This story is all about how you spin it.
In one telling, Jeffery Lovell, 42, killed 15-year-old Dylan Francisco after the teenager and a friend mistakenly knocked on Lovell’s front door. Lovell acted recklessly and should have tried harder to communicate with the high schoolers before firing his weapon.
In another telling, Lovell feared for his life after two intoxicated individuals began banging on his front door in an attempt to enter his home. He tried (unsuccessfully) to communicate with them, called the police, and only fired one round after the teenagers succeeded in breaking a pane of glass. Lovell was right to defend himself and his property, and had no way of knowing the intent of the teenagers.
Lovell’s future depends on which version of the story the jury believes, as the Massachusetts resident will face murder charges that carry a maximum sentence of life in prison.
However the jury decides, several facts are without a doubt.
According to the Hampden District Attorney’s Office, on July 16, 2016, around 1 p.m. Francisco and a friend mistakenly began knocking on Lovell’s front door. They had been drinking at a nearby residence and believed Lovell’s house to be that of a friend. Lovell “attempted to communicate with the victim” and called the police. Francisco continued his attempts to enter the premises and “knocked” with such force that he managed to break a pane of glass.
When police arrived at the scene they found Francisco with a gunshot wound to the chest. He passed away at Baystate Medical Center later that day.
Verb choice is crucial to this story’s presentation: did Francisco “knock” on the door or “bang” on it? Most media accounts—as well as that of the DA’s office—say Francisco and his friend “began knocking on the door.”
But the fact that the two boys broke a pane of glass suggests that the latter verb—bang—is more appropriate. The broken glass indicates that they were aggressively attempting to enter Lovell’s home, which helps to justify Lovell’s use of deadly force.
Despite these facts, Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni has still chosen to bring murder charges. “This was a tragic and avoidable incident that resulted in a young man losing his life,” he said in a statement.
Hampden Assistant District Attorney Eduardo Velazquez agreed. “Certainly we have a situation here that was a homicide, and at this point it is our belief that it was not justified,’’ he said at Lovell’s arraignment in Chicopee District Court.
Unfortunately for Lovell, Massachusetts law seems to favor the DA’s office. State law says a person is justified in killing an intruder only if the intruder is “unlawfully in said dwelling” and was “about to inflict great bodily injury or death upon said occupant.” The fact that Francisco had not yet entered Lovell’s dwelling—and that he did not appear to be carrying a weapon—does not bode well for the MA resident.
We’ll keep you posted as to how this story plays out.