A Colorado Springs father fatally shot his teenage step-daughter Monday, saying he thought she was a burglar. Prior to the incident, police received a call about a burglary in progress. But when they got there, they found the 14-year-old with a gunshot wound. She was taken to the hospital and died soon after, according to CBS Denver.
The incident is the latest tragedy involving the use of deadly force to protect the home. And it is one of several incidents in which a parent has killed their own child after they mistook them for a burglar. Last September a Connecticut teacher shot and killed his 15-year-old son after his neighbor called to say she thought she saw a robber in the front yard. Just a few weeks after that, a retired Chicago police officer shot and killed his 48-year-old son after he came in the back door late one night. And an off-duty police officer killed his son last July while the two were on vacation in upstate New York, after he told police he believed him to be an intruder. In that case, shooter Michael Leach was charged with second-degree manslaughter and is facing prison time.
Police have not said yet if they will file charges against the Colorado Springs father whose name has not been released, but Colorado is one of many states that has a “shoot first” law that authorizes the use of deadly force in defense of one’s home, and shields individuals who do so from any criminal or civil charges. Although Colorado does not have a Stand Your Ground law, it does have its own version of what is known as the Castle Doctrine, which allows homeowners to use deadly force to protect their dwelling without a duty to retreat. The law was dubbed the “Make My Day,” law after the 1983 Clint Eastwood film ”Sudden Impact,” in which Detective Harry Callahan — “Dirty Harry” — aims a gun at a criminal suspect and says, ”Go ahead, make my day.”
The statute is particularly broad because it authorizes deadly force not just for fear of great bodily harm or death, but anytime a person “has made an unlawful entry into the dwelling, and when the occupant has a reasonable belief that such other person has committed a crime in the dwelling in addition to the uninvited entry, or is committing or intends to commit a crime against a person or property.” Castle doctrine laws that empower civilians with guns to take the law into their own hands have been associated with many tragedies, in cases involving those seeking help after a car accident, an elderly man with Alzheimer’s who wandered onto another’s property, and the fatal shooting of a 20-year-old who walked onto a neighbor’s porch to escape a potential police bust of underaged drinking.
The Colorado law gave criminal immunity to a homeowner who shot a teen intruder as he tried to flee through the front door of the home, even though he was no longer threat. Unlike in some other states, however, the deadly force must occur inside the home — not on a porch or yard. Last year, lawmakers unsuccessfully sought to expand the deadly force immunity to those protecting their businesses.