Self-Defense

Was the L.A. District Attorney's Husband Acting in Self-Defense When He Threatened to Shoot Protesters on His Porch?

David Lacey faces three misdemeanor assault charges that hinge on whether he reasonably believed he and his wife were in danger.

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If you were jolted awake at 5 a.m. by an angry clamor in front of your house, followed by a ring of the doorbell, you probably would be alarmed. You might even grab a gun. That's what David Lacey, husband of Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, did on March 2, when Black Lives Matter activists came to the couple's home for a predawn protest. But what he did next resulted in three misdemeanor assault charges that California Attorney General Xavier Becerra's office announced this week: Lacey pointed the gun at three protesters, told them to get off his porch, and threatened to shoot them if they didn't.

The incident is broadly similar to the June 28 encounter that led to felony charges against Mark and Patricia McCloskey, who brandished guns in response to Black Lives Matter protesters passing by their house in a private neighborhood of St. Louis. In both cases, the gun wielders claim to have acted in self-defense based on fears that were reasonable in the circumstances. But since the Laceys are black, the Los Angeles incident does not fit the easy narrative of privileged white people who are irrationally fearful of dark-skinned demonstrators. It is therefore a useful opportunity to consider the legal principles that distinguish between assault and self-defense, uncolored by charges of racial prejudice.

Unlike the McCloskeys, who happened to live along the shortcut that protesters took on the way to St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson's house, Jackie Lacey was the intended target of the demonstrators in Los Angeles, who say they were at her home to demand a meeting about her handling of excessive force allegations against police officers. But unlike the St. Louis protesters, who were trespassing on a private street, the vast majority of the 30 or so drum-banging, bullhorn-amplified L.A. protesters stayed on public property as three of them approached the front door of the Laceys' house and rang the bell. Such an unsolicited visit, while obnoxious given the hour, is not inherently illegal.

Once David Lacey opened the door, he had every right to demand that the activists leave, just as any homeowner would have the right to turn away an unwanted salesman, missionary, or propagandist. The question is whether he had a right to point his gun at the people on his porch and threaten to shoot them. "Get off of my porch," he says in the cellphone video of the incident while pointing a handgun at the protesters. "Are you gonna shoot me?" asks Melina Abdullah, co-founder the local Black Lives Matter chapter. "I will shoot you," Lacey replies. "Get off of my porch."

According to California's jury instructions regarding assault with a deadly weapon, a defendant cannot be convicted if he acted "in self-defense" or "in defense of another." That exception applies when the defendant used or threatened force because he "reasonably believed" he or someone else was "in imminent danger of suffering bodily injury"; "reasonably believed that the immediate use of force was necessary to defend against that danger"; and "used no more force than was reasonably necessary." California does not require someone who faces such a threat to retreat from the confrontation, and deadly force is presumptively legitimate when used against someone who "unlawfully and forcibly" entered one's home (which, assuming the protesters did nothing more than ring the bell and ask to speak with the D.A., does not describe this case).

Jackie Lacey, who is in the midst of a heated re-election race against former San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón and has been the target of weekly demonstrations at her office by protesters demanding her resignation, says her husband's reaction was understandable in light of the "harassment" the couple had suffered prior to the incident. "My husband acted in fear for my safety after we were subjected to months of harassment that included a death threat no less than a week earlier," she said on Tuesday in a statement from her re-election campaign. "Protesters arrived at my house shortly after 5 a.m. while I was upstairs. My husband felt that we were in danger and acted out of genuine concern for our well-being."

Carl Douglas, an attorney representing Abdullah, says that explanation is "laughable" because the Laceys could see via their doorbell camera that the protesters were unarmed. Abdullah, who chairs the Department of Pan-African Studies at Cal State L.A., adds that Jackie Lacey knew her and the two other protesters, although it's not clear whether her husband recognized them. "I would think that if you're afraid you would stay in the house and call the police because you were in fear," Abdullah told the Los Angeles Times. "They weren't in fear. They were agitated."

While the case does hinge partly on the distinction between anger and fear, the Laceys, assuming they were reasonably afraid, were under no obligation to cower in their house and wait for the police. David Lacey might have thought that pointing his gun at the uninvited guests was necessary to eliminate the threat he perceived. The question is whether a jury will agree that his perception was not only sincere but reasonable.

Abdullah notes that state prosecutors, who are handling the case to avoid a conflict of interest, could have charged David Lacey with felonies rather than misdemeanors. Assault with a firearm is a "wobbler" offense that can be charged as a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail or as a felony punishable by up to four years in prison. Abdullah says the choice of misdemeanor charges suggests that Lacey is receiving preferential treatment because his wife is the D.A.

Loyola law professor Laurie Levenson, a former federal prosecutor, disagrees. Although she does not condone Lacey's behavior, she thinks felony charges would be excessive in this case.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Levenson noted several mitigating factors—including the earlier threats against Lacey's wife, the fact that he was confronted at his home, and his clean criminal record—that might have influenced the decision to file misdemeanor charges. "I don't know whether he is thinking particularly clearly at 5 a.m. when people are on his doorstep and there has been increasing harassment of his wife," she said. "It's easy to say he shouldn't have been so afraid, he should have called the police, he made an unwise decision. But making an unwise decision doesn't always end up with a felony or even a criminal charge."

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  1. charges in both cases ludicrous.

    1. Carl Douglas, an attorney representing Abdullah, says that explanation is “laughable” because the Laceys could see via their doorbell camera that the protesters were unarmed.

      Unless the camera is a bloody X-ray machine, I fail to see how it could have shown that no one had a pistol tucked in the back of their waistband.

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      2. Plus disparity of numbers can mean a deadly threat even if unarmed – because fists and feet, especially in large numbers, can cause serious bodily harm and death.

      3. assertion more ludicrous than the charges.

    2. Yes, it’s a mealy-mouthed article. Is this really a libertarian magazine?
      An angry mob comes onto your property at 5am, and your wife is a prosecutor, who, like any experienced prosecutor, is wanted dead by many people– and dangerous people, too. They are not yet trespassing, because you have not yet told them leave. You tell them that if they do not leave— at which point they are in criminal violation— you will shoot them. All you are saying is that if they engage in criminal trespass that way, you will consider them dangerous and defend yourself. Any reasonable man woudl agree that a trespassing mob is dangerous. No reasonable jury could convict, so the judge should throw out the case— it is purely political.

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      2. I dunno. I agree that he absolutely had the right to be armed (though lucky for him it wasn’t the cops), and to tell people to leave, but I’m really hung up on the pointing it until ready to shoot issue.

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    5. This is a perfect example of why we should take the DA’s side on this one and protest charges being filed so that we can save her and her husband for the woodchipper that is to be used on all female DA’s and their husbands (for good measure).

      No point in risking gun rights over this, nor is it reasonable to postpone woodchipping just so tax payers can fund this political theater.

      For the record, I have nothing against females, DA’s, or butch hair-do’s. It’s just that specific combination that provokes the natural response to chip wood.

  2. I don’t know what the law says in CA, but I see no problem with their actions. Castle doctrine. You can defend your home even if there isn’t a clear immanent threat to your life.

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  3. “According to California’s jury instructions regarding assault with a deadly weapon, a defendant cannot be convicted if he acted “in self-defense” or “in defense of another.” That exception applies when the defendant used or threatened force because he “reasonably believed” he or someone else was “in imminent danger of suffering bodily injury”; “reasonably believed that the immediate use of force was necessary to defend against that danger”; and “used no more force than was reasonably necessary.” California does not require someone who faces such a threat to retreat from the confrontation, and deadly force is presumptively legitimate when used against someone who “unlawfully and forcibly” entered one’s home (which, assuming the protesters did nothing more than ring the bell and ask to speak with the D.A., does not describe this case).”

    OH FFS!!! He did not USE DEADLY FORCE.

    1. Where does it say he did? “Used or threatened”. Pointing a gun is threatening use of force, I do believe.

      1. Yes, assualt is generally not defined as a violent act but threatening unjustified violence.

        1. The question to me is would the threatened violence have been justified had it been the 30 KKK members burning a cross in the street and three of them walked up and rang the bell? Given a likely unintelligible cacophony of a mass of chanters in the early hours, it seems the only reasonable response would be to answer the door armed.

          That said, the 10 rounds he’s limited to in the magazine wouldn’t get him very far against a mob of about 30. Unless his wife’s occupation allows him to have “assault weapon” capacity “magazine clips”.

          1. Better to put ten holes into the group of people trying to kill you than to die unblooded.

      2. Zeb, you’re right, I let my frustration get thebetter of me and missed the “threatened” in what I quoted.

        In that case, the next part “reasonably believed that the immediate use of force was necessary ” could be resonably interpreted to include “The threat OR use of force” no?

    2. Him pointing the gun at the protesters is threat of deadly force, they would have been justified drawing their own gun and shooting him dead.
      Do not point your gun at anything you do not intend to kill.

      1. [T]hey would have been justified drawing their own gun and shooting him dead.

        I’m not sure about that, especially once he had told them to leave.

        Do not point your gun at anything you do not intend to kill.

        I agree with that absolutely.

      2. He intended to kill them if necessary. I don’t find that unreasonable at all. I also think once you’ve committed criminal acts you’re no longer protesting, you’re just a criminal, and showing up at 5 am in a residential neighborhood with bullhorns is most likely a criminal (albeit misdemeanor) act. Show up at my place at 5 am screaming through a bullhorn and I’m shooting you, you’re disturbing my quiet coffee time before work.

  4. Yes. Now i’m going to scroll up and read the article.

    1. Yes.

    2. Hey we all just come here for the comments; it’s like a feeding frenzy.

    3. I stopped reading at this gem “…Unlike the McCloskeys, who happened to live along the shortcut that protesters took…”

      A shortcut that requires breaking down a gate and ignoring No Trespassing signs is not a shortcut.

    4. Is it fucking necessary to have reporters filmed wearing masks when no is around them? Fuck, why don’t they just wear a Marx hat?

  5. But since the Laceys are black, the Los Angeles incident does not fit the easy narrative of privileged white people who are irrationally fearful of dark-skinned demonstrators.

    I’m pretty sure that there is some evidence suggesting that black people are at least as prejudiced against black people as white people are. But I guess that doesn’t fit the easy narrative either.

    1. >>privileged white people

      some other piece on this said they live in Agoura Hills … median household income $107,000+

      1. “$107,000+”

        So, being that they reside in LA, they are dog assed poor.

        1. i think they include the servants’ pay in the math

      2. 107K is the median. A prosecutor earns more than that. Agoura Hills is a nice place.

    2. Someone listened to Chris Rocks bigger v’s black people stand up recently

  6. “I don’t know what the law says in CA, but I see no problem with their actions. Castle doctrine. You can defend your home even if there isn’t a clear immanent threat to your life.”

    What were they defending their home from? Protests?

    No one entered or attempted to enter their home. No one threatened them.

    A group of people on your lawn is not inherently a threat that allows you to start menacing them with guns.

    1. They were on his porch. That’s part of his home. He made it clear that they were trespassing. At that point they leave or they are home invaders.

      1. I also don’t get the ludicrous argument that “They’re unarmed therefore they aren’t threatening.”

        Mobs and large groups do not have to be armed in order to be threatening. The mere size of the group implies a threat of force, and when targeted at an individual, it instills a reasonable fear. And given what we’ve seen many other places, how long does it take for the assholes outside who are being ignored by the occupants to decide to start picking up rocks?

        You can’t know that a peaceful crowd is always going to remain peaceful, so when you’re outnumbered arm yourself and make your intention to defend yourself known. If you’re part of a protesting crowd, don’t go banging on doors in the pre-dawn morning unless you’re looking to get shot.

        1. Yeah, the whole unarmed crap makes no sense. By that logic large portions of the Red Army posed no threats to the Nazis (until the guy next to them died and they picked up his gun) yet were (rightly as far as that can be said in war) gunned down by the Germans.

          1. “Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?”

          2. Guys with Mosins in the front, guy without Mosins second wave, commissars in the back with PPS SMGs taking out anyone who tried to retreat.

          3. WWII was just another peaceful protest

        2. not to mention that a lot of these mostly peaceful mobs carry homemade firebombs.

        3. when targeted at an individual

          This, also IMO, nullifies the whole “They weren’t a threat.” as well. If I shout out “I want to kill people!” empty-handed, I’m not a threat to anyone. If I whisper, empty-handed, over a coffee counter “I’m going to shoot JFK on Nov. 22, 1963.” I’m a threat.

          Moreover, the threat doesn’t have to be death. Break in to any museum in the world and threaten to steal or destroy religious or cultural artifacts, wait to see how long it takes before violent or even deadly force is used against you. If you survive the attempt, see what charges they bring the security personnel up on.

    2. 30 BLM protesters, a group with a documented history of violence. 3 against 1 on his porch at 5AM, not knowing whether they were armed or not (don’t give the the doorbell cam bullshit), or whether they would attack him or force their way into his home.

      This is clear self defense.

      1. Moreover, this is almost exactly how I would react if I saw a crowd of thirty angry people outside my house with three people banging on my door.

        1. thirty peoplee or one at 3 am I’m coming to my door armed

          1. At noon, too, if I’m not expecting company.

            1. A butt load of company at that.

          2. When we lived in Anchorage we lived in a lower middle class neighborhoods apartment complex on the very end row, on the third (top) floor. One evening I was awoken to someone pounding on my door at 3 AM, screaming. I retrieved my Ruger Redhawk .44, and went to answer the door. Looking through the peephole I saw a visibly intoxicated man banging on my door. I answered it, I stepped back and to the side in case he rushed me, but kept my pistol pointed downwards. I should state since this was the middle of the night I was only in my boxer briefs. His eyes got really large and he stuttered “sorry, I got the wrong door”. I stated “you think?” And closed the door. I also called the APD and notified them of the situation. Nothing further happened.

            1. Not sure if the Redhawk or the 270 pound male in his boxer briefs was what scared him (it isn’t all muscle,or even close either, especially back then).

            2. The distinction I would make is “pointed downwards” vs: “pointed at the protestors”. Which isn’t to say that the guy was necessarily wrong, just that there is a distinction in the two. It doesn’t take that long to bring one’s hand from beside one’s hip to a pointed forward position. Even faster if you rock the wrist.

              1. I also would say I didn’t point it because he was obviously intoxicated and I half figured he was looking for my neighbor, but I also wasn’t 100%. Better judged by 12 than carried by 6 but that doesn’t mean I don’t follow firearm safety when the situation doesn’t appear to be dangerous. Now if it were 3 people, with another 27 backing them up who have been harassing me and my family for weeks, yeah I would have had the pistol in a more ready position.

                1. And my wife and kids in the bedroom with the door locked on the phone with 911 and armed with my pistol or shotgun and orders not to unlock the door unless I give them the all clear password.

          3. Some needs to Lear from Oscar pestorious

            1. ????

        2. I wouldn’t even open the door in that situation, the sound of the shotgun racking is all the communication I intend on having with such a crowd.

      2. clear to most lol.

    3. So in your mind they should wait until the group starts defacing their property or actually assaults the family before they have a right to tell a bunch of people to get off their property at hours that are beyond unreasonable? Their presence at the home at that hour is an implicit threat.

      I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that you’re lock step with the corporate media’s cover up of the “mostly peaceful protester’s” violence and destruction, but I’m going to let you in on a little secret. There’s been hundreds of assaults, hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage and at least thirty murders associated with the protests. To say that someone isn’t allowed to bring out a gun at the ass crack of dawn to scare off the movement associated with that destruction is absurd.

      The way these people behave is like the game 5 year olds play to provoke each other by waving their hands in another kid’s face saying “you can’t get mad at me, I’m not touching you!!!”

    4. If you’re on my property uninvited I’ll menace you in any way I see fit. If you don’t like it you can leave, you had no right to be there in the first place.

    5. He specifically said he would not shoot them if they left.

      If he had shot them without speaking to them, that might be battery, depending on how reasonable his fears were. But he merely showed them his gun and said he’d shoot in self defense if they didn’t leave.

    6. A large crowd of angry people showing up to your house at 5 in the morning is pretty much inherently threatening. This bullshit of protesting at people’s houses has got to stop.

      And to answer the question in the headline; not only yes, but HELL YES, it was self defense. That’s what a psychologist might refer to as “setting boundaries”.

      1. It will stop when a homeowner shoots up a mob on their property, Its just a matter of time until someone is pushed too far. The ‘protesters’ are shockingly ignorant of history and human nature and seem to pretend nothing bad will ever happen to them.
        And 50:50 that it goes to a hung jury.

        1. They are used to risk-averse people who mostly submit to their demands. It seems like they expect that seem reaction even as they ramp up the violence.
          In this case, riots had been going on nationally for some time, and the family had been subject to threats of violence. In ordinary times, they could have called the police when the angry mob showed up in the middle of the night.
          I suppose they could just huddle inside, and hope that the mob does not barricade them inside and burn the house down.

    7. Any “demonstration” at someone’s home is an implied threat to break in or commit arson. And yes, it justifies the use of guns.

      If the law doesn’t permit the husband’s action, it should; and if this prosecution goes forward, the jury should nullify.

      What bothers me more about the law, though, is the wide scope of the prosecutor’s discretion. If I were the accused I would not expect to draw only a misdemeanor charge. It should be the jury, and no one else, who get to decide that one case deserves more severe punishment than another.

  7. A theoretically unarmed group of people cannot cause one bodily harm, apparently. Being on someone’s property when you have been told to remove yourself is illegal. The intent of the protesters was harassment and intimidation (showing up at a private home at odd hours). It does not seem unreasonable that violence might also be on the menu as well.

    If protesters are going to willfully break norms of civility, they do not get to claim the benefit of the doubt.

  8. “Unlike the McCloskeys, who happened to live along the shortcut that protesters took on the way to St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson’s house, ”

    Bullshit, Sullum.
    The home invaders broke into private property clearly marked as both private property and a dead end. They were NOT on the way to the mayor’s house.
    https://thefederalist.com/2020/07/29/even-if-theyre-acquitted-charging-the-mccloskeys-endangers-self-defense/

    1. ^^ This. Sullum you are lying and providing cover for treasonous Marxists you filthy POS.

      1. It’s all about the sympathy factor; if BLM or antifa breaks a few egss, or windows, are court houses, or heads, well those darned young scoundrels still have their heart in the right place.

        1. Or actually does burn 20 people alive in a police building, like they unsuccessfully tried to do last night…

    2. If you watch the entire video it does look like they head straight down the street and end up at the mayor’s house.

  9. If you have to ask. Only left liberal loons would think defending yourself on your own property was wrong.

    California is fucked. It’s just a matter of time before it implodes. One good earthquake would topple that government.

    1. As a resident of LA I can’t wait

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  11. If you can’t charge a cop for pointing his gun at a driver during a moving violation traffic stop, you shouldn’t charge a homeowner on their own property for the same thing.

  12. Mark and Patricia McCloskey, who brandished guns in response to Black Lives Matter protesters passing by their house in a private neighborhood..
    BLM ended up only passing by because teh McCloskeys were there, BLM would have trashed the place otherwise

  13. “Unlike the McCloskeys, who happened to live along the shortcut that protesters took on the way to St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson’s house”

    False.

    There is no shortcut. You cannot reach the mayor’s house by cutting through this private property.

    The reason they were at the McCloskey house was to violent treason in the name of Marxism.

    We should be reviewing the video and hanging traitors, starting with that prosecutor and the police who took the McCloskey’s guns.

    1. it’s not a hanging offense. 10 years in Federal lockup though, for violating their civil rights under color of law.

      1. For cops who make a bad stop yes. You are correct.

        For cops, politicians, judges or ANTIFA who are waging a violent insurrection against the US, hang them.

        https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/2381#:~:text=Whoever%2C%20owing%20allegiance%20to%20the,not%20less%20than%20%2410%2C000%3B%20and

        The DA has committed treason by aiding and abetting ANTIFA. By obeying this obviously illegal order, the police have committed treason by aiding and abetting ANTIFA. The thugs in black PJs who stormed private property to wage war against the US committed treason.

        The media giving comfort and rendering aid to these goons either the cops or ANTIFA are committing treason.

        We are at war. Uphold the Constitution or hang for it. The cops should have captured or killed the DA for issuing the order.

        Hang. Them. All.

  14. No, no, no.

    You’re supposed to let them kill you, then you can act in self-defense.

  15. Did the protesters go thru metal detectors on their way to the front door? No? Then how do you know they were unarmed?

    1. You don’t find any guns when you are rifling the bodies for intel?

      1. You misunderstood-this guy wasn’t a police officer. He was just the homeowner.

        1. I didn’t misunderstand.

          I am suggesting he should have shot them first. Then determined if they were armed while rifling the bodies in the kill zone for intel. Use any intel or weapons to go after the ringleaders.

          That’s how I was trained to do it.

          I made no mention at all of calling the police.

          1. I was joking, you see, and suggesting that the “shoot them all and then ask questions later” is the way police would have responded.

            1. Sorry man. I didn’t get the joke.

              I have assaulted a few kill zones in my day.

              I wasn’t joking.

  16. If he’s on his porch and he gave them a chance to leave peacefully, it’s self defense.

  17. The quickest way to get anti-gun politicians to abandon their position on the issue is to accelerate the trend of protesters showing up at their houses.

    1. They’ll just hire armed guards and increase taxes.

  18. In the end it has to be said that the law and circumstances have been sliced to thinly, interpreted so capriciously that citizens don’t know what is legal or illegal.

    Capricious “justice” is tyranny.

  19. Yes. 5 am? I think this was the response that the protesters wanted: Angry husband filmed shouting and swearing at peaceful protesters who just wanted to talk. Unless of course, you believe that this professor was totally oblivious to this possible reaction.

    1. You have a point. I don’t think there’s a legal concept of “entrapment by harassment” – where someone is bothered to the point of retaliation and then punished for retaliating. It’s how school bullies operate; torment someone just to the point where they do something stupid, and then the teachers clamp down on target. See, it’s your fault for doing something stupid!

      There are other fears in addition to fear of bodily harm. These are probably not legal defenses either, but how about fear of publicity, fear of loss of career or income, fear of harm to pets or neighbors, fear of intimidation.
      Also,
      “I would think that if you’re afraid you would stay in the house and call the police because you were in fear,” Abdullah told the Los Angeles Times. “They weren’t in fear. They were agitated.”

      I hope that “if you didn’t call the police, you weren’t really afraid” never becomes a widespread theory. I thought the protesters were in support of less reliance on police. That would include experiencing fear and not calling the police!

      Besides, I think we can reasonably assume that the Laceys knew what the protest was for. We can’t assume they knew the protesters were unarmed, but right now, protest outside their house before dawn, very strong chance it was BLM. Therefore, calling the police on those particular protesters would have caused potentially irreparable harm to Jackie Lacey’s career. If cancelation is weaponized in the culture, presence of potential cancelation should be considered a personal threat or a reasonable fear. Her particular job is an elected position, so it might not hold, but for other jobs- “Nice career you have, we’re here to shame you and make you unemployable” should be considered a threat.

      Also, “she knows me…. They were agitated” illustrates that the professor hoped or assumed that her presence on the porch would upset the homeowners. She has no evidence of how Jackie reacted, only David, but she says “they” were agitated because it is the outcome she was looking for. Someone should be able to use that to separate her presence on the porch from the ostensible motive of “only protest.” The professor was on the porch specifically to cause agitation to the individual homeowners whom she knew. That is outside the bounds of protest. I mean, it should be. The other two protesters on the porch might have had no awareness of that dynamic, but the professor made it clear why she was on their porch.

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  21. “The incident is broadly similar to the June 28 encounter that led to felony charges against Mark and Patricia McCloskey, who brandished guns in response to Black Lives Matter protesters passing by their house in a private neighborhood of St. Louis. ”

    stop saying this. it is completely wrong. the protestors in St. Louis were passing by the house, not approaching it. they hadn’t done any damage or offered any threat. in this case, the protestors approached the house, several were on the porch, and apparently they refused to leave when asked by the property owner. that’s pretty threatening at 5 am. calling them broadly similar is inaccurate and misleading.

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    2. Actually these are very similar. To get to the McCloskey house the rioters had to smash the gate and force entry onto private property.

      Once they entered that gate, it’s on.

      In either case, had the homeowners shot the trespassers I would not find them guilty as a juror.

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