Shooting sparks debate over homeowners right to defend

Shooting sparks debate over homeowners right to defend

By Keller Russell. CREATED Aug 30, 2011

OKAUCHEE - The shooting death of 39-year-old James Babe at an Okauchee home has re-ignited debate over homeowners right to defend themselves.

Hundreds of people have commented on our online web stories about the issue. And, in nearby communities homeowners have differing opinions.

Terri McCarthy of Eagle said it depends on the circumstances, whether you should get away with shooting what you consider to be an intruder.

"If it's outside or in his garage then I don't think he should have shot him but if he's entering your home, then yea, I do think you have right to shoot him," said McCarthy.

Others say homeowners shouldn't jump to conclusions and shoot to kill.

In Okauchee, Mike Fitzsimmons claims Babe broke into his garage in the middle of the night, that there was a confrontation and Fitzsimmons felt threatened.

"He told me he had a gun. He came at me with a gun. I told him to drop it, backed up, shot him, killed him," Fitzsimmons said of the shooting early Saturday morning.

In their investigation, police found Babe actually didn't have a gun. He did have a cell phone in his hand.

Current law states that a person may use deadly force only if they "reasonably believe" that doing so will save them or another person from death or serious injury.

"Now for self defense, they ask you why didn't you run away, why didn't you leave the area," said Sen. Van Wanggard of Racine. "You shouldn't have to do that in your own home."

He's one of several senators pushing a bill to expand homeowners rights to protect them from being convicted of a crime or civil if someone unlawfully or forcefully tries to enter and the homeowner uses deadly force. It's known as the castle doctrine.

They will not have to retreat, they will have stand your ground language in this bill," explained Wanggard.

He said the bill would change the perspective of someone before they break in, knowing that person has the right to go after them.

The bill would require the court to find true that a person reasonably believed their forced was necessary to protect themselves as long as the person they take action against was an intruder. It would not cover someone's deadly force if they are doing something illegal at the time, are using their home for criminal activity, or take action against someone like a cop.

For homeowners like Dan Kallay of Mukwonago, the increased protection would be a welcomed change.

"I think the current law is ridiculous," said Kallay. "I should be able to do anything to protect my home my belongings and my family."

The bill is scheduled for a vote in the Assembly on Thursday.