David Pettersen charged for fatally shooting fleeing would-be burglar

David Pettersen's actions are currently a crime in Minnesota, but a new bill could expand the right to shoot to kill to defend one's "dwelling."

David Pettersen's actions are currently a crime in Minnesota, but a new bill could expand the right to shoot to kill to defend one's "dwelling."

 Nicolas Emberston didn't even get any loot. 

No one in his crew did. In fact, Emberston's three-man crew had yet to reach the "breaking" part of breaking and entering before one of them was detected by David Pettersen, a 65-year-old homeowner in the small southern town of Madelia (population 2,300), according to the Mankato Free Press.

On Saturday morning, Pettersen woke up to the sounds of someone apparently trying to open a door to his house. Pettersen saw someone -- Kyle Nason, an 18-year-old -- on his back deck, where the homeowner confronted him. Nason leapt off the deck, breaking his ankle, and scrambled to a waiting vehicle, where he was joined by Embertson, 19, and Cornelius Ayers, Jr. 

The three attempted to make a quick getaway, but by that time, Pettersen had enough time to retrieve his gun. He fired multiple shots at the vehicle as it drove past, later telling police he'd tried to halt the car by shooting out its tires.

In fact, he hit Embertson, then in the driver's seat. Nason took the wheel and sped away, only for the the car to be pulled over by law enforcement responding to the incident. Embertson was declared dead at an area hospital.

The actions of a homeowner to defend his or her safety (or even property) are the subject of a bill introduced by Minnesota House Republicans earlier this month. That bill seeks to "extend" the legal use of deadly force by protecting anyone who acted "to resist or prevent the commission of a felony in the individual's dwelling."

What kind of felony? The proposal doesn't specify.  The bill also gives a fairly generous definition of the "dwelling" the gun owner is trying to protect:

"A dwelling includes, but is not limited to, a building or conveyance and that building's or conveyance's curtilage and any attached or adjacent deck, porch, appurtenance, or other structure, whether the building or conveyance is used temporarily or permanently for these purposes, is mobile or immobile, or is a motor vehicle, watercraft, motor home, tent, or the equivalent."

It even goes a bit further, expanding the right to shoot to kill to any Minnesotan who "reasonably believes" he or she is resisting a situation that "imminently exposes the individual or another person to substantial bodily harm." Would that include a teenager found trying to open the door to someone's house?

Under existing Minnesota law, Pettersen's decision to pull the trigger converted him from victim to alleged perpetrator in an instant. Prosecutors in Watonwan County have charged him with second-degree manslaughter and reckless discharge of a firearm, both felonies. The manslaughter accusation could land Pettersen with a 10-year prison sentence and/or $20,000 fine, while the "reckless discharge" penalty could be up to two years and/or $5,000.

Pettersen has no serious criminal record to speak of, according to Minnesota court records.

He made a first appearance in court Monday morning, where bail was set at $100,000, KEYC reports, though Pettersen could get more favorable bail terms if he agrees to give up any firearms he owns and to not contact witnesses to the incident.