Published: Wednesday, Sep. 10, 2008
He told police there were only moments to decide.
Several people – at least one with a gun – were breaking through the front door of his Del Paso Heights home. His pregnant wife and two children, ages 2 and 3, slept in a back bedroom.
As the would-be invaders forced the door open, the man told police, he believed he had to act. He stuck the barrel of his shotgun into the expanding gap and pulled the trigger.
A 19-year-old man took a shot to the torso, stumbled several yards and fell dead. His accomplices – police don't know how many – fled.
The attempted break-in took place about 12:20 a.m. Tuesday at a home on the 800 block of Carmelita Avenue, just off Rio Linda Boulevard, according to the Sacramento Police Department.
Sgt. Matt Young, the department spokesman, said the home's occupant likely won't face charges for the early morning shooting because his actions appear to meet the standard for justifiable self-defense.
"The final disposition will lie with the district attorney, but at this time and stage of the investigation, we don't intend to arrest him," Young said.
The Bee is not naming the resident because the dead man's accomplices are still at large.
Sacramento County coroner's officials identified the slain 19-year-old as Jamal D. Ellison. Police said they have only vague descriptions of the dead man's accomplices.
The shooting took place in a small tract of modular homes, each separated by a patch of lawn, on a blighted Del Paso Heights cul-de-sac.
After the shooting, said Felicia Guajardo, another resident of the complex, her neighbor paced frantically along the walkway that separates two rows of homes, shotgun in hand, screaming for neighbors to call 911.
Eventually, he made his way to the home of another neighbor, Robert Jerome. Jerome said his friend did not have a phone and asked Jerome's family to call police.
"He was crying and hysterical," Jerome said. "I've never seen a grown man jumping up and down in tears like that."
Jerome said he ushered the man's family into his own home before going out in the street to check the body.
"He was wearing a full beanie and gloves," Jerome said. "Those guys came to kill."
Looking on Tuesday as a crime-scene cleanup crew scrubbed blood off the walkway, Jerome said residents of the complex were lucky their neighbor acted so decisively.
"Anyone that tries to come into someone's home like that, you deserve the consequences," he said.
Legal experts contacted by The Bee said the resident is unlikely to face legal consequences if the shooting unfolded as police describe. Like most states, California authorizes the use of deadly force in situations where people feel that they or their family members are in grave danger.
The concept that one's "home is a castle" is a legal principle that dates back to English common law, said Floyd Feeney, a professor of criminal law at the University of California, Davis, School of Law.
"If someone is trying to come in your front door with a gun, you are generally going to wind up being authorized to respond with deadly force," Feeney said.