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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