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Judge: No protection under 'make my day' law for Colorado Springs man in deadly drug feud

November 3, 2017 Updated: November 4, 2017 at 7:15 am
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The suspects were arrested outside the home on the 6300 block of La Plata Peak Drive following the 4:50 p.m. shooting, Colorado Springs police Lt. Howard Black said. (Ellie Mulder, The Gazette)

A Stetson Hills man who fatally shot an armed intruder in his front yard from a second-floor bedroom window isn't protected from prosecution under Colorado's "make my day" law, a judge ruled Friday in declining to toss first-degree murder charges.

Fourth Judicial District Judge Deborah Grohs found that the 1985 law doesn't apply to 23-year-old defendant William Prine because the victim, Manuel Vigil, didn't cross the threshold into his home - a requirement of the law, she said.

"I could not find a single case where the statute was extended beyond the inside of the dwelling of the home," Grohs said.

In May, a different judge ruled against a Green Beret who sought to use the make-my-day defense after he fatally shot a burglar in his home's detached garage on the near west side. The soldier, Michael Galvin, was ordered to trial, where a jury acquitted him.

Originally known as the Homeowner Protection Act, the make my day law draws its nickname from a catchphrase uttered by Dirty Harry, Clint Eastwood's renegade cop in a film series.

It makes homeowners immune from prosecution and lawsuits if they use deadly force against intruders inside their homes if they reasonably believe the intruder has committed, or intends to commit, a crime.

That's a lower standard than the state's general self-defense statute, which permits deadly force "only if a person reasonably believes a lesser degree of force is inadequate."

The Feb. 6 shooting involving Prine and Vigil grew out of a 10-day feud over a botched drug deal, authorities said.

Armed with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, Prine opened fire from a bedroom window when a pickup pulled onto his lawn and Vigil got out of the passenger seat with a pistol in one hand and a landscaping brick in the other, he told authorities. Police found a gun and a brick inside the truck. Vigil, who had sent repeated text messages threatening to kill Prine and his roommate, also had on a rubber glove, authorities said.

Prine continued firing after a wounded Vigil got back into the truck, and also shot the driver, Theran Hopke, who was left partially paralyzed, authorities say. Prine will also be tried for attempted murder.

At Friday's hearing, Prine's attorneys argued that the make my day statute should apply to the area immediately surrounding a home because constitutional protections against unlawful searches and seizures also extend to front yards. Campbell also noted that Prine's front door was ajar with no other physical barrier to prevent Vigil from entering.

Prosecutor Kelson Castain countered that make my day's self-defense rights stem from state law, not the U.S. Constitution, and that if legislators wanted to extend the borders beyond the threshold of a home they had more than 30 years to do so.

In siding with the prosecution, Grohs, nonetheless, found that Prine has "very strong evidence of self-defense."

The judge conceded that although Vigil didn't make it inside, he appeared headed in that direction.

"I don't think based on the evidence I heard that Mr. Vigil was going to knock on the door," she said.

Grohs previously dismissed murder charges against Prine's roommate, Matthew Houston, ruling there was "absolutely no evidence" he was involved in a plot.

Prine, a former soldier who served three years in the Army, is free on $250,000 bond. His trial is scheduled for March 12 and he is due to return to court Dec. 1.

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