Seattle man accused of killing fleeing car prowler charged with manslaughter

Nearly a year to the day after he allegedly shot and killed a car prowler, a 20-year-old Seattle man has been charged with manslaughter.

In charges filed Wednesday, King County prosecutors alleged that Douglas Cameron Sheets acted with criminal negligence when on Sept. 24, 2008, he shot Jhovany Hernandez outside his Northgate home. According to court filings, police came to believe that Sheets shot Hernandez as the 21-year-old fled.

“The charge of manslaughter in the second degree is based on the negligent actions of the defendant in using more force than the law allows to recover property,” Prosecutor’s Office spokesman Dan Donohoe said in statement.


If this had been a police officer instead of a private individual, I believe there wouldn’t be any charges filed. Sad.

Well after reading the full story (BTW you link did not work) I have to question why the car’s owner took the shot. Now I am basing my questions on a news account and I realize that news accounts are not always accurate, but the criminal was apparently running away with a car speaker and the criminal was shot in the back of the head. My state allows me to carry a gun and gives me quite a bit of legal leeway in how the gun is used, but I don’t see that the shot needed to be taken in this case.

Grant the car owner claimed the criminal ‘reached into his waistband’ but as the criminal was hit in the back of the head, that leads me to question everything.

Again, maybe I am missing something. And clearly the basis from which I am making my assessment is a news story, but it does not look to be a particularly justified reason to shoot.

Maybe he was aiming the whole time in case the guy made a move or to intimidate them into thinking he was about to shoot, thus causing them to flee.

I agree w/ you re: too many unknowns.

There really aren’t any unknowns here that matter. Even if the shooter was afraid for his life, he needed only step away from the window. This isn’t the Wild West, we don’t get to use deadly force to protect our chattels (personal property). Clearly the thief was not trying to break into the house, but only the car. The correct course of action for the shooter was to call the police, not shoot at the thieves.

Were a police officer to do the same thing, he or she would rightly be similarly charged with manslaughter.

So we should always retreat and hide from evil?

No they wouldn’t; having a suspect reach into their waistband would have been deemed reasonable for the officer to shoot.

You don’t kill over things. I don’t know all the details, but if he shot somebody who was trying to run away he should be charged with manslaughter.

Lying is evil; do you shoot all liars?

Trying to get to the prowlers’ car, Hernandez ran carrying a 27-pound subwoofer taken from Sheets’ car.

You can’t use deadly force to protect a radio. Catholic theology only permits deadly force by an individual when used to protect human life.

If it were true, yes; but it probably isn’t. Moreover, police officers are supposed to be chasing thieves and burglars and protecting the public; Sheets isn’t.

Here’s why I don’t believe Sheets’ story. He was using a Mosin-Nagant bolt-action rifle from the balcony of his home; Hernandez was running on the street below. Sheets claims Hernandez turned and reached for his waistband (thus setting up a self-defense defense, based on the proposition that his life was in danger and – really? – he couldn’t retreat through the door into the apartment); but Sheets’ shot entered through the back of Hernandez’s head.

That’s some magic-bullet theory. And the police officers you cite would also be in trouble for this. Police officers get prosecuted and (more frequently) sued all the time because someone they claim was shooting at them got shot in the back.

If Hernandez was shot in the back of the head, then he wasn’t facing Sheets at the time. So he wasn’t a threat to Sheets’ life, and it was immoral for Sheets to shoot him.

Strawman arguement.

What does the type of rifle have to do with this?

How do you figure a “magic-bullet theory?” Sounds to me like Sheets is a good shot.

All it takes is a split second for him to turn and fire.

There is a reason why we don’t shoot people who steal things–lives are important. That was someone’s (admittedly wayward) kid. Sure, if he’s about to hurt or kill someone, then killing him may be necessary to limit the wrong. But its much better to have a radio or a car stolen then someone’s life taken. Maybe he would have stolen that radio, and used it to happen onto a Catholic Radio station, and changed his life. A small chance, perhaps, but a radio was not worth it.

I think when the evidence isn’t clear the law should side against the person who initiated the entire incident. If the theif wasn’t stealing the incident wouldn’t have occurred.

Strawman arguement.

No it isn’t; you asked whether “we should always retreat and hide from evil”; I was pointing out that you were asking a poor rhetorical question. Failing to shoot a man from behind is not the same as hiding from evil. Among the other options: calling 911.

What does the type of rifle have to do with this?

It’s a military rifle, accurate to 600 yards (800 if it had a scope); Hernandez was below him on the street and started running from directly below Sheets’ balcony.

If Sheets was in reasonable fear of death from Hernandez facing him and reaching into his waistband (that’s the legal test), then Sheets’ bullet went toward Hernandez, turned around 180 degrees in midair, and entered the back of Hernandez’s head.

Or Hernandez was facing away from Sheets, so Sheets wasn’t in danger.

It takes less time to for a man standing on a balcony to duck than it does for a running man carrying a 27-pound radio part to turn, draw, aim, and fire.

But the evidence is clear: Sheets shot Hernandez from behind.

Remember the story of Jesse James and Robert Ford? Ford shot James in the back of the head while he was unarmed, and he is now known as “the dirty little coward who shot Mr. Howard [James’ alias].”

To put it another way: even the Wild West didn’t tolerate the kind of thing Sheets did.

When seconds count the police are minutes away.

I know what it is, so what is your point? Are you implying that it is even worse b/c he used a military rifle?

BTW, nice wikipeida look-up on the rifle. :rolleyes:

It’s a given fact that the thief was fleeing and shot in the back of the head. What is your point?

You know this from experience?

Jesse James was NOT in the middle of committing a crime at night and reaching into his waist band after being confronted by the person he was stealing from.

Listen, the guy might be guilty after all. Until all the facts are in, let’s not pronounce him guilty.

My point is that, by definition, that’s murder. It is clearly not self-defense.

No, it isn’t always considered murder. Court cases have shown that depending on the situation (and this *might *be one), shooting a fleeing suspect is justified b/c you can’t just turn off “fight or flight.”

By a civilian? Name one.

Unless you mean that the fleeing suspect was running toward someone else, so the defense of “defense of third parties” applied. But if you’re claiming that anyone who wants to – or even just the victim – can shoot to kill a man who is running away in the back of the head, I find your claim hard to believe.

And there’s no way that’s consistent with Catholic theology.

The cases I’ve always read have involved police. Are you implying their should be a double standard?

You seem to want to ignore the fact the thief reached into his waistband.

That would be between the shooter and their confessor.

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