Local News

Self-Defense Laws Not Always Clear

Posted May 17, 1999 7:00 a.m. EDT

— Officers say a Cumberland County man who killed a would-be robber in his home will probably not be charged.

Police say Titus Davis shot Waddell Hickson, Jr., after Hickson apparently lunged at him with a weapon.

Homicide detectives Mike Casey and Cliff Massengill have worked for the Cumberland County Sheriff's Department for a combined 21 years. They have seen dozens of self-defense cases like Davis's.

"In today's society you really do need to think about the actions you're taking if you have that chance," Casey said.

For example, if an unarmed intruder threatens a homeowner or his or her family and the homeowner shoots the intruder, the homeowner could potentially be charged with a crime or even be sued by the intruder.

But if the intruder has a weapon, it is a whole different story.

"If they break in and use physical force and you shoot then, that may be one thing," Casey said. "But if they break in and they have a knife or a gun, then you're allowed to use deadly force."

Detectives say the best piece of advice is to go to a neighbor's home or to use a cellular phone to call authorities. They also advise homeowners to never, if at all possible, confront the intruder.

"When people put guns in their hands or on their persons or have access to it, they have a tremendous responsibility," said Massengill. "And they need to study the laws, make themselves familiar with them and know when they can use that gun and when they can and can't use that gun."