How A Man Answering His Door At 3 AM Landed Him In Some Hot Water

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

If there’s a knock on the door in the wee hours of the morning, especially if I’m not expecting company, I don’t answer without a firearm in my hand. People don’t drop by after midnight without either a damn good reason or nefarious purposes.


I also know that I’m not alone in that. I suspect most of us have a similar policy.

A Georgia citizen was shot by police after the man answered the door with a firearm in his hand [emphasis mine]:

On Friday, a Peach County jury acquitted Lonnie Shaw on all charges.

He was charged with aggravated assault and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, after he allegedly pointed a gun at a Peach County deputy when he knocked on Shaw’s door around 3 a.m. one morning.

The deputy shot Shaw, but Shaw was ultimately charged, even though he claimed he never pointed the gun at the deputy.

The jury didn’t buy the prosecution’s case.

After the not guilty verdict came down, Macon Judicial Circuit District Attorney David Cooke released a statement that seemed to suggest Shaw shouldn’t have had the gun with him when he answered the door.

That statement read, in part, “Mr. Shaw is fortunate to have his freedom, and that his injuries weren’t more severe after he chose to answer the door holding a gun knowing police officers were on the other side.”

However, Georgia law disagrees.

Georgia is a Castle Doctrine state, which means a man has a right to defend his home.


Cooke’s arguments stem from two particular claims. One is that Shaw knew the police was on the other side of the door and the other is that he pointed a gun at police.

Unfortunately for Cooke, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that Shaw pointed the gun at anyone. Now, I can’t say definitively because I wasn’t there, but a jury found insufficient evidence to convict Shaw. That suggests that Shaw may well be telling the truth on this.

The other argument that Shaw knew it was the police on the other side is a bit more interesting to me.

You see, the police failed to identify themselves as law enforcement. Cooke’s confidence that Shaw knew it was the police was his belief that Shaw’s wife saw it on a video feed. Shaw, however, testified that he heard nothing of the sort from his wife. All he knew was that there was someone at the door at 3 a.m.

Cooke admits that what Shaw did–minus the claim of pointing a weapon at police–was legal.

“Legally, you can have a weapon in your hand when you encounter the police,” said Cooke. “I don’t recommend it for the safety of yourself, for the safety of the police, or anyone in gunshot range of you.”

But Cooke said regardless of its legality, he thought it was a poor choice. “There are many things that are legal that are nonetheless foolish and can lead to someone else dying,” said Cooke.


Generally, I’d agree.

However, I also think that a knock on the door at 3 a.m. is a far cry from having a gun in your hand when you approach a police officer on the street, especially when officers fail to identify themselves as police at such an ungodly hour.

Cooke’s comments are a problem because it suggests that gun rights may be all fine and well, but the presence of a police officer somehow negates our right to defend our home, even if we don’t realize it’s a police officer at the door.

Frankly, I think the police should be glad that Shaw didn’t listen to Joe Biden’s advice of blasting a shotgun through the door. That would have gone badly for everyone.

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