Little Falls Shooting Brings Home Defense Limits To Question

Posted at: 11/26/2012 8:24 PM
Updated at: 11/26/2012 10:10 PM
By: Dietrich Nissen

(ABC 6 News) -- Last week's shooting in Little Falls left two teenage cousins dead and a homeowner in custody. On Monday the man was charged with two counts of murder and the case has some questioning the limits of home defense.

Last spring, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton vetoed an expansion to the Castle Doctrine, a document which allows a person to use deadly force inside their home if necessary. However, last week's shooting may have taken it too far.

"At what level can someone defend their home?" says Olmsted County's attorney Mark Ostrem. "This might be the poster child for why some of these version of the Castle Doctrine are bad."

The incident began on Thanksgiving. According to the criminal complaint, Byron Smith admits he was in his basement when he heard two people breaking into his home upstairs. When Smith saw a pair of legs walk down the steps, he shot at them causing a young man - later identified as 17-year-old, Nicholas Brady - to fall.

Smith then shot Brady in the face dragging the boy's body into another room. A few minutes later, another person came down the stairs and Smith says he shot that person too. She was later identified as 18-year-old, Haile Kifer. As Smith was dragging her into the other room, he realized she was still alive.

"And at that time noticed that the second victim was still gasping, Mr. Smith told us he then placed his .22-caliber pistol under the victim’s chin and fired a final shot,” says Morrison County Sheriff, Michel Wetzel. "The law doesn't permit you to execute somebody once the threat is gone."

What has many wondering is why Smith waited a day to call the Sheriff's office.

"Mr. Smith did tell us that the reason he didn't call this in right away, was that it was Thanksgiving and he didn't want to trouble us on a holiday,” says Wetzel.    

There are many factors that are still unknown and Ostrem says they will have to be revealed in court.

"You always have to have considered retreat as an option," says Ostrem. "This Little Falls incident might be the type of scenario that suggests we don't want to have that extreme Castle Doctrine."   

Right now, Smith's bail is set at $2 million dollars. His next court date has not been decided.