Little Falls murder charges: Law doesn't permit you to execute - FOX 10 News |

Little Falls, Minn. murder charges: What is a justifiable taking of life?

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A Little Falls, Minn. homeowner was charged Monday morning with second-degree murder for a Thanksgiving Day shooting that left two teenagers dead in his basement.

Byron David Smith, 64, told police the teenagers were breaking into his home at the time of the shooting. 17-year old Nick Brady and his 18-year-old cousin, Haile Kifer, were killed in the shooting.


According to the charges, Smith told investigators he shot Brady as he walked down the stairs, then shot him again in the face as he lay on the floor looking at him.

"I want him dead," Smith told police.

Smith said he sat down in a chair when Kifer started walking down the steps. Smith shot her and she also fell down the stairs. He tried to shoot her a second time, but his rifle jammed. When the gun jammed, Kifer laughed at him, fueling his anger.

"If you're trying to shoot somebody and they laugh at you, you go again," he told police.

Smith then pulled out a .22 caliber revolver and shot Kifer several times in the chest. He shot her once more under the chin because she was still gasping for air a few minutes later.

Friends of the teenagers say the homeowner went too far.

"You think we could have tried a couple other things before resorting to murder them," said Tommy Martin, a friend of both victims. "That's the hardest part. Why not call police right away and let them take care of it? They are kids."

Smith told police he fired "more shots than I needed to."

Morrison County Sheriff Michel Wetzel said there was only one prior burglary complaint from October, despite Smith's claim his home had been broken into multiple times.


Smith waited nearly 24 hours to report the shootings. According to the charges, he called a neighbor on Friday to ask if they knew a good lawyer. He then asked his neighbor to call police.

When asked why he waited until Friday to notify police, Smith said he didn't want to bother deputies on Thanksgiving.


Under Minnesota law, a homeowner can use deadly force on an intruder if a reasonable person believes the intruder intends to inflict harm. Smith told investigators he was afraid the teens might have a weapon.

"The law doesn't permit you to execute someone once the threat is gone," Sheriff Wetzel said. "When it becomes clear there's no threat to you, and a felony can't be committed in your home, you no longer have the right to shoot someone."


The intentional taking of the life of another is not authorized by section 609.06, except when necessary in resisting or preventing an offense which the actor reasonably believes exposes the actor or another to great bodily harm or death, or preventing the commission of a felony in the actor's place of abode.

Former prosecutor Susan Gaertner says Smith may be his own worst enemy, and while there's a clear right to self-defense -- it has limits.

"The truth lies somewhere in between you can protect yourself, you don't have the right to kill," she said.

Byron Smith remains at the Morrison County Jail with bail set at $2 million.

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