In less than two weeks, four innocent mistakes lead to gun violence. The four shootings, involving mostly young people as the victims, were triggered by seemingly harmless interactions that the shooters perceived as dangerous threats.

What do laws say about the right to protect yourself, and which shooters will be charged for their actions?

Four Mistakes Lead to Four Shootings

Teen Shot After Ringing the Wrong Doorbell

Last week, this blog covered the story of Raphael Yarl. Yarl, a 16-year-old living in Kansas City Missouri, was told by his mother to pick up his siblings at a friend’s house. Yarl mixed up the address and went to the wrong house. Around 10 p.m., he rang the doorbell and was shot by 84-year-old Andrew D. Lester.

Yarl was shot once in the head and once in the arm. He survived his injuries.

Two Teen Girls Shot After Getting Into the Wrong Car

In the same week, two teenage girls were in a grocery store parking garage in Elgin, a town about 25 miles northeast of Austin, Texas. Per reporting, the two girls were on their way home from cheerleading practice. They typically parked in the garage and carpooled to practice. It was around 12:15 a.m. when one of the girls tried to get into the wrong car, mistaking it for her own. She opened the driver’s door and saw a man sitting in the passenger seat. She got out and back into her friend’s car when the man, 25-year-old Pedro Tello Rodriguez Jr., approached the vehicle and fired shots.

The female driving the car was critically injured.

Six-Year-Old and Father Shot After Basketball Rolls into the Wrong Yard

Authorities are still investigating what happened in Gastonia, a town west of Charlotte, North Carolina. According to reports, children were outside playing when their basketball rolled into the yard where 24-year-old Robert Louis Singletary was living. Singletary came out of the house and yelled at the kids. The father of a 6-year-old girl playing outside approached the house and said something to Singletary. Singletary then walked into the house and came back out with a gun and fired shots, hitting the man and his daughter.

The girl had a bullet fragment in her cheek and was released from the hospital. Her father was hospitalized with serious injuries.

20-Year-Old Killed After Pulling Into the Wrong Driveway

During the same week, Kaylin Gillis was a passenger in a vehicle with three friends who were driving around a rural area of upstate New York trying to find a friend’s house. Per reporting, Gillis’ friend pulled into a long driveway mistaking it for their friend’s house. The homeowner, 65-year-old Kevin Monahan fired two shots at the car from the porch.

Gillis was shot and pronounced dead shortly after the incident.

Were the Shooters Charged?

Each of the incidents is reported to have stemmed from innocent mistakes. The victims appear to have not meant any harm to the shooter.

But if the shooters felt in danger, are their actions warranted?

Currently, each of the shooters face charges for their actions.

  • Lester was charged with first-degree assault and armed criminal action for shooting the teen at his door.
  • Rodriguez was charged with deadly conduct, a third-degree felony in Texas, for shooting at the two teenage cheerleaders.
  • Singletary was charged with attempted first-degree murder, assault with a deadly weapon, and possession of a firearm for shooting at the six-year-old and her father.
  • Monahan was charged with second-degree murder for shooting and killing the passenger of the vehicle turning around in his yard.

Related: If You’re Arrested for a Crime, Immediately Take These 6 Steps

How Will the Shooters Defend Their Case?

The four shootings occurred in different states and will follow the laws of the states where the incidents occurred. Each state has unique laws as they relate to self-defense.

Three of the states — Missouri, Texas, and North Carolina — have “stand your ground” laws that say an individual has no duty to retreat from a hostile situation before using deadly force if they feel their life or the life of another is in danger.

New York has laws that require a “duty to retreat.” The law says individuals that have an opportunity to retreat should do so before using deadly force.

Lester and Monahan have pleaded not guilty to their charges. It’s not clear whether Singletary or Rodriguez have entered their plea.

If any of the shooters claim self-defense, they will have to prove that they felt their life was in danger when they fired the shots. 

Monahan, who fired at a car from his porch and in New York state with no stand your ground laws, will likely have the most difficult case to prove self-defense. The other cases in states with stand your ground laws may have a stronger defense, but the defendants will have to prove they feared for their life, which may be difficult considering the situation of each case.

If you have questions about a pending criminal case, schedule a call with TJ Grimaldi. Request your consultation or call 813-226-1023.

Supporting Children Impacting by Gun Violence

TJ Grimaldi works to fight for children impacted by gun violence. Grimaldi is the Executive Director and Board Member of The Oulson Family Foundation, a non-profit created to honor the life and legacy of Chad Oulson, whose life ended in a senseless act of gun violence.

Grimaldi works to help kids get the resources they need in the wake of being impacted by gun violence. Learn more about The Oulson Family Foundation and see how you can help support children impacted by gun violence.

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