“Stand your ground”-style laws are gaining worldwide attention once again after this week’s shooting death of a 17-year-old German exchange student in Montana.
“America cannot continue to play cowboy,” said Celal Dede, the father of slain teen, according to the Associated Press. He flew to the U.S. to retrieve his son’s body, which was flown back to Europe after Sunday’s deadly shooting. “I didn’t think for one night that everyone here can kill somebody just because that person entered his backyard.”
Missoula homeowner Markus Kaarma has been accused of firing a shotgun multiple times into his garage and killing Diren Dede, and he now faces deliberate homicide charges.
Dede, originally from Hamburg, Germany, attended Big Sky High School and played on the varsity soccer team. It’s not yet clear why the teen was in his neighbor’s garage.
“This is a one-in-a-million and how angry I am that this could happen to someone,” Kate Walker, a member of the teen’s host family told NBC Montana. Dede had been staying at their home since mid-August of last year.
Kaarma told the authorities his home had been recently broken into twice. On the night of the shooting, Kaarma and his partner, Janelle Pflager, left the garage door open along with a purse out in the open. The pair also installed motion sensors and a video baby monitor to alert them of any possible intruders. Shortly after midnight, the motion sensors tripped and Kaarma headed outside to the driveway clutching his firearm.
Prosecutors accuse him of intentionally setting up a trap as bait, then firing blindly into his garage without warning.
A German consulate spokeswoman Julia Reinhardt said in the consulate’s eyes, the shooting was “completely out of proportion” to any possible threat toward Kaarma.
Kaarma’s lawyer Paul Ryan said his client acted in self-defense and plans to plead not guilty. “He was scared for his life,” said Ryan. “It shouldn’t be up to a homeowner to wait and see if [an intruder] is going to shoot him when he announces himself.”
“Stand your ground” and other laws aimed at self-dense have become a larger part of the national discourse following the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin.
In 2009, Montana lawmakers expanded the state’s so-called castle doctrine. The statute allows the use of lethal force if an individual “reasonably believes” that will stop an unlawful entry into an occupied structure or home. Prior to that, deadly force could only be used if the intruder acted in a “violent, riotous, or tumultuous manner.”
Ryan said he plans to use that law while defending Kaarma in court, which has already prompted at least one state legislator to act.
This week, state Rep. Ellie Hill of Missoula proposed a bill to roll back a portion of the Defense of an Occupied Structure statute.
“What the castle doctrine has done in this country is it has created a culture of gun violence and vigilante justice,” said Hill, The Missoulian reported. “And it’s created a culture that it’s OK to shoot first and ask questions later.”