Friday, June 27, 2008

California: Homeowner justified in shooting drunken man, S.B. County district attorney's office finds

San Bernardino, California

From the Press-Enterprise of June 26, 2008
Homeowner justified in shooting drunken man, S.B. County district attorney's office finds

A 53-year-old San Bernardino homeowner, fearful that he was dealing with a dangerous burglar, was legally justified in killing a drunken man during a 3 a.m. confrontation on the homeowner's front walkway, prosecutors said Thursday.

The finding of justifiable homicide means that no criminal charges will be filed against Brad Nielsen for the June 15 slaying of Joshua Munoz, 23, in the Devil Canyon area of northwest San Bernardino.

Munoz died of a single gunshot wound to the chest. Nielsen wasn't arrested.

"He believed that someone was trying to break into his house," San Bernardino County Supervising Deputy District Attorney Rick Young said. "When he saw (Munoz) near his vehicle, he was justified in confronting him.

"Possibly due to his intoxication, the deceased did not respond in a manner to de-escalate the situation but, instead, began approaching the homeowner who -- at gunpoint -- told him several times to stop."

Nielsen feared for his safety and the safety of his wife and child, he told police.

"He felt that if he let the subject get any closer, they would be in a fight for the gun," Young said by phone. "This tragic homicide was legally justified in self-defense and the defense of others."

Munoz had been drinking and had passed out in his Honda Civic that night, investigators have said.

The car was parked in front of his girlfriend's home and across the street from Nielsen's two-story home in the 6400 block of North Ventura Avenue.

Efforts to reach Nielsen and Munoz's girlfriend and aunt on Thursday were unsuccessful.

"He was a kid who drank too much and walked into the wrong yard," Cindy Ledbetter, the mother of Munoz's girlfriend, said earlier. "The whole thing is senseless."

Nielsen was awakened by noises, armed himself with a pistol and walked outside to investigate, police have said.

It remains unclear why Munoz was on Nielsen's property.

"He probably got disoriented and thought he was going into his girlfriend's house," Young Said. "It's a tragedy."

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