Tyrone Taylor pulled into a gas station late one October night just as a robbery suspect, Joseph Soutullo, was fleeing the store. Shots rang out as a store clerk fired at the suspect as he ran away, striking an innocent 15-year-old girl as she stood on the sidewalk outside the door.
Taylor heard the shots, saw the girl get shot, and saw the armed suspect run out the door. Soutullo ran towards Taylor with what turned out to be a BB gun in his hand. Taylor drew his own handgun and opened fire as Soutullo fled. A bullet missed its mark and accidentally struck an adjacent house, penetrating the door and striking a television in the unoccupied living room.
Taylor told responding police officers that he fired after Soutullo ran around his car with a gun in his hand.
Taylor was arrested and charged with discharging a gun into an occupied building.
Meanwhile, the store clerk, who has not yet been identified, has not been charged with a crime. Instead, the information will be submitted to a grand jury for determination if charges will be filed or if the clerk was acting within his rights.
Mobile Police Chief Lawrence Battiste says self-defense might not necessarily apply in the clerks’ situation as the shooting victim was merely a bystander and not a threat to the clerk.
In a statement, Battiste implored the public to be mindful that if you fire a weapon, even in defense of your property, if an innocent bystander is struck by an errant bullet, you can possibly be charged with a criminal act. Battiste also warned people against taking action if they are not directly involved with a criminal act being committed against them, even though nearly every state justifies the use of deadly force in defense of third persons.
In Texas, for example, the law states that if you are justified in using deadly force to defend yourself, your property, or another person, you are not liable to third-parties that might be injured by a stray bullet. However, you are liable if your actions created an unreasonable risk to others. You are not immune from negligent acts.
It is important to note that you are accountable for every bullet that leaves the barrel of your gun. Your self-defense actions may have unintended consequences.
Also of importance is to know that should you find yourself in a similar situation as either the clerk or the Good Samaritan, U.S. and Texas LawShield® has your back and its Independent Program Attorneys are ready to help.