LONG BEACH, Calif. – Prosecutors were waiting today for the results of a police investigation into the killing of a burglar by an 80-year-old California homeowner who says he shot the woman in the back as she fled his home and ran down an alley, the district attorney’s office said.
Long Beach resident Tom Greer, 80, told KNBC-TV that the burglar had said she was pregnant and asked Greer not to fire but he shot her twice in the back anyway.
An autopsy later found that Andrea Miller, 28, was not pregnant, said Ed Winter, coroner’s spokesman.
“Long Beach police are still investigating,” said Sarah Ardalani, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. “It’s ongoing and so we’re waiting at this point.”
Prosecutors filed murder, burglary, robbery and weapons-related charges against 26-year-old Gus Adams, a suspected accomplice of Miller. He was being held on bail of more than $1 million.
A court appearance initially set for today was rescheduled for next month.
The murder charge is possible because Adams is accused of participating in a felony that led to a death, said Long Beach police Chief Jim McDonnell.
McDonnell said the homeowner came home around 9 p.m. Tuesday and surprised Adams and Miller, who were trying to break into a safe. They assaulted him, breaking his collarbone, before he was able to get a handgun, the chief said.
Police said he fired shots inside and outside his house.
Under California law, homeowners have a right to protect themselves with deadly force inside their homes and in the immediate vicinity – such as a patio – if they feel they are in imminent danger of great bodily injury or death, said Lawrence Rosenthal, a former federal prosecutor who teaches law at Chapman University.
But this case enters a gray area because Greer, by his own account, chased the burglars and fired at them outside his home as they were fleeing, Rosenthal said.
“The problem here is that all this happens very fast and his legal right to use force probably ended just a few seconds before he did use deadly force,” Rosenthal said. “So the question is should you charge somebody on the basis of what really was a series of split-second decisions when he’s just been robbed and physically assaulted?”
McDonnell declined to say how many shots were fired or to confirm that Miller was shot in the back.
No phone listing was available for Greer and he could not be reached for comment by The Associated Press.