Burglar or man just knocking on door? Homeowner opens fire -- and could be charged

MARYSVILLE, Wash. -- A homeowner could end up in hot water after firing his gun at what he thought was a burglar.

But neighbors are rallying around the homeowner, who could be charged with a crime.

Cops quickly detained both the homeowner and the man the homeowner thought might be a would-be burglar, but investigators discovered that no crime had been committed -- except possibly by the homeowner, who is the only person in the case that could face charges.

“I actually heard the handcuffs, I was like what?” said neighbor Ed Medford. “Locking him up in handcuffs, he’s protecting his property.”

The owner said he was awakened by someone trying to break into his home. Cops said the homeowner tried to hold the suspect at gunpoint, but the man took off and that’s when the homeowner fired off two shots at the stranger.

One of the bullets struck a tire across the street. Nobody was hit.

But when police caught up to the suspect, they said, he told them he only had car trouble and was looking for help.

“Whether his intentions were good or bad is irrelevant at that point,” said Commander Robb Lamoureux with the Marysville Police Department. “He just knocked on a door; it’s not a crime.”

But Medford stands by his neighbor, even though firing a gun inside city limits is illegal.

“You’re protecting your own home,” said Medford. “I don’t care what the issue is. If you come on to someone’s property without being invited or asked, you get what you get.”

But cops say situations like this are anything but simple.

“Yes, you have a right to defend your property, but not with another’s life,” said Lamoureux. “You can only use deadly force if you can articulate that I was in fear for my own safety.”

City prosecutors will have to decide whether to file charges against the homeowner. It’s a crime that could carry up to a year in jail and/or a $5,000 fine.