Shoot First in Action (
by Steve Timmer
Nov 25, 2012, 8:00 PM

All are punished

Here are the opening grafs of an article that went up on the Strib website late Saturday night:

A Little Falls-area man has been arrested in connection with the Thanksgiving Day killings of two teenagers after their bodies were discovered in his basement, the Morrison County Sheriff’s Office said.

Deputies confronted Byron David Smith, 64, at his home Friday afternoon after they received a call of suspicious activity in the neighborhood, which is just north of Little Falls.

The sheriff’s report didn’t describe the nature of the suspicious activity, but deputies said Smith admitted to them during the conversation that he had shot two people the day before when they broke into his home.

Dead are two Little Falls area high school students: Haile Kifer, 18, and Nick Brady, 17. The man who shot and killed them said they had broken into his house, which is apparently the case. Here are a few more details from the story:

Agents from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension were called to join the investigation, which produced evidence that led to Smith’s arrest on suspicion of second-degree murder.

Neighbor John Lange said that Smith’s home had been burglarized at least twice before by area teens and that he might have “snapped” this time when he heard intruders enter a bedroom window. The shootings occurred in Smith’s basement, Lange said.

Morrison County Sheriff Michel Wetzel said “a person has every right to defend themselves and their homes, even employing deadly force if necessary.” But the evidence suggests that Smith went “beyond that point,” according to the Sheriff’s Office.

The only way that Byron Smith could have gone “beyond that point,” really, would be if he marched the teens at gunpoint into his basement and executed them. Perhaps that’s what happened.

If he had merely shot them while coming through a window, well, that would be fine. Seriously. That would be a case of the Castle Doctrine in action. When you’re in your home, you have no duty to retreat in self-defense of yourself or your property against the commission of a felony, which burglary certainly is. That’s been the law in Minnesota since State v. Carothers, 594 N.W.2d 897 (Minn. Sup. Ct. 1999). (Interestingly, this is common, or judge-made, law, not statute.)

Any time you get firearms involved, the results are often so irrevocable, unalterable, and final. Two (probably thrill-seeking) teens are dead, and regardless of the circumstances, the families, the community, including undoubtedly Byron Smith, are devastated. All are punished.

One can debate the wisdom of the law that says you may employ deadly force in protection of your property. That is not my purpose here.

But imagine taking the so-called “Castle Doctrine” on the road, erasing your obligation to walk away from a confrontation if you can — anywhere: bars, street corners, freeways. This is the bullet — literally — that Minnesota dodged when Mark Dayton vetoed the Shoot First bill adopted by the Republican-controlled Legislature this past session.

Thanks again, Governor Dayton.

Update: “The only way that Byron Smith could have gone “beyond that point,” really, would be if he marched the teens at gunpoint into his basement and executed them. Perhaps that’s what happened.”

It seems a version of this scenario is what actually happened.

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