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Joe Horn, The Fourth of July, and Forgotten Duties

On November 14 of 2007, Pasadena resident Joe Horn called 911 because two men were breaking into his neighbor's house. As time progressed and the police had not arrived, Horn became increasingly angry and worried as time progressed and the police did not arrive, angry that the burglars would get away and worried that just sitting in his house doing nothing might make him a target. Finally, against repeated urging from the 911 operator (who is not, just to be clear, a police officer or authorized to issue commands to the public) to stay in his home, Horn left his house, got his shotgun from his car, and when the two burglars, Diego Ortiz and Miguel de Jesus, emerged from the neighbor's house, Horn accosted them, they entered his yard, and Horn shot both men to death. This past week, a grand jury declined to press charges against Mr. Horn.

I was uncomfortable with the story initially, because a number of points were unclear. Horn had threatened to kill the burglars while on the phone with the 911 operator, yet he had also expressed fear for his own safety. Which one was the larger motive in getting his gun? One of the men he shot was shot in the back and the other in the side, yet a police officer who witnessed the shooting testified the two men came from the neighbor's yard onto Mr. Horn's yard. I am a strong proponent of defending your home and family, but a bit less sure about shooting someone just because you think they will get away with a crime.

But as I thought about it, I began to recognize significant points, the first of which is that I was not there. That is, the facts are relayed from Mr. Horn, the police, any witnesses, and the forensic data, and worse, they are filtered through a biased media. More than one media company chose to presented only edited versions of Horn's 911 communication, even though full unedited versions were released by the police. Almost any position taken by someone hearing the story will be biased by his or her preconceived opinion.

I also realized that the people attacking Mister Horn were, unintentionally, explaining why he had every right to do as he did. A lot of folks were saying that everything would have been just fine if Mr. Horn had just stayed in his house and not confronted the burglars. Think about that. A homeowner who has the right to go where he wants on his property is being told to ignore a crime going on right next to him, to not look at the criminals so he can report to the authorities, to not try to stop the crooks who are committing a crime right there, to basically just sit there and hide like a trapped animal.

- continued -

There is something fundamentally wrong, something clearly evil, about suggesting that criminals should not be hindered, while honest folk should be told to hide out of the way and do nothing. That attitude can explain a lot of why crime is so bad in places; if crooks have the run of things and the honest folk run away and do not confront them, do not witness their crimes and report detailed descriptions, and the rights of citizens are degraded while thugs are emboldened, then no good can possibly come of it.

The next claim was that the police can handle crime, and doing anything to confront a criminal would just get in their way. That's wrong on at least two levels. First, while I have great respect and appreciation for police officers in general and for many specific individuals I know, it has to be said that the pathetic track record of the police in solving - let alone preventing crime should be considered in this incident. Not to be cynical, but the police - at their best - react to events and may catch criminals at some point in the future, In the mean time, criminals continue to plague innocent victims, and have learned that the police are no real threat unless they are caught in the act. In my own experience, I have been robbed three times at gunpoint, my wheels were stolen off my car in 2003, my whole car was stolen in 2005, and an angry neighbor once smashed a side window of my car. In none of those cases did the police ever catch the crooks. In the case of the angry neighbor, the guy left a note explaining why he smashed my window - he said I was parked 'in his space' (in a lot with no assigned spaces), yet the police refused to arrest him, saying they 'had no real evidence'. In the case of my stolen car, the car turned up three weeks later shot full of bullet holes - it had apparently been used in a robbery attempt, yet the police made no attempt to collect evidence from it, such as fingerprints or pieces of bullet, etc. The simple fact is that very few crimes matter to police the way they do to the victim. The second point, is that legal experts will tell you that in terms of the law, the police are not actually required to protect you. They work for the government, and have no specific directive whatsoever to protect you. Not that they could, though - even if you were on the phone to 911 when someone breaks into your house, the police could not possibly get to your house before the criminals could kill you. The operative lesson here, is that the only real defense is self-defense. And that, speaking bluntly, means having access to deadly force and the will to use it, if necessary.

Some folks will get mad at that. Such people were quick to blame Mr. Horn for, in their opinion, acting as judge, jury, and executioner. But they are wrong in such claims. Folks need to understand that an ordinary citizen is not a law officer or a court. That puts limits on what they may do, but it also means they are not limited in the way a court is. If I have a gun and am attacked, I do not have to do anything about the 'rights' of the criminal, I do not have to consider legal procedures when dealing with a crime happening right in front of me. Criminals deserve no advantage or privilege, and if a homeowner shoots a burglar, only the most perverse interpretation of law or civil rights could pretend that the homeowner is culpable.

This all started because two criminals forgot that a homeowner with a gun is not held to the same conditions as a man with a badge, that a neighbor is not required to just hide in his home while crooks do as they please - some might even argue that a good neighbor has the moral responsibility to get involved.

Some folks have, rather hysterically, called Mr. Horn a racist, simply because the men he killed were Hispanic while he was white. But that is an absurd notion on its face. The 911 call made no reference to race whatsoever; Mr. Horn was reacting to a break-in of his neighbor's house, not the appearance of the criminals. The tape gives no reason to think that Mr. Horn knew what race the men were until he confronted them. Also, the tape shows that three seconds elapsed from when Horn warned "move and you're dead" to when he first fired. An undercover police officer who witnessed the shootings told the grand jury that the men approached Horn, entering his yard in the process. That they turned when he started shooting does not in any way change the character of their behavior or Horn's right to use force.

I should also note the character of the decedents. Diego Ortiz and Miguel de Jesus were illegal aliens from Colombia, and suspected in a number of burglaries. De Jesus was on parole when he died while attempting another burglary. These were not upstanding citizens, and while the death of anyone is a serious concern, it is impossible for any rational person to consider either of the two to be innocent victims in this matter.

So what does all this have to do with the Fourth of July? What do I mean by saying there are forgotten duties? It comes down to the character of our nation, even our identity. Time was, that Americans understood that we cannot depend on others for our own safety, that sometimes we have to do something difficult, even unpleasant, in order to protect ourselves, our families, and our neighbors. We carry rights and with them comes responsibility. Those rights in the first Ten Amendments, they are meant to be used, and for the welfare of our nation. It's not about just your own house and your own interests, but your neighor's place and your community. It's about standing for more than just a slogan, being willing to do the heavy lifting, to take on the inconvenient chores to make things better for everyone. We all know this at some level, we all teach our kids to be responsible and to think of others. We teach our children to learn and use good judgment, and exercising that judgment shows in a lifetime of decisions and consequences. Sometimes those consequences are hard, as Mr. Horn has learned. And sometimes we have to stand against a tide of slackers, of the lazy or even the thuggish, to protect everything we know to be good against its dissolution. Fortunately, violence is rarely necessary to address this duty. We serve it in many ways, from work to civic responsibility, to community activity and faith life. But we all have work to do. Our country needs us, and no excuse will do.


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Comments (33)

Good post. Let me add, fro... (Below threshold)

Good post. Let me add, from my viewpoint of having served on a grand jury for an area with a crime-ridden inner city, that many times the worst criminals appear to only get caught when a resident DOES rise above the fear, make the phone call, and then testify, VERY often this is regarding a relatively minor crime (break in, street corner drug deal, minor altercation) but it leads to bringing in someone who happens to be the culprit of something much worse. Those people that made the call made me proud sitting in that grand jury room. And, frankly, to read that Justice Breyer and his 3 amigos feel that under no circumstances can they believe that the 2nd Amendment allows these people the right to a firearm in their home to protect themselves against these criminals, makes me awfully, awfully worried.

Just to be clear, this is P... (Below threshold)
yetanotherjohn:

Just to be clear, this is Pasadena, Texas, not California. There is a reason that the democrats have written off Texas this November. There is a reason that democrats are not elected to statewide office in Texas. And there is a reason why a grand jury of Mr. Horn peers did not find and legal fault or a question of fault worthy of trial in Mr. Horn's activities.

God Bless Texas.

"Just to be clear, this is ... (Below threshold)
Herman:

"Just to be clear, this is Pasadena, Texas, not California." -- yetanother john

Yep, in California, they don't cowardly shoot people in the back, and in the process, administer the death penalty for burglary after being told by the police not to do so. It's that "proportionality" thing that the Supreme Court recently referred to -- you see, Californians believe in it. But hey, Texas is Bush Country, so what the hell does anyone expect?

Yep, in California... (Below threshold)
Yep, in California, they don't cowardly shoot people in the back, and in the process, administer the death penalty for burglary after being told by the police not to do so.
No, they just pull innocent truckers out of their cabs and beat them near to death with a brick because they don't agree with a verdict in some court or another...
Herman, if nothing else, th... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

Herman, if nothing else, thanks for showing everybody what kind of ignorant pinheads I was talking about.

Most 911 operators are not ... (Below threshold)
SCSIwuzzy:

Most 911 operators are not police, herman.

The two men didn't get the ... (Below threshold)
jdgjtr:

The two men didn't get the death penalty for burglary; they got the death penalty for stupidity. When confronted with force, one can either capitulate or respond with equal or greater force. They chose to respond with lesser force and thus chose to die. They could have surrendered and lived. Of course, the obvious choice was to not break the law at all. If they had just crossed the border to work at a chicken plant, for example, they probably would not have gotten shot for going to work. When they chose to break the law, they should have done some investigation and found that Mr. Horn, or any person in Texas, was perfectly within his rights to confront them with deadly force. They chose the confrontation and paid for it. The police have no right to tell anyone that they cannot defend themselves or their property. In states with the Castle doctrine, lawbreakers know there is proportionality; their life or the owner's property. If the criminal thinks that a tv set is more valuable than their life, they are welcome to try.

"No, they just pull innocen... (Below threshold)
Herman:

"No, they just pull innocent truckers out of their cabs and beat them near to death with a brick because they don't agree with a verdict in some court or another...' -- Kristian

Uh, Kristian, how many years ago was this? (Or should I say decades?)

One of the sad aspects abou... (Below threshold)
Herman:

One of the sad aspects about the aftermath is that you're going to get a lot of "pro-life" conservatives defending what this murderous scumbag Joe Horn did.

Well, let's get down to it!!! Defend away, so-called "pro-lifers"!!!

Pro-Lifer here to defend!<b... (Below threshold)
Meiji_man:

Pro-Lifer here to defend!
I'm also Anti Death penalty.
I'd discuss with this with you but to be honest I dont' think you could keep up. Have a nice day! I hear Oprah is on why don't you watch some TV...

Couple of years ago, just b... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

Couple of years ago, just before I retired, a woman was on the phone to dispatch saying her ex-boyfriend was breaking into her apartment and that he had a shotgun. We were rolling Code 3 but didn't get there in time. Oh yeah, he got arrested later. 25 to life in Kaleefornia, which means he'll be out in 12 years. And she's still dead.

While teaching my wife to shoot, I told her that when she pointed a gun at someone and told them to do something; don't argue with them. If they don't do as their told, SHOOT 'EM! Otherwise they'll walk right up to you, take your gun from you and beat you to death with it.

Look on the bright side of this incident. Those two jerkoffs won't have to suffer the indignity of a prison sentence and certainly won't re-offend.

Sixteen years ago Herman. S... (Below threshold)

Sixteen years ago Herman. Seems like yesterday.

Diego Ortiz and Migu... (Below threshold)

Diego Ortiz and Miguel de Jesus were illegal aliens from Colombia, and suspected in a number of burglaries. De Jesus was on parole when he died while attempting another burglary.

Illegal aliens on parole. A recipe for disaster. I hope McCain is paying attention.

Thanks #2 for noting that this was the great State of Texas, not California.

Personally, I hope Joe Horn... (Below threshold)
justice58:

Personally, I hope Joe Horn (ugly fat nasty pig) rot in hell where he belongs! He is nothing more than a red-neck hating mofo!
depp=true

justice58 and herman, why d... (Below threshold)
PookieJ:

justice58 and herman, why don't you clowns just post your addresses on craigslist and tell all the criminals to come on over, they won't have anything to fear from you.

"Personally, I hope Joe Hor... (Below threshold)
Herman:

"Personally, I hope Joe Horn (ugly fat nasty pig) rots in hell where he belongs! He is nothing more than a red-neck hating mofo!" -- justice58

While I can most definitely empathize with you, justice58, you must not allow yourself to sink to the level of hatred of the redneckers. As liberals, we hold ourselves to a higher standard.
depp=true

hey "justice58", how's defe... (Below threshold)

hey "justice58", how's defending Mike Nifong working out for you?

O'Musehey "j... (Below threshold)

O'Muse

hey "justice58", how's defending Mike Nifong working out for you?

It must be getting more difficult:

http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives2/2008/07/020885.php

I'm still waiting, "Pro-... (Below threshold)
Herman:

I'm still waiting, "Pro-life" Conservatives, for either your condemnation of what Joe Horn has done, or your attempt to reconcile his action with the recommendations of Mr. Jesus "Turn-the-other-cheek" Christ!! What, you can't find in your bible any passage where Mr. Christ advocates the death penalty for burglary????

I'm still waiting, "Pro-lif... (Below threshold)
george12p:

I'm still waiting, "Pro-life" Conservatives
you know theres a whole lot of difference between killing an innocent child because its inconvenient and killing two scumbag thieves that are ripping off you neighbor and coming on to your property to do god knows what.

I don't know you guys. Thi... (Below threshold)
Ryan:

I don't know you guys. This one stinks. This guy shot and killed 2 unarmed people in the process of fleeing from him. I am in no way anti-gun or anti self-defense, but there are not enough facts out there available. First of all, consider that he killed 2 guys. If his shotgun is like any other shotgun I've fired, that meant he had to kill one guy, cock another shell into the chamber, then aim and kill another guy by shooting him in the back. Second, consider that he KILLED two guys. Not shot them in the knee or something like that. I know the oldster was agitated and scared, but this is at least manslaughter, right? If not should we just all be roaming the streets, packing heat, shoot first ask questions later vigilantes?

Even a scumbag illegal alie... (Below threshold)
Ryan:

Even a scumbag illegal alien burglar's life is worth more than whatever they robbed from Horn's neighbor's house. If you don't believe that, then God help your soul.

If the scumbags life is wor... (Below threshold)
Allen:

If the scumbags life is worth more than the property they stoled, then the scumbags should have realized that it was their life that was on the line.

Gun control, IMO, means hitting what you are aiming at.

You dance with the devil an... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

You dance with the devil and you pay the consequences. The police are totally impotent and could care less about burglaries. Police are successful in some crime detective work, but for the most part they really work for the accounting department by keeping there budgets in the black by writing traffic tickets. I do not condemn the police. Joe Horn did not know what exactly these criminals did in their neighbors house or even to his neighbors. Joe Horn told them to not move. A cop saw one move towards Joe Horn. Then he saw the other move but do you really think he had the where with all to evaluate if the movement was towards him or away? I don't think so. I am sure the adreneline was pumping hard for all involved.

As far as the pro life argument: I am firmly against killing INNOCENT life. Joe Horn did what I would want all neighbors to do if they spotted someone breaking a window in my house and committing a crime. ww

Ryan -Manslaughter... (Below threshold)
jim2:

Ryan -

Manslaughter has a legal definition and, like murder, includes the concept that the killing was unlawful. The Texas law explicitly extended the right to use lethal force to fleeing burglars that the person felt would get away without the use of that force. Sop, whatever Joe Horn did, it was neither murder nor manslaughter in Texas.

For much the same reason, Joe Horn's actions were not those of a vigilante. The common definition for vigilante is one who takes the law into one's own hands. Joe Horn did not TAKE the law into his own hands, Texas law explicitly PUT it there.

For those ignorant of the B... (Below threshold)
Jeff Blogworthy:

For those ignorant of the Bible, Jesus presumed the natural right of self-defense. "Turning the other cheek" has to do with accepting an insult without retaliation - not forfeiting one's liberty, life and property to an evildoer.

"But no one can enter the strong man's house and plunder his property unless he first binds the strong man, and then he will plunder his house" Mark 3:27

Protecting your neighbor's life and property as you would your own is an even higher ideal.

"Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends."

Bravo Mr. Horn.

Jeff, very well said. ww</p... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

Jeff, very well said. ww

Ryan, you either missed or ... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

Ryan, you either missed or ignored the part where I noted that the legal system is much different from a private individual. It's a false argument to claim that the men were shot because of property theft. What happened in actuality, is that by committing a crime, these men created an environment of threat. That is, there is no way for law-abiding citizens to know what a criminal intends to do. Having broken into a home, these men could no longer be expected to act in accordance with nominal codes of conduct, and since criminals often carry and use weapons in the commission of crime, a prudent citizen will have to consider the possible threat of force from the criminal. The 911 operator wanted Mr. Horn to stay inside because of that presumption of threat to him, and Mr. Horn was anxious to be able to defend himself, because of that same presumption.

It is a matter of sworn testimony from the undercover officer at the scene, that after being told not to move, the two burglars advanced onto Mr. Horn's yard, and it was then that Mr. Horn fired.

The argument that since one of the men was shot in the back, the shooting was wrong, fails because the conditions had changed. The burglary created a condition wherein the criminals had no right to a presumption that they were not a threat, and when they advanced onto Horn's property, they represented both a legally valid and morally compelling cause for the use of force. You may not like it, but if a suspect is ordered by police to stop and he advances towards them, he may legally be shot, even if he turns his back to the police. This is because once having established aggressive actions, a threshold has been crossed and the officer is no longer held to the prior restraint. The suspect may be turning to flee, or he may be trying to reach for a weapon out of sight. He may be running away, or he may be pretending to do so in order to attack by surprise in another moment. The point is, that once he has demonstrated aggression, further aggression is a reasonable expectation and the use of even deadly force is authorized. Such reasoning is even more valid in the case of an ordinary homeowner. What's more, the fact that each of the two men was shot only once demonstrates restraint on the part of Mr. Horn. He did not continue to fire, which would be expected if his intent was to kill, and anyone familiar with shotguns knows that a human-sized target is rarely killed with a single shell of buckshot. Therefore, the reasonable conclusion would be that Horn fired with the intent to stop the men, not to kill them.

Ryan, you seem to hate Mr. Horn very much, to such a point that you twist what really happened and what provoked it, in order to smear the man and justify your hate to yourself. If you are as concerned with souls as you say, you might do well to work on the condition of your own.

You don't know me, Drummond... (Below threshold)
Ryan:

You don't know me, Drummond. Don't presume to tell me what I'm thinking or what I hate. I've read all of the same accounts of the incident that you have, and I would like you to point out what I "twisted", you pompous ass.

Ryan,I appreciate ... (Below threshold)
Chris:

Ryan,

I appreciate your irritation at being told by someone else what you think and I will avoid that with you. As far as what you "twisted" -

"This guy shot and killed 2 unarmed people in the process of fleeing from him."

You simply cannot have knowledge that the men were in the process of fleeing, nor do I. All we know is that the men received mortal wounds in their side and back. This could result from a number of reasons, including flight. Having said that flight does not mean harmless and Mr. Horn was under no obligation to believe that the men were harmless. Fleeing could mean moving to a position of advantage from which to conduct an attack on him. Neither of us knows, but you did make a definitive statement.

"Second, consider that he KILLED two guys. Not shot them in the knee or something like that."

TV has done the world a disservice in making it seem possible to shoot only to wound. No responsible police agency in the country holds their officer to a "shoot to wound" standard when applying deadly force. Why should any of us hold Mr. Horn to a higher standard?

"I know the oldster was agitated and scared, but this is at least manslaughter, right?"

Unless you have heard this directly from Mr. Horn, you cannot know his state of mind and physical condition and "oldster" is simply an inflammatory description.

"If not should we just all be roaming the streets, packing heat, shoot first ask questions later vigilantes."

Mr. Horn was not roaming the street according to accounts of the event - he was on his property; he was not packing heat, but did retrieve a firearm to protect himself, his property, and his neighbor's property from a real threat; he did provide instructions to the two men, that according to accounts of the event, they chose to ignore - that doesn't seem consistent with your characterization of him shooting first.

Your thoughts and feelings are your own. You made your words a matter of public discourse by posting them here. You did mischaracterize the event.

Regards

Even a scumbag illegal a... (Below threshold)
Son Of The Godfather:

Even a scumbag illegal alien burglar's life is worth more than whatever they robbed from Horn's neighbor's house. If you don't believe that, then God help your soul.

22. Posted by Ryan

No. I value my big-screen HD beauty far, far more than people who would do me or mine (including my neighbors) harm...

My TV has never approached me in the dark after being warned to halt. It has never robbed me of anything except a few brain cells now and then. There is no chance it will rob, rape or kill anyone.

The plain and simple truth is if you turn a blind eye to crime, you are a coward. If your sensitivities about the lives of these two miscreants gets you all weepy-eyed, kindly STFU and step out of the way... Someone else just MAY protect you when it counts.

And thanks for the blessing, but my soul is right with God.

Mr. Drummond,I read ... (Below threshold)
intune:

Mr. Drummond,
I read your rant. It amazes me how poeple make exucuses for Joe Jorn's actions. A man who killed two men in cold blood over two thousand dollars and some junk jewelry. I am sure he is paying his attorney far more than that!!! Oh by the way, you clearly did not listen to the 911 call. He stated the men were black and he made it clear that he would kill them which is exactly what he did. Premeditated and in cold blood. That is my verdict!!!

I just read that Joe Horn t... (Below threshold)
intune:

I just read that Joe Horn thinks he did not do anything wrong and that he wants to be left alone. He wants his peaceful life back. Joe
Horn could have a peaceful life if he had kept his rear end in his house. He should have thought about his family and his peace of mind before he clicked that shot gun and went outside to murder two people. He is not at peace now because he knows deep down that he is a cold blooded murderer. Joe Horn will never feel peace again in this life. I predict he will eventually will be indicted and convicted for his ridiculous actions!!!




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