Make My Day Law likely won't apply to downtown shooting case

By: Tim Ciesco Email
By: Tim Ciesco Email

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - Saturday's shooting in Downtown Grand Junction marks the second time in a month that local law enforcement has investigated a shooting where self-defense may have played a role. No charges have been filed yet in either case, as authorities look into the shooters' actions.

On Nov. 1, a woman was killed and a man was injured after a shooting in the 3000 block of Rood Avenue.

On Nov. 28, a man was rushed to the hospital with a gunshot wound to the chest after an incident in the 600 block of Gunnison Avenue.

In both cases, authorities are looking at the role that self-defense may have played -- and in both cases, there's a possibility that the shooters won't be charged with anything.

"We're going to look at any case that involves either self-defense or Make My Day with a fine toothed comb," says Mesa County District Attorney Pete Hautzinger.

Colorado has a law known as "Make My Day," that gives citizens the right to use deadly force against an intruder without criminal consequences. Hautzinger says there are two criteria that must be met in order for that law to apply.

"You have to be illegally in someone else's home," says Hautzinger. "And number two, I have to have a reasonable belief that you're going to commit any kind of crime."

He says the law is very specific that the intruder be inside a home or dwelling -- meaning the "Make My Day" protections likely won't apply to the sworn National Park Service employee who shot a man trying to enter his home on Gunnison Avenue.

"The homeowner was concerned for his family that was inside, left his house to confront [the man] and the shooting happened in the backyard," says Grand Junction Police Sgt. Lonnie Chavez.

But Hautzinger says in instances like that, Colorado has other self-defense laws that could potentially protect citizens from criminal charges. He says, again, the person claiming self-defense must reasonably believe someone was going to commit a crime, and the act of self-defense must be reasonable for that crime.

"Under self-defense there's a certain amount of balancing," says Hautzinger. "For example, if you come up and slap me in the face, I'm probably not justified in pulling out a bazooka and blowing you away."

A fine line that he says warrants a lot of attention.

"I think it's part of my sworn duty as the chief prosecutor to be very careful, very exacting, and ask that the police agency do a very thorough, very complete investigation," says Hautzinger.

Hautzinger says he plans to look over the Rood Avenue case and make a decision about charges sometime in the next week. He says a decision on the Gunnison Avenue shooting probably won't come for several more weeks.


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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by Anonymous on Dec 7, 2009 at 08:45 AM
    Hey at least the man is still alive
  • by Facts only on Dec 3, 2009 at 04:40 PM
    People with opinions just go around bothering each other.
  • by Anonymous on Dec 2, 2009 at 06:12 PM
    "The homeowner was concerned for his family that was inside, left his house to confront [the man] and the shooting happened in the backyard," says Grand Junction Police Sgt. Lonnie Chavez.(LEFT HIS HOUSE TO COMFRONT THE MAN) This says it all in this case. Try to remember out there that the "break in" is alleged, but the FACTS are that a man was SHOT and NO ONE can dispute that.
  • by joe Location: denver on Dec 2, 2009 at 05:10 PM
    Are you people serious? Doesnt sound like he was trying to BREAK into the house... People who break into houses to rob or hurt people usually try to do so quietly.. Sounds like he accidentially went to the wrong house and banged on the door to be let in then went to the back and did the same thing... If you think this warrants the homeowner GOING OUTSIDE into the "Percieved Danger" to shoot this kid in cold blood then you need to get your head examined. Remind me to NEVER knock on the wrong door in Grand Junction.
  • by Resident Location: GJ on Dec 2, 2009 at 03:33 PM
    Warning...you come knocking on my door at wee hours of the morning and try to gain access to my home without permission with or without force, there will be no questions asked...Kudo's to the homeowner!
  • by Anonymous on Dec 2, 2009 at 02:31 PM
    Who says that this man "knocked on the door" so to speak? He tried to break in many access points after being told to go away many times. I pray the man that was shot is going to be OK but it his his fault for not going away when he was told to by the homeowner several times. I hope both parties come out OK.
  • by Also Anonymous Location: GJ on Dec 2, 2009 at 01:55 PM
    'Trigger happy police' Anonymous? When was the last time a GJ cop shot someone? If the cops draw their guns or shoot someone that suspect has pushed a lot of other buttons first and should have just listened to their orders to begin with. Local law enforcement does a good job and I, for one, am grateful for what they do. All law-abiding citizens are.
  • by Anonymous on Dec 2, 2009 at 12:46 PM
    I think people misunderstand the DA. The Make my Day Law says that if certain conditions hold the state is not allowed to press charges. It doesn't apply in this case but the homeowner can successfully argue self-defense under a much looser set of guidelines, it's just may have to go to court to do it. Its a tragic situation and I feel bad for both parties, but the homeowner didn't ask to be awakened at the early hours of the morning fearing some kind of home invasion robbery. However, it was this man's own decision to drink so much he couldn't recognize his own home, he could just as easily been hit by a car or shot by the much more trigger happy police.
  • by Home owner in the same neighborhood on Dec 2, 2009 at 08:20 AM
    Who knows this man could have a family that loves him and maybe they are good people who pray or both parties involved. Imagine how hurt the family is and how disrespectful and ignorant this sounds, to say something like that about some one who knocked on the door disappeared and then was hunted down in the back yard Not in the home. Its to bad for people like John who are judging this before the truth comes out. There is a day for that my friend and it's called judgment day and you don't worry about that day because that is no your job.
  • by Anonymous on Dec 2, 2009 at 08:16 AM
    Dear Anonymous, Sounds like the guy who got shot was persistent about getting in the house after asked to leave several times! Good for the homeowner to protect his family from the crazy lunatic trying to get inside his house at 1:00 in the morning! This man could have hurt this family!
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