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It’s Okay To Shoot Geocachers When They Surprise You

For those interested in the Manuel Heim geocacher shootings case there is an interesting analysis by the Victorville Daily Press on why the Californian resident was convicted, even though the victims were on his land.

But in August, a different jury at Victorville Superior Court acquitted a Phelan man of shooting and killing three people who allegedly sneaked up on him on his property in the dark.

In both cases, defense attorneys claimed self-defence for their clients. So what made the difference in their outcomes?

The prosecution in Heim’s trial didn’t contest the claim that the victims were on his property. The question was whether Heim used reasonable force to eject the four trespassers or to defend himself or the property. It was up to the jurors to decide what was reasonable in this situation.

Given they were leaving voluntarily, I’d say shooting them was not reasonable force!

According to the law, you don’t have the right to shoot at people just because they are on your property.

That seems mighty reasonable now! 🙂 Think of how many geocachers would have been shot if you could!

To claim self-defence, Heim had to have a reasonable belief he was under imminent danger and responded reasonably to prevent it.

Heim testified he shot the geocachers, who were about 230 feet away, because he had been robbed by drug addicts a few weeks before.

“What threat were they posing if they were 230ft away?” Deputy District Attorney Carrie Halgrimson asked. “Just because you get burglarised, you don’t get to shoot the next person who comes to the property.”

To be fair here, I understand that Heim claimed to be shooting at rocks and in the air. Of course, he did not indicate whether he was shooting at the rocks the geocachers were standing on at the time or others. 😉

On the contrary, Dennis Flechtner testified in his triple murder trial that he shot the neighbours in front of his house out of fear when they approached him on his property in the dark.

His defence attorney tried to prove that Flechtner had continually been threatened by one of the neighbours and that Flechtner was in close range when he shot them.

I’d be interested to know whether any warnings were given or how the incident took place. Did Flechtner just happen to be carrying around a gun and then, after being surprised by the neighbours, pop a few rounds out?

Lawyers say self-defence arguments need to be evaluated case by case. The degree of imminent danger depends on many factors, and ultimately it’s up to the jurors to decide based on their common sense.

Oh, yay. I don’t have a whole heap of faith in jurors to do the right thing. All too often they are motivated by their own biases or small personal factors such as being hungry.

But what I take away from this is that in Victorville, California, it is okay to shoot a geocacher who surprises you. It’s a good thing the cachers in the Heim case didn’t jump up and yell “BOO!”

 

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