The Castle Doctrine
by Robert A. Waters
October 21, 2010 at 8:00 a.m.
Midwest City, Oklahoma Police Dispatcher: “911. What is your emergency?”
Caller: “I just shot an intruder and one got away inside my home.”
Dispatcher: “Did they have any guns?”
Caller: “I don’t know. They kicked in my door.”
The caller is thirty-one-year-old Amanda Walworth. Breathless, hyperventilating, she tells the dispatcher that one intruder is lying on the floor in her living room. “I think he’s dead,” she said.
A police report described the break-in and its aftermath: “Amanda Walworth was asleep in her bedroom when she was awakened by a sound in her house that she thought was an earthquake. Her two children, 2 and 3, were also asleep in their rooms. She then heard a second crash[ing] sound and immediately thought someone was breaking into her house.
“[Walworth] retrieved a handgun from the nightstand by her bed. She opened her bedroom door so she could see down the hallway. She observed light coming from the kitchen door which had been forced open. Knowing her children's rooms were between her and the suspects she walked down the hallway where she observed two male suspects in the living room. Amanda feared for her and her children's safety and began to fire the weapon at both subjects.”
During the barrage of gunshots, one intruder fell. The second raced through the front door and out toward the street.
A shaken Walworth then called 911.
Shortly after police arrived, a second 911 call came in. Someone has been shot in a drive-by shooting, the caller stated. Responding officers found Dewayne Edward Kemp, 15, bleeding from a bullet wound to the stomach. He was transported to the hospital where he underwent surgery.
It didn’t take long for DeAungelo Q. Johnson, 17, the man who’d called 911, to admit that he, Kemp, and Marquis Lee Patterson, 15, had planned to burglarize the Walworth house. Their objective, Johnson said, was to steal a big-screen television set.
Kemp and Patterson entered the home while Johnson acted as a lookout. Soon Johnson heard gunshots and saw Kemp running from the home.
Patterson died at the scene.
Kemp and Johnson were charged with first degree murder and burglary in the first degree. (In Oklahoma, all perpetrators involved in a felony can be charged with murder if a death results during the commission of that crime.) If convicted, they face long prison sentences.
In the 911 call, Walworth gave her reasons for shooting the invaders of her home. "I fired three or four shots,” she said. "[The intruders] scared me. I was just trying to get them out of my house. I didn't want them to hurt me or my kids.”
Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater investigated the case and ruled that Walworth would not be charged with any crime. “The resident’s actions in defending her home and children were not only entirely lawful,” he said, “but necessary to protect her family. She and her family had been burglarized on at least two prior occasions and, during one of those prior incidents, she and her husband were at home when the break-in occurred.”
Oklahoma has a law which allows a victim to use deadly force against an intruder inside his or her home. In many states, it's called the "Castle Doctrine."
"Although I regret the loss of life and the lasting impact an incident like this has on the families of all concerned," said Prater, "the citizens of Oklahoma County have a right to defend themselves in their homes and I will aggressively protect that right."