A Dayton man told police he shot and killed two teenagers in his detached garage Wednesday night in a case that raises legal questions about self-defense and Castle Doctrine claims.
Javier Harrison and Devon Henderson were shot to death, according to Montgomery County Coroner Dr. Kent E. Harshbarger. Henderson and Harrison were both 17 and from Dayton.
“It is deeply tragic that two 17-year-olds lost their lives in this incident,” Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl said at a Thursday afternoon press conference.
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The chief said he and officers have met with representatives from the coroner’s office and prosecutor’s office to discuss the case.
Biehl noted that any potential charges will involve a review of a recent change in Ohio law regarding self-defense dealing with burden proof as well as the Castle Doctrine, which allows residents to protect themselves at their residence.
“It will take time for us to comb through the evidence and statements in order to determine if what transpired was a criminal act or an act of self defense,” Biehl said. “We ask for patience on behalf of the public as our detectives do their due diligence in investigating this case.”
Police have not released the shooter’s identity. The incident, reported just after 9:30 p.m., happened on Conners Street.
Property records indicate the house is owned by Victor Santana, who purchased it for $8,000 in 2015.
Resident heard voices
“As of this time the investigation has revealed that the resident at 848 Conners Street heard voices and noises outside of his home and went outside to see what was going on,” Biehl said.
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Biehl said the resident checked his property and noticed a light coming from a car in his detached garage. He went to the garage and encountered three people in the vehicle.
“The resident subsequently fired multiple shots from a .38-caliber revolver which caused the deaths of two of the individuals,” Biehl said.
A third person fled the scene, the chief said.
The resident called 911 and waited for officers.
“I’ve shot two guys,” he told the dispatcher. “They are in the garage.”
The dispatcher had difficulty understanding the caller because of his accent, but eventually understands what happened and sent police.
Officers arrived while he was on the phone with the dispatcher, and he said that he put his weapon on the ground.
“He was taken into custody, interviewed and released, pending further investigation,” Biehl said.
The third person, a male whose name was not released, returned to the scene after he saw police and fire crews arrive. That person was interviewed and arrested on a breaking and entering charge.
“It is going to take time for us to go through the evidence. There was some drug activity occurring at the time and exactly what they were intending to do is not clear,” Biehl said.
University of Dayton Professor of Law Emeritus Thomas Hagel said Ohio’s Castle Doctrine deals with the rights of homeowner to protect their residence.
“Now, it is my understanding that this garage was a detached garage and was not part of the house, so that is going to raise the question about whether the conduct that took place in protection of that would fall under the protection of the Castle Doctrine,” Hagel said.
Hagel said more facts need to be known about this case.
“The general rule is, and notice that I say general rule, is that you cannot use deadly force solely to protect your property,” Hagel said.
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“So, if he walks out there and they’re in his garage looking around or doing whatever, he can’t shoot them dead just to protect that,” Hagel said.
However, if the resident walks into the garage and if they come toward him with wrenches in their hands and he shoots them dead, it’s self defense, Hagel said as an example.
He added that if the property owner ended up shooting the teens in the back, it will be hard to make a self-defense claim.
The recent change in Ohio law regarding self defense means that defendants no longer have the burden to prove all elements of self defense.
“The Ohio legislature passed a statute that went into effect this last March that says now, if a person raises a claim of self-defense, it is up to the prosecution to disprove it beyond a reasonable doubt, which is a major change,” Hagel said.
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Father speaks out
The teens had been students previously at Dayton Public Schools, however had withdrawn from the district, according to district spokesperson Alex Kincaid.
Javier Harrison’s father spoke Thursday about the incident.
“It wasn’t in your house, it was in your garage,” said Jimmy Harrison. “That’s like 10 feet away from your house, you know, so that means you’re seeing some perps out there at your garage, you know, so my first instinct is to call the police.”
Jimmy Harrison said Javier’s mother called him about the shooting 10 minutes after it happened.
The father said the two teens often were in the garage at the Connors Street address, smoking marijuana.
“I want answers because they have always been there smoking weed in that garage or whatever you want to call it,” Jimmy Harrison said. “They always have been there, and they always hung there smoking weed in that garage.”
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