An Ohio man allegedly shot at three young men who were burglarizing his neighbor’s house, forcing all three intruders to flee.
They are now in police custody awaiting trial.
Lonnie Lowe told WLWT that he saw three masked men walk through his yard towards his neighbor’s house. When he heard glass break, he retrieved his gun and when to investigate.
Even though his neighbors were not at home, Lowe interrupted the burglary and fired a warning shot, at which point the teens fired back and ran away.
“I spun around and I fired the warning shot,” Lowe said. When one of the teens fired back he “saw the muzzle flash, heard the bang, and heard the bullet whiz by my head.”
Lowe returned fire, but no one was hit on either side. Police have yet to confirm Lowe’s story, but deputies arrested 18-year-old Zahary Bell, 19-year-old Darnay Foley, and a 15-year-old juvenile.
Bell was arraigned Tuesday morning and charged with burglary, according to WLWT. He was sentenced to serve 45 days of a 90-day sentence on a parole violation from a previous theft conviction.
While Lowe’s neighbors are no doubt grateful he successfully protected their possessions, Lowe was treading on dangerous territory by defending someone else’s property.
Ohio law includes a form of the “castle doctrine,” which does not require a person to retreat from a residence they lawfully occupy. But because Lowe was not living at his neighbor’s house, the castle doctrine likely would not apply in this situation.
Ohio law also allows Ohioans to protect others, but only from bodily injury and death. According to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, someone who defends another person “has to prove that he reasonably and honestly believed that the person he protected was in immediate danger of serious bodily harm or death and that deadly force was the only way to protect the person from that danger.”
Because Lowe’s neighbors were not at home, he could not have been trying to defend their bodies or their lives.
If Lowe had hit and killed one of the intruders, mounting a self-defense or a defense-of-others case would have been extremely difficult. Even though the intruders shot at him, Lowe admitted that he shot at them first. He also had ample opportunity to retreat, which also disqualifies him from making a self-defense argument.
Lowe may have been better off calling the police and being a good witness. While his actions are entirely understandable, his neighbor’s possessions aren’t worth the years he may have spent in jail for unjustifiable homicide.