A 53-year-old Minneapolis woman and her 26-year-old son will not face charges for shooting a would-be burglar in their backyard, the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office announced.
“Based on the evidence available, the county attorney’s office is declining to file any charges because both individuals have a valid self-defense claim,” said Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, raising questions about whether this case will set a new precedent for self-defense in Minnesota.
In Minnesota, residents have a “duty to retreat,” meaning that it is “legal to use deadly force only as a last resort and only in situations where someone is threatened with great bodily harm or death,” according to the Benton County Sheriff’s Office.
In this case, a man “unsuccessfully” attempted to enter the woman’s south Minneapolis home through a back patio door after climbing over her six-foot fence on Feb. 22, Freeman’s office said.
The woman was armed with a gun and asked her son to retrieve a rifle from downstairs “because the man could possibly obtain it if he entered their home through the basement egress window.”
“Upon looking outside, she saw that her garage service door was slightly ajar and realized the man was still there. She began firing warning shots and yelled for the man to leave. Her son was standing next to her and similarly yelling for the man to leave,” Freeman’s office explained.
The man eventually left the garage and began walking toward the homeowner and her son, who had willingly placed themselves at the “threshold of their patio door,” as Freeman noted. They never left the interior of their home.
After repeated warnings and additional warning shots, the man was shot once in the chest and died from his injuries. He was unarmed. Freeman’s office said it “cannot be said with absolute certainty which of the guns fired the bullet that killed him.”
Freeman’s office called the case “tragic” but lacking “sufficient proof” that the homeowner or her son committed a crime.
“The evidence in this case does not support charges because a prosecutor could not disprove valid self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt. The homeowner and her son did not have a duty to retreat because they were inside their own home. All of the surrounding circumstances show that their fear of bodily harm was subjectively real and objectively reasonable,” Freeman’s office added.
Warning shots are considered to be “incredibly dangerous and an extraordinarily bad idea,” which is likely why Minneapolis police are strictly prohibited from firing warning shots, Crime Watch Minneapolis reports.
As opposed to stand your ground states, Minnesota law “requires people to retreat from danger, if possible, prior to using deadly force,” the Benton County Sheriff’s Office said in November 2021.
“Even the threatened use of deadly force in the form of warning shots could be illegal depending upon the details of the incident,” the sheriff’s office said. “Do not fire warning shots if you are concerned there is someone on your property or for any other reason.”
Instead, the “safe and legal response” is to call 911, “retreat to an area of safety,” and wait for law enforcement to arrive.
It does not appear that the woman or her son ever called 911 until after they shot the man. It’s unclear how long the man was in their garage.