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Deadly force

Published December 15. 2009 05:00PM

An incredible 911 tape surfaced last week involving an intruder who was shot by a homeowner in rural Oklahoma.

It wasn't the kind of thing anyone likes to hear around the holidays, or at any time for that matter, but this home invasion story is especially remarkable since the two subjects in the tape - a terrified homeowner and the emergency dispatcher - were women.

Both were obviously anguished by the incident which led to the intruder's death. But anyone hearing the tape must be impressed by the strength they both show in the face of dire circumstances.

Donna Jackson, 57, lived alone in the home. After calling 911, she reported a suspect yelling and trying to break into her home. She pleaded for assistance.

"They need to hurry," Jackson told the dispatcher.

She also told the dispatcher she had a gun and would use it, but adds, "I don't want to kill the man."

"I understand," the dispatcher responded, adding that the county office said she had the right to defend her property.

"Dear God, hurry," she pleads, while also reporting that the "crazy" intruder was trying to kick in the door.

As a last resort, Jackson turned off all the lights and got her shotgun, but she was obviously still reluctant to use the weapon. When she did fire the gun and realized she had hit the man, the anguish in her voice is obvious.

"Oh mam, I shot him," she said. "Oh, God help me."

The intruder was dead, but later, after digesting the facts, the district attorney said Jackson wouldn't be charged.

During those 10 fearful minutes, the dispatcher acted decisively, clearly communicating to the woman that she had the legal right to use deadly force in the defense of her property.

In this country, human rights supersede property rights. The use of force in the protection of property is very risky, and statutes and case law vary widely from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

Oklahoma is considered under The Castle Doctrine, meaning the homeowner has a right to defend his or her property or "castle." The justification for allowing self-defense under this statute is based upon the right of inhabitants to be secure in their homes.

Other states also authorize force when the victim reasonably believes that it is necessary to prevent entry into the dwelling by one who intends to commit a felony, or when violent entry is made or attempted and the victim reasonably believes that it is necessary to prevent an attack on his or her person.

Last week's story out of Oklahoma was a worst-case nightmare. The woman living alone in a rural area - facing what she perceived an imminent threat - acted in self-defense.

Deeply anguished and with only seconds to decide, she properly assessed that the situation called for extreme measures and acted accordingly, as did the 911 dispatcher.

By Jim Zbick

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