Homeowner, 80, who shot dead fleeing burglar awaits decision on charges
Prosecutors in California are waiting for the results of a police investigation into the killing of a burglar by an 80-year-old homeowner who says he shot the woman in the back as she fled his home and ran down an alley.
Tom Greer, of Long Beach, told KNTV that the burglar had said she was pregnant and asked him not to fire but he shot her twice in the back anyway. An autopsy later found that Andrea Miller, 28, was not pregnant, said Ed Winter, coroner's spokesman.
Prosecutors filed murder, burglary, robbery and weapons-related charges against Gus Adams, 26, a suspected accomplice of Miller. Long Beach police said Adams' mother, Ruby Adams, was also involved and was arrested..
Police Chief Jim McDonnell said Greer came home around 9pm on Tuesday and surprised Adams and Miller, who were trying to break into a safe. They assaulted him, breaking his collarbone, before he was able to get a handgun, the chief said.
Police said he fired shots inside and outside his house.
Under California law, homeowners have a right to protect themselves with deadly force inside their homes and in the immediate vicinity - such as a patio - if they feel they are in imminent danger of great bodily injury or death, said Lawrence Rosenthal, a former federal prosecutor who teaches law at Chapman University in Orange, California.
But this case enters a grey area because Greer, by his own account, chased the burglars and fired at them outside his home as they were fleeing, Rosenthal said.
"The problem here is that all this happens very fast and his legal right to use force probably ended just a few seconds before he did use deadly force," Rosenthal said. "So the question is, should you charge somebody on the basis of what really was a series of split-second decisions when he's just been robbed and physically assaulted?"
McDonnell declined to confirm Miller was shot in the back.