The Aftermath: Defending the Public Defender

Welcome to Aftermath, a portion of our First Line email newsletter where Attorney Anthony L. DeWitt walks you through a real-life self-defense incident and shares his key takeaways.

Defending the Public Defender

Alarmed by noises outside his residence, a homeowner (and local public defender) went outside to investigate. According to NBC channel 25 news, the public defender encountered a man who threatened him. The attacker, channeling his inner Rottweiler, then charged the curious lawyer and started biting him about the face and head. The homeowner drew his lawfully owned firearm and shot the man, killing him.

What did the defender do right?

What would you have done differently?

Share your thoughts below.

  • Stayed in the house
  • Called the police
  • Used pepper spray
  • Nothing, he did the right thing

0 voters

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Staying inside and calling the police would certainly have been the cleaner option in hindsight, but a homeowner is not doing anything wrong by investigating noises on his or her own property. I do wonder if there might have been opportunity to evade the attacker’s advances before he had a chance to get his teeth on my face. And if there was an opportunity to evade, there very well may have been opportunity to retreat back into the relative safety of the house to call police. This is a big assumption on my part. With only the facts as presented, I think the homeowner responded lawfully and with the appropriate force, again assuming he could not break free.


Before I read DeWitt’s take, I’ll agree with you. Yes, in hindsight he could have stayed inside and called the police. My wife has done this in the past, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. When I hear bumps in the night- ok, first of all, I try to ignore them because I’m warm in my bed- I tend to investigate through my windows and then, if necessary, I go out with my dogs. Most loud disturbances at my house are caused by raccoons, so I don’t even know if I’d be armed unless I had reason to believe otherwise. From that perspective, good on the defender/defendant for being prepared.

My only critique would be maintaining safe distance. I’m a little paranoid that way but I never let anyone within sabre distance unless I thought there might be some fun involved. I have no problem giving ground to someone advancing, pride heals quicker than wounds. Lucky the defendant survived the encounter and lived to share an example for us.

Now I’ll finish reading and see if I need to edit my comments. :grin:

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I say stay inside and call police. But!!! If your going to go outside. This is something I did recently. I took my gun and my pepper spray. Incase it was some teenager messing about on my property.

I think people underestimate the use of pepper spray. If he had used pepper spray, it might have gave him time to get into the house, lock the door and call the police.

That’s just my opinion. I never walked into a situation without more than one way to defend myself. Cuz you never know when a gun is necessary or it can be a taser or pepper spray.

I think that gun owners should think about that more often. Yes we have the right to defend ourselves, but have the responsibility to defend ourselves the right way. Not always is a gun the right way


At this point voting leans heavily to the two best answers and very heavily to the best answer IMO.

Nothing wrong with investigating but call for backup is best answer.

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Like @Ouade5 , I’ll comment first, and read after.

It seems to me the better course of action would be to call the police. The defender could have remained inside his home where it’s safer, while maintaining the defensive option of using his firearm should the attacker enter the home before police arrived.

But that’s hindsight, knowing that there was an actual threat outside. Given who we are as a group, people who have accepted more responsibility for our own protection and the protection of others, we are less likely to want to call the police for every bump in the night.

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I have cameras to the outside, I would check the cameras and if I see anything I would call 9-1-1.If I do not see anything I would go to the windows with my 100,000 lumens flashlight and light up the neighborhood and see if I can find anything that way. If I can not see it off the cameras or through the window than it is not an immediate threat. I would then be on alert until I could resolve the problem.


I would stay inside, and call the cops. I can see all angles of my yard, from at least one window. If for some reason, I did absolutely have to go outside, I would be armed. My wife would be in the house, armed, watching my 6. Did the person in the scenario do anything “wrong?” Not really. Is what they did advisable, again, not really.

I think the idea of calling the police is good, but given only the information above, the residence may have been quite a way out. That being the case, where he may be the third call in line, and 30 minutes away when they start that direction, he may have had fewer choices.

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Ditto. The cameras guard your house and you in many ways.


It takes 20 to 30 minutes for a sheriff to reach my house. I will go outside and see what is going on. I am the first line defender of my house.


I had something similar happen at my house, but wasn’t attacked. I went outside after my wife was hearing something on the back porch, so I grabbed my flashlight and gun then proceeded out the front door. Went around the side of the house dark and didn’t hit the light till I was around the side approaching the back. When the guy saw I was armed he ran into the woods and disappeared. Took the police about 8 minutes to show up. I am the only line of defense when it comes to protecting my property and I do have No Trespassing signs all over the place as well.


Do not make yourself vulnerable. You also may not know if there is more out there than what you see. Concealment, backup, time could keep you and your family safer.


I would warm up the Bobcat incase I need to dig a hole


Welcome to you Steven 227

Provided they are prowler(s) and not arsonist(s). There is risk to staying inside, too.

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Or hired assassins waiting for you to show yourself. Seriously, horses and zebras.

Ha ha. I wonder if Seattle, Portland, Minneapolis and Louisville are laughing.

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Probably not. But those are special circumstances. A general bump in the night is more likely to be a prowler than an arsonist.

I’m not buying it. If “No Gun” signs keep out active shooters, then a “No Trespassing” sign would have kept anyone off your back porch.