The Volokh Conspiracy

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'Man who shot neighbor for attempting to drown children will not face charges'


So reads a headline at the Blaze, though a more precise formulation would have been "Man who shot neighbor to prevent him from drowning children will not face charges." Be warned: Shooting someone for his crime, in the sense of in retaliation for the crime, is itself criminal (though it will often lead to a lesser sentence than when no such provocation is present). But shooting someone when necessary to prevent death or serious injury to others is lawful, indeed laudable—it's called "defense of others," though it's often spoken of together with self-defense, and the rules are nearly identical to the rules for self-defense.

Here are the facts as reported by the local prosecutor, from to KFOR-TV (K. Querry) (paragraph break added):

On Thursday, the Pontotoc County District Attorney announced that the shooting was a "justifiable use of deadly force under Oklahoma Law."

The investigative report states that the mother of the children credited Freeman with saving their lives, saying, "the neighbor saved their life and that she was glad that he did or they would have all been dead… [Leland Foster, the babies' father,] was going to drown the babies and the knife was meant for her."

"Certainly, from the circumstances confronted that day by Mr. Freeman, who had just come home from lunch, being encountered by a terribly distraught 12 year old [the babies' cousin] complaining that this individual was trying to drown the babies and hurting their mother while armed with a knife, and upon entering the home, encountering the hysterical screams of the mother of the babies being held in the bathroom against her will and desperately trying to save her babies from drowning now being unable to [breathe], one might get the sense that the use of deadly force was necessary to prevent or stop this horrible crime from going any further.

"Mr. Freeman reported that even after firing two (2) shots, he still considered the decedent to be a threat observing him to [be] armed with the knife and responding to the cries of the mother to help her because she felt the children were going to die, and viewing the [decedent's] evil intent expressed in his facial expression, he felt compelled to fire the third shot to attempt to get past this violent man to render aid and prevent the man from getting back up to harm anyone anymore," a statement from the district attorney's office read.