A homicide yesterday on West 9th Avenue is being described in some quarters as a Make My Day case, even though the shooter and the alleged intruder knew each other. The same was true of a November 2011 Mesa County shooting in which Sean Southwell killed Jesus Sanchez -- but Southwell has now been cleared. Why?
The details are contained in a letter from Chief Deputy District Attorney Mark Hand to the Mesa County Sheriff's Department; it's on view in its entirety below. And, as noted by the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, the fatal confrontation between the two men wasn't the first.
Southwell and William McCabe, his roomate, told law-enforcement types about a previous disagreement involving Sanchez, who was friendly with both of them. Back on November 16, according to the document, Sanchez was visiting the pair and forgot his wallet. Then, a few days later, Sanchez accused them of putting a $50 charge on his credit card without asking his permission. Southwell and McCabe denied doing so, but Sanchez apparently wasn't satisfied with their explanation. On November 21, he allegedly confronted Southwell at the entrance of the latter's home, hitting him in the face along the way.
That time, Southwell was reportedly able to squelch further trouble by closing the door on Sanchez. But then, on November 25, Southwell said he was awakened by the sound of Sanchez pounding and kicking his front door. A neighbor also heard him unleashing phrases like "Open the door," "Let me in" and "Come out here, bitch."
Shortly thereafter, Southwell and McCabe got up and told Sanchez to leave. Instead, they maintain that he punched a hole through the glass window of the front door and tried to reach around to unlock its deadbolt lock.
Sanchez failed to do so on this attempt, in part because McCabe hit him in the arm with a baseball bat. Meanwhile, Southwell announced that he had a gun. At that point, the document quotes Sanchez as asking if Southwell planned to shoot him. Southwell's response? Yes, if he tried to enter his home.
Rather than heed this warning, Sanchez allegedly reached in through the window again, and this time he managed to open the deadbolt and push the door open. Southwell said Sanchez then made a gesture that he interpreted as either reaching in his pocket for a weapon or preparing to throw a punch. So Southwell shot him one time in the head.
No weapon was found on Sanchez. However, deputy DA Hand sees evidence that Sanchez had been "verbally confrontational and intimidating" in advance of the shooting, coupled with the facts of the incident itself, make it "difficult, if not impossible, to overcome the immunity from prosecution claim for Use of Deadly Force Against an Intruder." For that reason, he announced, his office would not be filing charges against Southwell.
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No doubt that decision made Southwell's day. Here's the aforementioned letter:
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More from our News archive: "Make My Day Better bill: Okay to use deadly force at work?"