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When Is Shooting An Intruder Justified?

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A Chicago homeowner is in custody after shooting an intruder in his backyard in East Garfield Park.

After a string of recent shootings involving homeowners, CBS 2 wanted to know when pulling the trigger is justified.

Legal experts tell CBS 2 everything hinges on what state you're in. In Illinois, shooting at a trespasser isn't necessarily an act of self defense, even for a licensed gun owner.

Back in April, a 78-year-old homeowner shot a would-be robber when he tried to break into his home on the city's Northwest Side.

"It was a tough decision. It's not like going hunting," said the man. "It's hard to shoot a human and not think about it."

In May, a homeowner in Uptown pulled the trigger on a robber at his home, too.

Just this month, a homeowner in Gurnee shot and killed a 14-year-old as he and another boy allegedly exited a stolen car and approached him.

What the three have in common: They were all licensed to carry guns and considered in the right.

Tuesday morning's shooting in East Garfield Park is not so clear cut.

Police said a homeowner shot an intruder he found in his backyard shortly before 5:00 in the morning. At last check, the homeowner was in custody.

Self-defense legal expert Gus Kostopoulos said that may be because trespassing isn't enough to pull the trigger.

"He'd have to show that the person was a threat to him," Kostopoulos said.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, so-called "Stand Your Ground" laws in at least 25 states, not including Illinois, said that there is "no duty to retreat" from an attacker in a place that they have a lawful right to be.

But Illinois is one of seven states that have adopted Stand Your Ground guidelines in practice. So if it's reasonable to believe that a trespasser is threatening you, a homeowner could be in the clear to fire shots.

"As a practical matter, if somebody's breaking into your house in the middle of the night, the fact that there's not a formal Stand Your Ground law, you could still assert a very strong self defense claim in that circumstance," Kostopoulos said.

At last check, the alleged trespasser who was shot was in good condition. No charges have been filed at this time, and the investigation is still pending.



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