Why Botetourt County residents had the legal right to shoot intruder

Criminal justice expert explains the imminent danger and reasonable use of force

BOTETOURT COUNTY, Va. – People continued to react Friday to the home invasion Thursday afternoon in Botetourt County in which a resident shot an intruder.

Police said the suspect, Edward Barbour, held a homeowner at gunpoint and asked for keys to a truck before another person inside the house got a gun and shot him once in the neck.

Tod Burke, a criminal justice expert and former police officer, has published work on home invasions and said that, based on the evidence he’s seen, the homeowners were well within their rights.

“The danger is right there at that moment,” he said. “It gives them the legal right to defend themselves.”

In situations of self-defense, the non-aggressors, which Thursday were the people inside the home, need to reasonably believe force is necessary to protect themselves. In this case, the intruder was armed, and firing their gun at the people inside.

“Whether they use that weapon or not, there's a weapon involved, and it's the fear that's placed on the victim or victims. If they feel their life, or their family members’ or someone else’s nearby, is in danger, they can use self-defense,” Burke said.

If an intruder tells a lie in order to get inside, that can still count as breaking and entering, he said.

“It does not matter if the person used a crowbar to get in or if they were let in. They still got in by illegal means, through deception,” Burke said.

He said home invasions are rare, and it’s surprising that the victims said they don't know the suspect.

This story had a lot of 10 News viewers talking. More than 1,000 people reacted to it on the 10 News Facebook page.

Kendra Eastwood said:
“Great job by the home owner. We have the right to protect ourselves, our families, home and property.”

Josh Blake said:
“Wrong house bud! They shoot back in #Botetourt."

Lucille Wyatt said:
“Great job on the home owner, that's what needs to be done, we live to far out to wait on the police, I will do anything I can to save my FAMILY.”

Barbour is being held at the Botetourt Craig County Regional Jail without bail. He’s charged with breaking and entering and the possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. More charges are pending.