Imagine yourself in this scenario. You pull into your street and you see a strange car parked in your driveway (when no one is home). Then you see someone standing in your open front door - crow-bar in hand. What would you do? For a Layton resident, this is not academic....it really happened.....
Police said Clare B. Niederhauser, 64, was driving toward his home at 2536 E Gentile Avenue when he saw a passenger car in his driveway and a man at the doorway holding a prybar.
This homeowner, a conceal carry permit holder, proceeded to his home and....
Niederhauser approached the man with the pry bar, who was identified as 47-year-old Robert Santos Cruz, and held him at gunpoint, according to a press release.
Niederhauser ordered Cruz to drop the pry bar and Cruz complied. Niederhauser then noticed that the passenger car was backing out of his driveway. Niederhauser allegedly fired a shot toward the car in an attempt to hit a tire or the engine compartment. The vehicle got away and has not been located.
While continuing to hold Cruz at gunpoint, Niederhauser retrieved a cellphone from his car and called 911. When the first police officer arrived at the scene, Cruz fled into the backyard area of the home.
Now personally, I would have called police from said cell phone before I had even gotten out of my car, but that's me....because now things have gone sideways for the homeowner.
Police said Niederhauser chased Cruz and fired another shot into the field area behind the home. Officers told Niederhauser to put away the gun and he complied.
Officers located and arrested Cruz, who was not armed. (ed - excuse me...what the HELL do you call the pry-bar?)
Police said it appeared Niederhauser was not trying to shoot Cruz or the occupants in the passenger car, so felony charges against him were not appropriate.
However, police said Niederhauser’s decision to fire the shots created a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury to another person. He was arrested and booked into the Davis County Jail on two counts of reckless endangerment. He bailed out of jail Friday afternoon.
Now many friends of mine read this story and complained about how unfair it was that the homeowner was arrested for defending his property and they are half right and half wrong. Half right in that, if you have 3 bad guys at your door and 2 of them are in a 1 ton or so weapon and said one ton weapon moved, yeah I would probably shoot at the radiator to disable the car. That could and should be considered a life threatening situation. You don't know if they are backing up to leave or get a running head start at running you down. However, the homeowners decision (based on the information provided) to shoot at a fleeing suspect was a bit questionable. The reason I qualify that is because we don't know if the suspect fled when the cop car first pulled up or if he fled after the police had gotten out of their cars and started approaching the scene. If it was the former, then chasing after the burglar was probably appropriate. However, if the police had gotten out of their vehicles and started approaching the men, the smartest move would have been to let the police pursue.
Now prosecutors have worked out a plea deal in this case. Again, many think that it is grossly unfair that the homeowner should be charged for defending his life and property. However.....
Prosecutors say they can’t just drop all the charges. They say Niederhauser technically broke the law and will be held accountable but it’ll likely be a lesser punishment.
And this is where maybe the law needs revising. This does appear to be a case where there was a reasonable fear of your life being endangered. Some consideration does need to be made (in the law) for this type of situation. It is common sense.
It is also common sense that if the police are on the scene, that you don't go chasing after a bad guy. You are not trained on how to handle pursuits like that and you don't know if the perp had a gun on him that he was pulling out once he got out of sight. That too is common sense.
But then again, common sense is becoming less and less common every day.