A Texas man who shot and killed two men he believed to be burglarizing his neighbor's home won't be going to trial. A grand jury today failed to indict Joe Horn, a 61-year-old computer technician who lives in an affluent subdivision in Pasadena, Texas.
In the Lone Star state, where the six-gun tamed the frontier, shooting bad guys is a time-honored tradition, and Horn's case centered on a Texas state law based on the old idea that "a man's home is his castle." The "castle law" gives Texans unprecedented legal authority 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.
"I understand the concerns of some in the community regarding Mr. Horn's conduct," Harris County District Attorney Kenneth Magidson told reporters at the courthouse. "The use of deadly force is carefully limited in Texas law to certain circumstances. ... In this case, however, the grand jury concluded that Mr. Horn use of deadly force did not rise to a criminal offense."
'I'm Gonna Shoot!' Horn called 911 in November 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," the dispatcher said. "Property's not worth killing someone over. OK?" "---damn it," said Horn, who then defied the dispatcher.
"Well, here it goes, buddy, you hear the shotgun clicking, and I'm going," he said.
"Don't go outside," the dispatcher warned.
Self-Defense? Horn says he came out his front door, down his porch and confronted the two burglars. The next sounds heard on the 911 tape are Horn ordering the two men to stop & and then shooting them both.
"Move you're dead," he said, and fired his shotgun three times.
"Both suspects were shot in the back," Pasadena Police Captain A.H. "Bud" Corbett said. "Not at the same angle, but both suspects were hit in the back."
Horn fatally shot the burglars, two illegal immigrants from Colombia named Diego Ortiz and Miguel de Jesus. Stephanie Storey, De Jesus' fiancée, wanted to see Joe Horn prosecuted.
"This man took the law into his own hands," she said. "He shot two individuals in the back after having been told over and over to stay inside. It was his choice to go outside and his choice to take two lives."