The self defense shooting
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 being burglarized. He called 911, and followed the criminals’ 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. Sanchez was charged with murder for defending himself against the violent criminal, and jailed in lieu of a $100,000 bond.
Why Sanchez should never have been prosecuted
I find the decision to charge Sanchez with murder to be about as unreasonable as it gets. 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. This was clearly a cut and dry self defense case.
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 – 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,got out, came over to Sanchez’s 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.
Although the case against Sanchez was eventually dismissed, that does not undo the wrong of charging him with murder. The time that he spent in jail, away from his family, can never be given back. Nor can the emotional distress that he and his family have suffered be undone. It is bad enough that Sanchez suffered attack at the hands of a violent criminal – being dragged through our legal system and facing the prospect of never again being a free man just added insult to injury. Situations like this are why every state needs a “stand your ground” law like Florida enacted, which saves innocent people from the terrible experience of being charged with murder when they lawfully defend themselves.
My thanks to Paul for pointing out the dismissal of the murder case against Luke Sanchez.