Posted: May 23, 2013 7:51 PM by Melissa Anderson - MTN News
The investigation continues into the shooting death of Henry Thomas Johnson III, who was killed by homeowner James Stiffler in the Helena Valley on Wednesday.
Johnson was shot once in the chest after he was found in the home on Canyon Ferry Road allegedly trying to burglarize it.
Stiffler wasn't expecting to come home to an intruder Wednesday afternoon, but when he realized someone was in his home, he took action in his own self-defense.
Under Montana law, he had every right to; in Montana, recent changes in the law allow anyone to protect themselves in their own home.
Lewis & Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton said, "The reference that I make is the latest of House Bill 228, or the 'Castle Doctrine.' It makes it so you don't have the duty to flee. That you can stay and defend your home. It is put to us to prove that you were not acting in self-defense."
Dutton confirmed that Stiffler had a concealed weapons permit, and knew how to use his weapon: "This individual was prepared for an intruder, that makes a difference, I know him. and he is proficient with a firearm."
Authorities have not yet determined if Johnson was armed.
The County Attorney has been briefed on the case, but it's still too early in the investigation to say if any charges would be even be pursued.
In the meantime, authorities are trying to connect the dots to see whether five other burglaries reported the same day in the area were related.
Captain Jason Grimmis of the Sheriff's Office said, "There are similarities between this case as well as cases that are probably within a mile or so from this location, so we are checking into that and confirming some similarities."
Montana Code states:
45-3-103. Use of force in defense of occupied structure.
(1) A person is justified in the use of force or threat to use force against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that the use of force is necessary to prevent or terminate the other person's unlawful entry into or attack upon an occupied structure.
(2) A person justified in the use of force pursuant to subsection (1) is justified in the use of force likely to cause death or serious bodily harm only if:
(a) the entry is made or attempted and the person reasonably believes that the force is necessary to prevent an assault upon the person or another then in the occupied structure; or
(b) the person reasonably believes that the force is necessary to prevent the commission of a forcible felony in the occupied structure.
45-3-110. No duty to summon help or flee. Except as provided in 45-3-105, a person who is lawfully in a place or location and who is threatened with bodily injury or loss of life has no duty to retreat from a threat or summon law enforcement assistance prior to using force. The provisions of this section apply to a person offering evidence of justifiable use of force under 45-3-102, 45-3-103, or 45-3-104.