Homeowner shoots, kills intruder

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- A homeowner shot and killed an intruder in his home early Friday morning.

It happened after 3 a.m. at 42nd Avenue and Bethany Home Road.

According to Phoenix police, the 77-year-old homeowner was asleep when he woke up to discover an intruder in his home. The man grabbed his shotgun and fired one shot at the intruder. That suspect, identified as 30-year-old William Thomas Mackey, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Phoenix police spokesman Sgt. Tommy Thompson said Mackey did not appear to be armed.

One neighbor who heard the shot said she didn't think much about it because crime has become a common occurrence in the neighborhood.

"My house has been robbed six times," Sandi Corbin told 3TV's Jill Galus. "I've been in the neighborhood 27 years. It was such a nice quiet family neighborhood to move into. Now, in the last 10 years, it has changed a lot."

Thompson said the scene and interview with the homeowner indicate he acted in self-defense, but the police department will forward the case to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office for review.

The homeowner told police someone burglarized his home Thursday, but Thompson said it is unknown whether Mackey was involved.

"A person is justified in threatening or using both physical force and deadly physical force against another if and to the extent the person reasonably believes that physical force or deadly physical force is immediately necessary to prevent the other's commission [of a violent crime]," according to Arizona law.

Arizona is one of dozens of states with a stand your ground law. Basically that means an individual is within his rights to defend himself without any obligation "to retreat before threatening or using physical force or deadly physical force."

ARS 13-411 "includes the use or threatened use of physical force or deadly physical force in a person's home, residence, place of business, land the person owns or leases, conveyance of any kind, or any other place in this state where a person has a right to be."

The right to protect oneself in one's home is known as the "castle doctrine."

"In the 1980s, a handful of state laws (nicknamed "make my day" laws) addressed immunity from prosecution in use of deadly force against another who unlawfully and forcibly enters a person’s residence," according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

In Arizona and many other states, stand your ground and the castle doctrine, both of which fall under the more general term self-defense, mean that there is no duty to retreat -- be it from an intruder in your home or from somebody who may attack you "in any place in which one is lawfully present."

In addition, the castle doctrine generally does not look at the intruder's intent to commit a violent crime, just the victim's fear of imminent harm or death.

Stand your ground and the castle doctrine are similar but separate affirmative defenses although they often are discussed together.

The castle doctrine says you have no obligation to retreat from danger in your own home. Stand your ground extends that to any place you have a right to be as long as you are not doing anything illegal. Fearing for his or her life, a person may "meet force with force."

While several states use the specific wording "stand his or her ground" in their laws, Arizona does not.

Jeffrey Gabriel, who lives in the area where the home invasion happened, believes his neighbor did the right thing and said he would have done the same.

"My family comes first," he told Galus. "I mean you break into my house, you're up to no good to start with. If I shoot you and kill you, I might feel bad because you have a family, but you were threatening mine."

"Stand your ground" laws made national headlines during last year's trial of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. After a jury acquitted Zimmerman last summer, Sen. John McCain said that he while he did not question the decision, states, including Arizona, should review their "stand your ground" laws.

The Legislature plans to discuss the law during their session, which started Monday.