Studies have shown that criminals look for certain types of victims and often identify them by factors they cannot explain. Sometimes it’s a victim’s clothes. Other times it’s a victim’s age. It can be a casual mention on social media of where a person will be at a certain time. And sometimes, it is simply a crime of opportunity, as in the case of this Ohio home-invasion incident.

Afternoon Surprise

Illustration by: Jason Brauncowski

Illustration by: Jason Brauncowski

In January 2023, an Ohio teenager came home from school on a day like any other. Unlike many 16-year-old boys, he was aware of his surroundings and heard a car pulling up in his driveway. Thinking it might be his uncle, he peeked out the window and saw a man he did not recognize approaching the house.

The graduate of hunter safety and firearms safety classes went to his mother’s bedroom and retrieved both the 9mm handgun she kept there and a magazine of ammunition. He then took a position of cover from which he could observe the front door. When the stranger realized the front door was unlocked, he came inside.

At this point, the young man racked the pistol’s slide, chambering a round, and pointed the now-loaded firearm at the intruder. Facing a teenager with a gun, the intruder did the smart thing and ran. The young man locked the door, called his mother and then called the Geauga County Sheriff’s Office. Law enforcement later arrested the intruder and charged him with burglary after neighbors and the young man identified him.1

No Shots Fired

Armed self-defense frequently involves a situation in which the miscreant with motive decides that preservation of life is more important than the acquisition of felonious income.2

The teenager defended his home and defeated the intruder without firing a shot. He did not chase the invader or even engage with him. He remained calm and followed a plan he had obviously worked out in his own mind before the incident happened. Then he followed up with both his mother and authorities in order to get the machinery of law enforcement working the problem of the intruder.

With help from doorbell cameras and neighbors, the police were able to get a description of the car and the intruder, leading to his arrest.

Unlocked Door

Our young defender can be faulted for only one thing: He failed to lock the door after he came home from school, which allowed the intruder easy entry. A locked door might have made it possible to avoid the confrontation. But teens often feel safe in their homes, and this one likely did not prioritize locking the door right after he entered — a mistake he probably won’t make in the future.

However, he did prioritize protecting himself with a loaded firearm. His strategy of taking cover in the event the stranger was armed was smart, as was his pointing the gun at the intruder when the man entered the home.

Staging the Firearm

What was perhaps not as smart was allowing the firearm to remain unloaded until the intruder came inside. While the news stories do not indicate the distances involved, a dedicated attacker could certainly have closed with the young man quickly. Most living rooms average 12 to 20 feet in size. The attacker could have covered that distance in less than two seconds. Equally important, a gun that needs to be racked could easily suggest to an intruder a lack of skill or confidence. This could have made the defender’s failure to chamber a round as soon as he accessed the firearm a fatal mistake. While it’s fortunate that did not happen, a favorable outcome does not validate bad tactics.

Video Adds Insurance

The defender’s mother was quite shaken by the experience, and it appears she learned a valuable lesson: She installed cameras and other security devices in her home. Readers should learn from her. Had the young man been required to shoot, there would have been no video record. There would have been a more thorough investigation, and a lack of video could have impeded that investigation. Having video is insurance against unjust charges.

Legal Framework

No charges were filed against the young defender. The teenager was legally in possession of his mother’s firearm. While pointing a firearm at another person is usually considered assault with a deadly weapon, the youth was privileged in Ohio due to its Castle Doctrine.3 The intruder entered without permission and was trespassing in the living quarters of the young man. Our defender could have shot the intruder at that point under Ohio law, but it is far better for his mental health that he did not.


(1) Dave Nethers, “Teen stops home invasion with mother’s handgun,” Jan. 17, 2023, Fox 8 News, It is a second-degree felony to trespass with the intent to commit a criminal offense in either an occupied structure when another person is present or an occupied habitation of any person when any person is present or likely to be present. See Ohio Revised Code Section 2911.12(A).

(2) The attacker’s motives are unknown in this case. He could have been after goods or people. The risk is always there.

(3) “[A] person is presumed to have acted in self-defense or defense of another when using defensive force that is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm to another if the person against whom the defensive force is used is in the process of unlawfully and without privilege to do so entering, or has unlawfully and without privilege to do so entered, the residence or vehicle occupied by the person using the defensive force.” See Ohio Revised Code Section 2901.05 (B)(2).