HOUSTON -- A grand jury declined to indict a suburban Houston homeowner for shooting to death two men he believed were burglarizing his neighbor's house.
Joe Horn, 61, shot the two men in the back last November after he saw them crawling out the windows of a neighbor's house in Pasadena, a Houston suburb.
"The message we're trying to send today is the criminal justice system works," Harris County District Attorney Kenneth Magidson told reporters at the courthouse.
Horn confronted the men with a 12-gauge shotgun after a 911 dispatcher pleaded with him not to go outside his house.
The two suspected burglars, Hernando Riascos Torres, 38, and Diego Ortiz, 30, were unemployed illegal immigrants from Colombia. Torres was deported to Colombia in 1999 after a 1994 cocaine-related conviction.
On a 911 tape of the call, Horn can be heard threatening the two men, who were both shot in the back.
In the 911 call, a dispatcher urges Horn to stay inside his house and not risk lives.
"Don't go outside the house," the 911 operator pleaded. "You're gonna get yourself shot if you go outside that house with a gun. I don't care what you think."
"You wanna make a bet?" Horn answered. "I'm gonna kill 'em."
After the shooting, he redialed 911.
"I had no choice," he said, his voice shaking. "They came in the front yard with me, man. I had no choice. Get somebody over here quick."
The incident touched off protests from civil rights activists who said the shooting was racially motivated and that Horn took the law into his own hands. Horn's supporters defended his actions, saying he was protecting himself and being a good neighbor to a homeowner who was out of town.
Horn's attorney, Tom Lambright, has said his client believed the two men had broken into his neighbor's home and that he shot them only when they came into his yard and threatened him.
"I understand the concerns of some in the community regarding Mr. Horn's conduct," Magidson said. "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."
Magidson said nine of the 12 grand jurors would have had to vote in favor of an indictment in order for Horn to be charged.
Lambright said this week that his client regrets the shooting and would stay inside if he had it to do over again.
Lambright did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment from The Associated Press.
Texas law allows people to use deadly force to protect themselves if it is reasonable to believe they are in mortal danger. In limited circumstances, people also can use deadly force to protect their neighbor's property; for example, if a homeowner asks a neighbor to watch over his property while he's out of town.
It's not clear whether the neighbor whose home was burglarized asked Horn to watch over his house.
Click to view image: '196676-joehorn2.jpg'
Tags: Joe Horn, burglary, shotgun, illegal aliens, street justice, won't you be my neighbor?
Location: Pasadena, Texas, United States (load item map)
Marked as: approved
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