Lawrence murder defendant claims shooting of intruder was legal under stand-your-ground law
After four people said they tried to push Bryce Holladay out the front door, threatened him with a baseball bat and pepper-sprayed him with no apparent effect, Steven A. Drake III shot Holladay in the face at close range.
Holladay crumpled just outside the doorway and died.
Drake is charged with first-degree murder, but he says his use of deadly force was legal under Kansas’ so-called stand-your-ground law.
Drake’s appointed attorney, Angela Keck, filed a motion asking the court to dismiss the murder charge, claiming Drake is immune to prosecution “due to his lawful use of force in defense of himself, and others.”
Prosecutors, in their response, maintain that Drake’s use of deadly force wasn’t reasonable because no one was at risk of great bodily harm or death in the situation.
Douglas County District Court Judge Kay Huff is scheduled to consider the self-defense motion on Friday, Dec. 22. A preliminary hearing in the case is set for the same day.
Arguments center on the Kansas statute that says, “A person is justified in the use of deadly force to prevent or terminate unlawful entry into or attack upon any dwelling, place of work or occupied vehicle if such person reasonably believes that such use of deadly force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to such person or another.”
People aren’t required to retreat if they are using force to protect their dwelling, according to the statute. The statute says reasonable belief that deadly force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm applies if the intruder is or has unlawfully or forcefully entered and is present within the dwelling.
The shooting happened about 9:45 p.m. Sept. 19 at Drake’s home, a duplex in the 2000 block of West 27th Terrace.
Holladay, 26, a Lawrence resident, died at the scene. Drake, 20, was arrested on suspicion of voluntary manslaughter but was charged on Sept. 21 with first-degree murder instead.
Drake’s actions were legally justified, Keck said in her motion.
“The risk of great bodily harm was objectively imminent,” she said.
According to Keck’s motion:
A couple of hours before the shooting, and on the previous day, police responded to 911 calls about Holladay acting “bizarre and aggressive” toward strangers at other locations in Lawrence, including jumping on cars, following two women on foot and reaching into an occupied car to take items.
When Holladay — who had come to Drake’s home before and been told never to come back — banged on the door of Drake’s home the night of the shooting, Drake wasn’t home, but a roommate let Holladay in.
Holladay appeared to be “tweaking” on meth and started rummaging through the residence, stealing items and “effectively committing an aggravated burglary of Mr. Drake’s home.” The roommate tried but couldn’t push Holladay out the door.
After Drake, his girlfriend and the woman who owns the home and whom Drake calls his stepmom, Jessica Brown, returned, they all tried to push Holladay out the door — using the door for leverage — but they couldn’t get the door all the way closed “due to Mr. Holladay’s violent and aggressive resistance.”
Holladay was punching and kicking through the open door, and landed a punch on the girlfriend’s face. Drake told him more than once to get off his property, and threatened to shoot him if he didn’t.
The women tried to pepper-spray Holladay, but after it had no effect, Drake retrieved a gun and shot Holladay, whose body was half in and half out of the residence.
Drake then put his gun on the coffee table, and police arrived shortly afterward. He told detectives he was “afraid for himself during the incident” and for the women.
The situation was too “low-stakes” to justify deadly force, prosecutor Deborah Moody said in a written response to Keck’s motion.
“By all accounts, the defendant was frustrated and wanted Mr. Holladay gone,” Moody said. “However, the defendant’s frustration and Mr. Holladay’s unwillingness to leave did not justify the use of deadly force. Nobody was at risk of great bodily harm or at risk of imminent death.”
Holladay was in the home for quite some time, making “nonsensical statements” and occasionally nodding off before the situation became heated and the residents tried to force him out, Moody said.
None of the residents saw Holladay with a weapon, Moody said. The girlfriend told detectives she was punched in the eye but didn’t receive any injuries.
“What would have been reasonable in this situation would have been to call the police,” Moody wrote.
Moments before the shooting, Brown did make “that rational and reasonable choice” and called 911 but hung up when she heard the shot. When dispatchers called back, Drake talked to them.
“Even the defendant’s own words negate any justification for the use of deadly force,” Moody wrote. “His first words to the 911 dispatcher weren’t about Mr. Holladay harming anyone, instead he proclaimed that “some tweaker broke into my [expletive] house, wouldn’t get out and I shot him in the face.”
There was no evidence of a deadly attack, Moody said, and responding with deadly force was not lawful.