where a 72-year-old Air Force veteran with dementia was killed by a renter after the renter heard the man attempt to open the door to the home. The renter called police, but then armed himself and went outside to investigate. The old man, likely suffering from frostbite and prone to a loss of speech due to his dementia, was shot and killed for merely walking towards the renter, whom he likely saw as someone who could help him.
Authorities are still investigating the incident in Texas, and have not said whether they feel Rigtrup has a legitimate self-defense claim. The case will be presented a grand jury to determine if charges will be filed.
Regardless of the criminal charges, Rigtrup will have to live out the rest of his life knowing that his decision to leave his home created the circumstances that left a neighbor dead.
Don’t ever make such a mistake yourself. Keep the tactical advantage, stay inside, and cover the door until police arrive. Your job is to keep your family safe, not to go looking for trouble.