Another Wrongful Prosecution of a Citizen Who Acted in Self Defense

Published by the Author on July 8, 2009 at 12:01 am > Gun Related News > Another Wrongful Prosecution of a Citizen Who Acted in Self Defense

I’ve previously discussed how prosecutors, news outlets, and the families of criminals have a tendency to wrongfully blame a crime victim who defends themselves against a violent criminal. Sadly, there is another such case:

Luke Sanchez, a 38 year old man from Belen, New Mexico and a former US Marine, was driving near his home when he saw a business bing burglarized. As someone who had been the victim of repeated crimes over the last few months, he felt a civic duty to help the business owner. He called 911, and followed the criminal’s van, trying to the their license plate number. The criminals realized they were being followed, stopped their van, and then and approached Sanchez’s truck. One of the criminals, who had a lengthy criminal record that included attacking a police officer, broke Sanchez’s truck’s window, hit Sanchez in the face, and tried to pull him from the vehicle. Fearing for his life, Sanchez fired one shot, which killed the violent criminal. The criminal’s accomplice then fled, and remains at large. Sanchez has been charged with murder for defending himself against the violent criminal, and remains in custody in lieu of a $100,000 bond.

This decision to charge Sanchez with murder is as unreasonable as it gets. Here, Sanchez was not an aggressor, was in a place that he had a right to be, and only used his gun to save himself from an imminent threat of death or grievous bodily harm. In my law school graduate and soon-to-be attorney opinion, this is a cut and dry self defense case.

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In this case, Sanchez saw a crime being committed. Apparently understanding that vigilantism is wrong and illegal, Sanchez did the right thing by calling 911 and attempting to get the criminal’s license plate number, so that he could give that information to the police. He was fully within his rights as a citizen to call 911, follow a vehicle, and report its license plate number. Note that Sanchez had a gun this whole time, but did not use it or even attempt to confront the criminals. In short, he obeyed the law and did not try to take justice into his own hands. Upon seeing that Sanchez was recording their license plate number, the criminals then stopped their vehicle and began to attack him. Sanchez showed great restraint in not using his gun after one of the criminal broke his window and begin to beat him about the face. It was only when Sanchez (quite reasonably) feared for his life as the criminal tried to drag him from his truck that he fired in self defense.  Sadly, the police and prosecutor have chosen to charge an innocent man with murder.  While I’m confident that no reasonable judge or jury will convict Sanchez, he will still have to suffer by being held in jail in lieu of $100,000 bail, suffer the emotional effects of being away from his family and on trial for his life, and endure financially crippling legal fees.  Situations like this are why every state needs a “stand your ground” law like Florida enacted.

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Predictably, the sister of the dead criminal’s sister has set out to vilify Sanchez for defending himself. She said:

“I’ve had things stolen, I don’t have to go after nobody,” she said. “I don’t use a gun, I don’t carry a gun in my truck.”

Starting with the first statement, the dead criminal’s sister suggests that Sanchez shot the criminal to preserve property. That is not the case, as I discussed above. Instead, Sanchez properly called 911 and tried to get the criminal’s license plate number. That was the extent of his efforts to stop the criminals from stealing, and those efforts were completely lawful – and morally correct as well. It was only when the criminals then attacked him for doing so that he used force to save himself from that attack.

The second part of the dead criminal’s sister’s statement suggests that carrying a gun in one’s truck or on one’s person is somehow wrongful. Instead, it is a wise choice, and a right of law abiding people (such as Sanchez) in most states. Those of us who exercise that right, including this author, carry a gun so that we can rightfully defend ourselves from criminals who threaten our lives. A law abiding citizen has no duty to stand idly by while a criminal threatens their life, or the life of another innocent person. While any loss of life, event that of a criminal, is unfortunate, it is far better that the criminal die than their innocent victim die. Indeed, peace loving and non-violent people including Pope John Paul II, the Dalai Lama, and Mahatma Gandhi have all made statements to this effect. While the sister of this criminal is certainly justified in feeling grief over the loss of her (violent) brother, the fault for his death lies with him – not the innocent victim who was forced to fire in self defense.

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My thanks to Anders for pointing out this self defense gun use.

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  • Jaybuck

    This is absurd to even charge this man when he was protecting himself from deadly force while being assaulted. This incident should be addressed by concerned citizens by contacting the States attorney for the Belen, New Mexico jurisdiction. As the author stated this man who served his country is being unjustly stripped of his dignity and more. He forever will live with the fear that some day he may again have to defend himself & his loved ones when the system has profoundly failed him in the past.

  • http://outbacknotes.blogspot Rio Arriba

    There is a process at work in this country, as it has been in Europe (particularly the UK) for some time. It is to make the act of self defense criminal in and of itself. It's part of the larger, relentless, creeping totalitarianism of our era.

  • Jim Bettle

    has there been a fund setup for his defense.. I don't have a lot of money, but I'll donate what little I can.. if enough of us do, it will make a difference.

  • SithSnoopy

    I can't believe they are doing this to him.

    If he wasn't supposed to defend himself with his gun when he was being pulled out of his truck, what was he supposed to do? Let them pull him out and probably beat him to death?

    Let me guess: he was supposed to put the truck in reverse and back up. Presumably, all w/o accidentally running over one of the people attacking him. In spite of the fact that he was being pulled out and might not even have the reach to shift into reverse at that moment.

    Oh, wait… maybe he was supposed to fire into the air to startle his attackers… and let them pull the gun off of him to them use on him.

    I can't believe some of the stuff that happens…

  • Michelle

    As a resident of New Mexico and a former resident of Belen, I 100% stand behind Mr. Sanchez. Although some of the details of the night in question are inaccurate according to my research, the basic principal is true and stark, Luke Sanchez defended himself out of necessity against this criminal. In addition to the author's comments, I think it is worthy to point out that Belen has one of the highest rates of crime, per capita, in the US (more than 4 times the national average!) Thank you for joining me in standing up for the rightous and brave!

  • Alex

    Sanchez should be prosecuted because the situation he was in, by his own choice, did not warrant the use of deadly force. Mr. Sanchez had the option of leaving when the criminals stopped, but he chose to stay. Did his desire to be a hero, just like in the movies, cloud his judgement. I think so.



    So you believe that a citizen who witnesses a crime doesn't have a right to get the license plate number and phone it in to the police? That is certainly not the law.

    As far as Sanchez leaving when the criminals turned to attack him, he also had no legal duty to flee. More importantly, there is no indication that he could have fled without endangering his safety.