Home invasion case spotlights homeowner rights

(Source: Byron Thomas/WAFB)
(Source: Byron Thomas/WAFB)
(Source: Byron Thomas/WAFB)
(Source: Byron Thomas/WAFB)

WALKER, LA (WAFB) - A home invasion case in Walker has put the spotlight on the rights of homeowners to defend their property.

According to the Livingston Parish Sheriff's Office, the ordeal began early Sunday morning when 17-year-old Benjamin Jarreau allegedly stole a gun and a car and drove to the home of Aaron Neames, an acquaintance living in a mobile home park on Walker South Rd.

Neames was not present, but deputies say Jarreau held two adults and a child hostage inside the home for nearly three hours and searched for money and drugs before the homeowner returned.

After that, investigators say Jarreau opened fire inside the home, the gun was wrestled away and Jarreau tried to drive off.  Deputies say Neames then shot at the car, hitting the teenager in the shoulder. 

Jarreau, who was captured, faces a list of charges including aggravated kidnapping and armed robbery.  Neames was also arrested and charged with attempted 2nd degree murder. 

The case has brought out the question, what's the line between self-defense and assault?

"That's an actual question that people have. They want to know in advance, if I find myself in that circumstance what can I do?" said attorney Fred Crifasi. 

Crifasi has no connection to the Walker case.  However, he said the law is clear when it comes to what qualifies as self-defense.  

"If you feel it's a reasonable threat that you or someone you're with is going to be violently hurt or injured then it's justifiable to defend yourself or them," said Crifasi. 

What isn't so clear, however, is defining a "reasonable threat."

It's that gray area that has put many home invasion and self-defense cases in the national spotlight.  Crifasi explained that if the assailant has retreated and is leaving, then self-defense no longer applies.

He also added that each case and situation is unique.

"That's why we have juries and that's why we have grand juries to look at the facts of each case and determine, if under those facts it was reasonable for the person to be in fear," said Crifasi. 

Livingston Parish Sheriff Jason Ard said the charges against Neames were appropriate. 

"The suspect had been disarmed and was leaving the residence in a vehicle.  The threat of 'life in danger' was over. According to the law, the homeowner was charged," said Ard in a statement.  

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