- The Washington Times - Monday, February 2, 2009


Sean Kennedy, a 22-year-old golf pro, drunkenly banged on the door, yelled obscenities and smashed a window as he tried to enter what he thought was his house.

But it wasn’t his home. The house, located a block from Mr. Kennedy’s residence, but showing the same house number, belonged to James Parsons. As Mr. Kennedy reached his arm through the broken window in an effort to unlock the back door, Mr. Parsons, who was inside with his girlfriend, shot and killed him.

Colorado Springs prosecutors last week exonerated Mr. Parsons, saying that he acted within the scope of the state’s “Make My Day” law, which allows homeowners to use deadly force against intruders.

“A reasonable person in those circumstances would have believed that [Mr. Kennedy] was going to do a crime against them or their property,” District Attorney Dan May said.

Nonetheless, the decision reignited debate over whether such laws allow homeowners to use more force than necessary in their defense. Critics argue that the laws, which have proliferated in recent years, have essentially given homeowners a license to kill.

“What’s happening among gun owners is that there’s less accountability and less responsibility,” said Scott Vogel, spokesman for the Freedom States Alliance in Chicago, which opposes the “Make My Day” laws. “Gun owners are taking these laws and drawing their own conclusions and using them as a ‘get out of jail free’ card.”

The debate is likely to intensify as more states adopt and expand such statutes. Since 1985, 16 states have approved “Make My Day” statutes - known to critics as “Shoot to Kill” laws - with more legislation expected this year, said Sam Hoover, staff attorney for the Legal Community Against Violence in San Francisco.

Besides Colorado, the 15 other states are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina and South Dakota, Mr. Hoover said.

Even in states that have approved such laws, however, deciding whether the statute applies can be tricky. Colorado Springs prosecutors wrestled with the case for a month before deciding against filing charges in the Dec. 28 shooting.

About 10 p.m., Mr. Kennedy, who had been drinking at a Denver Broncos football party with friends, drove up in his truck to the house at 3212 Virginia Ave. and tried to enter. Police say he was looking for a house he shared with roommates at 3212 N. Institute St., located a block away. His blood alcohol level was later tested at 0.26, more than three times the legal limit of 0.08 for driving in Colorado.

When Mr. Parsons and his girlfriend heard the pounding at the door, they called 911 and pleaded for help. Mr. Parsons’ girlfriend stayed on the phone for about 4 1/2 minutes, during which time the shots were fired.

“Oh, my God, he’s coming in the back door,” said the woman, who was not identified, during the call. “Are they on their way because - oh my God, he broke in the glass!”

At that point, Mr. Kennedy had walked around the house and broken a window next to the back door. He was reaching through the broken glass to unlock the dead bolt when Mr. Parsons fired three shots through the window with a .38 Special.

“Get the ambulance! I shot him,” Mr. Parsons said in the background. “He broke his arm in the window, and he was coming in the house!”

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