Homeowner shoots armed invader

It was a drizzly, miserable December 2009 night in Marrero, a small river town across from New Orleans on the west bank of the Mississippi River.

He and his wife are active in their church, and they had gone to services that night.

Upon leaving church, they decided to get something to eat, but the restaurant they chose was closed. Their teenaged daughter was out with friends, and would be coming in soon, so they decided to go home early.

They live in a nice, upper-middle income neighborhood. It is a small development consisting of six dead-end streets, three on each side of a main thoroughfare coming off the highway. When you enter their street, you can only leave by coming back the way you entered. They live nine houses down from the corner.

When they turned onto their street, it was about 8:15 p.m., still raining. They saw three individuals wearing hooded sweatshirts pulled up over their heads. The strangers were at the entrance to their street, walking in toward the dead-end.

They drove past them about 100 yards, pulling into their driveway.

“We were suspicious,” he said. “We waited about 20 seconds in the car, looking for them, but couldn’t see them anymore, and decided to go on inside.”

He carried a Heckler & Koch USP Compact in .40 Smith & Wesson caliber. This is a smaller double-action pistol with a polymer frame and de-cocker button. It carries 12 rounds in the magazine. He had it loaded with Golden Saber hollow-point ammunition.

He did not have a round in the chamber. This would prove significant.

His wife had paperwork from church in her hands, and he was carrying the H-K as they exited the car. They did not see the three strangers, so they walked quickly to their front door, unlocked it and he entered first, going to the alarm pad to type in the code.

As he punched the keypad, his wife screamed, and he turned to see a man in a hooded sweatshirt forcing his way into the house, a .357 Magnum revolver in his outstretched hand. He was screaming, “You’re gonna die!”

It’s strange what the mind focuses on in times of stress. He noticed the invader had wrapped cloth around the gun, probably to hide his fingerprints. He realized in a split second of razor-sharp clarity that an armed man had hit his door as his wife was closing it, and was about to enter his home — and he basically had an unloaded gun.

Shouldering his wife out of the way, he pushed the door into the intruder, and as the door shielded him, he racked the slide of his H-K, loading a round in the chamber.

The intruder violently pushed the door open, the gun preceding him as he took the first step into the house. As the door swung inward, the homeowner fired, hitting the intruder in the center of the chest.

The armed invader stumbled backward off the low porch, falling on his back on the sidewalk. The homeowner followed him outside, covering him with his pistol.

“Man, I’m shot,” he said weakly. “I can’t move … .”

“Don’t move,” the homeowner said. “I’ll shoot you again.”

“I’m sorry,” the intruder told him.

The two other would-be home invaders ran away at the sound of the shot. Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office came quickly, as did an emergency ambulance.

“They worked on him almost 20 minutes in the front yard,” the homeowner told me. “They transported him to the hospital, but he died about an hour later.”

JPSO went to the home of the dead intruder, and spoke to his mother. She told investigators the name of the young man with whom her son was supposed to have been staying the night.

Upon questioning that young man, he gave the investigators the names of the other two youths who had left his house with the deceased.

Upon questioning, both suspects admitted their involvement in the crime, and told investigators they had been walking around in the rain, looking for someone to rob.

When the homeowner and his wife passed them and turned into their driveway, they said to one another, “That’s the one! That’s the one! Let’s go!”

We get a lot of dramatic self-defense stories in our state-certified concealed-carry courses — but this was one of the most dramatic, and we include it in our repertoire of self-defensive shooting events because it is so instructive.

One thing that stands out is the warrior mindset of this homeowner. When telling the story in class, he gave no indication of arrogance or braggadocio. He wasn’t proud of the fact that he had taken a life, but he shared his story with us because he thought we should know how quickly things can fall apart.

He also has few regrets. A strong Christian, he believes he took the only action available under the circumstances.

“My pastor counseled me,” he said. “He told me David carried Goliath’s head for seven days after he killed him. I didn’t lose any sleep over it.

“I’ll tell you this: If I hadn’t had a gun when he was coming through that door, he was coming into a fight. I would have fought him no matter what.”

His wife is still distraught, but she seems to be doing better, some months after the incident.

“She’s the youth pastor,” he said. “I think she is bothered by the fact they were so young — two 15-year-olds and a 14-year old.”

In review, there is little you can find this homeowner did wrong under the circumstances. Fate put three juveniles intent on home invasion and robbery on his street. He and his wife were cautious in exiting their vehicle, and he had his gun when they entered their house.

He acted quickly and decisively, without hesitation. By doing so, he more than likely saved himself and his wife from serious injury or death. He also shot very well. Many trained individuals, under such stress, might not have shot so accurately.

In fact, the only fault I can find with the whole scenario is carrying his semi-auto inside with an empty chamber. He says he still carries that way for safety purposes, and that is a personal choice determined by one’s circumstances and confidence in his sidearm. He can’t be faulted for that.

It would have been a wise idea to work a round into the chamber before exiting the vehicle, but this also requires a certain amount of dexterity and practice with your pistol to be sure you can do it safely under the circumstances. In the stress of the moment, nervous about the location of the suspicious strangers, you forget little things like loading the chamber.

Of course, practicing goes without saying — and again, there was nothing wrong with his gun handling and aim.

Gordon Hutchinson will answer your questions on the concealed carry process through email at ghhutchinson@gmail.com.