(Reuters) - A Montana legislator said on Thursday she would seek to repeal the state’s so-called “castle doctrine” after attorneys for a man accused of killing an unarmed German teenager said they would use the stand-your-ground style law in his defense.
The father of the slain exchange student suggested in an interview with a German news agency that the gun culture of the United States was at least partly to blame for his son’s death.
Markus Kaarma opened fire with a shotgun into his darkened garage in Missoula, Montana, early on Sunday, killing 17-year-old Diren Dede of Hamburg, Germany, police said.
Kaarma, a 29-year-old U.S. Forest Service firefighter, told police that while watching on a video monitor he had seen a male in his garage. He was charged on Monday with homicide.
Defense lawyers say they will invoke the state’s castle doctrine, which allows use of force to defend against unlawful entry of a home provided the person reasonably believes it necessary to stop an assault or prevent a forcible felony.
So-called “stand-your-ground” self-defense laws have come under intense scrutiny after Florida’s was invoked by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman after he shot to death unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin in 2012.
Montana Representative Ellie Boldman Hill, a Democrat from Missoula, said Dede’s death has prompted her to draft legislation that would strip the law of stand-your-ground provisions.
“Whether it’s Trayvon Martin or the tragic killing of this student, it’s not the American system of justice for a single individual to act as judge, jury and executioner,” Hill said.
The slain teenager’s father, Celal Dede, expressed similar sentiments to the German news agency DPA.
“I’ve not once thought that everyone here (in the United States) can shoot someone only because a person was in their yard,” Dede told DPA in an interview cited by Der Spiegel magazine.
“America can’t continue to play the cowboy here,” Dede said, according to Der Spiegel.
Gary Marbut, president of Montana Shooting Sports Association, said he would oppose any such measure.
“I see no evidence to suggest this law is not doing what it’s designed to do,” Marbut said.
Julia Reinhardt, spokeswoman for the German Consulate in San Francisco, said a parallel investigation into the death is being conducted in Hamburg.
“We expected justice will be done to make it clear that an unarmed 17-year-old German citizen cannot be killed for simply entering a garage,” she said.
Reporting by Laura Zuckerman in Salmon, Idaho; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Mohammad Zargham