Student kills burglary suspect with Samurai sword

On Monday, someone had burglarized college student John Pontolillo's Baltimore house and nabbed two laptop computers and a videogame system. Late that night, Pontoilillo heard noises in his garage. So he grabbed his samurai sword and went to check it out. When the prowler lunged at him, Pontoilillo killed him with the sword. The state's attorney's office will consider whether to bring any charges against Pontoilillo. From the Washington Post:
The student "was backed up against a corner, and either out of fear or out of panic, he just struck the sword with force," said city police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.

Pontolillo, who rents the off-campus home, nearly severed the man's left hand, inflicting what police called a "spear laceration."

Donald D. Rice of Baltimore, 49, a repeat offender who had been released from jail Saturday, died at the scene.
Hopkins Student With Samurai Sword Kills Theft Suspect (Thanks, Sean Ness!)


  1. Castle doctrine laws simplify this a lot.
    Were you legally able to be there? Yes. Were they? No. Did they threaten you? Yes.
    Fine, kill ’em.

    It seems ludicrous to contemplate charging someone for defending his own home. And with style.

  2. I don’t think this weekend ninja would be worrying about facing charges if he lived in Georgia. I think a guy was cleared for killing thieves as they drove away.

    I’m not completely sure how I feel about killing a thief who is running away, but I believe that I can assume that someone who has entered my house, in the middle of the night, without my permission could potentially be there to do harm to me or my family.

    Thus, it’s not my responsibility to insure beyond a reasonable doubt that this is not the case before I eliminate the potential threat.

  3. Armor class? Stats on the sword? As numerous commentors on facebook (george500, amnesiascope) have pointed out, this is very sloppy journalism, and evinces a clear anti-gamer bias.

  4. Why would it matter if the student acted out of fear or panic?

    Taking the story at face value, he got attacked and defended himself.

    Apart from making sure that no foul play was involved, i.e. that the burglar was indeed there to burglarize and not fleeing w/out booty, there shouldn’t even be a case.

  5. From a point I saw made somewhere else, if he had shot and killed him with a legally owned handgun, would this have been as notable story? (I believe in a number of states, it is legal to shoot an intruder in your home if you have been ‘threatened’)

  6. Despite what many people think, there is no such thing as the right to kill a burglar. A burglar is still a human being, with all that this entails (right to due process, chance at rehab etc etc). In some circumstances he might not even be a burglar at all, which is why you don’t want to authorize people to shoot to kill when they think a burglar is on the property. It’s not about morality, it’s a practical thing.

    If it’s proven in court that the student planned to kill the intruder from the first minute (quite a hard thing to do), he *should* go to jail.

  7. #2

    I think this is more of “why did this guy have a sword and and why would he creep around his rented house with the sword anyway.

    “…prosecutors must weigh whether Pontolillo thought he was in danger or became the aggressor. If he thought he might be severely harmed, then he was within his rights to protect himself, Gray said. “It doesn’t matter if he used a gun, a sword or a frying pan.””

  8. Castle doctrine varies from state to state, and it’s not uncommon for charges to be brought in cases like this.

  9. Toyg @ #10: Exactly. Also, the death penalty for someone ripping off your hi-fi and computer is quite excessive.

    If the guy was defending himself, then fine. But I’ll never understand these folks who seem to think that killing a burglar is fine and deserved.

    I mean, valuing your stuff higher than a human life? What kind of twisted person has those values?

  10. @TOYG

    And what if this were a female student and the criminal had a history of rape? Should she be allowed to defend herself with deadly force if cornered? What if the criminal had violent priors?

    It’s situational more than anything. You have two scared primates one backed into the corner who reacts and you’re going to criminalize the action?

    That aside, he shouldn’t have gone looking with a weapon. Police should have been called and most likely all of this would have been avoided. Though I would bet he’d be out a few possessions and the burglar would still be at large.

    I do like the nobody dies scenario better, though.

  11. I try really hard not to be one of those types who complain about how Americans mangle the English language (partly because often it was us who changed the thing after you all pissed off) but I’ll never understand how the word “burgled” turned into “burglarized”.

    Anyway, on topic… assuming that the burglar was actively attacking the student and not trying to escape or flinching in surprise at being caught, then he was fair game. The defenedant had every right to defend himself.

    Of course, if he attacked more than once, or deliberately went for a killing attack rather than a defensive motion or random flailing, then things might be a bit different…

  12. If a murderer had been caught and was in jail, I’d think the death penalty was too high a risk.

    But I like the idea that a burglar, when contemplating whether to burgle again, has to think to himself “This could get me killed”.

    If he only has to think “This could risk an all-expenses paid trip to jail, or possible just a warning”, then maybe there’s less of a deterrent.

    And there’s something to be said for a homeowner not having to stop and analyze the exact threat levels before choosing whether to keep a criminal out of the home his children sleep in. I still approve of the castle doctrine.

    All that said, my uncle was coming home late one night from a party, and tried to be quiet to avoid waking his roommate… who mistook him for a thief and shot him in the spine. So, you know, flip side to every coin.

  13. @TOYG
    Thanks for the clarification. I wasn’t challenging the morality, simply observing that the concept exists. (Personally, I find the concept of such a thing objectionable. Human life should take precedence over objects.)

  14. When killing intruders with a samurai sword is outlawed,
    Only outlaws will kill intruders with a samurai sword.

    — MrJM

  15. It ain’t the stuff that matters, the real loss of a burglary is the loss of feeling safe and secure in your home. It can be a major psychological blow, and if he was robbed once already recently, it is no wonder he was on edge.

    When you feel that unsafe, you aren’t thinking the moral issues out, you are (in your mind at least) fighting for your life.

  16. That’s the kind of justice that gives Americans a boner.

    I have to admit, though, it is pretty amazing. I wouldn’t want to be in either one’s shoes, though.

  17. @Gutierrez:

    “That aside, he shouldn’t have gone looking with a weapon.”

    Your self-preservation instinct must be broken. If I was just robbed a few hours ago, and then I heard noises coming from my garage in the middle of the night, I sure as hell would look for a weapon to use. I would call the cops first, but I’m not going to just sit idly in the dark, wishing and hoping they would go away. Beyond mere possessions, I have a family to protect, as well as my own life.

    You’re also assuming they are just stealing stuff out of the garage, and not trying to open locked doors to rummage around inside bedrooms or have intentions of raping or killing.

    Bravo to the swordsman. Charging him with anything criminal is outrageous.

  18. Yes, the burglar has rights. But so does the resident, and as far as I’m concerned, the burglar’s rights stop where the resident’s rights start.

    We can look at the thing with perfect 20/20 hindsight and say “well, if he’d called the cops, that burglar would still be alive”. We can also say “If that burglar had not attempted to steal things from someone else, he’d still be alive.”

    He made the bad decision, he suffered the consequences.

  19. I am against the death penalty and death is certainly way too high a price to pay for burglary. However, if I find you in my home in the middle of the night, I will do whatever is necessary to protect myself and my family.

    You, toyg and alex_m, make this student sound unreasonable for assuming that an intruder was inside his home for evil purposes. I’m sorry, but where is your common sense? Honest, friendly people do not break into homes in the middle of the night. It is completely unfair to accuse the student of intending to kill someone (toyg) or of valuing his possessions above a life (alex_m). What would you two do in this situation, sit the burglar down and discuss why he made a bad choice? I don’t think so.

    It’s a shame that the burglar died, but he chose to risk his life when he illegally entered someone else’s home.

  20. To all those of you who *didn’t* go to Johns Hopkins –

    The police in Baltimore are *staggeringly* corrupt, and in nearly all cases, refuse to do anything about any complaint (including “I’m about to be knifed to death,” which happened a few years ago) called in by a Hopkins student.

    Since the Hopkins private security forces are racist and useless (I wrote about that problem at ), there’s truthfully no one you can call to protect you in the middle of the night.

    Baltimore is a wasteland, and Hopkins is a great target; the students are affluent, in the middle of a citywide slum. Those of you who just say “call the cops” only prove you’ve never been there. I spent five years (two degrees) there, and all I can say is– I’m glad to be out.

  21. In terms of legality, some states (like NY) have a mandatory retreat law- you must make a good faith effort to get away from an intruder before you are authorized to use deadly force in your own defense.

  22. The burglar would be alive had he ran away instead of approaching the sword wielding homeowner. Nothing about running at a guy with a sword sounds like a good idea to me.

  23. Gotta love the Internet macho. We’re all such big, touch guys…vicariously.

    “I kill you! He got what he deserved!”

  24. @caffeine addict
    Actually the UK word “burgled” is a back-formation from “burglar” rather than the original word. Both “to burgle” and “burglarize” came from “burglar” and neither really has priority, as both are late 19th century formations.

  25. Hmm the apologists for the dead individual keep calling him a burglar. Initially he was. He became something much more dangerous when he cornered and attacked the student. He wasn’t killed over some piece of property. He was killed because he attempted to do harm, perhaps kill another individual. There was a dead human at the end of the confrontation. In many cases of deadly force, the police will hand it over to the DA and let the a grand jury decide whether to indite. If they have a half brain in their head, they won’t.

  26. You’re also talking about a city where students die every year by getting stabbed by burglars who are “just there to steal stuff.” Put yourself in the kid’s shoes; you’re obviously scared for your life, doped up on adrenaline, and you have a weapon with which to defend yourself. What he did to the burglar was probably not the best thing he could have done, but considering the circumstances, it was something that any other rational human being might have done.

    Every living being on this planet has the innate right to defend its own life. As far as I’m concerned, when the burglar broke into the student’s place and charged at him, he forfeited the right to his own life. You play Russian roulette, you play with your own life. The burglar understood this and you should as well.

  27. It always confuses me when people say that some random individual human life is “more valuable” than anything else. Why do people believe that dogma? It’s completely absurd.

    Judging by the wounds, however, the student is not very skilled. He should consider lessons.

  28. @Johnathan Badger – As everyone knows, “to burgle” is the verb form referencing the act of a Hobbit knowingly entering the lair of a dragon to commit a crime (like stealing a cup).

    Burglarize is what modern day burglars do and just like Hobbits that burgle, they risk the loss of life and limb (or both).

  29. TOYG@10

    Let me lay out the simple logic for you.

    All humans are equal in rights and responsibility.

    When one human trespasses on the rights of a another human, the trespasser is invalidating their inherent rights by demonstrating that they do not recognize the rights of another.

    If an individual is ignoring the rights of another, they obviously do not value rights, so they do not have rights, therefore, they represent another class of human being entirely, with a sub level of human rights (if they have any at all). These people are called criminals.

    To put it bluntly, criminals do not deserve the same fair treatment that other rights-respecting humans get. Like for example, the right to not be dismembered with a katana when you put another human in fear of losing their life.

    The value of human life only matters when everyone values it the same. When an individual displays a lack of respect for the value of human life (a non-value so to speak) then they are dis-valuing their own life.

    This is basically a very explicit application of the Golden Rule.

    P.S. In some states, it is completely legal to kill a burglar. In my home state of North Carolina for example.

  30. I have no issues with people that would kill someone who breaks into their home who try to steal, maim or kill.I in fact think this is far more reasonable than the death penalty for people as far as killing and the law goes. Think about it.

    Killing a person locked up and on trial who is both harmless and helpless; shackled and surrounded by armed guards. Is it really fair to murder someone for a crime in that situation?


    Killing someone who is free and dangerous for trespassing into your home in the night; someone who makes you scared for your safety so you kill them on the spot before any harm is done to you or your family.

    I think the castle law is much more civil.

  31. I feel sorry for the student. Even a righteous killing can be a difficult thing to carry on one’s soul- the poor kid will likely have nightmares for the rest of his life.

    As for the burglar, he apparently led a failed life that met with a predictably sad end.

  32. no real information, bootless to speculate. It should be noted though, a sword is like a gun, if you point it at someone you better be prepared to use it – or maybe end up having it used against you.

  33. @ehamiter

    I’m not saying don’t protect your family. I’m just saying that the kid could have accidentally brought a samurai sword to a gunfight. Now I know the youtube videos and the anime say it can stop a bullet, but trust me on this one, it’s not true. When facing an unknown assailant you avoid confrontation whenever possible. Sure, grab your bad-ass Witchking LOtR licensed replica sword if it makes you feel safer, but call the cops and get everyone out of there.

  34. The burglar “lunged” at the student and had him “backed up against a corner,” per the article. Sounds like straight up self defense to me.

  35. @34

    Seriously, have you ever left the comfort of your upper-class suburban community? Just because your neighborhood isn’t dangerous doesn’t mean other parts of the country aren’t.

    Here’s an article google pulled up illustrating the homicide rate in John Hopkins. In 2005, two students were strangled or stabbed in their dorms within a 9 month period. 2005 was also not an exceptional year in this regard– everyone there knows that students get murdered every year by muggers or burglars.

  36. @13- Alex M. “I mean, valuing your stuff higher than a human life? What kind of twisted person has those values?”

    Well, me, for one. And it’s not about the stuff, it’s about having the place which is most personal and most private violated. Burglary attacks the division of private versus public, and I for one find that notion infuriating beyond words.

  37. I don’t really get what you are talking about. Don’t you see the real problem there? Don’t you see that this state has failed?

  38. Unless the weapon in question was rather unusual, the burglar was within 3 feet of the student. If you are in someone’s home uninvited and within three feet of their person (might add acting hostile but I think that the aforementioned circumstances constitute that on their own) you are not just asking but desperately begging them to attack you out of self-defense. I don’t enjoy people getting too close to me anywhere but in my garage at night uninvited, well that is an attack and whatever the result the may be, you had it coming.

  39. Burglars run away when they hear someone in the house. Murders, rapist and ne’er do wells attack people.

    Death penalty for burglary? Too harsh.

    Death penalty for invading someone home with intent to do injury or to kill?

    If only that poor Yale girl had been wielding a sword…

  40. @ Gutierrez

    In Maryland, you cannot legally purchase a gun until you’re 21 years old. Considering the student in question is an undergraduate at John Hopkins, it is very very unlikely that he would have a gun in the first place.

  41. Man, sure is a lot of spurious commentary here. I’d say the fact that the guy sworded (how’s that for a back-formation?) the burglar IN THE HAND shows a lack of intent to kill. Plus the cornering.

  42. He was killed because he attempted to do harm, perhaps kill another individual.

    And you deduced that from the three word description: “lunged at him“?

    Maybe the burglar was defending himself from the sword wielding resident. Of course he shouldn’t have been there in the first place, but you certainly don’t have enough information to state his intent beyond burglary.

  43. It bothers me that people, in principle, have a right to defend themselves as long as they don’t use anything actually effective in doing so.

    If someone would break into my home in the middle of the night, I sure as heck wouldn’t wait to see if he also decides to rape, kill or go berserk because he’s high on drugs or something. In no way does that mean I value possessions above a life. I highly value my own body and life (and my family’s). I don’t have spares.

  44. @49

    Door knockers don’t break into your home in the middle of the night, back you into a corner of your house, and lunge at you.

  45. I have a lot less problem with the student killing the burgler then I do with the inevitable macho posturing in the comments section afterward.

    You’ve never confronted an attacker, have you?

    Judging by the wounds, however, the student is not very skilled. He should consider lessons.

    Hard to tell from the story. He might not have been *trying* to kill the guy. The partially severed hand might be telling.

    I feel sorry for the student. Even a righteous killing can be a difficult thing to carry on one’s soul- the poor kid will likely have nightmares for the rest of his life.

    Too true, and that’s ultimately a burden the burglar placed upon him.

  46. Funny how everyone starts taking black and white sides to this. #25 seems pretty clear-cut about where he stands. What if the person breaking in was a friend of yours? Or a relative, desperate because some personal situation brought him/her to the point of stealing from loved ones? Would you kill them? What if that person was a stranger, but in the exact same situation? Fuck them, regardless of why they broke in?

    Yes, at some point we’re forced to resort to the bottom-level laws of survival and defense. That doesn’t mean we should automatically go there the minute we get scared. Society tries to come up with legalistic solutions to things that are complex, with many factors- quite a stupid way to live, really.

    How can anyone really make a definitive judgment based on a newspaper article? Was this college kid some kind of obsessed geek who overdosed on Lone Wolf and Cub and always fantasized about a moment like this, over-zealously playing his oft-rehearsed role as protector of his domain? Or was the sword a gift from an uncle and he just happened to grab the first thing at hand in protection, hoping to scare the burglar and, unfortunately, killing him out of the panic of the moment? Who the hell knows?

  47. Is it possible to simply say that while this student was defending his home it’s still pretty damn sad that a man died tried to pilfer a playstation? All this bravado and talk of castles is silliness. We do not live in medieval England and you are not Richard the Lionhearted.

    One report I read on this said the suspect had 29 priors, mostly for burglary and theft. Clearly, this guy was not a criminal mastermind. In 50 years of life he spent how much of it behind bars only to return to his behavior over and over and over? And now he’s dead as a result.

  48. Just for the record, anyone who honestly believes that the student committed any wrongdoing is either very sheltered or naive. Put yourself in that situation and tell me if you would have acted any differently. What if you called the police and they didn’t respond in a timely manner (likely the case since this is the Baltimore PD we’re talking about here)? Again, we’re talking about a place where students have gotten STRANGLED to death by burglars and other miscreants. Bringing a naive form of idealism like “everyone deserves to live no matter the circumstances” to a life or death scenario will only cause you to forfeit your own life. At worst, it will also result in the loss of your loved ones’ lives.

  49. a katana is on average two to three feet long. From a standing position with two hand grip a trained person can strike across the width of an average room faster than most could dodge. Watch some kendo matches, I’m sure youtube has lots. Was the student training? Was he in the grip of terror induced hysterical strength? Usually hand wounds are defensive injuries, but the wrist is a primary target in kendo. Reflex? Luck? Bad luck? I think it likely the cuts were inflicted one-two-three! in a panicked flurry. The deceased would have bled out in minutes. Or was it an execution? We’ll never know.

  50. From what I hear, a shorty sledgehammer does wonders for self protection.

    If this happened in Texas this would not be news. You can shoot an intruder on your property at night in Texas no big deal.

  51. @58- We judge because the guy broke into the other fellow’s house. That’s not in doubt, and that’s enough for the judgment. You can paint the burglar as Jean Valjean all you like, but the burglar created the situation.

  52. I’m torn between feeling pity for the guy (what a gruesome way to go) and not (idiot was out robbing people and he had just been released).

    Too bad he didn’t survive his injury, maybe he would’ve gotten a clue.

  53. The death penalty analogies are completely off base.

    This is not the death penalty for robbery.

    The death penalty is execution by the state for a crime. The death penalty is wrong and should not be supported by any reasonable person because the state has proven itself incompetent at determining guilt and fairly using this penalty. Support of the death penalty is supporting killing innocent people because the system always predictably fails and executes someone it shouldn’t.

    This is self-defense with a clearly guilty party unfortnately suffering a huge consequence for his poor choice of actions but he chose those actions, like a half assed daredevil who ends up in the darwin awards he did something dumb and paid with his life and that is his fault. There is no equality between what is right for self-defense and what is just as a punishment via the legal system. The real tragedy is that the student has to live with this incident now and carry that death with him because this jackass acted stupidly and tried robbing him.

    The state cannot be trusted with the power to kill but a society must entrust its members to defend themselves against those who would prey on them or else its is doomed

  54. Know what? This whole discussion is getting too heated and serious so I’m going to pretend it’s not a real story involving real lives for a moment so I can make a bad joke.

    Q: What were the burglar’s last words?
    A: “Unhand me!”

  55. “In Maryland, you cannot legally purchase a gun until you’re 21 years old.”

    Really? Even long guns?
    12 ga. shotgun would’ve been a better choice for home defense, but whatever works I guess. The 21 and up restriction is there for handguns in Texas, but long guns (including shotguns) you can buy at 18.

    Yes, having to kill someone even justifiably is a heavy burden, and yes, we Americans come across as perhaps having a little too much blood lust. But you Britons come across as, sorry, total pansies, who seem to question even that which seems undeniably legitimate self-defense from our side of the pond. You’re a little TOO civilized for your own good. The contrast reminds me of H.G. Wells’ Morlocks and Eloi at times.

    It might be more humane to yell at the burglar to “get the f*ck out of my house” and give them a chance to escape, but you have to weigh the risk of giving up the tactical advantage…what if he has a gun of his own? Nope, I support the Castle Doctrine too. American Grand Juries usually don’t like it when DA’s second-guess frightened homeowners/renters after the fact.

  56. All I have to say is: too bad. Someone dying bleeding out on a garage floor is sad for both the person dying and the person who did it.

    That said, the only reason I can see for the cops investigating is that it’s unclear what happened. Depending on the jurisdiction you’re in, you’re allowed to use lethal force in defense of your life, and otherwise, you’re supposed to use enough force to get away safely. Or (as in Texas) if you’re defending your home, you’re allowed to use lethal force. What’s the law in Maryland?

    It’s hard to tell what happened here. For instance:
    –Did the student have any training in using his katana? If he’s a black belt kendoka, one could legitimately ask why he didn’t beat the man senseless with the back of the blade. You can do that with a katana.
    –Did the student simply strike out of fear, or did he pursue the person once he was wounded and hit him multiple times? It’s not clear from the article what happened. A single slash out of fear is pretty clearly self-defense, but if the student decided to go after the burglar after he retreated, that’s a different matter (AGAIN, depending on the jurisdiction).
    –WAS THE BURGLAR ARMED? Going after an unarmed man with a sharp katana looks a lot different than defending yourself against an armed burglar.
    All that said, I live in a very jurisdiction with (so far as I know) decent cops, and I keep a number of large, sharp weapons within ready reach. I suspect I’d react the same way as the student did. Hopefully I’ll never have to find out.

  57. there is a doctrine of self defense that the amount of force permitted under law is the force required to stop the object of the force from doing what he or she is doing. No more. A small person may not shoot a giant in the face when the giant is falling down drunk. If it is patently obvious that you had the choice of knocking someone out (with no more appreciable risk to yourself)rather than killing them EVEN THOUGH they may been trying to kill you, you are in the wrong.

    Real life ain’t so cut and dried. And who knows how the lawyers will twist things later anyway. In the end, stay alive.

  58. @61

    Does it matter?


    Threaten someone, you die. It’s just that clear cut. There is a degree of proportionality to it, but I don’t think you cut somebody with a sword for knocking on your door. You defend yourself when you’re afraid. When somebody is in your house, threatening your life, it is highly rational to be VERY afraid.

    Saying self defense is bad is a very irrational viewpoint.

  59. Here’s a novel thought. Everyone take a chill pill and see what the facts of the case are? I know, not as fun as puffing out your e-chest and flinging poo, but…

    There are all kinds of unknown/unreported possible circumstances that give us some kind of idea of the guilt/innocence of the resident.

    Some questions I would ask:
    * Was the resident physically assaulted? Meaning did the burglar move toward him or actually hit him?
    * Did the burglar lunge at him out of the dark or was the area well lit?
    * Were the injuries to the dead man defensive in nature? IE was he slashed in the back? Did his nearly severed hand indicate he was raising it to protect himself?
    * Did the resident issue any warnings? IE “get away from me”? Conversely, did the burglar make any threatening statements?

    At the end of the day its what makes it a boing-worthy story is the weapon used. If it had been a pistol, this story wouldn’t appear here.

    That said, have all the philosophical debates you want, but they’re pretty meaningless in that when this is settled it will be because of the answers to the kind of common sense questions I asked above.

  60. The state cannot be trusted with the power to kill but a society must entrust its members to defend themselves against those who would prey on them…

    I like that. Yours?

  61. @Ilovechocolatemilk

    “In Maryland, you cannot legally purchase a gun until you’re 21 years old.”

    Even more reason to avoid confrontation with the robber. I’m not saying the student should have grabbed a gun. I’m saying the burglar is more likely to be the armed one having priors and knowing the risks of what he does. The fact that it would be illegal for the student to even purchase a gun only highlights that fact he shouldn’t be looking for trouble. He should be sneaking out, calling the cops, and finding someone safe like a neighbor to go to.

    I know in the bad part of a bad town these aren’t easy things to achieve, but they should still be your primary goals in a situation like this.

    Acting like the teen in a horror film and going in there to check things out, like the student did, is just a terrible idea.

  62. “Maybe the burglar was defending himself from the sword wielding resident. Of course he shouldn’t have been there in the first place, but you certainly don’t have enough information to state his intent beyond burglary.”

    Your right. Perhaps he lunged at him to give him a kiss. Or was going to drunkenly ask for directions to the bathroom. At what point does lunge mean anything other then aggression in a dark garage, in the middle of the night when you are cornered. I don’t think the student wanted to wait to find out. My impression is that the law in most cases attempts to predict “what would a reasonable person think”. Would a reasonable person think that his life was in danger given the described circumstances. This reasonable person thinks so.

  63. Just for the record, anyone who honestly believes that the student committed any wrongdoing is either very sheltered or naive. Put yourself in that situation and tell me if you would have acted any differently.

    Fuck yes I would have acted differently. Like any sensible person I would have been out the window and running through my neighbors yard, and screaming “FIRE RAPE ARSON” to the high heavens so my neighbors know there’s a problem and we’re not stuck dealing with it by ourselves until the cops show up (and the cops are even more likely to show up if you’re running around in the streets screaming – if only for the inevitable noise complaints).

    Pausing briefly to shove my husband towards the window and grab the cat, but that’s about it.

    ANYONE who thinks GOING TOWARDS the person breaking into your house is “Defending your family” is nuts. Defending your family involves GETTING THEM AWAY FROM THE DANGER, not putting yourself and the intruder at risk.

    You don’t lurk quietly in your house, tripping on adrenaline and dreaming of kicking his ass and proving you have a big penis, you make a HUGE commotion and run like fuck. This
    a) means the intruder can’t get cornered and panic cuz you’re not there to corner them, you’re running
    b) raises the possibility of more people coming and outnumbering them
    c) gets you the fuck out of there.

    If YOU get cornered on the way out, don’t stop to fight. People who intend to fight don’t run well – they aren’t fully committed to it. Commit yourself to RUNNING. Nothing like pure distiled flight reflex for leaving boot tread marks in the guys skull as you go squirting over under around him and screaming (literally) out the door.

  64. to those mentioning Castle Doctrine: it does not exist in Maryland. until recently, we had a duty to retreat.

    what does this mean?

    this means we had to LEAVE OUR OWN HOMES in the event of an intruder.

    Baltimore police have little interest in protecting people. they only really care about fighting over who gets to protect the sub shop/donut shop (yes, i’m serious, i’ve seen this happen).

    USSJOIN has the right of it.

    Guiterrez, we cannot own pistols until the age of 21. we can own long guns, but you MUST be a resident of the state to buy here…i doubt the student in question has officially changed his residence. most college students don’t.


    “2005 was also not an exceptional year in this regard– everyone there knows that students get murdered every year by muggers or burglars.”

    That’s incorrect. Those two murders in 04/05 were the first since 1996. The murder in 1996 was committed by another student. The 2005 murder was not a mugging or burglary. There have been no student murders since. Your statement simply isn’t true… student murders are exceptional cases.

  66. Takuan@69

    This is a rational dispute, but one that rarely applies.

    If the student perceived at the point and time of the incident that his life was threatened, and the burglar was responsible for the the student’s perception of the threat, then the student’s actions were justified as a logical response to said perceived threat.

    A burglar lunges at you in the dark of your garage after forcing his way into your house. Hardly a drunk giant stumbling.

  67. @Takuan

    I really don’t understand how this is a controversial issue. When you’re scared and high on adrenaline, are you really expected to perfectly assess the situation and determine if one should use non-lethal force? This student is not a trained police officer and probably not a trained swordsman. You can’t expect him to reasonably know whether or not this burglar intends to kill him or not. The burglar lunged at him and we can only speculate it was with the intent of using his sword against him. The student reacted and unfortunately, there is a dead body now.

    Would YOU have acted differently given the circumstances? To disable someone and prevent them from attacking you is much, much harder than you make it out to be. The kid even took off the intruder’s hand for christssake; if he were simply out for blood, why wouldn’t he have just stabbed him in the heart or sliced off his head to begin with?

  68. –Did the student have any training in using his katana? If he’s a black belt kendoka, one could legitimately ask why he didn’t beat the man senseless with the back of the blade. You can do that with a katana.

    Do you train for that in Kendo? They use Shinai, not boken, so I’m not sure how that would even work. (Shinai are great substitutes for Chinese swords :P)

    –Did the student simply strike out of fear, or did he pursue the person once he was wounded and hit him multiple times? It’s not clear from the article what happened. A single slash out of fear is pretty clearly self-defense, but if the student decided to go after the burglar after he retreated, that’s a different matter (AGAIN, depending on the jurisdiction).

    Yeah, if there’s a court case, those are the kind of arguments that will get made. It has almost nothing to do with real life. “Did you *have* to use a wrist/head combo?” “You know, I didn’t really have time to think about it.”

    –WAS THE BURGLAR ARMED? Going after an unarmed man with a sharp katana looks a lot different than defending yourself against an armed burglar.

    And you’re going to know/wait to find out? Again, see real life.

    The guy was already commiting a felony on his property, I think the presumption is (or should be) that he is armed and dangerous.

  69. @ Jerril:

    That tactic works better in communities that don’t experience “FIRE RAPE ARSON” (not to mention burglaries and crazy people screaming in the streets) on a nightly basis.

  70. Why do people bring up “defending my family” or “my children” in these kinds of discussions? Is there some reason why defending your family/kids is more valid than defending yourself? Or your roommate? Or some strangers? To me, it seems like the same appeal to emotion as when people say “think of the children”.

    Acting on behalf of (supposedly) weaker individuals than yourself doesn’t change the ethical nature of your actions, even if it makes you feel more righteous.

  71. If the story is true as presented (i.e. the student felt reasonably threatened and the burglar was really a burglar) AND

    if charges are actually pressed,

    then, jury would still not convict. It doesn’t take Bobby Donnell to convince a jury not to convict a guy defending his life in his own home.

  72. Having been in an extremely similar situation, I can say there is no macho posturing about it. I will also agree with those that point out the outrage of those who’ve never been in a conflict any kind, much less one of this nature.

    I personally knew people who became statistics. You can call the police, and even if they come, they are not traveling at light speed. It takes seconds to kill someone, and those few seconds could be all you have.

    I was lucky in that I did not kill the attacker. He jumped from a friend’s closet( broke in, was hiding in there) with a baseball bat. I just happened to be there and also am licensed to carry a gun. Despite me holding him at bay with the weapon pointed at him, he was weighing his chances as to whether he could hit me. Lucky for us both I convinced him, at 6 feet away, he had no chance.

    I had my license suspended for a year( never fired a shot, of couse ), and the burglar walked with probation.

    Now, had I not had a gun, this guy would certainly have tried to brain me. What if he succeeded before the ( they were called ) police arrived?

  73. Takuan@80

    Yes. But they have to live with the legal and moral consequences of being easy frightened. This student in question will most likely only have to deal with the former.

  74. While we’re being pedantic about burglar and burgled et al, I’ll point out that if the garage was an outbuilding, it technically may not qualify as a burglary attempt. The common law definition of burglary has four elements.
    1.)entry without permission
    2.)to to harm (not necessarily theft)
    3.)of a residence (and if the garage isn’t attached…)
    4.)at night.

  75. Jerril – the police wouldn’t care. it takes them 3 hours to respond to a break-in WHEN PEOPLE ARE AT HOME. responding to FIRERAPEARSON is a drop in the bloody bucket for them.

  76. Takuan@88

    And? Are you saying the law is flawed? One circumstance completely out of context for any real argument? What are you trying to say?

  77. @82


    I spent a good part of my life growing up in the Philippines. If you lived there and ran outside and yelled “FIRE, RAPE, ARSON!” or what have you, chances are, no one would even turn their heads. Also, think about what you’re telling people to do– run away from your house just because someone entered it illegally? If you did that where I came from, then it would be IMPOSSIBLE to actually own a house because it would be invaded by squatters every single week.

    It amazes me how sheltered some people can be. I invite anyone who honestly believes that the student committed some wrongdoing to live in a place like Manila or Mexico City for a few years. I doubt you’ll walk away with the same perspective that you have now.

  78. ‘ Why do people bring up “defending my family” or “my children” in these kinds of discussions?” ‘

    Because if you live in a state that has a “duty to retreat” you have to be able to egress the area safely. That extends to your family or anybody else near you that is threatened. If they can’t get away, force (deadly if necessary) is permitted by law.

  79. @63 et al – the burglar only “created the situation” if you’re seeing things in a short-sighted way. If you stop to examine any actual situation, you realize that lots of events created this event here. Not only do the student and the burglar each have a backstory full of countless events beyond their control that shaped the decision-making-programs in their respective heads, but consider all the other elements at play- the fact that katanas even exist, the fact that a college student can own one in his baltimore home, the fact that a city like baltimore houses rich, privileged kids and poor, uneducated folks, all living in a small geographical area… i mean, you can get ridiculous with the data, but it’s all there, and it all influences the situation. To ignore 99% of it and merely examine two actions (theft and killing) in a vacuum is ridiculous.

  80. The situation is terrible for the students who live there, who likely must now move to protect themselves from revenge. The swordsman will probably have to move out of the state entirely, or at a minimum become anonymous until he graduates, now that his name is in the papers. It is a terrifying time for them.

    They can hope that the burglar who hid in the garage was the same burglar who stole their computers hours earlier, but even if he was, other criminals are probably excited to show-up the hero and win one for the scumbags.

  81. @Takuan

    According to some lawyers and some courts, yes – the easier you scare the more you get to kill. Look at various ‘panic’ and ‘mania’ defenses that have been tried.

    I appreciate some of the posters trying to make some grey area(s) but it really is black and white for a lot of people. Once the burglar entered the home uninvited all other details, for some, become entirely irrelevant. Anything in your home without permission lives or dies at your discretion. The home (property) is an extension of personal space – some won’t have you in their garage at night without permission anymore than they would have you nose to nose and not consider you an imminent physical threat to be (self) defended against.

    It may seem barbaric but the alternative seems naive and wishful. Better to be barbaric and alive? Better to take another life than risk your own? Better to be alive in jail than dead in garage?

  82. my wife’s family lives not too very far from JH on Mt. Royal terrace. They have been ‘burglarized’ over 30 times since 1972 when they moved in. They have heavy iron bars and burglar alarms, they cannot afford homeowners insurance to cover burglary at this point. They have encountered people in their home, upon returning , on several occasions. My wife still carries the mental-scars that have resulted from these privacy violations and repeated affronts to her sense of privacy and ‘Home’. YMMV

  83. none of us really know what happened. Or ever will. Discussion of these matters makes people think, which influences social attitudes and eventually makes law. I do hope no one here thinks they can make absolute judgement on this incident and make a finding of “right” or “wrong”.

  84. I invite anyone who honestly believes that the student committed some wrongdoing to live in a place like Manila or Mexico City for a few years

    Or, y’know, Baltimore…

    To ignore 99% of it and merely examine two actions (theft and killing) in a vacuum is ridiculous.

    I suppose I *could* ponder the availability of contraception a quarter century ago when confronted by a burglar, but I’m not likely to have the luxury of time.

  85. I’m going to take a step back here and look at the kinds of arguments presented so far.

    (1) Kantian / Deontological: The resident has a right to self-defence and to protect his property. The robber forfeited his rights by engaging in morally wrong conduct. Therefore, the resident was right in defending himself, though it is regrettable that the robber died.

    (2) Utilitarian: The value of human life is less than the value of goods. The resident should therefore not have confronted the robber with a deadly weapon, inevitably escalating the situation, but should have left the scene.

    (3) Legalistic: Whatever the applicable laws in the jursidisction are, is what’s right. If castle doctrine applies, then the resident was right. If not, he should have known and taken the appropriate actions.

    (4) Virtue Ethics / Casuistry: The morally salient features are to be found in the characters of those involved and the context of the incident, not in abstract concerns about “rights,” “values” and “laws.”

    i.e., Was the resident acting in genuine self-defence, or playing out bravado fantasies? Did he reflect appropriately on what he should have done, given the context? Does he feel remorse? Did the robber “lunge” or try to get away (e.g., via a door close to the resident)? Was he acting in a aggressive, threatening manner? Until these questions are answered, it is difficult to make a moral judgement.

    (5) Systemic, Societal Analysis: The incident, though regrettable, is the upshot of systemic failures that need to be addressed. As a result, the culpability of the parties, while perhaps important, is not the interesting issue. Such incidents are symptomatic of a failure of institutions (police, municipal, state, federal) to protect citiziens, keep repeat offenders in jail, provide decent opportunities, reduce poverty and increase class mobility (the best predictor of social class is: parent’s social class).

    Carry on.

  86. @93

    What kind of vacuous argument is that? So it’s John Hopkins’ fault for building a college in a poor district which invariably resulted in an intruder?

    Honestly, rich university in a poor district is not unusual at all; in fact, I would argue that universities create poor areas due to the differential in education, jobs, and property value between them and the surrounding community. Take Stanford as an example, Palo Alto is one of the most affluent cities in the nation, being situated right in the middle of the Silicon Valley. East Palo Alto, however, is one of the poorest communities in the nation, with a staggeringly high homicide rate.

    Regardless, looking at it from a social perspective is at best non sequitur and at worst, intellectually dishonest.

  87. @93- And the burglar did the first illegal thing. In short, the first thing that violated that delicate web of agreements that keep us from acting like Mongols looting China.

    I consider it analogous to the situation if a cop accidentally shoots an innocent bystander during a bank robbery. Guess who gets charged with homicide? The robber.

  88. Takuan@98

    You yourself stated that we don’t know all the details.

    As such, I am not well enough aware of the elements of the situation to precisely determine my reaction.

    I don’t know what I would do. Situations like that make people react on the most instinctual level. I have no idea whether I would fight or fly.

  89. thanks for the #99 Iopha, now, since the weapon was a katana I pose this one: what would be the correct budoka’s course? (budoka- martial artist and student of the Way)

  90. @ #75 posted by Jerril

    “Like any sensible person I would have been out the window and running through my neighbors yard, and screaming “FIRE RAPE ARSON” to the high heavens so my neighbors know there’s a problem and we’re not stuck dealing with it by ourselves until the cops show up (and the cops are even more likely to show up if you’re running around in the streets screaming – if only for the inevitable noise complaints).”

    Thats fine, until the police show up and it turns out it was a cat or hedgehog or raccoon or whatever making the noise.

    For what its worth, I think its pretty reasonable to go investigating strange noises from the garage. You’ve never heard something strange in the back yard and gone to have a look?

    ~ c

  91. @Iopha, Nice summary.

    @ILoveChocolate Milk & Falnfenix, it was ‘off campus’ so it’s not clear what the neighborhood was like.

  92. I’m with Jerril, run the fuck away.

    Not sure what the size of my penis has to do with it, but I think she has the right idea.

  93. Church – even in Overlea/Fullerton/Lauraville/just south of Towson within the City line, i’d still say it’s a bad neighborhood. East Baltimore is going to hell in a handbasket VERY quickly as Hopkins Hospital buys out whole neighborhoods, levels them, and pushes those people further out.

    if the student was anywhere remotely close to the uni, he’s too close to bad neighborhoods. it doesn’t help that the city has had a rash of attacks orchestrated by gangs of kids. you might remember NYC back when it was a genuinely scary place to live – Baltimore is heading that direction rather quickly.

  94. @100 – you’re missing the point. I’m not assigning blame- I didn’t say the kid was wrong or that he should go to jail. Sitting here passing judgment is all fine and well behind our little computer screens. We can do it all day long and feel really good about it.

    Or, we can think about a future society where these things just don’t even happen. We can try to understand why they happen now, and how to change the root causes for a better life generations from now. The latter seems more productive to me, even if it’s also more difficult. If people find it to be an unrealistic waste of time, and would rather just type away on their keyboards, go ahead! Masturbation is as old as humanity itself!

    1. I f I had just been burglarized, I’d have locked the door to the garage. And if I heard noises, I’d call 911. I suspect that a prosecutor could successfully make those arguments to a jury.

  95. @#14

    Call the police? well yes, but imagining they’re going to arrive in time to do anything but write a report on a burglary is absurd.

    Here in Dallas the police arrive a day to a week after a call is put in to them. Arriving while a crime is in progress is just too awkward.

    Police are trained to minimize the chance that they will have to take any action, which of course would be time consuming.

  96. Jerril, in lower-income Baltimore if you run out yelling “FIRE RAPE ARSON” the most likely result is a bunch of people showing up to loot your house and go through the pockets of your corpse, after somebody shoots you to make you shut up.

    Where I live, if you run out yelling “FIRE RAPE ARSON” the deer snort at you and run away. And I guess the burglar probably says, “hey, keep it down, I’m working over here!”

    You are very privileged to live where others will take responsibility for your protection. I wouldn’t like that, myself; but everybody’s different I suppose.

  97. The spear laceration of the hand implies that there was not intent to kill the attacker/intruder/lunger.
    Consider the situation: You are in a room holding a sword and the intruder lunges and tries to grab your weapon. You do nothing, and he takes your sword and kills you. You hack at his outstretched hand, which is trying to grab you or your weapon, and and you prevent a more damaging scenario. There is no way to predict if you action will cause death or slow down the attack enough to allow your escape. Given the time the student had to make a decision, almost none, he behaved rationally and instinctively. Had he hacked at the attacker’s neck, you could possibly presume more of an intent to use lethal force rather than defense. Had the sword ben swung and some slightly different angle, perhaps the assailant might have just been injured, but you can’t really be so precise under duress and not many people practice for such circumstances.
    The irony is that losing a hand is the accepted penalty for stealing in some societies.

  98. @10 Absolutely. But there is a right to self defense and an unannounced intruder on private property who turns against the rightful owner is a clear and present danger. Over here §32 of the criminal code states quite explicitly that acts of defense are legal, as long as they arent needlessly excessive and §33 voids the illegality of excessive force then it was caused by panic.

  99. @112- Ah, but the question is if you had an obligation to lock the door or call 911 or to otherwise avoid contact with the burglar. Which, legally, is going to vary from state to state.

    1. Ah, but the question is if you had an obligation to lock the door or call 911 or to otherwise avoid contact with the burglar.

      As usual, issues of morality, ethics, compassion and empathy whoosh right over your head.

  100. Guys, I can’t help myself. But you are (mostly) a bunch of myopic moral hypocrites.

    I don’t really care much about what the student did. But you defend his actions with some of the following arguments:

    Police won’t come if you call them. They don’t care.

    Those students are living in an area where they are a the rich guys and everyone around them is poor. You imply with that, that poor people are much more likely to become burglars. Yet, you take it as a given that you couldn’t possibly do anything about them being poor. At most, the students should move into a rich area.

    It’s like talking about the morality of cannibalism in a famine, completely disregarding the fact that it may be a pretty darn good idea not to have a perfectly preventable famine in the first place.

    You’re living in one of the richest countries of this planet. You can both do something against the extremes of poverty in your midst and you can do something against the outrageous corruption of your police and judicial system.

    Get your act together or stop acting like your country was establish to guarantee life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all your citizens … or was part of the civilized world for that matter.

  101. even in Overlea/Fullerton/Lauraville/just south of Towson within the City line, i’d still say it’s a bad neighborhood.

    Pshaw. Slackers don’t know how easy they have it.

    I f I had just been burglarized, I’d have locked the door to the garage. And if I heard noises, I’d call 911.

    You don’t live in Charm City, do you?

  102. watch some kendo, Antfarmer. A natural technique is to strike kote (forearm) and then continue the stroke to a point thrust to the throat. It’s eyeblink fast and traditionally the weaker’s defense. Things happen too fast in fights for any thought to be involved. That is why you train.

  103. Takuan, in my opinion, with unsheathed katana against an unarmed opponent with sufficient overhead space, one should strike downward with great force, keeping the blade angled and not horizontal (watching out for an opponent who knows that Sho-rin Shinto ryu hand trick) and pulling straight back towards your non-dominant side using the hips when the blade begins to slow. If you are well practiced and your blade is sharp you will be able to bring the blade out well after splitting the skull and penetrating the chest. The idea should be to perform the entire action with a single complex muscular effort.

    Typically one would not have sufficient overhead space indoors for such a classical strike. In reality, your posture and the surrounding structures will dictate your action. Ia-do is better training than ken-do for this sort of thing.

  104. Guys, I can’t help myself. But you are (mostly) a bunch of myopic moral hypocrites.

    We can’t help you either. Sorry.

  105. I lived on the 300 block on E. University when I went to JHU as an undergrad. Yes, burglaries are common around there. Is it through any sort of organized crime syndicate bent on revenge as Deckard68 imagines it might be? Definitely not… in that neighborhood, it’s always just individual junkies looking for something to pawn for their next fix. Are students murdered every year by muggers and burglars as ILoveChocolateMilk would have you believe? Absolutely not… student murders are rare. A student was murdered in 1996… by another student. A student was stabbed and killed in 1994, most likely by a burglar. A student was killed in 1995, but not by a burglar or mugger. There have been no student murders since.

    All this hyperbole about Baltimore being some third world city are just that… hyperbole. If you’re in one of the boarded-up neighborhoods on the east or west side where the drug trade is in full swing, then yeah… it’s pretty much what you see on “The Wire”. Everywhere else, it’s more or less like most other cities: it’s usually crimes of opportunity that are fairly easy to protect yourself from.

  106. @117, interesting: “fat” and unarmed… I wonder if the student had grabbed a butcher knife if Rice might have taken the message. Perhaps he only had a comic book idea of what a sword could do. A cultural thing in a gun culture. In Japan people tend to immediately run screaming at the sight of someone brandishing a sword in earnest.

  107. It never ceases to amaze me how many people will defend the actions of the guilty who intentionally choose to create an illegal situation in which the outcome for them was very bad.

    I don’t worry about what is going to happen to me when I break into someone’s home because *I don’t break into other people’s homes*.

    I’m liberal on just about everything… except the fact that if you go looking for trouble, you should get exactly that.

    I love my HK P30 and the Texas Castle Law. I’m single, live alone, have no kids and no one else has keys to my house. So if anyone else is in my house without my knowledge, they shouldn’t be and they’ll find out very quickly what a bad idea it was to invite themselves in.

  108. in my opinion, with unsheathed katana against an unarmed opponent with sufficient overhead space, one should strike downward with great force…

    Against an unarmed opponent? Downwards, Thrusting, whatever. You can beat him with your scabbard. (Not that I’m saying you should assume your opponent is unarmed.)

    Typically one would not have sufficient overhead space indoors for such a classical strike. In reality, your posture and the surrounding structures will dictate your action. Ia-do is better training than ken-do for this sort of thing.

    True that. That’s rather the point of iado.

  109. @130 I wouldn’t shoot someone in the back for stealing some of my stuff, because I’m reasonably well off, but that’s me. If someone, for example, absolutely needs his car for his work – who would lose his job if he couldn’t drive there – and somone else tried to steal that car, killing the the thief or robber as a last resort seems perfectly reasonably to me. Risking years of misery because some punk needs some cash? No thanks.

  110. Typically one would not have sufficient overhead space indoors for such a classical strike.

    Now that I think on it, Baltimore row houses are actually well suited for that. Ceilings tend to be 12′ or more.

    Interesting coincidence: the Walters Art Gallery has a fine collection of Japanese arms and armor.

  111. Church – lol@slackers. would you believe even HARFORD COUNTY has issues with city scum? Joppatown – an area where i grew up – supposedly has gangs nowadays.

  112. I was a night school student at Hopkins in the late 80s/early 90s. I will confirm that the Hopkins Homewood campus is an island in the middle of some pretty rough neighborhoods. I still visit the city every few months for one reason or another. If anything, it has gotten worse.

    I also want to point out to most of you that you are judging the young swordman with 20/20 hindsight and educated contemplation.

    If this were a court of law, I would say, why of course we don’t want a man to die from committing the act of burglary. However, not knowing who he is or why he’s there, one can’t be sure that this is the only thing he intended to do.

    The only thing one could know for certain is that he was trespassing, likely with some malicious intent. If the evidence on the scene matches the account by the student, however, I will write a letter of protest if the City’s or State’s attorney decides to charge him.

  113. @136- Of course they don’t. Do you have a right to enter your own garage? Of course. Does someone have a right to preclude you from doing that– i.e, does his right to burgle supercede your right to enter your garage? No.

    As for morality and ethics…personal opinion, ethics and morality are reciprocal. When the other fellow broke into the house, he violated the reciprocity– the burglar put himself out of any ethical or moral context. Turned a societal cold war back into the bellum omnium contra omnes.

  114. @ peterbruells I wouldn’t shoot someone in the back for stealing some of my stuff, because I’m reasonably well off, but that’s me.

    You certainly have a wealth of straw men on hand.

  115. @134 Well, that’s to be expected. Some of them went right over your head, too.

    People have a right not be harmed, molested, not getting burglarized. This was always understood – that local government thugs were exempt from it was duly corrected with the many modern constitutions and likewise documents.

    Freedom doesn’t just include safety from harassment from the state, but also from other people. Which is why states exist at all. People transfer much of their rights to the state, including the right to punish. They even transfer much of their right to defense to the state – but this has obvious limits, since police can’t be everywhere at the drop of a hat. So it’s absolutely. disgustingly wrong to take that right away from them. It’s even worse than taking away the right of free speech. I mean, you can always argue with the censor the next week, but if you are lying beaten up or even dead on the ground, there’s no appeal at all.

    No, there’s no freedom when people *have* to flee the homes or public ground to avoid hurting thugs, be they criminals or state thugs or whatever. It may be a sensible tactic, but as long as it involves only you and and a criminal attacker, you can act as stupid as you like.

  116. #31- NYS PL Article 35 authorizes the use of deadly physical force when you or another with you and in your immediate zone of danger is under direct threat from the following crimes:

    Burglary, robbery, forcible rape, arson, escape (2nd degree or higher) and forcible sodomy.

    There is no duty to retreat regarding the above crimes, often referred to as “BRRAKES” or when confronted in your own home, but depending upon the circumstances, there may be a duty to retreat before using deadly force under other circumstances when feasible. It is not automatically permitted to use deadly force in a bar to fend off an attacker in a bar fight, for example. It would depend upon the facts.

  117. . would you believe even HARFORD COUNTY has issues with city scum?

    Sadly, yeah, I would. Works in my favor, I have to admit.

    If this were a court of law, I would say, why of course we don’t want a man to die from committing the act of burglary. However, not knowing who he is or why he’s there, one can’t be sure that this is the only thing he intended to do.

    Indeed! Too often it’s “Oh, he didn’t harm anyone” Well, no. He was killed before he could. Better judged by twelve than carried by six and all that.

  118. @peterbruels #146 – My problem with your stance is that you’re going on at length about when exactly you’re allowed to step away from civilization and behave like a barbarian.

    Apparently your threshold is “as soon as I think anyone has done so to me”. Do I have that about right?

  119. If you break into my property late at night — and then lunge at me when I investigate — there is a very good chance that I will attempt to kill you.

    Fair warning.

    — MrJM

  120. If this state attorney really considers filing charges I think he should have an encounter with that sword as well.

  121. @mdh Huh? What straw men?

    The ethics of the act are universal. The question is: Is it permissible to take a live to defend ones right to property? There are people who earn and have so little, that losing that little puts their living at danger. Are they allowed to use deadly force? Or is it only allowed when n% of a yearly income is threatened?

    As I wrote, for me it’s simple economics. I’m insured, most of my assets can’t get carried away, I’d probably try to avoid a burglar and not seek him out with sword in hand. However, only today an acquaintance warned me about someone stalking him – so if he checks our weird noises in his flat with a weapon in a hand, more power to him.)

    Others can not afford.

    My general stand on the matter is pretty much in line with the governing principle on German jurisdiction concerning defense: “Das Recht muß dem Unrecht nicht reichen.” roughly “Right doesn’t have to yield to Wrong”. And “Right” is anything protected by the constitution – not only from the state, but by proxy also from everyone else.

  122. You “root causes” people are absolutely right:

    Instead of slashing at the the lunging intruder with a sword, this student should have prevented the incident by curing Baltimore’s social ills decades earlier.

  123. @149 No, you haven’t. Because your premise is horribly wrong.

    Striking someone with a sword isn’t barbaric in itself. It’s *violent*, but those two are not the same.

    Ah well, you might think it is, in which case we obviously have no common ground.

  124. but what if it were a chocolate gun I was thrusting at you?

    Seriously? Why would you do that, unless it was suicide-by-guy-with-the-big-ass-sword?

    In which case, you’re welcome.

  125. peter – I’m striving to explain to you that you come across as someone who spends a fair amount of time imagining and justifying when violence on your own part is the acceptable solution.

    Your attitude strikes me as keeping one foot in civil society, and one foot in the barbarian realm. On the one hand living right, and on the other, being prepared to do great violence and cause fear among those who might do you harm.

    That, as I see it, is an antisocial attitude, barbaric.

    and your straw men are the ones getting shot in the back. They have nothing to do with the topic of the post. I believe them to be posturing on your part.

    Your attitude on this matter offends my dignity

  126. ah, thanks Ito-sama. My counter: lock the door, call the cops, take a guard position against forced entry after securing everyone else and wait/frighten him off. Make preparations to move the next day. At least, that is what I would do today. When I was that age? Probably kill him and regret forever. I have made many, many errors in my life, some I even learned from. But there is one certitude in my mind: Death is permanent and irreversible. Always best to strive to the utmost to avoid THAT particular mistake at all costs.

  127. Yes to DAS MEMSEN and TP1024!

    Really doesn’t anyone *want* the Trek utopia anymore? Are we really so in love with inequality that we must make it worse every year?

    This guy doesn’t sound like a good example, but most thefts are committed by people who want more than they have, and have no intention of hurting anyone. If someone is in your house, staying as far away from them as possible is the solution. A scared person who already feels violated is very likely to overestimate the risks he is facing — see Tak’s link.

    If this guy had his own playstation, he would have been less likely to break in. Hungry people steal to eat. Junkies steal for drugs. Install a soup kitchen, a clinic, and a rec centre at the local mission, and crime drops 80%. More if you stop jailing every kid with a joint.

    Now what to do with the remaining criminals is the thornier question.


  128. Your attitude strikes me as keeping one foot in civil society, and one foot in the barbarian realm. On the one hand living right, and on the other, being prepared to do great violence and cause fear among those who might do you harm.

    That, as I see it, is an antisocial attitude, barbaric.

    No, that’s just the realization that not everyone subscribes to the bargain of civil society. You have to deal with people on their own level.

  129. You never have to sink to their level. Never.

    If you’re comfortable with death, no, you don’t.

    The rest of us on the other hand…

  130. Two things:

    1) Its probably more accurate to say that it is a Ronin sword… but then again no one would know wtf it is.

    2) The argument about the various “Castle” scenarios has nothing to do with silly moralistic nonsense. It has to do with protecting home owners.

    If you suddenly decide that its “fair game” to kill intruders with impunity then you are basically throwing the glove down. Now intruders (perhaps fewer in number) are much more likely to just kill the occupants and THEN steal their stuff… rather than just trying to steal their stuff.

    That said, if a thief comes into my home, he takes his chances, and yes I do own a sword.

  131. 19 previous theft related charges and just released from jail on saturday. I think that speaks to the lack of rehabilitation. I figure he saved the taxpayers a ton of money and the person who died knew the risks of ransacking someone’s property

  132. One type of courage is also the ability to make a meaningful statement on an issue that’s longer than a few words: to dialogue with others, rather than thrown down a gauntlet of taunting riddles.

  133. @164- I do think I could get over a breach of my morals, no matter what my morals were, sooner than I could come back from the dead.

  134. You can debate this all you want, but until you’ve gone through the same thing under the same circumstances, you absolutely cannot judge.

    Our bodies have biological responses to, for example, a burglar in our home. “Fight or flight.” These responses overcome most of the wonderful, rationalized, and thoroughly thought out sentiments being discussed here.

  135. It seems like an important point to bring up: having lived on the same block as where this incident took place, I can attest that these garages are NOT ATTACHED to the houses.

    It’s these “defenfing one’s home/family” arguments that don’t ring true. The student had to arm himself, unlock his back door, leave his house, walk across his backyard, and enter the garage in order to confront the intruder.

  136. @168- You’re presuming the intruders are prone to rationally thinking this through. I suspect they generally are not.

    Anyone have data on whether they do this in states with strong castle doctrine more often than states with weak ones?

  137. not bad Moriarty, not bad. So what takes more courage: charging in armed? Or making it complicated by trying to avoid injury or loss of life?

  138. @149 Which part of “I wouldn’t shoot someone in the back” prompted you to think that I want to shoot someone? To make it clear: I think that if someone is escaping with stolen goods of sufficient value, using force that could result in his death is allowable. However, *I* wouldn’t do it.

    There’s also a reason why I am informed on what’s allowed in self defense and have thought about my position.

    I am blessed by living in a county with a comparative low number of crime, high standard of living, healthcare for about everybody. We don’t strap people on electric chairs, don’t put poison on their veins or have chain gangs and I’m proud of that, too. We even manage all this w/out putting nearly 1% of the population in prison.

    I have been the victim in trespassing incident. It only resulted in getting hit once, with the telephone I had used to alert police. (Which, by the way, did not come.) but with 2:1 odds against me, I consider myself lucky. And this happened when I wasn’t involved myself but stepping in because some party crashers started roughing up the people in the dorm I lived in. And over here were are just discussing a case where a 50 year old man protected a couple kids from getting robbed by 2 17 year old thugs, who then turned against him and beat him to death while 15 other people did do nothing, ignoring the pleas for help by said kids. Police arrived about one minute after the man died.

    As I am the type who would very likely actually step in, you can be damn sure that I think about what is allowed in self defense and what nasty business it is to get into a fistfight with determined thugs. Especially as I don’t practice martial “arts” and wax poetically about what stances could work in a situation where stress and panic takes over. And a short class on self defense techniques given by a police office confirmed my belief, that I’d rather not get into any of these situations. Guess what? I carry a Leatherman and usually another knife. Guess what I’ll do in a fight? Do not touch them at all and run like hell if someone draws a knife and I have a chance to run.

    Luckily, I haven’t needed to raise my hand in defense (much less attack) in 20 years. But of course I thought about and did some preparation. As I did for possible financial troubles, for my cats getting sick, my relatives dying, etc. Because that’s the sort of stuff you can’t really think about when it happens.

  139. Wow – up to 174 – this is like going to a slashdot article. And I feel just as dumb as I was before reading all these comments too.

    BTW how many people plan on killing an intruder in their near future with a sword? Noone? Well you guys will certainly be prepared mentally should you change your minds.

  140. Courage is carrying on despite fear. It does not imply right action. Fearless people do not have courage, which is why they are called fearless and not brave. Many criminals are brave and some are fearless.

    A barbarian is someone who does not speak Greek. Essentially, an outsider to civilisation, since all civilised persons speak and read Greek fluently. If you cannot read work of the great philosophers as written, you are a barbarian.

    Death is not important, but living well is important. One cannot live well without dealing with the certainty of death.

  141. @173 I’d rather minimize risk to myself and my wife. However, I would get out to check for my cats.

    I’ll also point out, that for some people – not me – charging in armed AND avoiding injury or death (at least for themselves) are truly the same.

    There’s also the fact that for many people the feeling of helplessness, of being forced to cower locked in their own homes which should be safe not only from the king’s men but from anybody, is as devastating as a rape. They might prefer risking injury and loss of live to that feeling and I for one cannot fault them.

  142. Ok.. If I heard a noise in my apartment, I too would grab a weapon & check it out. Granted it’s not the smartest thing but I would like to know what I’m hearing is someone or something. The samurai sword was probably a replica BUT still did it’s job for defending a person & their property.

    I read this story @ the doctor’s office once. It was about a man’s garage being burglarized. He called the cops but they “were too busy with other calls”. In the story he called a 3rd time & said that he had a gun to one of the burglars head. Suddenly the police came, caught the burglars, & realized that the man didn’t put a gun to the burglar’s head. The old man in the story actually got fined for lying to the police about the gun.

  143. don’t discount regular practice and training Peter, it does work. Indeed, the more you train, the less likely there will be any violence. If you have your balance – which comes from practice – it tends to put others back on theirs.

  144. @Church: Moriarty’s answer to Takuan is also my answer to you. Nobody is comfortable with death. But my fear of death must not be allowed to interfere with my decisionmaking. As soon as it does, I have abandoned reasoned ethics for mere survival instinct.

    MDH is correct: To sink to the level of the lowest is to ensure that we do no better.

    Of course, in the real world, I can’t match that standard. My “mere” survival instinct is both valuable and powerful, and I might not override it, faced with the same challenge.

    But then, that’s the point. That I do not always live up to my ideals does not make them less ideal.

  145. oh, and for those so fortunate as to never have had anything untoward happen to them in their entire lives and who also fully expect that to continue:

  146. Sounds rather horrible for the poor student who now has to live with the fact that he’s taken a life.

    Sounds worse for the dead burgler, who really should’ve stayed the hell out of someone else’s house in the first place.

    As the “issues of morality, ethics, compassion and empathy” that Antinous speaks of, sounds like a case where survival overwhelmed any ethical issues. (assuming there ARE any ethical issues, and I don’t see any myself)

    -abs is fully in favor of killing people who attack you, not because it’s preventative, not because it’s “social justice”, not because it’s “right” or “wrong”, but simply because he’s stupid to die when you could live just by killing someone, but he’ll grant that he thinks killing people who don’t attack you should probably be reserved to active duty soldiers in a war zone

  147. @179 I know that there are schools which practice applicable martial arts. However, what’s near my place is strictly sports stuff.

    Also, I am not at all interested in martial arts at all – I derive no enjoyment from it. So I’d just exert lots of time and practice to not really prepare for something that very likely and hopefully will never happen to me.

  148. @180 If the student had sunk to the burglar’s level, he’d get the stuff stolen from hin (and them some) simply by robbing his neighbors. *That’s* sinking to the same level. Not doing something that superficially the same.

    This is quite absurd, guys. Are police “sinking to so-and-so’ s level” when they shoot an armed robber? I mean, they could always withdraw.

    Is someone who shoots a Clansman burning a cross in his law “sinking to his level.”?

  149. sadly, yes. As satisfying as it may feel, it is wrong to shoot people for being weak-minded, vicious and cowardly.

  150. @182- We don’t actually know he’s upset about that. Even if he’s saying such, consider that if the prosecutor’s thinking of pressing charges “I’m all eaten up about it” is a better public statement than “Yeah, he’s dead, he had it coming, and I smile every night about it, too.”

  151. Dammit Takuan, don’t make me Godwin this thread.

    Do you honestly believe that killing someone in self defense is just as wrong as killing someone in cold blood? Really?

    1. At this point, the issue isn’t whether or not it’s justified to kill someone in self-defense; it’s why some of you are having fap fantasies about doing it yourselves.

  152. @186 Cowardly, sure but perhaps I’m not up to Clan history. It was my impression that burning crosses was just the prelude to an actual lynching.

    If it’s only hot air, that’s something else, of course.

    However, as I live in a country where the cowardly, weak-minded and vicious acts of painting star of David’s at people shops resulted in quite real crimes, I’d rather see acts like that stopped w/ appropriate force.

  153. @195- For myself? I’m going to go with about an eighty percent chance I’d find someplace safe in the house and sit with a gun while waiting for the police to come or exit the house at a brisk run. The other twenty, probably try and kill the son of a bitch. Depends on whether it was calm rational thought about self-preservation kicking in, or if the fight/flight response switched on, which way it flipped.

    Now, as to this guy in Maryland, I think he was in the right. It was his house, and someone violating that personal space is automatically threatening. Picture the counterexample: “Well, yes, there was someone unknown who broke into my house, but no, at no point did I ever think my safety might be at risk.”

  154. pay attention now, my last comment was directed to the looney in the pointed mask example.

    As to killing: Killing is always wrong. Sometimes it is unavoidable, but don’t fool yourself into thinking it is a good thing, no matter how good it feels at the time. Even if you kill a monster, on some level you have been soiled.

    It’s one of the oldest cliches of budo, but it is true: the hands are for giving life, not taking it.
    Another version says: “sword” rather than “hands”.
    Real mastery is winning without fighting, something you can understand on many levels. Even one of the greater Karate masters once said (in response to how one should react to attack by a bully) “If you are properly trained, a tap or two from a buffoon should mean nothing”.

    I know it all sounds like facile and trite “wisdom of the ages”, but you get past that eventually.

    Don’t kill.

  155. I don’t know why there is even a debate on this at all. The guy was JUST released from prison for being a P.O.S. thief, and was already back in the CRIME saddle. I’m so tired of Americans sitting idly by, putting CRIMINAL’S rights above the rights of law abiding citizens.
    If someone is in MY house (a STRANGER nonetheless) than I’m sorry, but I’m not going to take the time to think rationally and contemplate whether or not he means me and my family bodily harm – and I’m not going to give him the oppurtunity to either. My kids’ lives, and having me, their mother, around to take care of them is more important than worrying about the rights of some jerk who illegally entered my home, and has NO right to be there.
    …And I AM for the death penalty for anyone who is in prison for murder (as long as it’s been proven 100% positively). If we’d quit filling our prisons and jails with murderers and releasing them to repeat offend, then there would be LESS PEOPLE in jail! – Death penalty for murderers = more room to keep creeps like this IN jail.

    …Don’t forget that OUR tax dollars (if you’re a responsible, working, legal citizen) are paying for these scum bags to have a roof over their head, 3 square meals a day, and cable TV. There are law abiding citizens who don’t have it that good.

    Give me a break … all you “protect the scum bag criminals who are breaking the law and putting society in danger” people make me sick.

    And with that – WELL DONE to the guy for givin him the sword and setting an example to other criminals that we citizens are armed, and we’re sick of it! You come in my house, I’ll do whatever it takes to stop you from moving an inch. If that means killing you – fine. Better you than me or my kids.

    P.S. Police don’t usually make it to the scene of the crime in time if the intruder is planning on killing or raping the innocents. They’ll probably make it in time to take pix and clean up the dead bodies. But I’d rather skip that step of my family dying. Not to mention the time it takes to place the call and give dispatch your information is often a JOKE considering you’re in a life or death situation.

    Read the Constitution America. It IS AMERICA. You don’t like it? Please, feel free to leave.

  156. @197- No, killing is not automatically wrong. Matter of fact, killing some people is actually a moral good.

    There’s no “soiled” about it in those cases, there’s no notion of being “fallen”…and it’s as silly to think its so as to think that virginity has virtue.

    It is the circumstances alone that determine if the killing was good or bad, and if the person doing it was good or bad. Just like killing an animal for the hell of it is morally objectionable but killing one to eat is fine, it’s all about the purpose and the context– not the act itself.

  157. @147- I was typing too fast; that list of crimes should read:

    “Burglary, robbery, forcible rape, arson, kidnapping, escape (2nd degree or higher) and forcible sodomy.”

  158. A thug breaks in to take my property? Yeah, I value property well above that thug’s life. Not all life is equally valuable.

    And Takuan, break in to my house and you, too, will discover that I have no qualms unloading my revolver into you regardless how much chocolate you hold. I don’t give a damn about the moral or ethical issues once you violate my rights and I won’t give you a chance to defend your break-in.

  159. @199- Could, but what makes you sure of yours? Why is the life of even the worst criminals worth so much to you? There are over six billion humans on the planet. We are not rare, we are not precious.

  160. Since we’re talking hypotheticals, here is my personal take.

    If I caught a thief climbing out of my window with my laptop or other valuable, I certainly wouldn’t shoot him or attack him with a sword. Depending on how big/crazy he looked, I probably wouldn’t even confront him.

    I have a two story house. If I heard a strange noise downstairs, I’d investigate first before telling the family to climb out the windows. If I was sure it was a burglar, I’d call (or tell my wife/kids) to call the police while I guarded the top of the stairs. Most likely, I would call down and say “The police are on the way and I have a gun” (or sword? I dunno if I’d say that).

    If, after that scenario, the intruder started coming up the stairs anyway, I would have to assume that my laptop was the least of my worries and wouldn’t have any qualms about using whatever force was necessary to protect myself and my family.

    If I heard something in my garage, I would probably grab a blunt object, like a poker (or sword if I had one handy) and go to investigate because it would most likely be an animal where I live. If there was an intruder instead who refused to leave and/or acted threatening (and I couldn’t get away), I’d have at him.

  161. As someone who graduated from Johns Hopkins and used to live on that very same block, let me give my insight:

    1.) The garages are generally separate structures from the actual (row) houses: That, to me, is the only sketchy element of this story.

    2.) What #27 said is absolutely true. While the Charles Village/Waverly area of Baltimore City has gentrified somewhat, it’s still very dangerous. When I was a student there, someone walked into the Royal Farms and shot one of the cashiers right off, then asked the other one for the money. I couldn’t begin to count how many of the people I knew were victims of violent crime (muggings, assaults, etc.) After a while (and this student had things stolen from him recently), even initially passive victim types tend to start to fight back.

    This is probably for the best, as the police response is often lacking in some way.

    3.) This criminal was a prior offender with a long list of offenses, including trying to pull a firearm on a police officer. There are lots of career criminals in Baltimore, and they tend to go where the getting is easiest: areas where college students are known to reside. These two factors, taken together, make it very hard for me to believe that this guy didn’t come at the student, sword or no. His fear of a 20 year old student was probably almost nonexistent.

    4.) This situation could have easily have resulted in the death of the student. I remember a home invasion over on St. Paul where the burglar fatally knifed the resident. You can ill afford to rely upon the goodwill of someone who is willing to break into your house at 1:30am (when you are highly likely to be home).

    Honestly, for every incident where a a victim manages to wound or kill someone as they’re being attacked or burgled, there are a ridiculous number where it goes the other way.

    Respectfully, unless you’ve lived in that environment, spare me any humanitarian outrage.

  162. I’d be interested in hearing how many of the stabber-fappers here have been in life-threatening situations. I’ve been mugged several times, woken up to a burglar emptying my man-purse onto me in bed (!), assaulted by a gang, had my father put a gun to my head, been abducted by the Egyptian military and put in an internment facility, and been jabbed with a bayonet during rioting in Kathmandu. At no point in any of those situations did it seem to me to be prudent or meaningful to fight back. In every case, I used my brain rather than armed force to get myself back to safety. And I’m still alive and I have no reason to feel remorse.

    Until you find yourself in a situation like that, you really have no idea what you would do. And until you do kill or maim someone, you have no idea whether or not you’ll wake up with nightmares for the rest of your life. Life is not a video game.

    And no, my nickname isn’t Lucky.

  163. I was assaulted outside my house a few years ago. Nice area, residential, very middle class. Some dude followed me home down the street and tried to rape me on my doorstep. I did everything I learned to do in all the self-defense classes I’ve ever done (lessons reinforced by the two years of karate I studied later on): shrieked, dropped my weight, bit his arms, smashed down on his insteps, then kicked for the knees and shins. At some point, dude decided I was too much trouble to be bothered with, and ran off up the street.

    What sticks with me, and what I will always remember, is that despite the fairly prolonged (and loud) struggle, not a single light on my nice, residential street switched on. Not a single door opened with someone checking to see what was going on. I went inside and called the cops: they took 6 hours to turn up (and when they did, I shit you not, the second thing they asked me was what I had been wearing: LOLMISOGINYWTF!)

    Lesson learned: that thing about running into the street yelling RAPE FIRE ARSON ATTACK is bullshit. Whatever other steps you take to defend yourself against someone who’s decided to have a go at you, do not plan for ‘someone coming to your aid’. It is not a reliable plan.

  164. find: hitler
    text not found

    find: nazi
    text not found

    I find it amazing that a thread about this topic has evaded Godwin’s law through 202 comments.

    Congrats to all boing commenters, you are a superior breed.

  165. and for some, one life time isn’t long enough. Now there’s some insight into why the concept of the Wheel was born.

  166. The idea that a person who is being robbed needs to act rationally and in accordance to whatever the silly laws and regulations of whatever state/town he is in is silly and absurd. The kid was almost certainly so pumped up on adrenaline that he probably had all of the rational thinking of a lizard.

    The foolishness of demanding that he ask his reptilian brain things like, “Hey, are these guys going to come deeper into the house and kill me? Are they retreating or attacking? Is grabbing a weapon a good idea? What are the castle laws in my town and district? Should I wait longer to see if they retreat? Is that man moving towards me to attack or is he trying to run?” is silly beyond words. You people have never apparently found yourself in what you think is a life and death situation when the “fight” instinct turns on. I don’t know about you people, but then one time in my life when my “fight” instinct kicked on and I truly thought that I was going to die, to me my brain SHUT DOWN and was very much temporarily insane.

    The only case I would fault this guy would be if it was a case of foul play (i.e. they were not really thieves). Otherwise, if there is any justice in this world, the kid is let off. At best, he saved himself from death. At worst, he was temporarily insane and not in control of his faculties when he killed a fleeing thief. Either way, this isn’t a bad person, just someone who was tossed into a situation that no sane person would want to be in and in the span of a second or two made a life and death decision when he was mentally most unable to make one that resulted in a dead thief.

  167. Generally laws will follow that force may be applied when the victim is faced with serious bodily injury or death. The use of a weapon is only a matter of dispute if it was used to apply excessive force. Excessive force would then be found if the force was disproportionate to that which could prevent the serious injury or death.

    The lunging of the intruder could indicate there was a fear of serious injury. It depends on whatever other facts emerge in pre-trial.

  168. “At this point, the issue isn’t whether or not it’s justified to kill someone in self-defense; it’s why some of you are having fap fantasies about doing it yourselves.”

    (1) No, it’s the first one, Loretta (2) WTF? You’re a mod? Seriously?

    1. Church,

      Forgive me for being disgusted by bloodthirsty adolescent posturing. Real life is not WoW.

  169. @ Antinous

    Every human is wired with different “fight or flight” reflexes. Yours are obviously completely unwired, with good reason.

    That being said, it’s not really fair to hold anyone else to your standards, seeing as none of the other posters have been through what you have.

  170. “I mean, valuing your stuff higher than a human life? What kind of twisted person has those values?”

    Some twisted people might include these facts in their human life value judgment:

    The “victim” had 29 prior arrests, mostly for burglary/B&E, in fact, he had been released from jail last Saturday for auto theft.

    One of those priors was for pulling a gun on a cop.

  171. Property is replacable, whereas a human life is not. Though to be fair, it is unlikely that the burglar (49 years old) had much longer to live anyway. At least now, when he gets to hell, he can brag to his friends how he was the 1st person in 3oo years to die as the result of a Samurai Sword.

    I think it’s good that there is one less crack head roaming the streets of Baltimore, and I hope the rest meet an equally interesting method of death. Flamethrower, poison darts, trebuchet…

    I guess it is a bit over the top, but it’s not like the world NEEDS any of us to continue on, might as well be entertaining before we go. I mean, what if the burglar got away, bought some drugs, and then OD’d? We most likey wouldn’t read about it and we certainly wouldn’t be discussing it.

    kudos to the guy who sliced this burglar up, it will be hard to top that!

  172. Antinous, if WoW is the closest thing to this that you’ve experienced, I suggest you meditate on you good fortune. There are those of us who live in these neighborhoods, and for whom these aren’t poses, but contingency plans.

    1. Actually Church, I’ve lived in neighborhoods with high murder rates. Hacking someone to death with a sword is not a contingency plan. Fantasizing about it even less so.

  173. I live out in the wild west, and we had a spate of people booby trapping properties that had been burglarized a few years back. Two deaths resulted in two prison sentences for murder for the booby-trappers, as it should be. The bizarre thing was the people that came out of the woodwork to attempt to defend the right to booby trap your own property. Not exactly on topic, but it is illustrative of how much power some people think property confers.

    That being said, if the facts are as presented, this sure looks like self defense to me.

  174. A lot of very strong opinions, in both directions.

    I mean, I know the world is an ink-blot, but posts like these bring that fact into very sharp relief….

  175. My girlfriend successfully scared off two burglars from our apartment with my decorative katana. We now keep it by our bedside. I still laugh at the image of her running them out of the apartment, all the way down to the stairs, screaming and waving a huge sword. Love it, and I wish she got a swipe at them.

  176. Another case of Darwin triumphing over all. Don’t be stupid enough to back someone into a corner, you just might not survive.

  177. Damn, Antinous, I thought I had scars! Never been held outside the US and never had my dad put a gun to my head. Been thrown off a six-story balcony, though.

    Oh, and the first kid that ever beat me up, in 1965 or thereabouts? He was shot dead by police a few years back after he escaped prison (he was in for life, for murder) and went on a rape and murder spree. If I’d have killed him back then, three innocent women might be alive today.

  178. I live in Baltimore about 4 blocks from where this happened.

    What is left out of the description above is that when the student encountered the burglar, the student asked the burglar to leave. Instead of leaving, the burglar lunged at the student.

    Also, the burglar had 29 previous arrests (no joke…29) for similar offenses. He just got out of prison on Sunday (I think) for stealing. In the past week there were about 6 burglaries in the area. Clearly the police and the judicial system are not working.

  179. It probably would have been wiser for the victim to yell “burglar! Wake up guys, let’s kick his ass!” Most crooks would leave and not wait and see if a bunch of frat boys show up.

    Someone told me once that if you do happen to kill an intruder in your home that you should call your attorney first and tell him you don’t quite remember how it happened and ask them to help you remember. This way you will make sure your story falls within your state’s castle laws. The guy who told me this was hoping that someday he would get to shoot an intruder.

  180. Out of curiosity, who cleans up the mess in this situation? If blood gets spilled at a car accident, the fire department hoses it away. What’s the situation with blood at a crime scene on private property?

  181. The student ought to be given a medal, not a trial.

    Burglar forfeited his “rights” the moment he committed a felony. All this coddle the ickle little criminals is bs. Egads, the felon rushed a man with a freaking sword! What would he have done if the kid let him take it???

    I am glad I live where I do. If someone comes into my dwelling and I feel threatened I may defend myself, my family, and my home with deadly force- period.

    Calling the police??? Any idea how long they take to arrive, the kid could have died and his body cooled off before they showed up.

  182. I am glad this happened, because it brings up a particular issue that has been bothering me.

    What is the reason that the moderators here become so incensed by American “Violence fapping”. Violence and violent fantasy are huge part of modern man’s consciousness, there is no denying that.

    To simply deny that there are any acceptable uses for violence seems simple/childish. Thus the concept of “never kill” or “never do harm” seems like dogma. Even the Dalai Lama kills mosquitos now and again.

    What about that rationalization or fantasy of violent/retributive situations is so horrible that it must be denounced with such vigor?

    1. Thus the concept of “never kill” or “never do harm” seems like dogma.

      I never said that. If you have no option but to kill someone to protect yourself, no problem. This guy took a weapon and went looking for trouble and someone died. And there are various statements in this thread about how property is equal to life or how cool it would be to be in that situation.

      What about that rationalization or fantasy of violent/retributive situations is so horrible that it must be denounced with such vigor?

      But this is real life and a real person died. Your comment is exemplary of the inability to distinguish fantasy from reality. Have you ever watched someone bleed to death? I have. It colors my opinion of the ‘coolness’ of this tragedy.

  183. Wow,

    Class warfare occasionally rears its ugly head here, but this level of bloodlust is truly disturbing. Never mind its wrongheadedness.

    How far down the street do you chase or shoot the robber? How crowded a street are you willing to shoot-to-kill a purse-snatcher in?

    Remind me not to take your picture nor your tailwind, for fear of my life!

  184. I guess the “kill the criminal!” reaction should be expected from the land where the poor can’t get healthcare but can quite easily end up on Death Row.

    Note that what I pointed out was NOT that the guy should not have reacted to an assault, but that, if the guy PLANNED to kill the burglar, then he’s a cold-blooded murderer and as such should be dealt with, for the good of society.

    All the nonsense about people “breaking my rights” and as such “forfeiting life” is just that, nonsense.

  185. @ #17 and #34

    I’m with #17.
    Stop using burglarize unless committed by burglarizers. If committed by burglars use burgled.

    Eaters don’t eaterize, they eat; editors don’t editorize they edit; contributors don’t contributorize, they contribute’ spellers don’t spellarize, they spell; liars don’t liarize they lie; runners don’t runnerize, they run; BURGLERS DON’T BURGLARIZE, THEY BURGLE.

    Every time an American says burglarize it makes me think of GW Bush.

    Sorry – but it does.

    (Oh – and computers don’t computerize, they compute. Hmm – what happened there, then …)

  186. I’m against the death penalty ( = the state can kill you) but in favour of self-defence / defence of property – any scumbag that comes into my home has abrogated his rights.

  187. I have lived and worked in that area for most of my life, and I can say from personal experience that it is not a nice area. They don’t call it Bloodymore, Murderland for nothing. I personaly have both guns and swords in my house for protection. I actually prefer the swords to the guns for the fact that collateral damage is minimumized. No stray bullets to kill a neighbor or family member. It also gives you an extra second to think before blasting away at Uncle Joe. I am a fan of “An eye for an eye” and perhaps this student is as well. He did almost chop off the guys hand which would be the penalty for stealing. A theif (is that better than burgler or some other form of the word?) with no hands will not steal much.

  188. OK… RHF340, Church, etc. this may not be the main thrust of this conversation but I’m getting pretty tired of Baltimore being demonized. You guys/gals remind me of the teabaggers – afraid of every imagined thing that might ever happen to you. I lived in the 300 block of East University – damn near directly across the street from where this happened – as well as the 2800 block of St. Paul and Calvert at 31st street while attending Hopkins. This is no “wasteland” but a pretty typical urban school setting. Yes, the Homewood campus (related point – a few people seem confused about what part of town is involved – this is NOT the med school campus in East Baltimore, which is in a considerably worse are) is nicer than most of the surrounding area with the notable exception of the neighborhoods to the north, which are very posh. To this day – 20 years after starting at Hopkins – I still live less than 4 miles from campus because I love north Baltimore.

    East University Parkway is an area where I’d feel comfortable having my kids live once they are off to school, assuming that I manage to raise them to have good awareness and city smarts. Unfortunately, many of you seem to think that all of Baltimore is what people see on The Wire. While those parts of town exist, they are far from the Hopkins undergrad (i.e. Homewood) campus. In fact, the best farmers market in Baltimore happens at the end of the block that we’re discussing – I’m there every Saturday morning with both my small kids.

    You want to feel afraid, live in Antinous’ shoes for a while. Or, go to Peshawar – I was there last fall and I assure you I didn’t feel comfortable anywhere at any time. Urban wasteland? Try Dhaka. Baltimore and the other large cities in our (relatively) safe and clean country will never look the same to you again.

    On topic redemption: As for the young man involved, I sincerely hope that it is found that he acted appropriately once all the information is properly examined. He’ll have a terrible burden to bear for the rest of his life. However, I doubt I’d have acted much differently in investigating the incident were I in his shoes.

  189. CC, have you been paying attention? I’m blocks away myself. I’ve been assaulted, had someone murdered behind my house, had a friend shot nearby, and had a couple break-ins aborted by my dog. You’ve been lucky.

  190. I will preface this by saying that I’m a Texan, so disregard my comments if you choose to; however, even in a state with castle doctrine, we are not bloodthirsty pig-dogs. My guns are for shooting paper targets. To be honest, I’m not that keen on shooting a deer or pronghorn, much less a man. I’ve never pursued a license to carry a concealed handgun, legal as it is in our fine state, because the gravity of that responsibility is outweighed by the need or lack thereof.

    I do keep a revolver in the night stand, even though it’s not the largest-caliber or highest-capacity weapon I own, and despite the fact that nothing has ever happened to me. I am ready to use it only because it WILL be taken from you and used against you if you are not. If the bogeyman that hypothetically comes through my window is smart enough not to attack, no one has to die. If not, I’ll call the cops after the threat has been subdued or eliminated, whichever comes first. The Lord didn’t put me here to teach moral lessons to criminals by executing them, but I don’t have to be a victim.

  191. More info on the incident from the Washington Post article:

    “When Pontolillo saw Rice, he raised the sword and yelled for his roommates to call police, Guglielmi said. Rice lunged at the student, who backed up against a wall. At that point, Pontolillo struck Rice once with the sword, nearly severing Rice’s left hand and causing a severe wound to his upper body. Rice died at the scene.

    Guglielmi said Thursday that when the student found Rice, he was was hiding in the small, fenced courtyard between the back porch and the detached garage behind Pontolillo’s off-campus home. Police had initially said Rice was hiding inside the garage.

    Police also revealed that Pontolillo and his three roommates, all Hopkins students, had been warned by a city officer and a campus security officer late Monday about a suspicious person in the neighborhood just east of campus.

    At that point, the students told the officers that Pontolillo’s XBox video game console and two laptop computers had been stolen from their home earlier that night. Police investigated and found no signs of forced entry, according to police reports about the thefts.

    After the officers left, Pontolillo retrieved the sword and decided to perform a more thorough search, including the garage and his car, Guglielmi said. The officers heard the screams during the encounter with Rice and rushed back to the scene, he said.”

  192. Late to the party here (how is it that I live ten minutes from Hopkins and missed this?!), but:

    1. hear suspicious noises.
    2. press X to sneak.
    3. identify threat/non-threat.
    4. non-threat; disregard, exit routine. (it was just the dogs making noise)
    5. unarmed threat identified: confront; subdue (with prejudice, if necessary) and await law enforcement. (some douchebag thief was trying to jack my stuff)
    6. armed threat identified: acquire tactical advantage (read: any weapon, plus surprise if possible); shock assault. subdue. (a person, unknown to me and wielding an unidentifiable weapon, has entered and stalks around my house)

    Castle doctrine or not, if you enter my domain without warrant – especially with criminal intent – your safety, and – yes – possibly even your very life – is forfeit. I am more highly-trained than most, for certain, but I think it can apply even to the untrained. I, for one, am well aware of the risk in confronting unknown assailants, but feel the risk (especially when it’s not just me in a place with an assailant) is always a worthy one.

    Case in point: living about an hour north of Baltimore, near the Delaware line, I had an unfortunate fellow try to steal the television from my den (outer door led to this room – simple “smash and grab”). When I heard the forced entry, I was up before the glass finished hitting the floor. I have a bokuto for my “tactical advantage” at home, and it was cradled along my right arm before the front door was fully open. With his back to me, he didn’t see me coming. I instep-kicked his right knee with my left foot. He went down like a sack of bricks as I grabbed the nearby phone with my left hand. I pointed the tip of the bokuto at his face and told him to lie still unless he actively sought grave injury (quite a lot more colourfully, but you see the picture). I dialed the police (who arrived in about ten minutes).

    He went to jail, and the police (rightly, in my estimation) ignored his pleas for pressing charges against me for assault. He was not permanently damaged in any way (but, perhaps, his pride), and I retained possession of my television. Everybody made out okay on that deal, if you ask me.

    Certainly, it’s always better when you can avoid conflict and injury altogether; however, human beings (at least in my experience – YMMV) are not inherently “good” creatures. I handled that the way I did (and would do again) due to a sense that Justice must prevail over “moral right.” My imagining of “moral right” here would have been to let the TV go and not risk any injury to myself or others. Justice dictates that the CRIMINAL – in this case, the FAILburglar – face punishment for his infraction.

    Point of note: I’m not necessarily referring to LAW when I say JUSTICE; rather, the concept that things should remain fundamentally balanced. If I worked to have a thing – in this case, my television – and you did not, you don’t deserve it if you did not. If you work for it by trying to steal it and you fail, you deserve the legal consequences of your failure. If you steal it clean out from under my vigilant nose, good on you, Sir… my admiration is yours. You’ve obviously trained hard for the task, and thereby earned at least the respect of someone not easily impressed. The LAW won’t forgive you when you’re finally caught for stealing it, but I just might.

    Anyway – I could probably sit and ramble about this for… well… -ever. It’s a frequent sticking point with me for a lot of the folk with whom I regularly interact (my wife chief among them).

    Larry Niven’s work often contains phrases with the acronym “TANJ.” “There Ain’t No Justice.” I’m hoping that this phrase remains in the realm of fantasy, but – by the evidence of the continued decline of civilization – it looks like it won’t.

  193. @Antinous And there are various statements in this thread about how property is equal to life or how cool it would be to be in that situation.

    Were there? I must have missed those.

    I did see a lot of “I’d do the same thing in that situation” which is a bit different.

  194. @Church – Perhaps I haven’t been paying the closest attention. However, after retracting my teabagger analogy as it applies to you, I’ll say pointedly that I’ve not been lucky. I’ve had a more or less average experience in that area. You and your friend on the other hand have been remarkably – no, abnormally – unlucky. Please don’t project your horrible experiences into anything more than that.

  195. CC, the Hopkins campus is anomalous v. its surroundings. Moreso now than when you were there. And this still happened on what would be considered the greater campus area.

  196. New York’s Duty to Retreat law was mentioned earlier.

    It should be noted that there is an explicit carve out that states that this duty to retreat does not apply to a defender in his/her own residence.

    With respect to a civil suit: Most states with a castle doctrine law also include a prohibition on civil suits against the defender.

  197. Let me see if I’ve got this right.

    A house full, 4 or so, 20 year old’s — men in their physical prime — are terified upon hearing a noise in the detached garage.

    So, instead of all four going outside to investigate or calling the police as most terrified people would do, one of the men is so afraid that he grabs his razor sharp Samurai Sword and cowers in a dark corner waiting to defend himself from harm?

    No. I misunderstood.

    One of the men is so terrified that he grabs his razor sharp Samurai Sword goes outside and hacks the hand off the first 50 yr old fat man stupid enough to lunge at a sword wielding man in excellent physical condition and less than half his age?

    Then, instead of the authorities finding his cold bloodless body a mile down the road following a failed attempt at running away, as any self respecting burglar would have done, thts cat bleeds out in the yard of the house he was supposed to be burglarizing?

    Did the computers come up missing 2 days ago or was a story fabricated about a couple of missing laptops after they murdered this cat?

    Where’s the police report on these missing laptops?

    Get real people and take your heads out of your collective hind ends.

    If there is actually somebody here who doesn’t smell a rat then stay tuned.

  198. Here’s how it went. I was there, so I know.

    Student: Did you hear that noise? Sounds like something in the garage.

    Roommate: Yeah. It could be a neighborhood cat again, or it could be the a-holes that stole our laptops this morning.

    S: I’m gonna go find out. You get on the phone with 911 and tell them that the burglars might be back.

    R: Got it. You should take something to defend yourself with, in case it’s not just a kitty.

    S: Golf club? Baseball bat? BB gun? I got it! I’ll take my sword!

    S and R together: 1-2-3-Go-Team!

    Thus did our student end up holding a katana while being cornered by a would-be burglar. When the burglar lunged, the student used the weapon at hand to stave off the attacker. One slash, then hope the cops get there.

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