Given his age, which is 65, David Pettersen was right to be afraid of a gang of teens who admit that they were casing his house for a burglary. It isn’t clear that all of them were white, but the dead teen shot by Pettersen was of European descent.
The moral and legal question is whether he was justified in trying to shoot out the tires of the car in which teen Nick Embertson was fleeing.
A Minnesota homeowner is facing manslaughter charges after he told police he shot at a group of men who had tried breaking into his home, and one of the suspects later died in the hospital.
David Allen Pettersen, 65, called police around 7 a.m. Saturday to report a possible burglary and shooting at his home in Fieldon Township, just south of Madelia. According to the charging documents, Pettersen told the dispatcher he fired his handgun at a gray car that was leaving his property after an attempted burglary.
A deputy responding to the call found the car 2 miles north of Pettersen’s home, with three people inside. One of the passengers, 19-year-old Nicolas Thomas Embertson, had a gunshot wound and later died at Madelia Hospital.
Another passenger, 18-year-old Kyle Thomas Nason, had a broken ankle. He told police that he, Embertson and a third man — 18-year-old Cornelius Ayers — were at Pettersen’s home to “case” it for a future burglary.
Nason said his friends gave him a boost onto the second-level deck of the home, and that he injured his ankle when making the 10-foot jump back down. He told police he heard two loud bangs as Embertson drove away from the home. As they were headed down the driveway, Embertson said, “I think I’ve been hit,” before losing consciousness. Nason continued driving the car until they were stopped by the deputy responding to Petterson’s 911 call.
Pettersen told investigators he was in bed when he heard someone trying to open a door to the deck. He saw the person jump from the deck and crawl toward a car, at which point he grabbed a .45 caliber handgun and tried to shoot the tires of the car. Pettersen said he was about 10 feet from the car when he fired two or three shots.
Pettersen was arrested and booked into the Watonwan County Jail. Monday morning, he was charged with second-degree manslaughter and reckless discharge of a firearm.
“The law does say a self-defense law, but what we’ve gathered so far, we feel we have enough to charge him with second-degree manslaughter,” Watonwan County Chief Deputy Jeremy Nachreiner told KEYC-TV in Mankato.
If I were Pettersen’s lawyer I would emphasize his age, the fear factor, and the fact that he was outnumbered three to one by vital young teens. And I would emphasize that he was afraid they would come back, which they admitted they planned to do.
Any other amateur lawyers out there willing to argue for Petterson’s acquittal?