Did man have option of calling police before pulling trigger?
PORTLAND, Ore. – With a surge in gun sales recently, the use of deadly force by a Vancouver man is a good case study in when it's legal to shoot.
Prosecutors are charging 27-year-old Sean Doucette with the murder of 19-year-old Iosif Dumitrash even though newly released 911 calls reveal Doucette may have feared for his safety when he shot Dumitrash, whom he thought was a prowler in the street outside his house last week.
But even if Doucette was defending himself, he doesn't have the absolute right to use deadly force.
Shortly before 4 a.m., on Tuesday, Jan. 29, Doucette, a former Marine, came across Dumitrash in the street. Doucette's wife, Rachelle, called 911.
"It looks like it's a teenager. My husband's talking to him," she told the dispatcher. "My husband is a security guard. He just got home from work."
Three minutes later there was a flurry of neighbors who called 911, reporting there was a shooting.
"We have a real bad situation going here," said one neighbor.
Then Doucette's wife called 911 again.
"My husband was talking to him in the street and the guy, he just charged at my husband, and my husband is a security guard, and he just got home from work, and he pulled his gun," she said. "And the guy said, Sean said, my husband said, 'Get down on the ground. Stop.' And the guy just charged at him."
Former police officer and longtime lawyer, Akin Blitz, who advises police on use-of-force issues, analyzed the 911 tape for KATU News for clues as to why prosecutors charged Doucette with murder.
"The fact is, he chose to go deal with it himself in contrast with using his cellphone or simply going into the house and calling the police," he said.
Blitz said Doucette might have been justified using deadly force if Dumitrash had been armed with a weapon.
"Deadly force cannot be used to prevent or stop simple physical force," he said.
Police officers have more legal protection when using deadly force than civilians or even off-duty security guards, because they are not allowed to run from dangerous situations.