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Texas man cleared in killing of two burglars

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  • Texas man cleared in killing of two burglars

    I know we talked about this last winter when the story first broke, but I searched and couldn't find the original thread. The guy's neighbor was broken into by two illegal immigrants, he called 911 and made a couple of suspect comments during the phone call, then left his house to confront the men outside. He ended up killing both men on his property with a 12 gauge shotgun.

    He was able to convince a Texas grand jury that he was in fear of his life, and that combined with a Texas law that allows the use of deadly force in the defense of property means he won't be charged with a crime.

    Joe Horn cleared by grand jury in Pasadena shootings | Chron.com - Houston Chronicle

    A Harris County grand jury on Monday ended the rancorous seven-month debate over Pasadena resident Joe Horn's decision to gun down two illegal immigrant burglars in his front yard, concluding the act was a justifiable use of deadly force and not murder.

    The grand jury heard two weeks of testimony from witnesses, including Horn. They likely also heard his breathless 911 call, during which the increasingly frustrated retiree ignored a dispatcher's pleas to stay inside and out of harm's way. The Nov. 14 call ended with the sound of Horn racking a shell into his 12-gauge shotgun's chamber followed by three gunshots that killed Colombians Diego Ortiz, 30, and Hernando Riascos Torres, 38.

    Each man was shot in the back. They had taken about $2,000 in the burglary.

    Horn's defense hinged on his assertion that he fired out of fear for his life, making the shooting justifiable under Texas law. The law also permits the use of deadly force to protect property under some circumstances.

    District Attorney Ken Magidson said he couldn't comment on the grand jury's secret proceedings.

    "In Texas, a person has a right to use deadly force in certain circumstances to protect property ... and that's basically what the grand jurors had to deal with," Magidson said.

    After the announcement, Horn's attorney said his 62-year-old client was no vigilante.

    "Joe was not some sort of wild cowboy," Tom Lambright said. "He was trying to help police. He was put in a situation where he didn't have any choice."

    Lambright said Horn was "relieved" the investigation was over and he was cleared. "When I talked to him on the telephone I could hear it in his voice — not giddy, just relieved."

    Others decried the decision as a miscarriage of justice.

    Frank Ortiz, a member of the local League of United Latin American Citizens chapter, said he hopes federal authorities investigate the case further.

    "That's amazing that they would no-bill him with so much evidence against him," Ortiz said. "It's amazing to me that anyone with a Hispanic surname cannot get justice. This was no more than a vigilante."

    In his 911 call, Horn cited a newly enacted Texas law, the "castle doctrine," which authorizes the use of deadly force during a home invasion.

    But Sen. Jeff Wentworth, who wrote the law, said it did not apply to Horn's case.

    "It was not an issue in this case other than him saying incorrectly that he understood it to mean he could protect his neighbor's property," said Wentworth, R-San Antonio.

    He said the castle doctrine simply didn't apply because, although the burglars were running across Horn's lawn, Horn's home wasn't under siege — his neighbor's home was.

    "It comes from the saying 'A man's home is his castle,' " Wentworth said. "But this wasn't his castle."

    Lambright said even though many people, including Horn's neighbors, have called him a hero, Horn doesn't believe he is.

    The attorney said Torres, who was on parole for a drug conviction, and Diego Ortiz were near the front door when Horn stepped outside.

    "They were attacking," Lambright said. "It scared him to death."

    At Horn's home, boards formed a makeshift barricade on the front walk, supporting a red "No Trespassing" sign.

    Police patrolled in force — by car, motorcycle and bicycle — and stood guard at the subdivision's entrances. They said they were there to keep the peace in case protesters showed up.

    No protesters had arrived by late Monday.

    Some of Horn's neighbors on Timberline Drive greeted news that he won't face criminal charges with enthusiasm; others hung "no comment" signs on their front doors.

    "I just praise God that he was not indicted, that our country is still behind our good, honest people," said Velma Cabello, 61. "He is a hero in my book."

    She lives in Humble, but was house-sitting Monday a few doors down from Horn's home.

    "I would love for him to be my neighbor, for someone to watch over me like that," Cabello said.

    "I'm glad he's not going to jail, but it's a bad thing, killing a couple people," said John White, 51, who lives half a block away from Horn. "It's sad for everyone, him and the victims."

    Horn was alone inside the home he shares with his daughter's family around 2 p.m. on Nov. 14 when he was heard glass shattering next door, spotted Ortiz and Torres crawling through a window and called 911 to report the break-in.

    The operator repeatedly urged him to stay in his house, but Horn said he did not believe it would be right to let the burglars get away.

    "Well, here it goes, buddy," Horn told the operator. "You hear the shotgun clicking and I'm going."

    The operator replied: "Don't go outside."

    Then the tape recorded Horn warning: "Move and you're dead!" Two quick shots can be heard on the tape, followed by a pause and then a third shot.

    Pasadena police have said a detective in plainclothes had parked in front of Horn's house in response to the 911 call, and saw the two men before they crossed into Horn's front yard.

    Police believe that neither Horn nor the burglars knew an officer was present.

    When Horn confronted the men in his yard, he raised his shotgun to his shoulder, police have said. However, the men ignored his order to freeze.

    Authorities have said one man ran toward Horn but had angled away toward the street when he was shot in the back just before reaching the curb.

    Ortiz and Torres died a short distance from Horn's house.

    A news release from the city of Pasadena read, in part, "We hope that the decision of the grand jury, while difficult for some to accept, will be respected as the product of a careful weighing of all the facts by an impartial panel of citizens."
    I just took a crap and named it muhammed -- METSSC

    The rifle itself has no moral stature, since it has no will of its own. Naturally, it may be used by evil men for evil purposes, but there are more good men than evil, and while the latter cannot be persuaded to the path of righteousness by propaganda, they can certainly be corrected by good men with rifles. -- Jeff Cooper, the Art of the Rifle

  • #2
    I love how the other side totally glosses over that these clowns actually ROBBED from someone's home.

    Comment


    • #3
      Yeah, they robbed the other person's house but I fail to see how he acted within the confines of the law when he a) left his house and b) shot them in the back.
      "I am not a Marxist"

      Comment


      • #4
        Shot in the back while fleeing...

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by manatwo View Post
          Yeah, they robbed the other person's house but I fail to see how he acted within the confines of the law when he a) left his house and b) shot them in the back.
          Originally posted by ambler View Post
          Shot in the back while fleeing...
          The grand jury didn't care. That's the issue here.

          "What new rules? There hasn't been any rules changes
          since the Black Sox Scandal, 1919. Big League Tegwar's
          Big League Tegwar known to every big-time ballplayer
          from Boston to California."
          Joe Jaros, Coach; New York Mammoths

          Comment


          • #6
            I'm with manatwo on this one. This is totally unjustified. Don't get me wrong;I don't weep for the perps. I just find that it encourages vigilantes. A slippery slope, IMO.

            However, I found this part, from another piece, interesting.

            Texas law allows people to use deadly force to protect themselves if it is reasonable to believe they are in mortal danger. In limited circumstances, people also can use deadly force to protect a neighbor's property; for example, if a homeowner asks a neighbor to watch over his property while he's out of town.
            ??????????????????????

            I'm not familiar with Texas law but I find it hard to believe that this is the standard. No self defense statute that I have ever read could ever be interpreted this way. Property alone is never a reason for self defense, let alone property that's not yours.

            On the other hand, if this is indeed the standard, then the Grand Jury apparently did it's job.


            "Jerry, just remember, it’s not a lie if you believe it". George Constanza.

            Comment


            • #7
              I think this is a case where the Grand Jury nullified.

              "What new rules? There hasn't been any rules changes
              since the Black Sox Scandal, 1919. Big League Tegwar's
              Big League Tegwar known to every big-time ballplayer
              from Boston to California."
              Joe Jaros, Coach; New York Mammoths

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Bay Ridge Dave View Post
                I love how the other side totally glosses over that these clowns actually ROBBED from someone's home.
                As well as the fact that they were not even here legally.

                "What new rules? There hasn't been any rules changes
                since the Black Sox Scandal, 1919. Big League Tegwar's
                Big League Tegwar known to every big-time ballplayer
                from Boston to California."
                Joe Jaros, Coach; New York Mammoths

                Comment


                • #9
                  Personally, shot in the house, or shot breaking into the house, or shot in the house while leaving.....fair game.

                  Shot in the back, outside the neighbor's propoerty, while the COPS are on the phone......... I've got a little problem here
                  COME BY THE SCHOOL a year from now you"ll wish you started today

                  "they all think they’re geniuses who just happen to agree with each other. This creates a near total blindness to facts, data, and opinions that don’t line up with their worldview"


                  (Originally posted by Attorney General Barr)
                  "it also does not exonerate him"
                  ​​​
                  Semper Fortis......De Oppresso Liber

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    "Shot in the back" is a powerful phrase that can easily be a very poor description of what actually occurred at a shooting. I am not saying it is an inaccurate description in this case, because I've never seen a good "after action report" on how this particular shooting really went down. However a human being can easily be "shot in the back" while still threatening someone's life.

                    From what I have read in multiple places, when Horn came out of his front door, he confronted the two men in close proximity on his property. One was holding a pry bar and the other something else in their hands. At least one evidently approached him and both ignored his command to halt before he fired. On the other hand, reportedly at least one of the men was fleeing away at an angle when shot. Was he fleeing toward a vehicle, or was the street in front of the house empty? (Running toward a vehicle, he could easily have been seen as trying to retrieve a better weapon). Were the men trying to communicate with Horn and/or each other? There's all kinds of unanswered questions here.

                    The description given in the news story is pretty poor; when I have time I'm going to see if I can find a more detailed account of how it went.

                    I'm not familiar with Texas law but I find it hard to believe that this is the standard. No self defense statute that I have ever read could ever be interpreted this way. Property alone is never a reason for self defense, let alone property that's not yours.
                    This is what's so interesting about the case to me. The grand jury evidently bought his argument that the Texas "castle doctrine" law applied to his neighbor's property as well because his neighbor asked him to keep an eye on his place when he was gone. That's one hell of a precendent. Denny goes on vacation, he asks me to watch his while he's gone, so I can now use deadly force in protection of Denny's property? That's a stretch I didn't think this guy would successfully make, but he did.

                    (edited for grammar)
                    Last edited by Mule; 07-01-2008, 12:12 PM.
                    I just took a crap and named it muhammed -- METSSC

                    The rifle itself has no moral stature, since it has no will of its own. Naturally, it may be used by evil men for evil purposes, but there are more good men than evil, and while the latter cannot be persuaded to the path of righteousness by propaganda, they can certainly be corrected by good men with rifles. -- Jeff Cooper, the Art of the Rifle

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I love a good heartwarming story.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I have to get me a shotgun.
                        nothing to see here

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Medfordian Slip View Post
                          I have to get me a shotgun.


                          Mossberg 590. There are better fighting shotguns but they will cost you 2-3x as much and a 590 is balls reliable. Get the model with ghost ring sights, put a light and a sidesaddle ammo carrier on it, do not buy the model with the heat shield. Learn how to use it, then load it with #1 or #4 buck and say a prayer for the next dirtbag to bust into your house at 2 a.m.

                          disclaimer: before anyone cries foul that I am just begging for an opportunity to post firearms advice, Slip clearly brought this on himself.
                          I just took a crap and named it muhammed -- METSSC

                          The rifle itself has no moral stature, since it has no will of its own. Naturally, it may be used by evil men for evil purposes, but there are more good men than evil, and while the latter cannot be persuaded to the path of righteousness by propaganda, they can certainly be corrected by good men with rifles. -- Jeff Cooper, the Art of the Rifle

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Mule - do you keep your firearms loaded at home, or separate weapons from ammo?
                            nothing to see here

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Medfordian Slip View Post
                              Mule - do you keep your firearms loaded at home, or separate weapons from ammo?
                              I have a safe with two separate compartments, two doors with different locks. One side is weapons only, the other is ammo only.

                              I only keep three weapons loaded, and they are secured all the time. One is my 590 in the safe, the second is my M&P 15 either in the safe or locked in the truck behind the seat in a discreet bag, and the 3rd is whatever handgun I'm carrying that day, which will either be on my person or at night is in the lockbox on the bed's bookcase, along with a light. The shotgun and rifle I don't keep chamber loaded, they are stored magazine loaded/chamber empty and a round is loaded when needed. My regular carry gun is a 1911 type handgun and is carried loaded (cocked & locked if you know what that means re: 1911's).

                              Hunting rifles, hunting shotguns, etc., there's no reason to keep them loaded until they're being used. Know what weapons you'll use for self defense, teach everyone in the home how to act around them in conjunction with their age/training, and keep them secured until needed.

                              Most states now have laws pertaining to unsecured/loaded firearms in storage, especially as pertain to minors. Check your state's laws.
                              I just took a crap and named it muhammed -- METSSC

                              The rifle itself has no moral stature, since it has no will of its own. Naturally, it may be used by evil men for evil purposes, but there are more good men than evil, and while the latter cannot be persuaded to the path of righteousness by propaganda, they can certainly be corrected by good men with rifles. -- Jeff Cooper, the Art of the Rifle

                              Comment

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