The Minnesota “home invasion” shooting that led to the arrest of the homeowner in manslaughter charges within hours of the incident was every bit as bad as we thought it must have been to warrant the arrest of the homeowner so quickly after the crime.
Madelia is the kind of place, as one resident put it, where “you can dial a wrong number and still wind up talking to the person for half an hour.”
Which made it all the more shocking for many here Monday when they learned that a local farmer now faces criminal charges in the shooting death of a teenager who allegedly trespassed on his property early Saturday.
David A. Pettersen, 65, was charged Monday in Watonwan County District Court with second-degree manslaughter and intentional discharge of a firearm in connection with the death of Nicolas T. Embertson, 19, of Madelia.
Pettersen, who suspected that someone was breaking into his house after he heard a commotion on his deck, shot at the car Embertson was driving as it left his property, killing the teenager, according to the criminal charges.
“It’s damn tragic,” said Dennis Freitag, who tends bar at the local American Legion. “One young man lost his life, and another man is fighting a struggle in the legal system. You don’t expect it here.”
As I noted yesterday:
…the fact that Pettersen has been arrested under suspicion of manslaughter this soon after the shooting strongly suggests to me that he opened fire on the suspects when they were not in his home posing a credible deadly force threat.
Remember, folks, that you cannot generally use deadly force to protect property in most of the nation, that you cannot shoot through doors (as Theodore Wafer found out the hard way), and that you cannot fire on fleeing people.
I’m confident that Mr. Pettersen probably trotted out some version of the “I was in fear for my life” argument as he explained his decision to open fire. That means nothing. That phrase is just empty words, and it doesn’t mean that your fears nor your actions were reasonable nor in the scope of the law.
It doesn’t appear that we lost a future cancer researcher in the death of Nick Embertson, but the alleged drug abuser does not appear to have done anything warranting being shot, nor does his unnamed co-conspirator.
That Pettersen doesn’t have the first clue about the lawful use of deadly force is self-evident in the police description of the shooting, which was based on testimony from the surviving teen suspects and Pettersen.
The shooting took place after Embertson and two other teenagers — Kyle T. Nason, 18, of Sleepy Eye, and Cornelius Ayers Jr., 18, of Madelia — went to the Pettersen home about 7 a.m. Saturday to “case” it for a burglary.
According to the criminal complaint:
Embertson and Ayers boosted Nason onto a deck, where Pettersen, awakened by the commotion, confronted him. Nason told police that he then jumped from the deck to the ground about 10 feet below, breaking his ankle.
Once the teenagers got back to their car and began driving away, Nason said, he heard two loud bangs and Embertson say, “I think I’ve been hit.”
Embertson, who was driving, lost consciousness and the car went off the driveway. At that point, Nason took over behind the wheel.
Pettersen, meanwhile, told authorities that he was in bed when he heard someone trying to open a door. He looked out a bedroom window and saw someone on his deck. He said that’s when he confronted the person later identified as Nason.
Pettersen then looked out his kitchen window and saw Nason crawling toward the car. Pettersen got a .45-caliber handgun and as he left the house through the garage, saw the car pass by within about 10 feet of him.
He fired two or three shots as the car went by, and told authorities that he was aiming for the front driver’s side tire. He then went inside, called 911, and remained at the house.
At no point had any of the teens attempted to force entry into the home. Pettersen was not physically or verbally threatened by any of the teens. Pettersen confronted Nason and the scared teen broke his ankle jumping off the deck, then crawled away. Pettersen obtained a .45 handgun, and then opened fire into the occupied vehicle as the car driven by Embertson drove away.
This was not remotely a lawful shooting, which is why police so quickly arrested Pettersen.
Both Ayers and Nason could end being charged for their roles in the burglary scouting mission gone wrong, but it does not appear that charges have been filed against them at this time.