New York Times | By JONAH ENGEL BROMWICH APRIL 3, 2017
A man was arrested on suspicion of second-degree murder in Washington State on Saturday after shooting an intruder he found in his shower, according to the Mason County Sheriff’s Office.
The man who was arrested was identified by the sheriff’s office on Monday as Bruce Fanning, a Mason County resident. Mr. Fanning discovered around 8 a.m. on Saturday that the door of one of two of the residences he owns had been kicked in, said Lt. Travis Adams of the sheriff’s office.
Mr. Fanning, 59, walked through the building and eventually found the stranger using a shower, and the two exchanged words, Lieutenant Adams said. Mr. Fanning, who believed the stranger to be drunk, the police said, then retreated to his private residence next door and retrieved a handgun.
He returned and fired four shots through the shower curtain, killing the man in the shower, the sheriff’s office said. After shooting the intruder, Mr. Fanning called the police.
The victim was identified as Nathaniel Joseph Rosa, 31, from Bothell, Wash., a city in the greater Seattle metropolitan area. It is about a two-hour drive northeast of Mason County, a relatively rural part of the state.
“All the information that we have indicates that the guy was undressed, in the shower, taking a shower,” Lieutenant Adams said, adding that there was no indication that a physical altercation had taken place when Mr. Fanning discovered the stranger.
Lieutenant Adams added that, other than an exchange of words, there was no indication that Mr. Fanning was threatened or that Mr. Rosa was armed. He said he did not believe that the two men were familiar with each other. Mr. Fanning owns two adjoining buildings on the property, one of which he uses to run an internet-based business, the police said.
The sheriff’s office released a statement on Monday saying that its investigation did not show that the facts supported Mr. Fanning’s right to self-defense, and that the case had been referred to the county’s prosecutor.
Washington law specifies that “no person in the state shall be placed in legal jeopardy of any kind whatsoever for protecting by any reasonable means necessary, himself or herself, his or her family, or his or her real or personal property.”
The state also maintains that when citizens are assaulted in a place where they have a right to be, that they have no duty to retreat. It is the state’s version of what are commonly known as “Stand Your Ground” laws, though Washington’s self-defense law dates back much farther than other versions.
“It’s kind of the Wild West out here, in a way,” said Todd Maybrown, a criminal defense lawyer in the state.
Mr. Maybrown explained that, though Washington law does not impose a duty to retreat, a person defending himself is still barred from using “more force than necessary. But, he said, if a defendant successfully uses a self-defense claim in the state, he or she is entitled to reimbursement for legal fees, lost wages and other costs associated with the accusation.
Mr. Maybrown, a lawyer at the firm Allen Hansen & Maybrown in Seattle, said he has represented several homeowners who have found themselves in altercations with intruders. He said he had never had a case in which one of those people was charged with a crime.
But he said that the episode in Mason County was an “odd scenario” and that calling the police when first discovering the intruder would have been a “reasonable response” on the part of the homeowner.
Lieutenant Adams said that there was no sign that the homeowner had attempted to call the authorities before shooting the intruder. He added that the case was “fairly unusual.”
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