- The Washington Times - Monday, December 17, 2001

Two Harford County, Md., men facing first-degree murder charges for killing a burglar who broke into their warehouse are drawing national attention to their case with a Web site that asks: "When is it right to deny people their right to defend themselves?"
"Never" is the answer offered by Kenny Der and Darrell R. Kifer on their Web site at www.kennyder.org.
Mr. Der and Mr. Kifer, both 35 and of Fallston, are to be arraigned Jan. 18 in Baltimore Circuit Court on first-degree murder charges in the fatal shooting of Tygon Walker in June 2000. They shot Mr. Walker, 37, after he broke into the east Baltimore warehouse of their furniture and wood-refinishing business.
The business owners could face the death penalty, if convicted.
"It blows my mind how blatantly ridiculous it is that they got indicted [last month]," said Ken Brady, a Towson restaurateur who is listed on the Web site as the manager of the Kenny Der Legal Defense Fund.
The Web site not only seeks donations for the defense fund but also encourages visitors to write to Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, who has gained statewide prominence for his anti-crime programs, and to ask: "Where is the justice when we as Americans are punished for protecting ourselves from criminals who threaten to kill us?"
Mr. Der's attorney, Joseph Murtha, said a similar Web site for one of his famous clients, Linda R. Tripp, raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the former Pentagon worker who secretly recorded former White House intern Monica Lewinsky talking about her affair with President Clinton.
Maryland State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy said she has received "a few letters" about the case but that they won't affect the decision to prosecute the two men as criminals.
Mr. Walker had a criminal record of breaking and entering in Baltimore. Police records show he was convicted of felony theft in 1994.
Mr. Murtha said his clients shot and killed Mr. Walker with a shotgun and a pistol, both of which were legally registered. Shortly after the shooting, Mr. Der and Mr. Kifer called 911 and told police someone had entered their business armed with a hammer.
"Darrell Kifer and Kenny Der killed in self-defense. It would be wrong to convict people that aren't criminals," Mr. Murtha said.
Miss Jessamy calls the two businessmen criminals.
"We have a comprehensive strategy in Baltimore for dealing with crimes with guns and reducing gun violence," Miss Jessamy said. "The killing [of Mr. Walker] was not a typical street crime, but it is a crime that needs to be prosecuted."
Miss Jessamy said the two are being prosecuted because evidence convinced a Baltimore grand jury that they may be guilty of murder.
"The situation and facts weighed heavily on the minds of the grand jury, I'm sure," she said.
Mr. Murtha cited a similar case that played out in March in Baltimore County to support his contention. A grand jury let two brothers Dominic "Tony" and Matthew Geckle off the hook after they killed an unarmed man and injured two others who broke into their concrete plant.
The Geckle brothers had endured a string of late-night break-ins at their Glyndon business and were guarding it on a hunch the burglars might return. A grand jury ruled the brothers were protected from prosecution under self-defense.
"There are definitely things that distinguish my clients' case from that case," Mr. Murtha said. "The Geckle brothers were lying in wait for the burglars; Darrell and Kenny were literally working."
Mr. Brady, who owns a franchise restaurant where Mr. Der and Mr. Kifer were regular late-night customers, said the men told him their warehouse had been broken into several times.
On the night of the killing, "my friends were hustling on deadline to complete a refinishing project that was due to a customer the next day," he said.
A source close to the case who asked not to be identified suggested that race may be a key factor in why the men are being tried for murder.
Mr. Der is the eldest son of two Chinese immigrants, Mr. Kifer is white, and Mr. Walker was black. Everyone involved in the Geckle case, including the man who died, was white.
But Miss Jessamy said "race has had nothing to do with this."
A sister of the man killed by the Geckle brothers told the Baltimore Sun last week that the two cases show that, in Maryland, justice depends on where you live.
In Greenbelt, an armed robbery suspect died Tuesday after he was shot by a gas station owner. On Friday, four members of a band of armed thieves were arrested after a pedestrian in Langley Park was stabbed to death and a McDonald's restaurant manager was shot and killed in Lanham.

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