AUSTIN (KXAN) — A deadly shooting in South Austin may be the most recent test of Texas’ laws outlining when a person can use deadly force.
A man who feared for his – and his family’s – safety shot and killed a man who had run away from a South Austin group home Monday morning, according to Austin police.
Still, that is hardly the first case dealing with Texas’ “Castle Doctrine” and use of force rules.
A woman near Houston shot a man last year who she said she believed was trying to get through her front door. Investigators say the man turned out to be her neighbor — Sam Keen — a Houston Firefighter who police say had taken a cab home after going to a bar with friends. Investigators of the shooting say they’ve handed over the case to the district attorney’s office.
In Texas, a person has no responsibility to run away from a situation where they are legally justified to use deadly force.
“Be very careful. You’ve got good rights in Texas, strong presumptions, but use them wisely,” said Kirk Evans, president of Texas Law Shield, a legal defense program focused on firearms.
Evans explained a person cannot shoot a someone who is simply trespassing.
“But the second they attempt to either break in or get you out of that house you’re allowed to use deadly force,” said Evans.
That same standard also applies in your car or where you work.
However, a person can also shoot someone they if they reasonably believe deadly force is necessary to prevent someone else from trying to kill or seriously injure them, or there is the threat of certain crimes such as sexual assault or aggravated kidnapping. Evans says those standards are based on the eyes of the person pulling the trigger and what they know about the situation. The person defending themselves also has no responsibility to retreat if they have the right to be where they are, under Texas law.
The rules in Texas have critics. Texas Representative Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, believes a person should have the power to defend themselves in their own home. Still, he thinks state law goes too far. He’s pushing to change it.
“I think [Texas’ current laws regarding deadly force expand] the ability to take the law into one’s own hands further than anyone ever anticipated,” Coleman said.