Man Who Killed Burglary Suspects Cleared

AP, June 30, 2008

A Texas man who shot and killed two men he suspected of burglarizing his neighbor’s home was cleared in the shootings Monday by a grand jury.

Joe Horn, 61, shot the two men in November after he saw them crawling out the windows of a neighbor’s house in the Houston suburb of Pasadena.

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Horn’s attorney, Tom Lambright, has said his client believed the two men had broken into his neighbor’s home and that he shot them only when they came into his yard and threatened him.

The two Horn suspected of committing burglary, Hernando Riascos Torres, 38, and Diego Ortiz, 30, were unemployed illegal immigrants from Colombia. Torres was deported to Colombia in 1999 after a 1994 cocaine-related conviction.

The episode touched off protests from civil rights activists who said the shooting was racially motivated and that Horn took the law into his own hands. Horn’s supporters defended his actions, saying he was protecting himself and being a good neighbor to a homeowner who was out of town.

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Texas law allows people to use deadly force to protect themselves if it is reasonable to believe they are in mortal danger. In limited circumstances, people also can use deadly force to protect a neighbor’s property; for example, if a homeowner asks a neighbor to watch over his property while he’s out of town.

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[Editor’s Note: Earlier stories about Joe Horn can be read starting here.]

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