JOE HORN: NEIGHBOR OF THE YEAR?
Do not rob these people or their neighbors
In the town of Pasadena, Texas, Joe Horn saw two men -- Miguel Dejesus, 38, and Diego Ortiz, 30 -- break into his neighbor’s house. Horn called 911 and eventually stated that he intended to shoot the men, despite the dispatch operator's attempt to dissuade him from doing so.
Horn went outside and fatally shot the two men.
You can listen to the eerie 911 call by watching this clip:
While there is no evidence (yet) of racial motivations, the protests have quickly divided along color lines. Dejesus and Ortiz, the deceased, are black and, from what I can tell from photos, Horn appears to be white.
As you can see from the photo of the protest/counter-protest below, white men with confederate flag tattoos confronted and attempted to drown out Black Panther Party leader Quanell X and a group of largely black protesters. Some national reactions have also veered in similar directions, with Horn supporters praising him for taking on "hoodlums."
Quanell X believes Horn should be charged with murder. Horn's supporters are praising him as the neighbor of the year.
There's obviously a big moral debate over whether Horn was right to shoot the two alleged burglars. There's also the legal question of whether Horn would be protected from civil and criminal action by claiming self-defense. I'm going to leave those aside from now.
Here's the real kicker: According to my basic legal research of Texas criminal laws, there would be absolutely no criminal case against Horn ... had the burglary taken place at night.
(Thanks to Kristen for pointing out that the shooting took place at 2 pm.)
Here are the relevant passages of the Texas Penal Code:
§ 9.43. Protection of Third Person's Property
A person is justified in using force or deadly force against another to protect land or tangible, movable property of a third person if, under the circumstances as he reasonably believes them to be, the actor would be justified under Section 9.41 or 9.42 in using force or deadly force to protect his own land or property and:
(1) the actor reasonably believes the unlawful interference constitutes attempted or consummated theft of or criminal mischief to the tangible, movable property; or
(2) the actor reasonably believes that:
(A) the third person has requested his protection of the land or property;
(B) he has a legal duty to protect the third person's land or property; or
(C) the third person whose land or property he uses force or deadly force to protect is the actor's spouse, parent, or child, resides with the actor, or is under the actor's care.*
§ 9.42. Deadly Force to Protect Property
A person is justified in using deadly force against another to protect land or
tangible, movable property:
(1) if he would be justified in using force against the
other under Section 9.41; and
(2) when and to the degree he reasonably believes the
deadly force is immediately necessary:
(A) to prevent the other's imminent commission of
arson, burglary, robbery, aggravated robbery, theft during the
nighttime, or criminal mischief during the nighttime; or
(B) to prevent the other who is fleeing
immediately after committing burglary, robbery, aggravated
robbery, or theft during the nighttime from escaping with the
(3) he reasonably believes that:
(A) the land or property cannot be protected or
recovered by any other means; or
(B) the use of force other than deadly force to
protect or recover the land or property would expose the actor or
another to a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury.
Horn clearly saw two men taking property from his neighbor. He believed deadly force was necessary to prevent them from fleeing after immediately committing burglary. He didn't have other means to stop them. Depending on his relationship with the neighbor, he probably can successfully claim that he had the duty to protect his neighbor's property.
Thus, Horn was legally justified in fatally shooting the next-door burglars except for the fact that the alleged crime took place in the middle of the day. Had the alleged crime and shooting taken place several hours later, there would be no debate as to Horn's legal innocence.
In my opinion, that's the craziest part of this whole story.
It seems that those who are outraged at Horn should really be angry at the Texas legislature for empowering Horn (and future neighbors) to serve as judge, jury, and executioner.