Self-defense claims can be complicated.
In our minds, we think it’ll be some kind of a clear-cut case that doesn’t leave any real ambiguity, but that isn’t how it always works out. The real world is complicated and messy. It’s so complicated and messy that sometimes, claims of self-defense are hard to discern.
Tyree K. Williams, 22, accused Max Reed, 31, of Merrillville, of holding him and his girlfriend at gunpoint about 6:10 a.m. Dec. 15 inside an apartment in the 3600 block of Michigan Court, records show.
Williams told police he shot Reed because he was scared for his life, according to court documents.
Reed was shot in the head and pronounced dead at the scene.
Williams told police he fought Reed before Reed left, and that Reed had a nightstick. The nightstick was not recovered, court records state.
Witnesses told police Reed left, but later returned with a gun and confronted Williams and others because he felt Williams had disrespected him, documents allege.
When Reed returned, he entered an apartment occupied by Williams and others while holding his own girlfriend at gunpoint, records state.
Williams claimed Reed demanded to know where a gun was located, so Williams said it was in a closet. Reed ordered his own girlfriend to search the closet, court records state.
As Reed continued to hold Williams, Williams’ girlfriend and Reed’s girlfriend at gunpoint, Williams reached under a pillow for a gun and shot Reed, records state.
Now, the problem is that it doesn’t appear a gun was recovered at the scene, so the claim that Reed had a gun may well be on shaky ground. However, there was also a girlfriend present who could have stashed the firearm after Williams fled from the apartment.
What we do know is that Reed is dead and now Williams is on the hook for having killed him.
Assuming Williams is telling the truth, it’s still a difficult proposition here because the evidence that supports his claim appears to be tenuous. Without Reed’s weapon, there’s little to support his claim of being threatened. Without that, his claims of self-defense aren’t likely to convince a prosecutor, much less a jury.
And this may not be as uncommon as you might think. This could happen to any of us.
Then, top it off with the fact that many states require you to try and escape from an attack before you use lethal force, sometimes even if that attack is within your own home, and you can begin to see the issue. Even if you make sure you’re justified to use force, some prosecutor may decide to go after you because you could have skirted out the back door instead of defending yourself, even if you didn’t feel like you could do so safely.
Honestly, defending yourself is a scary enough action, but then faced with the possibility that you could still be prosecuted? That’s even more terrifying, in my book. One moment can ruin your life, even if you did everything right.