This story comes out of Chattanooga TN last week, and involves a man who fired shots at his receding automobile as it was being driven away by a car thief. That man has now been hit with felony charges, and ironically enough found himself locked up in the same jail as the car thief.

This as reported by local NBC news station WRCBtv.

I explain the case below.

A Cascade of Poor Decision-Making

As usual, there was a cascade of poor decision-making that led to this sub-optimal outcome.

First, the car owner decided to leave his car running as he entered a convenience store/gas station. I mean, seriously.

Second, the unoccupied running vehicle was observed by an apparent drug addict, who decided that was as open an offer to “borrow” a car as was likely to come along. The apparent junkie jumped into the car, and started driving away.

Third, the car owner, seeing his car drive off without him, ran out into the parking lot, which was crowded with other customers and folks gassing up their own vehicles, and decided this would be a good opportunity to make use of that handgun he was carrying on his person.

Firing Rounds At His Own Car: One Hit, One “Miss”

So it was that on 6:00 pm on a pleasant Sunday afternoon two rounds were fired by the car owner at his own car as it drove off into the evening.

What he was hoping to accomplish is hard to know, really. Head shoot the car thief, brush the brain matter off the dash, and drive on home? What he actually managed to do was put one round through the windshield of his own car, another round flying off somewhere of uncertain destination (but it wasn’t a miss, it certainly ended up hitting something), and get in hot water with the law.

As the article notes:

“[Chattanooga Police Department] Investigators determined that the gas station parking lot was full of customers when the vehicle was stolen and [the car owner] fired shots. They came to the conclusion that [the car owner] was “not in imminent danger and unnecessarily used deadly force to stop an auto theft. [The car owner] faces charges of aggravated assault and reckless endangerment.”

Aggravated assault with a firearm by itself can easily carry a sentence of a decade in prison, and sometimes a multiple of that.

Shooter and Car Thief Booked Into Same Jail

The 35-year-old female car thief apparently didn’t make it very far before being found by police with drugs on her person, and a sharp item concealed in her mouth with which she tried to escape from custody. She was arrested on various drug, resisting, and obstruction charges.

Both car owner and thief were booked into the Hamilton County Jail, presumably in different cells.

I Urge You to Avoid Deadly Force to Defend Property

Folks, only non-deadly force may be used in defense of least-defensible property (the only exception is found in Texas), and a car not occupied by an innocent party under threat of harm will always be deemed to be least-defensible property.

Do NOT use your gun to defend least defensible property (unless you’re in Texas, and even then I strongly discourage the practice—it’s easy to meet fail to meet one of the many loopholes that even the Texas exception requires you jump through in order for deadly force in defense of property to be lawful in the Lone Star state).

–Andrew

Attorney Andrew F. Branca
Law of Self Defense LLC

Learn more about self-defense law from Attorney Andrew F. Branca and Law of Self Defense LLC by visiting the Law of Self Defense Patreon page for both free and paid-access content, and by viewing his free weekly Law of Self Defense Show. You can also find Andrew on Instagram @law.self.defense.