A Washington state man was sentenced to 8 and a half years in prison for manslaughter after he killed a neighbor while shooting at a car thief.  Tobin Panton, age 40, accidentally shot and killed 61-year-old Linda Green when he exited his home after noticing his Jeep leaving his driveway.

Tobin Panton, 40, of Bonney Lake in the Tacoma area, was sentenced last week in Pierce County Superior Court on one count of manslaughter in the first degree for the death of 61-year-old Linda Green.

“Instead of calling 911 he took matters into his own hands,” said Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Erika Nohavec. “He didn’t think of any of his neighbors and Linda Green lost her life that day.”

The incident, which occurred last November, happened just after Tobin was getting out of the shower and saw his Jeep leaving his driveway. Retrieving his .40-caliber Glock, Tobin fired at the departing vehicle from his porch until he ran out of ammunition. Pierce County deputies were called a brief time later to a home two blocks away from the man’s residence, where Green was found shot in the head in her sleep.

Detectives discovered a bullet hole in the window of Green’s home that faced Tobin’s porch and numerous “strike marks” on the front of her residence as well as her next-door neighbor’s home.

Undoubtedly, comments will be made regarding Panton’s accuracy, but I also think that’s the wrong lesson to take away here.

First, he used force in a situation that didn’t necessarily warrant the use of force. While I believe anyone who has been the victim of a theft understands the sentiment, firing in a situation where you did not have a legitimate fear of physical harm is a bad idea. It would have been different if Panton was being car jacked, but that’s not what happened. He was safe and sound inside his home when the car was being stolen, so he went outside to shoot at the thief, thus creating a potential for harm where little to none existed.

Second, he failed to account for his surroundings. Panton failed to consider where else his rounds would go. Remember that Rule Four says to know your target and what’s beyond your target. There’s a reason for that. Rounds go through things, after all, and in this case, it resulted in an unfortunate death.

Panton expressed his remorse during his trial, and I have every reason to believe it’s genuine. It’s a shame, but for better or worse, Panton is responsible for where his rounds end up, not just where he meant for them to go. The prosecutor pointed out that Washington doesn’t have a law that permits one to use lethal force to defend their property–which means that even if Panton had hit the thief, he likely would still have ended up in hot water–and the judge noted that he intended to pull the trigger. That intent meant that he was responsible for what happened afterward.

Folks, we all know gun owners who don’t read up on things like use of force laws. While I’m not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, I know enough to know you don’t shoot in a situation like this. Do yourself and your friends a favor. Talk to them about stuff like this, so that we can spread the word that no, this is not how you deal with a fleeing thief. I think it’s the least we can do for Linda Green.