A Man's Home Is His Castle, and He Can Defend It

In Texas, more than ever before, burglars and thieves are on notice.

From a quiet street in an upscale neighborhood outside Houston to a junk-strewn yard on the other side of the tracks, some Texans are shooting first and asking questions later.

In the Lone Star state, where the six-gun tamed the frontier, shooting bad guys is a time-honored tradition. But a new state law, based on the old idea that "a man's home is his castle," gives Texans unprecedented legal authority to use deadly force.

Watch a report on the law Saturday, Feb. 23, on "World News." Check your local listings for air time.

In December, Damon Barone confronted a burglar breaking into his Houston home in the middle of the night. His wife, baby daughter and 6-year-old son were asleep when Barone heard a commotion and grabbed his Glock handgun.

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"I heard a crashing through my window … [in] my bedroom, and I got my gun," said Barone.

"When I came around the corner, I saw the silhouette in my window, I pointed my weapon, I fired three times," he said.

Asked if he was shooting to kill, Barone said, "Yes."

The burglar Barone shot dead had a lengthy criminal record, and Barone had a permit for his gun. Even before the new law, he certainly could have been justified in using deadly force. But the "Castle Law" gives Barone added protection from criminal prosecution and even civil lawsuits.

Barone is "positive" that he did the right thing.

"And if I had to do it over again, I would," he added. "I mean, that's the safety of my family over us being hurt. It's a no-brainer for me."

'I'm Gonna Shoot!'

Even in Texas, some prosecutors are wary of the new law. It expands Texans' rights to use deadly force in their homes, vehicles and workplaces. And no longer do they have an obligation to retreat, if possible, before they shoot.

"There's too many imponderables in this law, whereas the previous law was working just fine," said Warren Diepraam, the Harris County Assistant District Attorney. "Frankly, life is precious."

Consider the case of Joe Horn, a 61-year-old computer technician who lives in an affluent subdivision in Pasadena, Texas. Last November, he called 911 to report a burglary in broad daylight at the house next door.

"I've got a shotgun; you want me to stop him?" Horn asked the dispatcher.

"Nope. Don't do that," the dispatcher replied. "Ain't no property worth shooting somebody over, OK?"

Horn was clearly upset by the dispatcher's response.

"I'm not gonna let them get away with it," he said. "I can't take a chance getting killed over this, OK."

Despite the dispatcher's protects, Horn said "I'm gonna shoot! I'm gonna shoot!"

The 911 dispatcher warned Horn to stay inside at least a dozen separate times, telling him, "An officer is coming out there. I don't want you to go outside that house."

Then Horn — sounding angrier by the moment — cited the new Texas law.

"OK, but I have a right to protect myself too, sir," he said. "And you understand that. And the laws have been changed in this country since September the first, and you know it and I know it."

Moments later, Horn saw two burglars leave his neighbor's house, one of them carrying a bag filled with cash and jewelry.

"I'm gonna kill him," Horn said.
"Stay in the house," the dispatcher said.
"They're getting away," Horn replied.
"That's all right," said the dispatcher. "Property's not worth killing someone over. OK?"
"***damn it," said Horn, who then defied the dispatcher.

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