OAKLAND — An armed East Oakland homeowner who tried to dissuade a burglary suspect with several warning shots ended up shooting the man in the leg Monday in the most recent in a string of incidents in which victims have shot suspects.
Neighbors of the home on the 2200 block of 100th Avenue said the house had been broken into before.
"The guy is exasperated because they target his house," said the shooter's next-door neighbor, who declined to give her name. "There's got to be somebody watching him, because the minute he leaves the house it's targeted to be broken into. It's between five and six times, quite a few attempts at it, no matter what he does."
Police said the 37-year-old homeowner, who has lived in the house most of his life, was home a little before 11 a.m. Monday when he saw someone walk toward his garage, then reappear and try to pry open a back window with a garden tool. The homeowner walked to his deck and fired warning shots with a pistol, which seemed to drive the man away.
But when the homeowner stepped out his front door, the suspect reappeared and began moving toward the house, as if determined to get in, according to a statement the man gave police. The homeowner fired two more warning shots into the ground, but the suspect kept coming forward, at which point the homeowner shot the suspect in the upper leg.
Neighbors said they came out to find the suspect lying on the sidewalk, shouting that he hadn't known anybody lived there. Medics with the Oakland Fire Department arrived and treated the wounded man briefly before taking him to Highland Hospital; they left the suspect's shoes on the sidewalk in front of the house near a small bloodstain.
Police identified the burglary suspect as Marcus Holoman, 51. He did not have a gun.
Officials said he has a criminal record that includes arrests and convictions for burglary. He was under police guard at Highland on Monday and was being detained on suspicion of burglary.
The homeowner's handgun is legally registered, and police did not arrest the homeowner or charge him with anything.
Neighbors said their once-quiet neighborhood has seen a rash of thefts.
The man's next-door neighbor said that when her husband died in 2004, thieves almost immediately began jumping the fence into her front yard, stealing a car from the driveway and trash bags filled with cans.
"I want to get my fence fixed and put up some of that barbed wire," she said. "I can't keep them out, but I can make them ask, 'How much do I want to hurt myself?'"
Other victims have turned guns on criminals in recent months.
On April 17, a man who allegedly tried to rob Wah Fay 8th Avenue Corner Market was shot by a clerk; and on April 19, the owner of Ed's Liquors on 23rd Avenue shot a robber three times in the chest after the assailant shot him. Then, on April 22, a North Oakland homeowner shot a burglar at his home on the 600 block of 59th Street.
Experts say the high crime rate may play a role in these incidents.
"It's not unlike post-traumatic stress disorder from being in a war zone," said Darryl Stallworth, who worked for the Alameda district attorney's office for 15 years before quitting a year ago to become a defense attorney.
"If I get mugged at gunpoint on a particular corner, and the next week I'm threatened or my car is broken into at that same corner, two months later I might be so traumatized by that experience that I get in an argument with someone there, they don't present an immediate threat to my life, but I believe they do because I've had these experiences, so I strike out," Stallworth said. "Technically, there's no self-defense. But because of what I've gone through, those are mitigating circumstances."
The perception of danger sometimes can be as effective a legal defense as the actual presence of danger. In self-defense cases in which, for example, a homeowner is charged with the shooting of an intruder in his or her home, juries are instructed that "if the defendant's beliefs (of imminent danger) were reasonable, the danger does not need to have actually existed."
Someone who fires a gun in self-defense is given much greater latitude if his perceived attacker is in the shooter's home, said Norbert Chu, senior deputy district attorney for Alameda.
"If you're willing to breach the castle moat, so to speak, it shows you're an imminent danger that subjects you to almost any force, at a far greater level than once you leave the house," Chu said.
Oakland residents fearful of crime may buy guns for self-defense, but Stallworth urged caution.
"The problem is that this particular event is "... the exception," Stallworth said. "More often, guns come out in domestic disputes, or someone (angers) them, hurts their ego or bravado, and they bring it out. Then they go to court and say they bought the gun for defense. (People) having a gun in the home most often leads to violence that doesn't have to do with defending themselves. It's part of the tragedy."
Staff writer Harry Harris contributed to this story.