Everybody first needs to shut up, and the newsies need to stop making thieves look like Boy Scouts.
Police: Man killed in Suffolk break-in had no gun | HamptonRoads.com | PilotOnline.com
A man who was shot to death early Sunday by the owner of the store he had broken into did not have a gun, a police spokeswoman said Monday.
James Howard Durden Jr. fired from outside his convenience store and in through a window at Ernest Scott Roop, 38, after he was alerted from home in the early morning hours Sunday to the break-in at his nearby business.
Debbie George, the police spokeswoman, said Durden told police that Roop "pointed something at him," but she said she did not know if that was when Durden fired. In the store, police found a tire iron that they think Roop used, but it was not near his body, she said.
Meanwhile, police tested Durden's blood for alcohol after they noted - and a breath test confirmed - the presence of it on him shortly after the shooting, according to a search warrant filed Monday in Circuit Court.
Those details, as well as a review of surveillance camera footage, are part of an investigation into whether Durden, 46, was justified in firing his .45-caliber handgun at his J&L Food Mart in the rural village of Whaleyville.
The case then will be sent to the commonwealth's attorney to decide whether it warrants criminal charges, George said.
In general, the law is very grudging on private citizens' use of lethal force, but it is more clear on the right to kill to protect a life than on doing so to protect property, said Anne Coughlin, a criminal law professor at the University of Virginia.
Such cases are rare, and there is no recent Virginia case law on the topic, Coughlin said. Details such as how threatened Durden felt will come into play, she said.
"This is a tough, tough call for a prosecutor," she said.
Durden did not respond to a message left at his store Monday, and no one answered the door at his home.
He was badly shaken by the incident, said Mike Fowler, a friend who was with Durden's family the day after the shooting. He said he was confident Durden did what he felt he had to do.
The friends both own businesse s and have talked about how they would handle a burglary. Their consensus, Fowler said, was to shoot only if their life depended on it.
"There's no way in hell James Durden would have fired on somebody unless he felt 100 percent his life was in danger," Fowler said. "If anybody thinks he went up there like John Wayne and started shooting through the window like a damn fool, they're crazy."
The window, at the side of the store, had four bullet holes. Two men from Suffolk Glass Inc. replaced the 3-foot-by-7-foot pane Monday. One of them, Sam Morris, said he replaced the same window about six months earlier on another burglary attempt.
Durden had been the victim of multiple break-ins, Fowler said. None had been reported to the police within the past two years, according to the department's crime analyst, George said.
Less than half a mile down the road, Michele Dunning said her general store has been broken into four times since September. A suspect in two of the cases was being prosecuted, she said.
Few other businesses operate on the road that runs through Whaleyville. At the Food Mart, farm fields border two sides of the parking lot. Durden's home is just across the street.
Inside the store, business seemed to run as usual Monday. Three men smoked cigarettes at a small table between the soft drink coolers and the racks of bread. One of them, Emmett Jessee, said he felt sorry for the man who was shot but believed Durden was in the right.
Over by the register, at least three surveillance cameras looked down. Another pointed out toward the gas pumps through the window Durden shot into.
The call to police came at 4:04 a.m. from someone from Durden's home, according to the search warrant. Minutes earlier, a device similar to a baby monitor had crackled to life in the house, alerting the Durdens to the break-in, George said.
Fowler said the couple kept the device by their bed. Durden's wife went along to check on the store, saw the man inside and yelled at him through the window to leave, Fowler said.
About two minutes into the call to police, the caller said shots had been fired, George said. The search warrant said the caller told police an unknown man was dead in the store.
That man was Roop. To friends and family, he was "Scotty."
He had struggled for years with drug addiction, his parents said Monday from their home, where Roop had been living.
He had a criminal record, including a felony burglary conviction in 2003 that earned him jail time and was revoked twice, according to online court records.
He also had an energetic, playful way about him and a 13-year-old daughter whom he adored, his parents said. He had recently befriended a 6-year-old neighbor boy who has cystic fibrosis.
"Whenever he was sober, he was a sweetheart," said his mother, Diane Roop.
Scott Roop recalled the time his son insisted on camping out on the side of a mountain, way up past where his family's hunting party spent the night. Then there was the time his cheap reel broke on a big catfish, so he stripped to his underwear and jumped into a cold pond to pull the line in by hand.
The Roops said their son tried to quit his drug habit several times. He'd get clean and start eating right and exercising for a few months, but inevitably he'd falter.
"He was a kind guy," Scott Roop said. "That's the thing about it that's so disturbing."