- Associated Press - Thursday, September 24, 2015

ST. LOUIS (AP) - St. Louis County prosecutors on Thursday were weighing whether to charge a man who police say fatally shot an intruder and could be protected under Missouri’s castle doctrine law.

Joel Wright, 41, was shot once in the head Tuesday night at a Winchester home that was occupied by his ex-girlfriend and another man, according to St. Louis County police. Wright had threatened the couple earlier that evening, police said.

Wright pounded on the front door, which was opened by the other man, authorities said. That man, who was armed, told police he urged Wright to leave, but Wright forced his way inside and, as he did so, reached toward his back. The man then shot Wright, believing he was reaching for a weapon, the shooter told investigators.

The shooter was taken into custody but was later released after prosecutors declined to immediately charge him, instead taking the case under advisement, police said.

The case could fall under Missouri’s castle doctrine law, which gives people the right to use deadly force to defend themselves and their property against intruders without fear of being charged or sued. Missouri, which adopted the law in 2007, is among at least 30 states that have enacted such statutes. Supporters say the laws protect gun rights, although others insist they promote vigilantism.

Prosecutors reviewing the Missouri case “are looking into that whole self-defense aspect,” St. Louis County police spokesman Shawn McGuire said.

McGuire referred additional questions about Missouri’s castle doctrine law to St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch’s office. McCulloch spokesman Ed Magee said in an email to The Associated Press that the “case is still under investigation, so we will have nothing to say at this time.”

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster’s spokeswoman, Nanci Gonder, said Thursday that it wasn’t immediately clear how often the castle doctrine law has been applied statewide.

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