A closer look at GA, TN "stand your ground" laws, following dead - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

A closer look at GA, TN "stand your ground" laws, following deadly home break-in

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CATOOSA COUNTY, GA (WRCB) -

The investigation continues two days after a teenager was shot and killed during a break-in, in Catoosa County. It happened Monday afternoon at a home on Post Oak Road.

Police say one teen was in a car waiting while two teens were attempting to break into what they thought was an abandoned home. The homeowner confronted them and police say when the teens continued to run towards him, the man shot one of them in the neck. A 17-year-old boy later died at the hospital. The other two teens are now facing burglary charges.

At this time, the homeowner is not facing any charges and Catoosa County Sheriff Gary Sisk says it is likely the homeowner will never face charges. Channel 3 talked with a local criminal defense attorney who says there is specific language in Georgia's self-defense laws that protects homeowners.

"I don't feel that his actions were in malice or that he even possibly intended to kill one of them. He felt like he was protecting himself," says Catoosa County Sheriff Gary Sisk.

Sheriff Sisk says it appears the 69-year-old man who shot and killed the 17-year-old boy at his home on Post Oak Road acted in self-defense.

"But just to flat out say if he was in the right or the wrong, I'd like to wait until the investigation is closed," says Sisk.

"You're absolutely within your right to be armed. And I believe you're within your right to defend yourself, so long as you're not using unnecessary force in defending yourself," says Adam Cathey.

Adam Cathey is a criminal defense attorney in Ringgold. He says self-defense cases are not all "cut and dried."

"You have to look at all factors in a case like this, especially in a sad situation like this, where there's been a death," says Cathey.

But Cathey says the law has very specific language explaining the rights of homeowners when it comes to defending themselves and their property. The Georgia Code says a person "has no duty to retreat" and has the right to stand his or her ground," which includes using deadly force. Cathey says despite the teens being unarmed, it is a reasonable assumption in this case the homeowner thought he was in danger.

"The fact that they were unarmed? I think that you have to put yourself in the shoes of a reasonable homeowner, people who were not authorized to be in his home, and what he reasonably understood the situation to be and whether he knew they were armed or not. I think it's safe to make the assumption that somebody who's breaking into homes is potentially armed," says Cathey.

Tennessee law is similar to Georgia's. It says as long as a person is in a place where they have the right to be, they have "no duty to retreat before threatening or using force against another person."

"You know, it's a very complicated situation because we do have a 17-year-old that has lost their life. It's a sad a day for all the victims. The homeowner was just as upset," says Sisk.

The other 16-year-old boy and the 18-year-old woman, who was the getaway driver in the break-in, both face a felony burglary charge. The sheriff reiterates the case is still under investigation.

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