September 17, 2009

"College student hears an intruder and — samurai sword in hand — goes to investigate."

"University of Maryland professor David Gray, who specializes in criminal law, said prosecutors must weigh whether [20-year-old John] Pontolillo felt his life was in danger or whether he became the aggressor. In Maryland, Gray said, an individual is not expected to retreat from suspected danger in his own home. But it is unclear how the law applies to an enclosed backyard. If the student felt he was in danger of severe bodily harm, then he was within his right to protect himself, Gray said: 'It doesn't matter if he used a gun, a sword or a frying pan.'"

136 comments:

peter hoh said...

From the description in the linked article, I think he gets cleared. The crucial part is the description of Rice lunging at Pontolillo.

That's their story, and they'll all stick to it.

Hoosier Daddy said...

I'm puzzled why the prosecutors don't weigh whether Mr. Pontolillo should be given a medal or a lifetime supply of beer of his choice.

I mean he nicely dispatched someone who 1) is a criminal and provides no value to society and 2) was dumb enough to attack someone wielding a samuari sword which

I'm not seeing an issue here.

former law student said...

1. Maryland is weird.

2. An article I read said the burglar had been arrested within the past couple years for weapons possession charges. I don't think anyone can comfortably make the "Oh he was just there to take your stuff" argument. Idiots argue that no burglar would ever harm you physically -- as if burglars had to adhere to a code of conduct, or as if physical assault would be a breach of the implied covenants of theft.

3. Is the garage part of the home? I forget. I do remember it's "inside the curtilage."

Fred4Pres said...

And people say nothing good ever came from Pulp Fiction.

Florida said...

" ... he became the aggressor."

Hey, burglars: If you break into my house you can expect that I am going to be aggressive.

And if I get the chance, I'm going to cut your hands off and then slice open your chest.

And then, if any prosecutor wants to attempt to put me in jail, I'll behead their political career for them as well.

This dangerous road that the liberals are taking us down ... where we are made to be scared to defend ourselves in our own homes from those who would steal and kill us, will only lead the nation on the path to another civil war.

If if need be, that's just fine with me.

After all, our side is better armed.

Fred4Pres said...

From what I heard, the guy charged him and he used the sword. Seems totally justified to me.

David said...

It was Blutto, in the bar, with a frying pan.

peter hoh said...

This dangerous road that the liberals are taking us down

Straw man alert, unless you can link to some liberals -- and not fringe and/or Baltimore neighborhood activists -- who think that Pontolillo should be prosecuted.

bagoh20 said...

49 year old career criminal just released from jail and back at work. He was just trying to get his life back on track.

I'm sorry it was fatal - it would have been quite just for him to be left without a hand. I assume that would have resulted in a lengthy lawsuit against the swordsman.

I've heard that the homeowner in these situations is better off killing than maiming the intruder, in terms of liability and tort. Is that true?

peter hoh said...

Dead men tell no lies. They don't tell the truth, either.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Straw man alert, unless you can link to some liberals -- and not fringe and/or Baltimore neighborhood activists -- who think that Pontolillo should be prosecuted.

It's early in the thread Pete. Give it some time. Although few, if any will outright come out and say it, rest assured that few would shed a tear if Pontolillo was locked up.

traditionalguy said...

This case may turn on whether he hit the burglar once or kept swinging until he was dead. Juries like that kind of good conduct/bad conduct resolution. The Law will turn on the reasonableness of the student's feeling a threat to his own safety, but in the end reasonableness goes to a Jury and the Prosecuter will only present charges that a jury would feel was Bad conduct.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Dead men tell no lies. They don't tell the truth, either.

They don't commit any more crimes either. One more plus for capital punishment.

Slow Joe said...

Peter's right... the sword attack was provoked when Rice, the burglar attacked Pontolillo, the student.

He had a sword on him during his investigation of a noise, but that was not the self defense action.

It is pretty lame that the authorities aren't encouraging more of this awesome behavior.

peter hoh said...

Hoosier Daddy, I'm calling bullshit on this "rest assured" crap.

Your mind reading is about as good as Dowd's.

John said...

"Straw man alert, unless you can link to some liberals -- and not fringe and/or Baltimore neighborhood activists -- who think that Pontolillo should be prosecuted."


She the UK where people are routinely sent to jail for defending their own property.

Dark Eden said...

It is vitally important that we pass legislation declaring our schools to be Katana Free Zones.

(somewhat appropriately for me, my WV was "duphis" Its like WV knows its me posting!)

peter hoh said...

I know that the UK regards these things differently. That's part of why, according to some reports I've read, they are awash in burglaries.

But UK legal opinion is not synonymous with US liberal opinion, so my straw man charge stands.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Hoosier Daddy, I'm calling bullshit on this "rest assured" crap.

Just don't call me Shirley.

I've had enough discussions on this kind of issue with lefties who think you need to be lying in a pool of your own blood and shit before deadly force is justified.

There was a shooting in Indy a few years back where some 60+ year old pawn shop owner blasted some 17 year old kid to death who was trying to hold him up and there was plenty of gnashing of teeth from the usual suspects over the loss of the poor criminal so please understand my cynicism.

Hoosier Daddy said...

But UK legal opinion is not synonymous with US liberal opinion, so my straw man charge stands.

Good thing Ginsburg didn't get her wish to look to the enlightened Euro legal writings to implement here then right?

Eric said...

I've heard that the homeowner in these situations is better off killing than maiming the intruder, in terms of liability and tort. Is that true?

I once had an prosecutor tell me that. Okay, we were drinking at a bar, but still. It's harder for the family to sue, and having the only version of events keeps things from getting cluttered.

bagoh20 said...

Technically, the stabbing after the hand amputation was probably not necessary, but that's not realistic in a real life situation.

Unfortunately, if tried, we would ask people sitting comfortably in a jury room to decide if he should have included the stab.

In such an actual scenario, most of the jurors themselves would either provide the coup de grĂ¢ce or never resist at all and end up some degree of victim, including maybe dead themselves.

Still it seems to me jurors like the rest of us can be unrealistically high minded when judging others.

former law student said...

I predict the ending will be bittersweet -- the student will not be charged, but the family of the sword's original owner will demand it back, once the story becomes publicized in Japan.

peter hoh said...

I understand your cynicism. Heck, I can get pretty cynical, myself.

Scott M said...

If you're an unrecognizable person in my house, you do not get any more benefit of the doubt than the amount of info I can take in and process in the amount of time it takes me to get between you and my family...this should be read as the time it takes me to get AT you.

I had a 33-year-old woman break into my house while my 2-year-old was taking and nap and I was working online (well, Eve-Online, but that's work sometimes). She came in through the back door when I was not expecting anyone.

She got into the house and was coming through the curtain when I yanked it back to see who the hell it was. I paused to take in what I was seeing and this would have been the end of my life and probably my daughter's if I had been within arms reach of this person.

Turns out she was a retarded woman (visibly so) with a very long, very sharp butcher's knife. Later, after I had her unarmed and sitting waiting for the police, she told me she wanted to be a part of a murder/suicide. How she picked my house, I don't know.

Point being, if you're an unidentified person inside my house, I'll try to figure out who you are on my way to gaining a position that's advantageous to me and disadvantageous for you.

I know from experience that I'll not be parsing castle law in the meantime.

Let's all remember that law enforcement is not protection. Our system is set up to react to law breakers, not to inhibit them in the first place. Reactive rather than proactive. You are responsible for the reaction part.

Wo unto us if we let the gubment take even that away from us.

former law student said...

It's harder for the family to sue,

Wrongful death and loss of consortium never pays like pain and suffering and special damages do.

peter hoh said...

If he has any training in the use of the sword, I suspect that it will come out that a slash and stab are one fluid motion.

Christy said...

Burglar had 29 previous convictions in his 49 years. That would be 29 convictions since he was 18, right? Which means 29 convictions in 31 years. So the maximum possible average time this career criminal served was less than 13 months per crime. Welcome to Baltimore.

This is where Jessamy, the Baltimore City State's Attorney typically declines to prosecute 33% of the arrests made by police. The only time you see her praising enforcement efforts is when the Feds sweep through and make arrests over which she has no control. So she sounds gung ho to her constituents without ever having to actually help clean up Baltimore.

Jessamy is also the prosecutor planning to charge the two heroes of the Acorn Sting. Don't count on her letting this student get away without charges.

Salamandyr said...

Only problem with this is he used a katana instead of a proper European weapon.

Eric said...

I know that the UK regards these things differently. That's part of why, according to some reports I've read, they are awash in burglaries.

There's no castle doctrine in the UK. You have a duty retreat, even in your own home.

LarsPorsena said...

FLS:
"I predict the ending will be bittersweet -- the student will not be charged, but the family of the sword's original owner will demand it back, once the story becomes publicized in Japan."
LOL

Nominee for 'Post of the Week';-)

Slow Joe said...

Well, it's OK to not prosecute sometimes. We don't want to put too much pressure on prosecutors to seek maximum convictions... we just want justice.

I do think,though, that this dead burglar would be alive today if the justice system had given him a very stiff sentence after his third crime.

Slow Joe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
knox said...

...there was plenty of gnashing of teeth from the usual suspects over the loss of the poor criminal so please understand my cynicism.

Similar thing happened in Knoxville recently. The liberal independent paper "MetroPulse" was highly disapproving of a straightforward case of self-defense. Instapundit covered it. Here's a quote:

My local Alt-Weekly ran a rather mean editorial about the Knox County Commissioner who pulled a gun on an armed robber last week, calling him a "clown" and commenting: "His confrontation with a young man last Saturday at his dealership is an example of Lambert’s lack of judgment."

Given that the "young man" -- who was pointing a gun at Lambert at the time -- fled the scene in response to Lambert's action and has since been arrested and charged with committing a murder just a few hours before he tried to rob Lambert, it seems that Lambert's judgment is less suspect than that of the editorialists at Metro Pulse.

bagoh20 said...

29 convictions? He must have done hundreds of burglaries or he's the worst at it ever. Either way, Darwin with the assistance of the revolving door of justice, finally got his man.

Shanna said...

Saw this a few days ago. I can't help but think of the How I met your mother episode where they sword fight, so this sounds awesome. Of course, it wasn't all pretend and somebody died, but still. Message? Don't break into someone's house if you're not prepared to get skewered by a sword!

Tibore said...

"... prosecutors must weigh whether Pontolillo felt his life was in danger or whether he became the aggressor.

In Maryland, Gray said, an individual is not expected to retreat from suspected danger in his own home. But it is unclear how the law applies to an enclosed backyard."

I have an opinion on this.

"He noticed a side door in the garage had been pried open. When a man inside lunged at him, police say, the confrontation was fatal."

It is not relevant where this took place. The only thing that IMO should be relevant is the fact that the intruder, in a location where the resident had a complete right to go carrying whatever he desired, lunged. Once he committed an act that can be reasonably interpreted to be life threatening, that's it. Or at least, that should be it.

But of course, "should be" and "is" are two different things, unfortunately.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Only problem with this is he used a katana instead of a proper European weapon.

Well, with the exception of the screaming, a katana is relatively quite and won't disturb the neighbors like a rude 12 guage shot gun. :-) See what a sensitive guy he is.

He was probably really jacked up about someone stealing his gaming equipment already. With the new expansion of WoW coming out and the opportunity to play a goblin or worgen and someone stole my gear, I would be armed and ready for the next bozo to try to take my stuff. Just kidding....sort of. :-P

paul a'barge said...

unless you can link to some liberals -- and not fringe and/or Baltimore neighborhood activists

There's a difference?

Who knew?

Bruce Hayden said...

Interesting discussion on this subject over at volokh.com two days ago. Several commenters had experience with swords, and, even this type of sword. It appears that a skilled practitioner of using such a sword could inflict both wounds in well under a second in one series of moves. There was a question of which stroke came first, to the hand or the abdomen. The question apparently revolved around a combination of the skill level of the college student and how open it was. The problem for the prosecutor may be that both wounds appear consistent with standard forms for that weapon and as a result, both strikes in series would almost be automatic. Maybe a bit like people shooting in self defense, where they find that they have unloaded most of a clip and just remember pulling the trigger once.

Smilin' Jack said...

I've heard that the homeowner in these situations is better off killing than maiming the intruder, in terms of liability and tort. Is that true?

Never mind liability and tort. If you just maim the guy, he's going to recover to some extent, and is likely to want revenge, and he knows where you live. You'll sleep better if he's dead.

Balfegor said...

Was it a Muramasa, I wonder?

Or just a costume replica or what? I don't think there's a lot of authentic katanas in circulation.

Balfegor said...

Also, the dead fellow exercised extremely poor judgment in lunging at a man armed with a katana, but then, if you think about your typical gamer, is it really all that surprising? Probably nine times out of ten you'd be looking at a blunt costume sword that couldn't cut butter.

garage mahal said...

In which garage feeds some red meat:

Craig's List: This Ad Was Posted to Craig's List Personals:


To the Guy Who Tried to Mug Me in Downtown Savannah night before last. Date: 05-27-09, 1:43 A M EST.

I was the guy wearing the black Burberry jacket that you demanded that I hand over, shortly after you pulled the knife on my girlfriend and me, threatening our lives.

You also asked for my girlfriend's purse and earrings.

I can only hope that you somehow come across this rather important message.

First, I'd like to apologize for your embarrassment when I drew my pistol after you took my jacket. The evening was not that cold, and I was wearing the jacket for a reason.

My girlfriend had just bought me that Kimber Model 1911 .45 ACP pistol for my birthday, and we had picked up a shoulder holster for it that very evening.

Obviously, you agree that it is a very intimidating weapon when pointed at your head, wasn't it?

I know it probably wasn't fun walking back to wherever you'd come from bare footed since I made you leave your shoes, cell phone, and wallet with me. [That prevented you from calling or running to your buddies to come help mug us again].

After I called your mother, or "Momma" as you had her listed in your cell, I explained the entire episode of what you'd done. Then I went and filled up my gas tank as well as four other people's in the gas station on your credit card. The guy with the big motor home took 150 gallons and was extremely grateful!

I gave your shoes to a homeless guy outside Vinnie Van Go Go's, along with all the cash in your wallet. [That made his day!]

I then threw your wallet into the big pink "pimp mobile" that was parked at the curb ... after I broke the windshield and side window and keyed the entire driver's side of the car.

Later, I called a bunch of phone sex numbers from your cellphone. Ma Bell just now shut down the line, although I only used the phone for a little over a day now, so what's going on with that?

Earlier, I managed to get in two threatening phone calls to the DA's office and one to the FBI, while mentioning President Obama as my possible target. The FBI guy seemed really intense and we had a nice long chat (I guess while he traced your number, etc).

In a way, perhaps I should apologize for not killing you . . . but I feel this type of retribution is a far more appropriate punishment for your threatened crime. I wish you well as you try to sort through some of these rather immediate pressing issues, and can only hope that you have the opportunity to reflect upon, and perhaps reconsider the career path you've chosen to pursue in life.

Remember, next time you might not be so lucky.

Have a good day!

Thoughtfully yours, Alex

Anonymous Blogger said...

Where is the controversy here?

Kev said...

(the other kev)

It is important to note that this is not about urban crime, university crime, domestic crime, but an issue of Samurai violence, which is becoming a growing concern around the country.

Synova said...

I don't know that it's legitimate to name "liberals" as going to start thinking that this young man shouldn't have done what he did, (maybe fainting violets?) but really, even as much as self-defense is becoming *less* controversial rather than more, the reporter writing the story pretty much had that angle covered.

Are we *sure* it was self-defense? Hey, look how easy it is to buy a samurai sword on the internets! They even sell products that let you practice slicing people! For $50! Like KILL BILL. And here is a quote saying that a normal person wouldn't take up a sword in self-defense. And here stuck on the end is a report of a similar violent incident where an off duty police officer chased a burglar two whole blocks just to shoot him!

Self-defense rests on the community understanding of a couple of things... Fistly, that a person defending him or herself does not have to wait until they are stabbed or shot or raped so they know for *sure* that the threat is real. Courts and police, *do*. They can't prosecute what hasn't happened yet. Self-defense means defending against potential harm. And secondly, that its reason rather than fear that a person who breaks into your house for *any* reason, is highly likely to also be willing to hurt you very badly. We say "fear for his life" and people think they have to decide if it makes sense that a person with a burglar in their house was *afraid*. If you're *afraid* why do you pick up a weapon and go see what is the noise in the garage?

Shanna said...

To the Guy Who Tried to Mug Me in Downtown Savannah night before last.

Heh. Oh garage, I love that.

Methadras said...

Castle Doctrine. Kthxlolbye.

Balfegor said...

It is important to note that this is not about urban crime, university crime, domestic crime, but an issue of Samurai violence, which is becoming a growing concern around the country.

That's right. People don't kill people. Samurai swords kill people. It's time to call for a nationwide ban on samurai swords. Just like Japan!

Pogo said...

@peter hoh; "Straw man alert, unless you can link to some liberals -- and not fringe and/or Baltimore neighborhood activists -- who think that Pontolillo should be prosecuted.

At our neighborhood meeting with the cops, mayor, and city attorney last fall, following a series of gang-related and drug-related shootings, the CA said that if people armed themselves and managed to shoot a burglar or someone assaulting you in your home "We will come after you", citing murder and attempted murder charges.

I was there.

Joe said...

In Maryland, Gray said, an individual is not expected to retreat from suspected danger in his own home. But it is unclear how the law applies to an enclosed backyard.

And intellectuals wonder why people have such contempt for lawyers and government. I suppose the next step is to make garages and living rooms also "unclear"--only if you are threatened in the bedroom. Well, only between the bed and the closet, but only if the closet door is open and the bed is made, then it's only in front of a dresser....

Joe said...

If you're *afraid* why do you pick up a weapon and go see what is the noise in the garage?

Wow, Synova, you may win the dumb comment of the thread award. With this logic, if you hear any noise in your house, why would you investigate? In fact, why would you do ANYTHING at all except cower in a closet in your basement?

EDH said...

Pulp Fiction: Butch Coolidge choosing his weapon.

wv - "hemen" = part of a circus strongman's body that remains intact while chaste

Methadras said...

Balfegor said...

Was it a Muramasa, I wonder?

Or just a costume replica or what? I don't think there's a lot of authentic katanas in circulation.


You're right. There aren't that many real Katana realistically speaking. Even still, the Muramasa or Demon Blade as some have called it, is the progenitor for StormBreaker and it's brother MournBlade.

Slow Joe said...

It amazes me that some would ask why investigate if afraid.

I think this shows that Peter's defense of a strawman is totally off. Yes, some liberals in the USA do hate the idea of defending yourself to the point where they assume the defender knows everything and is perfect. When you hear a sound, you don't know if it's a broken dishwasher or a stray dog or a burglar. If you're scared, you might grab some scissors or a Glock, but you don't know there's a dude waiting to lunge at you.

If you thought you might get into a car accident, and drove a car with airbags and wore your seatbelt, why did you get in your car in the first place? That's a dumb potentiality argument, and it falls on its face.

This guy was precautious... he likely took that sword with him when investigating noises many times. I know I have taken a broomstick or a rolling pin into my garage to find a cat or a swinging door.

Don't assume he knew what was going to happen.

Synova said...

"If he has any training in the use of the sword, I suspect that it will come out that a slash and stab are one fluid motion."

Yes.

I'd be surprised if any sword training, even the very first lesson, taught less than a two move combination strike or strike and recovery. In a weird way, fewer lessons might mean having fewer options to get confused about and also mean using the one you know even if it's over kill.

OTOH, how scary crazy is someone who runs at someone holding a sword?

campy said...

the CA said that if people armed themselves and managed to shoot a burglar or someone assaulting you in your home "We will come after you"

Better judged by 12 than carried by 6.

Synova said...

"Wow, Synova, you may win the dumb comment of the thread award."

Maybe I'm having a brain dead morning but did I actually express myself so poorly?

miller said...

I'm sorry, but I'm confused: there are people who actually are criticizing this guy for defending himself and his property?

elHombre said...

The intruder reportedly had 29 priors and his last sentence was only 18 months.

In a just world the sentencing judge and, if applicable, the prosecutor who plea bargained the case, ought to be required to flip a coin to see which one has to sit on the sword - point first - in public.

Eric said...

OTOH, how scary crazy is someone who runs at someone holding a sword?

This is what makes me wonder if the story given by the resident is actually true. Even a crazy guy won't lunge, unarmed, at a someone with a katana.

Hoosier Daddy said...

With the new expansion of WoW coming out and the opportunity to play a goblin or worgen and someone stole my gear, I would be armed and ready for the next bozo to try to take my stuff. Just kidding....sort of. :-P

Testify.

:-)

You know I hope they postpone that x-pac. I'm just starting to get some decent raiding gear and now this will come along and I'll not even have a chance to enjoy it!

Hoosier Daddy said...

Maybe I'm having a brain dead morning but did I actually express myself so poorly?

Made sense to me but then I understood your use of asteriks :-)

Florida said...

"Straw man alert, unless you can link to some liberals -- and not fringe and/or Baltimore neighborhood activists -- who think that Pontolillo should be prosecuted."

The prosecutor pondering whether to have the guy indicted is, in fact, a liberal Democrat.

If he was a Republican, he'd have already announced that defending yourself from a burglar in your own home is totally legal and therefore no sense in wasting tax dollars investigating anyone.

Liberal prosecutors are dropping charges against real live Black Panthers wielding weapons at polling places, but pondering charges against a man defending himself against a burglar in his own home.

That's a road that leads to disaster.

Synova said...

"It amazes me that some would ask why investigate if afraid."

It was a hypothetical.

Granted, the article itself "wondered" if it was still self-defense if you went out into your garage.

All I was doing was explaining that the reasonable expectation that your life is in danger is based in reason and not fear and that when we use the term "fear of your life" (and I think that the article may have done) it seems to lead to some sort of discussion of the inner state of the person's mind... which I think is irrelevant.

The meanings of words change over time and "fear of your life" should be understood in somewhat archaic terms. "It's clouding over, I fear it will rain!"

Mostly I'm making a pre-emptive general argument in favor of the right to self-defense prompted slightly by the news article's attempt at being neutral about the nature of the violence. I saw a lot of "colorful" details the reporter added... from the availability of practice items that mimicked slashing a human, to Kill Bill, to some neighbor defending the young man with, "I'm sure he's not out to kill people."

The suggestion, it seems to me, mildly put and neutral on the surface, is that people with swords probably want to use them on people... and maybe we actually should wonder if this was self defense or not... maybe this is like that off duty cop who chased a guy for two blocks and shot him.

On that last bit maybe I'm interpreting it the way I am because I'm not from there and everyone who is knows about the cop incident and knows that, oh, he only shot after the burglar stopped running and started shooting at him or something like that. But I don't know and it would seem like a parallel is being made between self-defense and chasing down the bad guy.

Christy said...

Wouldn't he carry the sword held in the hand, down at his side, with the non-cutting side of the blade held against the back of the arm? Burglar wouldn't neccessarily see it. See this cartoon for the stance I mean.

vw: cropedi
Newsweek editor's crop of Cheney pic with bloody knife at family dinner.

Salamandyr said...


Well, with the exception of the screaming, a katana is relatively quite and won't disturb the neighbors like a rude 12 guage shot gun. :-) See what a sensitive guy he is.


I meant he should have used a nice rapier, saber, or hand and half sword.

If he wanted to go All-American, the 1913 George S. Patton Saber is especially nice.

Skyler said...

I think a lot of people don't really understand the law. I'm not a legal scholar or a lawyer, I'm going by memory here.

It varies dramatically from state to state. Some have a castle doctrine, others don't. The castle doctrine allows you to not retreat when confronted in your own home. Not too many years ago this was a radical idea in many jurisdictions.

In jurisdictions without the castle doctrine, you are REQUIRED to retreat if a burglar comes into your home, unless there is no place to retreat to. Yes, this is the law in many states in the US.

Texas just recently expanded the castle doctrine to the yard and to one's car (i.e., car jackings). This was considered pretty radical too. As far as I know, only Texas allows this.

Texas also allows use of deadly force in retrieving property, no matter its value, if you think that you are unlikely to get it back through other means. I like that. If a man steals a paper clip from you, then you can kill him for it if that force is necessary to retrieve it and you think you can't get it back in any other way. I don't think I would recommend testing that interpretation, though . . .

Joe said...

f a man steals a paper clip from you, then you can kill him...

A red stapler dude, a red stapler.

Maguro said...

Color me unimpressed. A real badass would've used ninja throwing stars.

campy said...

If a man steals a paper clip from you, then you can kill him for it if that force is necessary to retrieve it and you think you can't get it back in any other way.

Better engrave your initials on all your paper clips, so you'll be able to prove ownership.

bagoh20 said...

"Even a crazy guy won't lunge, unarmed, at a someone with a katana."

We all make mistakes. He has 29 convictions, not likely he has good instincts or makes the right decision often. He won't make that mistake again.

The swordsman did him a favor ending what was only going to be a life of continuing embarrassment. The burglar's family owes him.

save_the_rustbelt said...

A young family friend rented a house near her college campus. A drunk looking for a party came into her kitchen through the back door. Instead of running she tried to talk him out. He panicked, grabbed a knife from the kitchen counter and cut her carotid artery.

She died, he is spending 35 years in prison, two sets of parents are devastated.

Either run, or be prepared to kill the intruder dead. One or the other.

Balfegor said...

Wouldn't he carry the sword held in the hand, down at his side, with the non-cutting side of the blade held against the back of the arm? Burglar wouldn't neccessarily see it. See this cartoon for the stance I mean.

What? Uh, no. I have only limited experience with Japanese swordsmanship -- as in a week or two when we practiced with shinai in Aikido class as a child -- but no one holds a sword that way. Under normal kendo, you'd just hold it in front of you in a ready stance and advance slowly. If it's one of those quick draw things you see in movies (Iaido), you'd hold it in a sheath at your side.

save_the_rustbelt said...

Spend some time thinking about the layout of your house.

If someone came into my back door late at night, there is no way to cover all of the paths that someone might take. Other homes are different, for example, everyone is in bed on the second floor, a stairway can be secured.

The only good solution in my house would be to stop them at the door, otherwise someone in the family is in extreme danger.

By the time they get through the double bolt locks, I will have a reception committee, Rusty and Mr. Glock.

raf said...

If I could be the self-defense czar for a while, I would expand the castle doctrine to make it a man's (yes, yes, or woman's) *duty* to defend his home against intruders. Deputize everyone within their own domain.

Cedarford said...

Pogo - At our neighborhood meeting with the cops, mayor, and city attorney last fall, following a series of gang-related and drug-related shootings, the CA said that if people armed themselves and managed to shoot a burglar or someone assaulting you in your home "We will come after you", citing murder and attempted murder charges.

I was there.


Sounds like the CA was off mark. HE is not a part of WE...as in state prosecution. City attorneys have no prosecutorial power...they exist to defend the city's legal interests..and would have no part in exposure to any tort.

Hope you see him again the next time he ever spouts off on that and see if he claims "special legal powers"...sounds like a guy who might deserve to be drummed out of his job. Certainly if he ever advocates a taxpaying resident of his city be harassed for an act of self-defense in his home.

Your Correspondent said...

I once had the opportunity to investigate a noise in my detached garage one summer evening. The overhead door had ghost-opened on the radio control, apparently, and the young gentleman taking stock of my mechanic's workbench was startled upon being discovered.
I was disappointed, though, that he never even noticed the bright blue Colt .45 auto in my right hand.
Perhaps it had something to do with the 75-pound Dobermann in my left.
In any event, Illinois now has an affirmative defense statute that was passed a few years ago after a homeowner shot and wounded a burglar-invader about eight miles from here in a quite tony neighborhood. The burglar was on his SECOND burglary in this house!
The second time, the homeowner used his banned-in-Wilmette handgun to stop the invasion.
He was charged, and as a result, an angry legislature passed the Hale Del Mar law pre-empting gun bans and other anti-self-defense laws in favor of the victim.
As for the assertion that no one would charge a sword... well, here's one tiny example.
My friend Bobby, in his Chicago PD blues, found himself facing a drugged-up giant Indian in a tenement hallway one night. Despite Bobby's and his partner's .357s aimed at him, the man charged Bobby in very close quarters with an old bayonet.
Bobby's partner put six hollow-points in the man's torso in response.
Spend an hour or two on some cop blogs like Second City Cop and you'll be disabused of the notion that drug-addled savages are always sensible enough to not attack armed victims.
Yes, a bad choice.
One more point not often appreciated by folks who learn what they know about arms and self-defense from Hollywoodian fantasies like Law and Order- the purpose of the weapon for the defender, handgun or blade or whatever, is never to kill; it's to stop.
A failure to appreciate that critical difference is the cause of much confusion and error.

Synova said...

Well of course... and the best way to "stop" is?

(My karate instructor often talked about the need to avoid "just making him mad" with an ineffective strike.)

Chris Althouse Cohen said...

I don't know the law in Maryland, but I do know that in California you have the legal right to kill an intruder in your home. I would assume that that still applies if you are in your enclosed backyard just outside the back entrance and the intruder is in your home, just inside the entrance. Otherwise it's like you're supposed to not fight while you're outside but make sure your feet are "over the line" first so that your technically inside and then kill the intruder. And having to do that puts you at more risk.

In any event, the description makes it sound 100% justified. I basically think if someone is committing any kind of a crime against you where you're at all in danger, you should have the right to kill them. That goes for being at home and having an intruder, or if you're being raped or mugged or kidnapped anywhere. You shouldn't have to think they're actually going to kill you. You should just be allowed to use deadly force to stop them from committing that kind of a crime. On the other hand, if you went that broad with self defense pretty much any woman could kill any man and say, well he tried to rape me. But I have a feeling there would be ways of figuring out that that was a lie.

Eric said...

We all make mistakes. He has 29 convictions, not likely he has good instincts or makes the right decision often. He won't make that mistake again.

The more I think about this the fuzzier it gets. If the student was concerned enough about his safety that he felt obligated to grab a sword, why didn't he call the cops?

And this all happened a couple hours after someone stole some other stuff from his house. Anybody who's ever been robbed knows it makes you mad enough to... well, to kill someone. I guess there's no way to know for sure what was going through his head, but I'd grill him pretty good were I the cop investigating.

save_the_rustbelt said...

I work out with a martial arts expert a couple of times a week (good therapy for the geriatric). His black belts are in TKD and Ju Jitsu, but he also studied Philipines blade fighting, specifically "arnis." (see Youtube for examples).

He could cut off both of my hands and my head before I could react. Wow.

Fortunately the average criminal or drunk does not have such discipline or speed, and that is who we train to counter.

Mr. Glock is still the preferred defense.

former law student said...

If the student was concerned enough about his safety that he felt obligated to grab a sword, why didn't he call the cops?

"Hello 911, I hear a noise in my garage"
-- We'll have a car right out there, sir!

Not gahnna happen. Urban cops will not come out for less than "Shots fired."

The kid heard a noise, wanted to check it out, yet rationally feared for his safety if he did so.

Synova said...

And Eric demonstrates the need for Castle laws.

Oligonicella said...

Synova --

"And here is a quote saying that a normal person wouldn't take up a sword in self-defense."

I myself have used a sword (shortsword repl. c1300) to chase an intruder out of my house. But then, I'm not all that normal.

wv: ousch - uttered by burgler on way to floor.

Beth said...

I suspect cultural and demographic differences at work. Here in New Orleans, a mostly liberal city with a black majority of voters and office holders, we've had several instances of self-defense shootings over the past year. None that I can recall caused any controversy, and no charges were threatened; the most recent, in which two brothers staged a home invasion and were shot and stabbed to death by the residents, didn't even get as far as the DA - homocide detectives pretty much wrapped it up overnight.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

And here is a quote saying that a normal person wouldn't take up a sword in self-defense."


You don't have to register a sword. That may have had something to do with that particular weapon being available over a gun.

Big Mike said...

I think everyone has the right of self-defense, or should, but if he suspected that his property was being burglarized then wasn't he taking the risk of bringing a sword to a gun fight?

One of my friends worked his way through college as a small town police officer back in the 70's. He was investigating a late night call about an intruder, found himself face to face with said intruder and with his revolver still holstered, and took a bullet in the groin for that mistake. His much more experienced partner had been coming around the house the other way with his gun drawn, and emptied that gun into the criminal.

But the final score was one man dead and almost two men dead, all because my friend was too inexperienced to realize that anyone breaking into a house at a time when people are likely to be home is probably armed.

J said...

"unless you can link to some liberals -- and not fringe and/or Baltimore neighborhood activists"

The neighborhood acitivists are too busy assisting people in setting up child prostitution operations. They don't have time for this nonsense.

"Even a crazy guy won't lunge, unarmed, at a someone with a katana."

That assumes he saw the "katana" or, for that matter, the guy he lunged at. Likewise, questions about samurai guy taking another swing at the burglar assume he knew he hit the guy the first time.

"Texas just recently expanded the castle doctrine to the yard and to one's car (i.e., car jackings). This was considered pretty radical too. As far as I know, only Texas allows this"

Georgia CD applies to your car too. What's unique in TX (AFAIK) is that if a burglar has stolen property in their possession, you can legally shoot them in the back as they flee.

"If the student was concerned enough about his safety that he felt obligated to grab a sword, why didn't he call the cops?"

You don't call the cops to go shoo a dog or squirrel out of your garage, but it is a good idea to take something to defend yourself if you wind up getting attacked by a cornered animal.

Eric said...

And Eric demonstrates the need for Castle laws.

I don't think that's a fair interpretation of what I wrote. All I'm saying is the cops need to be meticulous in making sure the physical evidence matches his story. As I'm sure they will be. Even states with Castle laws generally don't allow you to kill someone who isn't threatening you.

I'll go further and say even if his actions fall within the bounds of the law, Pontolillo is kind of an idiot. Actively putting yourself in a situation where you may need to kill someone over the crap in your garage is just dumb. He should have called the cops.

Shanna said...

anyone breaking into a house at a time when people are likely to be home is probably armed.

Is that really true? I mean, not questioning you, just curious if there are any stats to that effect. I know the one time someone tried to break into my house and I was home he was scared away by the giant dog, so I didn't see if he was armed. I suspect not, though.

Big Mike said...

@Shanna, I'm passing along what my friend learned -- the hard way -- from his older and more experienced partner. But it certainly makes sense to me. If a person breaks into a house that is empty (or probably empty) that's one thing. If he breaks into a house when people are home he has to consider the possibility of facing an angry homeowner holding a baseball bat or a golf club. Or a sword. Or a gun of his own.

But I'm essentially passing along what my friend, a once-upon-a-time small town cop had to say. Does anybody else on this thread have specialized expertise from law enforcement? If so, would you like to weigh in?

Skyler said...

Eric wrote, Even states with Castle laws generally don't allow you to kill someone who isn't threatening you.

Not really true, at least here in Texas. You need not be threatened at all to use deadly force in this situation. You only need have a reasonable fear that you or someone else is in danger.

For example, if the intruder moves a hand suspiciously, like he were reaching for a gun, that's generally enough. If he was just scratching himself and there was no gun or other weapon is irrelevent. You only need a reasonable fear that he has a weapon and is preparing to use it.

chuck b. said...

'It doesn't matter if he used a gun, a sword or a frying pan.'"

These seem like really different ways to defend yourself and/or kill people, each requiring different kinds of energy and effort and skill to use and wield. I'm probably fine with what he did (my backyard is my castle), but I don't think guns, swords, and frying pans are equivalent either.

Christopher said...

Eric,

By the standards of Baltimore, Oakenshawe's a decent neighborhood. But the local's still jokingly call it Bodymore, Murderland, and it's not a place where you can safely assume that the cops will come when called, the intruder in your garage is just after the "crap" there, or an intruder has no evil intent.

former law student said...

Actively putting yourself in a situation where you may need to kill someone over the crap in your garage is just dumb. He should have called the cops.

In big cities, the cops DON"T CARE about the crap in your garage. How can I explain this to you? They will not come out for trivia like that.

Do you live in Mayberry?

At best, once your stuff is gone, they will fill out a report you can take to your insurance agent.

Big Mike said...

Second what FLS says. Back when I lived in Maryland some folks broke into a house while the owner was away on vacation. A neighbor saw and called the local police -- who declined to come.

Only the owner had an extensive collection of guns, all of which were taken by the burglars. Which may have put the police themselves at future risk. Not good.

Christian said...

Balfegor said...

Was it a Muramasa, I wonder?

Or just a costume replica or what? I don't think there's a lot of authentic katanas in circulation.


Actually, there are a number of places in the US where you can get a brand new katana made using the traditional techniques. Typically, these are made by folks who went to Japan and trained under the masters who trained under the masters (ad infinitum) back to the 1700s. So the techniques are authentic and the blades are on a par with a typical katana from the 17th or 18th century.

For example, you can get some pretty good swords from this smith. They are expensive, over $1000 apiece, but from what I have read, they are pretty authentic.

Eric said...

Do you live in Mayberry?

Heh. When I lived in Huntington Beach a call like that would bring 20 cops in less than four minutes.

It's hard for me to believe a burglary in progress call from an occupied house doesn't bring a squad car in most places. It's also hard to believe even in the cases where it might not get a response you would know that for a certainty beforehand.

Eric said...

Not really true, at least here in Texas.

You know, even as I wrote that I was thinking "I should put 'except in Texas'", because even if you didn't know for sure, you'd have to guess Texas would allow you to shoot people for having their dog to crap on your lawn. In my defense, however, I did include the weasel-word "generally".

Ben (The Tiger in Exile) said...

Maryland is a Castle Doctrine state. Not by statute, but by case law:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castle_Doctrine_in_the_United_States

bagoh20 said...

"Anybody who's ever been robbed knows it makes you mad enough to... well, to kill someone. I guess there's no way to know for sure what was going through his head, but I'd grill him pretty good were I the cop investigating."

That will be central if he's charged, but let's say everything noted is true: He was mad AND the guy lunged at him making him fear fo his life. It's still justified, just bad timing for all parties.

So lesson #1: Don't rob a guy who has a big knife and who is angry about just being robbed. ~~ Man this crime stuff is complicated. I'm just gonna get a job.

peter hoh said...

Okay, you win. A Baltimore prosecutor is considering prosecuting Pontolillo, and some city attorney in Rochester doesn't want people shooting intruders.

Now that we've established the ground rules, I only need to know 2 conservatives who believe something in order to make blanket statements about conservatives.

Glad that's settled.

Revenant said...

It's hard for me to believe a burglary in progress call from an occupied house doesn't bring a squad car in most places.

One time I called the cops to report that I thought someone had tried to break into my house a few minutes before and I wasn't sure if they had left. The cops showed up two hours later.

One of many reasons I'm not a gun owner. :)

Christopher said...

The latest reports are a little different than the Sun's.

Apparently police and Johns Hopkins security had just performed a search of the house. Pontolillo wasn't satisfied and conducted his own search right after they left with his sword.

That's when he found Rice. He told Rice to stop and then yelled to his roommates to call police. That's when it's alleged that Rice lunged and Pontolillo. Police and campus security were still close enough to the premises that they heard all the commotion and went back to the house.

Eric, if you're still reading this, I wonder what your take is now? The cops had been called, the intruder was hiding somewhere and had eluded capture, and Pontolillo did yell to roommates to call the police after he did his own search and found Rice.

Synova said...

"Pontolillo is kind of an idiot. Actively putting yourself in a situation where you may need to kill someone over the crap in your garage is just dumb. He should have called the cops."

How is it less stupid for the police to put themselves in danger or in a situation where they may need to kill someone for the crap in your garage?

Civilization dies a little bit more every time we shrink away from taking responsibility for the bad things that happen within our own sphere.

Even if it's just running off the burglar so the crap in your garage doesn't get stolen, instead of hiding under your bed.

Revenant said...

Peter,

Don't you think you're being disingenuous here? Left-wing hostility to the Castle Doctrine is well demonstrated by the lack of such laws in states dominated by left-wing politicians and the repeated attempts by left-wingers to ban private ownership of defensive weaponry. On top of that, Peter has cited influential lefties entertaining the idea of prosecution in this particular case.

So what do you want? A poll of public attitudes about this *specific* crime, broken down by political affiliation? Well gee, I kind of doubt anybody has done one yet. But maybe you should answer this question: "why would the Left be ok with this particular use of lethal force in home defense when it is widely hostile to the use of lethal force in home defense?". In other words, Peter, what makes this particular case so special that the sword-wielder merits a pass?

Revenant said...

Actively putting yourself in a situation where you may need to kill someone over the crap in your garage is just dumb.

Not really. The stuff in my garage is worth more than the life of a thief.

Christy said...

FWIW, I lived for 15 years about 2 miles from this student's location, closer to downtown. My experience was that police were there very quickly even for stupid calls. I woke up one morning at 2 a.m. and called from bedside that someone was pounding at my door. Cops responded quickly enough that the drunk using the foyer as a toilet was still there. I had no problems with response time the other 3 times I needed help either.

former law student said...

I woke up one morning at 2 a.m. and called from bedside that someone was pounding at my door.

Girl + 2am + someone pounding on door = maybe rape, maybe assault, maybe homicide.

Compare to: Somebody might be stealing my lawnmower.

bagoh20 said...

Synova, I hope you are raising children, we could use more like ye.

WV: peedsm = what Christy's visitor was charged with.

bagoh20 said...

"Compare to: Somebody might be stealing my lawnmower."

Cops should appreciate the love a man can feel for his lawnmower, as well as how other men may covet her in their lusting hearts.

Eric said...

Eric, if you're still reading this, I wonder what your take is now? The cops had been called, the intruder was hiding somewhere and had eluded capture, and Pontolillo did yell to roommates to call the police after he did his own search and found Rice.

My take is the article Althouse linked left out a lot of the salient facts. If that's all true then the whole thing makes a lot more sense.

Seneca the Younger said...

Technically, the stabbing after the hand amputation was probably not necessary, but that's not realistic in a real life situation.

Really bad planning, too -- having cut off a hand, the better second stroke is a return cut horizontally at neck level. Followed by chiburi, the wrist flip that cleans the blade.

Tsuki, the thrust, can leave your blade hung up in case there's more than one attacker.

Shanna said...

Girl + 2am + someone pounding on door = maybe rape, maybe assault, maybe homicide.

I was thinking the same thing and I wonder if there are any studies that show girls get response from cops more quickly.

Seneca the Younger said...

Christy, that back along the arm form is an unusual form called "merchant style", so called because it gave a skillful fighter a better chance with the short wakizashi sword that merchant were allowed to carry.

By far the most common, default form is holding the sword in both hands, as in this famous picture

Eric said...

How is it less stupid for the police to put themselves in danger or in a situation where they may need to kill someone for the crap in your garage?

Cops are trained to deal with people like Rice, they're equipped with guns and body armor, and part of their job is knowing all the ins and outs of the law in regard to the use of deadly force. They also have something else you don't have as a homeowner - backup.

Civilization dies a little bit more every time we shrink away from taking responsibility for the bad things that happen within our own sphere.

I don't accept civilization is dying even a little if you call the police instead of confronting a burglar on your own. That's why we have police.

Now, in light of the later information Christopher linked, Pontolillo's was almost certain to get "Hey buddy, we were just there. Go back to bed" from the cops, so his actions make a lot more sense.

Eric said...

Not really. The stuff in my garage is worth more than the life of a thief.

I'd certainly kill someone to save my own life or that of a loved one, but not over a rusty bike and a box of old books that I haven't yet had time to donate to the library.

If my mint condition complete Grimjack collection was at stake I'd have to think about it.

Synova said...

"Girl + 2am + someone pounding on door = maybe rape, maybe assault, maybe homicide.

Compare to: Somebody might be stealing my lawnmower.
"

But that's the thing, really. You can't tell ahead of time that someone only wants to steal your lawnmower.

Skyler said...

That lawn mower may not be important to you, but it means a lot more to me than the life of any scum that thinks they have a right to take it from me.

I don't steal from people and have no tolerance for those that do.

And I have precious little tolerance for those who think I should. Why do they wish to abet thieves?

Shanna said...

I'm still pissed that a guy stole my weedeater 4 or 5 years ago. I probably wouldn't have killed him, but I wouldn't have been sad if he got a sword in the arm or something.

peter hoh said...

If the State's Attorney really wants to press charges, Baltimore homicide detectives are making it hard.

The AP reports: Baltimore homicide detectives don't believe a Johns Hopkins University student had "the intent to kill" when he used a samurai sword to confront an intruder behind his home, a police spokesman said Thursday.

former law student said...

Skyler -- my only thesis here is that in urban areas, cops prioritize property crimes below crimes against the person. I believe in protecting one's property, and believe that being armed when facing a possible intruder is prudent.

Seven Machos said...

You people who are weighing what's being stolen against this death are missing the obvious. I know it's been spelled out, but it bears repeating:

You don't know the dead guy's intent.

Intent and reasonableness are pretty much all you need to know for most areas of law.

Beth said...

I agree, Seven. And it's not my responsibility to take time to figure out why someone is in my home (by which I include my yard, my shed, my car - places that no one would expect to find another person, unannounced and uninvited). Why would I give an intruder the advantage of my indecisiveness?

Fred Drinkwater said...

On the question of will-they-or-wont-they come if you call 911, there was supposedly a pair or 911 calls that went something like this:

1. "There's three guys outside, breaking into my toolshed. I'm worried they might try to get into my house."
"Sir, the soonest we can have a squad car out there is 30 minutes." End of call.

Caller thinks for a couple minutes, and dials 911 again:
2. "Remember me and those 3 guys trying to get into my house? I just shot them."

Even then it took the car 2 or 3 minutes to get there :-)

John Clifford said...

"Even a crazy guy won't lunge, unarmed, at a someone with a katana."

Wrong, Grasshopper. Do you know how often crazy guys lunge at people pointing guns at them? Happens all the time to the police, and happens often to regular folks, too.

Either a criminal is too wasted to think straight, or he really doesn't believe he's going to get shot/stabbed/sliced/etc. Most criminals know that cops can't shoot them for unarmed assault, so they are more than willing to tangle with the police if they think they can get away with it. Most criminals despise their victims, and believe the average person lacks courage and ability.

My favorite story was the one about the female detective who was in a stakeout van when a guy opened up the back door to rob it. The detective pulled her .38 snubnose and the robber taunted her and then rushed her. The other police responded to the shooting by running to the van, guns drawn, and when they opened it up a well-ventilated former criminal fell onto the street.

Famous last words: "What you gonna do with that gun, bitch!"

wv: "exagn" - when you shoot a bad guy in the center of mass repeatedly. Example: she put round after round in the exagn and again. (Yes, that really WAS the word.)

Revenant said...

I'd certainly kill someone to save my own life or that of a loved one, but not over a rusty bike and a box of old books that I haven't yet had time to donate to the library.

Well, you're welcome to donate to the Burglar Philanthropic Fund if you like. I look at it more along the lines of "hm, would I give up my bike and books to keep a burglar alive"? That'd be a "no".

Roger J. said...

as was pointed out above the volokh thread on this was fascinating--I do apreciate the students skill as a swordsman--but that seems to be a rather niche market in home defense--I still prefer my remington 870 with five rounds of buckshot--it does have the disadvantage of being messier

peter hoh said...

Revenant: Left-wing hostility to the Castle Doctrine is well demonstrated by the lack of such laws in states dominated by left-wing politicians

I'm not certain that I can determine which states are dominated by left-wing politicians, so I'll use deep blue states as a proxy.

Eighteen states voted for the Democratic candidate for president in 1996, 2000, 2004, and 2008. Two-thirds of those states have castle laws, and that's without counting the three states that have what wikipedia describes as weak castle laws.

California -- castle law
Connecticut -- castle law
Delaware -- castle law(?)
Hawaii --castle law
Illinois -- weak castle law
Maine -- castle law
Maryland -- castle law
Massachusetts -- castle law
Michigan -- castle law
Minnesota -- castle law
Oregon -- castle law
New Jersey -- castle law
New York -- weak castle law
Pennsylvania -- weak castle law
Rhode Island -- castle law
Vermont
Washington -- stand-your-ground law*
Wisconsin

? It looks like Delaware has a castle law, but they aren't on the summary list
*Stand-your-ground laws are loosely defined as "no duty to retreat anywhere".

As always, I'm open to corrections. My sources:
red and blue states
wikipedia summary re. castle laws

Christopher said...

Eric wrote:

"My take is the article Althouse linked left out a lot of the salient facts. If that's all true then the whole thing makes a lot more sense."

And the plot thickens. The police are reporting that the chain of events was as follows:

- Some of Pontolillo's property had been stolen recently. Police came, found no evidence of forced entry, took statements, and left.

- There was a call about a suspicious person lurking in the vicinity of the house later that night. Campus security and local police responded to the call, did a search of the house, and left.

- Right after that, Pontolillo and his roommates conducted their own search, discovering Rice in the yard. According to police, there was no evidence that put Rice in either the garage or the house at any time.

- Pontolillo told Rice to stop, and told his own buddies to call the cops. That's when Rice allegedly lunged at Pontolillo.

- Campus security and police heard the commotion and came back to the house.

The interesting part, to me at least, is that Rice was never in the house or the garage at all. He had been hiding in the yard while police and security were searching the area, and he was a career burglar who'd just gotten out of jail a few days before, so he was probably up to no good.

He actually hadn't stolen anything, hurt anybody, or entered the house or garage.

However, at the same time, he had been arrested in the past for holding a gun on an off-duty police officer, and if it's true that he did lunge at Pontolillo, then it's safe to assume that he meant to do him harm.

Not nearly as clear cut as anybody on any side would like it to be, I think.

Christopher said...

Christy wrote:

"FWIW, I lived for 15 years about 2 miles from this student's location, closer to downtown. My experience was that police were there very quickly even for stupid calls."

Like I said, Oakenshawe is a fairly decent neighborhood by the standards of Baltimore. I wouldn't be surprised if response times are fairly short.

At the same time, I'm from the city a little north of Baltimore (Philadelphia), with similar architecture and housing density, so I can appreciate that two miles in a post-industrial East Coast rowhome city is a vast distance, and can include a lot of different neighborhoods and a large number of police districts.

I still wouldn't assume that police would get there in time to help me if an intruder was on my premises.

Your Correspondent said...

Some of the thoughts here that calling the police is a satisfactory solution to a home invasion or other intrusion need to be set aside.
Example 1- My single female neighbor called me at 2am due to an intoxicated young man she did not know screaming and trying to kick her door in.
She called me first because she knew I would be armed and that the police in the suburban area would not come in time.
That proved true- by the time the man saw the muzzle of my 12 gauge, he had already weakened the door to where the edge stile was broken and the lock was losing its grip on the strike plate. I know this because I installed a new door the next day.
The police took 19 minutes to respond. So long that the man passed out against the wall while we were all waiting for the first responder.
They were short two men that night.
Example 2- About two weeks ago, a Chicago police officer on his way home from work was confronted in his car by four bangers with Glocks in another car.
While he engaged in a frantic running gun battle with the bangers, he called 911.
No help came for about fifteen minutes; he managed to extricate himself and save his life with return fire.
Want more? In Chicago, with its woefully understaffed PD, active emergency calls such as muggings and invasions sometimes don't get answered for an hour.
On the other point of the validity of the victim's aproaching the criminal, any suggestion that there's a simple and comprehensible calculus during the first few seconds of a violent fight tells me the speaker's never been near one.
There has always been, throughout human history, a presumption derived from experience that an invasion is a precursor to a violent attack. That's the basis of castle laws.
You may calculate your strategy based on circumstance, but it does not mean it carries through to abandoning the responsibility as a citizen to abet the security of a free state.
The police, as described above, are reactionary. They do not have a legal or moral binding to stop in-progress violent crimes, both according to the Supreme Court and to ordinary common sense.

Clyde said...

He probably meant to grab his Katana cell phone so that he could call 911 and just grabbed the wrong katana by mistake. A tragic case of mistaken identity, at least as far as the hapless, handless burglar was concerned.

WV: plastami. An astroturf Japanese mat.

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