Armed Homeowner Acting in Self-Defense? Maybe…

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This teachable moment started as a car chase. According to ABC News5, St. Paul police officers “were on patrol around 10 a.m. when they attempted to stop a stolen vehicle which then allegedly fled at a high rate of speed, causing officers to lose sight of it.”

A short time later, the “officers were alerted to a crash at the intersection of Payne Avenue and Jenks Avenue East involving the stolen vehicle and another car. Upon arriving at the scene, they were told by witnesses that more than one person had fled on foot from the suspect vehicle.”

Shots Fired

As officers converged, they heard several gunshots. They soon found an adult male suffering from gunshot injuries lying in the yard of a home on Cook Avenue East. The wounded man was later identified as 20-year-old Jalik Combs.

Another adult male, 36-year-old Vincent Trotter, was standing in the yard, a handgun lying at his feet. The police said the man identified himself as the homeowner. He was “reportedly cooperative with officers and the scene was secured.”

According to CBS affiliate WCCR News4, “a family member there told us he is a ‘hard-working man who was just trying to protect his family,’ and that his wife and 6-month-old baby were home at the time.”

Combs, who lives just a few doors away from Trotter, claims he was simply “walking through the yard” and had nothing to do with the car theft. However, police charged him in the current case, as well as in a previous, unrelated auto theft.

Homeowner Arrested for Second Degree Assault With a Dangerous Weapon

Trotter has now been charged with Second Degree Assault with a Dangerous Weapon. Police had noticed security cameras on the home and obtained a search warrant for the footage. “It is clear from the video that the suspect (Combs) was retreating away from Trotter as Trotter fired his handgun,” the complaint said.

A sign in a window near the white, ajar door to a cream-colored house reads "NO TRESSPASSING" Violators will be shot! Survivors will be shot again!"

A sign on Vincent Trotter’s front door is sure to sway the jury. And not in his favor. (Photo Credit: CBS)

Other factors in this case could be problematic for Trotter if it goes to trial.

For one thing, Trotter, a legal Minnesota carry permit holder, violated a cardinal rule for anyone involved in a defensive shooting. He spoke openly to police at the scene, saying, “I pull up and he’s by my door.” He added, “I told him, ‘Don’t move,’ he moves, and I let three or four rounds go. I see blood, so I think I hit him. I tried to hit him.” He did finally get an attorney when he was charged, but by then the damage was done.

This is also not Trotter’s first case of using a firearm. In 2013, he shot and wounded a would-be robber. And while no charges were filed in that case, and it cannot be introduced at trial, there is no doubt a jury will be aware of it.

‘Teachable Moments’ in Terms of Self-Defense in Court

Two of Trotter’s shots hit the house across the street. A savvy prosecutor will portray this as reckless behavior and/or evidence of a “blatant disregard for public safety” or some such wording. Stay tuned.

Finally, as if all that weren’t enough, a sign by Trotter’s front door reads, “NO TRESPASSING! VIOLATORS WILL BE SHOT. SURVIVORS WILL BE SHOT AGAIN!” If you think that will have no effect on a jury, you are deluding yourself.

As always, there is no way to predict how things will turn out. But regardless, this case should serve as a “teachable moment” for all of us.

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