Jury exonerates Virginia man who shot at cops for entering his home by mistake

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NBC12.com – Richmond, VA News

Brandon Watson of Portsmouth, Virginia, was convicted of misdemeanor reckless handling of a firearm by a local judge after he fired at police who forcibly entered his home on Jan. 3, 2013.

Police were responding to a call of potential burglary, but entered the wrong home, Watson’s home.

Not knowing that it was the cops who were at his back door late at night, Watson did what many would do in his situation, he grabbed his firearm and prepared to confront the intruders.

“I announced myself, ‘Who is that? Who is that? I have a gun.’ And as soon as I said that, two red laser beams were on my chest,” Watson told NBC 12, recounting the incident. “so I looked at the red laser beams on my chest, and I fired a warning shot.”

Once Watson realized it was the police who were entering his residence, he dropped his gun and complied with the officers’ request.

Portsmouth Commonwealth’s Attorney Earle Mobley then charged him with reckless handling of a firearm, even though police were in the wrong backyard.

“You cannot fire indiscriminately through the window,” Mobley said.

A judged agreed, and convicted Watson. Watson appealed the judge’s decision to a second judge who declared a mistrial. Finally, his case was brought before a jury of his peers.

“This can’t be doing your job. You come in my backyard, try to open my door, open my window and flash red laser beams on my chest because you thought I was the burglar, and I thought you were the burglar,” said Watson, explaining on why he appealed the decision.

The jury agreed with Watson, and believe he exhibited great restraint in only firing one shot given the situation.

“There was agreement if there had been more than one bullet hole, had he sprayed the wall with bullets, bang, bang, bang, that would have been reckless,” Danny Barnes, one of the jurors..

“The Commonwealth really didn’t have a case,” he added. “It wasn’t reckless, so it didn’t’ take a lot of discussion.”

{ 27 comments… add one }
  • Greg March 3, 2017, 7:03 am

    Lucky for him he didn’t have a dog…”puppycide” is rife with todays wimp officers. (and yes, I’m law enforcement for a long time..and we didn’t shoot dogs).

    No knock raids are unsupportable and an excuse and justification from the drug war days. Still BS and got a lot of people killed, innocent people. Any citizen in his home lit up with a laser on him is being assaulted and his life is threatened…and should shoot the bad guy. It’s way past time to take away officers being excused for their actions when attacking citizens in their own homes. I still remember an officer shooting off the face of a student who was a passenger in a car in College Park, MD when his M-16 “went off”…Oooops, officer not culpable. One woman officer, at the wrong house, tapped on a back door window with her Glock (with her finger on the trigger)….pistol went off and killed a woman cooking dinner…not culpable. The officer wasn’t guilty when he shot and killed a 12 year old boy on the floor with her M-16 when it “just went off”. Not good and shows just how poorly trained and managed too many officers are now.

  • BJ January 31, 2017, 8:11 am

    I have experienced a lot of contact with local law enforcement people. While experienced in this field, I know what they must endure on a constant basis. That being said, they know if they come to my door and knock, and if challenged will announce themselves. They always have my support in the community if I feel they are in the right. I will be armed if there is an odd knock at odd hours. Otherwise, I can easily see a patrol car in my yard. Now, given the circumstances this man found himself in as a homeowner, I believe if the officers would have knocked on his front door or used the doorbell, the outcome would have been better to their liking. The officers had great trigger discipline to not shoot the homeowner in this instance. I do commend them for this. I also commend the homeowner as he was not certain of his target. So, he took one round and wasted it to show his intent to protect his castle and his family. This was a good outcome for a potentially ugly situation.

  • Dave November 6, 2015, 11:00 pm

    Tom,
    Too bad the USMC didn’t teach you the difference between “your” and “you’re”

    • Mahatma Muhjesbude June 3, 2016, 10:01 am

      Dave, having a little grammar trolling episode, are we? Too bad ‘yer’ own cognitive deficiencies precluded learning anything from your own obvious sub-standard education, Otherwise, you might have known that the USMC only teaches you how to kill, NOT how to write.

  • Tom USMC November 6, 2015, 9:24 am

    You don’t announce your cops & prove it & put a laser on me, your dead! You may get me but I’ll get a bunch of you. Unless it’s a swat unit I’ll bet I have more combat than all them combined & probably the swat also. This BS needs to stop but the flip side is, the police have to go after bad guys & don’t always know what to expect & therefore have to err on the side of their self-protection. Very difficult situation. But…you better not screw up at my house cause it will put you in a very bad hurt locker.

    • Thomas USMC November 21, 2016, 11:28 am

      Tom,
      You’re dead wrong. Pun intended. A lot of police officers like myself are combat vets. Only difference between you and I is that you got out and probably went on to some bullshit stupid job. I got out and now train more than ever. Plus many departments don’t have full time SWAT teams like mine. So many of those street cops are actually the swat team. I know you might feel like billy bad ass on the internet but it’s not the same when it’s actually happening. By the way grown men aren’t named Tom or tommy. Grow up.

  • BR549 November 6, 2015, 9:24 am

    Why bother having 911 if they can’t even manage to locate the right address? I’ll bet they never miss the address of a Dunkin Donut shop, though.

    • Detee June 3, 2016, 3:59 am

      Give me a break, what are you twelve? Grow up

  • bob November 6, 2015, 4:48 am

    I would have been so screwed, red laser on my chest, I would have opened up a hail of gunfire on them. Red laser on my chest is the exact same thing as firing guns at me as far as I am concerned. They could have opened up on me but my bet is they would have retreated and took cover.

  • Frank Staples August 4, 2014, 4:37 pm

    After all, he was just doing what our idiot Vice President told him to???

    • Stargzer June 24, 2016, 11:04 am

      No, I think bin Biden said to use a double-barreled shotgun.

  • Rescuelurch August 4, 2014, 3:54 pm

    No where in this article does it say the cops identified themselves. That is police 101. I can’t see any way he could have been charged even if he killed one. It is pretty obvious that he had a legitimate danger, with laser aiming devices all over his chest. I think this should represent imminent danger. I hope the lawyer did this pro bono and the judge, at the very least,had the prosecutor pay the court costs for prosecuting this to CYA. I can see how something like this could happen. Some people refuse to properly number their house or do it in the same color of the house, making it hard to identify. They don’t want the ugly number to ruin the appearance of their nice house. I have actually heard this (my wife) which was quickly overruled for obvious reasons (hint: look at name)! In some places it is mandated with size and color specified.

    • Mike Widhalm August 4, 2014, 9:00 pm

      Police 101 went away years ago. It’s called a “no knock warrant” and Hitler used them extensively.

  • James M August 4, 2014, 2:37 pm

    Had a similar incedent involving US Marshall’s serving a warrant at an Apartment Complex.

    Had two of them pinned down in a Landry/rear entrance until they came thru the front door as well.

    They kicked in two doors, broke a front picture window and damaged out personal property.

    The local police took over the scene, insuring me there was no liability on any of the LEO’s

    Sorry about your inconvieance;

    Have a good evening

  • Mikejphi August 4, 2014, 2:08 pm

    Unfortunate event, but the thing that upsets me is that police can’t admit their own fault in the whole thing and just feel fortunate that one of them is not dead. Instead they go and prosecute the guy on something, which was a stupid move on their part. Put me on the jury when this guy sues for damages because the police made all the mistakes in this case, and I award this guy compensation for damages and loss of wages. Seriously, you are entering a backyard with guns drawn, life or death situation, and you can’t make sure that you are in the right backyard? Never should have arrested him or charged him.

    • Mahatma Muhjesbude June 3, 2016, 10:43 am

      Exactly, Mike, Had I been on that jury, I would have insisted that punitive damages be also awarded against the agency for not properly training their officers, therefore, creating unnecessary dangerous conditions during an arrest.

      The whole idea of ‘Announcing your Office’ has the single purpose of preventing exactly what happened here. Even that, in and of itself, does not stand alone in exculpatory justification because of the potential of criminals posing as police to gain entrance. Unfortunately, ‘Bad’ judges exacerbate the common sense safety of these incidents by upholding the officer’s ‘shock and awe’ entry tactics on less than absolutely verifiable justification. These judges, as well as far too many and increasing department/agency practices, are on the Drug War Dole and illegal asset forfeiture addiction. (read some of my reports on how they by-pass the 4th/A on Survivopedia.com) In an article on drones i mention the name of a Sheriff’s Department that takes violation of probable cause requirements ‘to a new height’.)

      So they can’t help themselves. You’d be surprised how many judges themselves are ignorant of Constitutional law, and then just default to the agenda based prosecutor’s advice. As an ‘expert witness’ a few years ago in a civil case I had a serious fact- finding dispute with a prosecutor and a judge and was threatened with contempt.

      Fortunately, most police still aren’t as stupid as these officers were to risk everybody’s life for a stupid drug or property theft crime. Especially when the fact is that police stole more with this Unconstitutional Asset Forfeiture law than ALL the Freaking burglaries combined in the country last year!

      I’m glad this ‘victim’ took it to a jury. More citizens are becoming informed of just how bad the ‘system’ is. Jury nullification is a freedom tool to keep them in check.

      I just hope this is a lesson to cops before it really gets out of hand in one of these Castle Doctrine states where they try to pull this pseudo-SWAT Navy Seal type entry shit and they kill one of their OWN off duty cops inside by mistake. Or home invade a seriously PTSD spec-ops combat vet and teaches them a lesson they’ll never forget before they murder him to cover their fuck-ups. To this day, they still make wrong address mistakes with their no-knock forced entry raids! Many serious self-defense oriented persons prudently have firepower within reach in every room in their house. If they keep pulling this kind of shit, it’s only a matter of time before a really bad one happens.

  • DaveGinOly August 4, 2014, 1:30 pm

    This guy’s attorney probably told him to say that he fired a “warning shot.” The attorney probably thought it would go down easier if he didn’t admit to actually trying to hit or kill anyone (what with “anyone” being cops), but this opened the door to the “reckless handling of a firearm” charge (yes, a bogus charge nevertheless – if he intentionally fired due to a perceived threat, his action was justified and not “reckless”). Better to have just claimed “self-defense” and admit he missed his target.

  • DaveGinOly August 4, 2014, 12:48 pm

    There have been plenty of such incidents in the recent past that have resulted in the deaths of innocent homeowners. Are the police charged with “recklessness,” “manslaughter,” or “negligence” of any kind? No. “Investigations” either show that the police acted “within their authority” or place the blame on the officers’ training. Almost never is an officer actually tried for a crime, never mind reprimanded by his agency.
    The idea that the State would attempt to railroad a citizen when the situation is reversed (citizen firing at cop/intruders) is just more evidence that there are two sets of rules – one for the police and another for the rest of us.

  • BRASS August 4, 2014, 11:39 am

    This guy was very lucky the cops didn’t light him up when he fired the warning shot. The cops were lucky the victim didn’t shoot to kill vice fire a warning shot.
    If I see lasers targeting my chest unexpectedly inside my home in the middle of the night and fire only a warning shot, it is not misdemeanor reckless handling of a firearm; it’s self defense and amazing restraint. Cops tend to think they are always right, never wrong even when they are, that their actions are always justified and never accountable for their mistakes. Rarely do they admit their mistakes without being forced to and I expect this tendency is why they felt they had to charge him with something, anything to cover their mistake, hide their embarrassment and try to soften the victims response in court and if he should sue them.

    • Richard Benson June 12, 2015, 8:40 am

      I like your comments. You brought up an interesting observation by many who don’t understand. There is only one to blame for this mishap. The officer who had the magic street number in his hand. Unless the others were told, then they are not at fault. I do believe that the resident should have all legal fees and repairs to his residence paid by the city and the city should also compensate him for the stress they put him through. Next: The officer’s who had their weapons trained on the resident’s chest showed remarkable restraint and should be commended. I know in many places the resident would not had to worry about legal fees and law enforcement would have been justified. Take a shot at police and your going to get shot. Identify your target before you shoot.

      • Tom November 6, 2015, 8:35 pm

        Identify first? It’s dark and you have red lasers on your chest. I probably would have freaked, and fired before they fire. Red dots on you is the same as having a gun held to your head.. That’s not a toy they are holding..

  • PHilbert August 4, 2014, 10:11 am

    So this poor guy who was protecting himself probably has thousands of dollars in legal fees to prove his innocence. That is the problem with the legal system, it hardly feels like you are innocent until proven guilty. The system probably had him charged with even more violations that had to be thwarted. That is the process, charge them with as much as possible to such as much money out of the innocent. The police should pay his bill.

  • Larry August 4, 2014, 10:01 am

    Wow, the guy is really lucky he didn’t get killed. Two lasers on his chest & he fires a “warning” shot! That’s one very lucky dude.

  • Thomas August 4, 2014, 8:35 am

    A Jury with a Concious.. It’s nice to hear about the People Judging a case instead of a “Corporate Judge” deciding your Fate..

  • D. Hicks August 4, 2014, 8:26 am

    WOW! Lucky guy..Talk about the Keystone cops.

    • Gerald Mann August 4, 2014, 9:50 pm

      The police do this far too much , and American Citizens are suppose to do what , sit back and let a potential burglar , or ropiest entry his home , There should absolutely no, no knock warrants what so ever . If a suspect destroys some evidence , so what , I think that is better then someone who may be innocent losing his life for trying to protect his home and family !!

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