By C J Oakes
CBS News Oklahoma City reported on a by a mother who called 911 to ask if she was justified legally in shooting an intruder who entered her home? Was she?
911-What is Your Emergency?
911 operators handle every manner of emergency. When 18-year old Sarah McKinley called to ask if she was within the law to shoot two men attempting to break into her mobile home in Oklahoma City, no doubt the 911 operator had her own thoughts.
Anyone who has ever faced a home invason, whether it was a burglarly, stalker, or any other criminal seeking to enter unlawfully understands the terrible feeling that comes with the event. Even those who have never faced such a situation can readily emphathize with Ms. McKinley.
Still, the 911 operator could not rightly tell her to shoot. So she gave the best answer she could at the time, “Do what you have to do to protect your baby.”
Ms. McKinley was at home with her infant son, having just lost her husband to lung cancer the week before. During a harrowing 21 minute ordeal, the 911 operator remained on the call, Ms. McKinley asked the question that nearly everyone who would be armed in such a moment would ask, ‘Can I kill them if they enter my home?’
The Law Says…
Ms. McKinley lives in Oklahoma, a state with a law on the books known as ‘Stand Your Ground.’
The Stand Your Ground law exists in several states, having been enacted first in Florida in 2005. In essence, the Stand Your Ground laws stipulate that if an intruder enters your home, they can be shot and if killed, it is justifiable homicide. The states with a Stand Your Ground law include:
- New Hampshire
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
To learn more about the Stand Your Ground statute in each state, click on the link for the state.
Justifiable Homicide and Sarah McKinley
In the case of Ms. McKinley, the two men did eventually succeed in entering the home. She shot and killed one of the men, 24-year old Justin Shane Martin. Martin’s alleged accomplice was Dustin Louis Stewart, who fled and was later induced by his parents to turn himself in to police. Stewart, 29 is in custody.
Police, in accordance with the Stand Your Ground statute in Oklahoma, ruled the case justifiable homicide so no charges have been, nor will be, filed against Ms. McKinley.
It appears that Martin had been stalking the young mother for some time, having met her a couple of years earlier at a rodeo, during which time he had followed her around. She had recently ‘bumped into him’ at a convenience store and on Thursday night had knocked on her door claiming to be a neighbor.
According to Police, Sarah McKinley Did Everything Right
One thing worthy of note in the Stand Your Ground statute is that in most cases, a homeowner is not permitted to shoot unless an intruder actually intrudes. That is, they must enter the home unlawfully.
Even prior to the enactment of these statutes, some states, such as Louisiana already allowed for the killing of an intruder so long as they fell within the confines of the home. In some cases, the law is less specific.
What this situation teaches is that there is a right and a wrong way to handle such an emergency. The best way is to be informed of the law in your state.
Not every state allows a homeowner to take the law into their hands in such an emergency–it seems some would prefer that the woman and her infant were assaulted. But those listed above permit the ancient concept of ‘home as a castle.’
In the Stand Your Ground states, if a person enters the home unlawfully, as did Justin Shane Martin, a homeowner such as Sarah McKinley can rightfully, lawfully, and justifiably shoot to kill. Just know the law and know the limits before you need to call 911.