Archive for Sunday, December 17, 2017

Lawrence murder defendant claims shooting of intruder was legal under stand-your-ground law

Lawrence police officers are pictured outside 2013 W. 27th Terrace, the scene of a fatal shooting shortly before 10 p.m. Sept. 19, 2017.

Lawrence police officers are pictured outside 2013 W. 27th Terrace, the scene of a fatal shooting shortly before 10 p.m. Sept. 19, 2017.

December 17, 2017

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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.

Steven A. Drake

Steven A. Drake

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.

Bryce Holladay

Bryce Holladay

“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.

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Comments

Bill McGovern 5 months, 1 week ago

Drake is a trigger happy nut job. In a previous article he was quoted as saying "I don't call the police." He took the law into his own hands, and now someone is dead because of that. There need to be consequences for his actions.

Steve Jacob 5 months, 1 week ago

What juries are for. Doubt he walks away free, doubt first degree murder, even second is not a given.

Josh Berg 5 months, 1 week ago

Bill, I have a hard time believing that anyone would not take the law into their own hands when a nutcase is punching your lady in the face and sifting through your house. What would you rather he did? Sit there and wait several minutes for the police to show up while this guy attacks his family?

Bill McGovern 5 months, 1 week ago

Deadly force was not justified as they were not in immediate danger of being seriously hurt or killed. He had no weapons, even the girl who was punched in the eye had no injuries so he must not have been swinging very hard, probably just flailing his arms. The important factor is that he was let in by the room mate and did not break in. And Drake shot him in the face at close range with intent to kill - he wanted him dead. They had opportunities to call the police but he chose to kill the guy because he could.

Chelsie Hadlock 5 months, 1 week ago

Steve, that's not how juries work.

Prosecution picks the charge. Juries decide whether he's guilty of that charge or not.

But if prosecution picks murder one and the jury decides he's 'only' guilty of second degree, he walks since he's not guilty of the crime prosecution chose and he can't be retried for the same crime.

Aaron McGrogor 5 months, 1 week ago

Chelsie isn't entirely accurate, but the judge had to grant jurors the option of involuntary manslaughter. They didn't just have the option to invent new charges at will.

Josh Berg 5 months, 1 week ago

My take on the situation is they gave Holladay plenty of warning. They tried telling him to leave, then they tried pushing him out the door, then they tried pepper spray, and then they warned that he would be shot if he did not leave the premises. Couple this with the fact that he hit a girl in the face and I believe escalation to a firearm seemed logical enough. Now, I am not sure the first shot should have been a kill shot to the face, maybe they could have shot his leg out to see if that got the message across but it was probably a scary situation and decisions are made quickly. I also do not believe this should be a murder one charge. Without a firearm this could be a murder one charge going the other way.

Greg Cooper 5 months, 1 week ago

I'm inclined to agree, Josh, but for one thing: if I'm not mistaken, shooting to wound is not an option taught in any self-defense class that I've ever heard of. Produce a gun, shoot to kill. Otherwise, you are admitting that the situation might not have been dire enough to require the gun. Just my opinion, and what I'd do.

Josh Berg 5 months, 1 week ago

It does not really matter what is taught in the class. If he had time to run to his bedroom and grab his gun then he also had enough decision making time to know he did not need to shoot the guy in the face. I am certain there are other situations where your point is valid where the shooter has no time but to pull and shoot. This seems a lot different of a situation. I do still believe that the charges are exaggerated but that is not anyone's decision but 12 people chosen to make that decision.

Theodore Calvin 5 months, 1 week ago

I rarely, if ever, agree with Josh. However I believe I have the same sentiment in this situation as he does. Drake may not be liked, or have an untarnished record, but sounds like he may have some grounds here. I am not sure that anyone can really judge his actions that day and make a determination that he and the women involved weren't scared for their lives. Even though the victim and Drake may have been acquaintances, and even though he may have originally been let in, he was asked to leave, and was high on drugs.

Not sure if anyone has dealt with anyone acting erratic on meth? There is no way to predict how the situation will go. I feel like if we have these king of the castle and stand your ground laws in place, then we should observe them. I feel like if we allow the government and police to use the same type of excuses in these situations, that it was a split second decision and that people feared for their lives and no one could understand unless put in that position, then individuals should be allowed the same discretion without fear of a prosecutor inserting their own personal judgement that the situation wasn't as the defendant perceived it.

Richard Quinlan 5 months, 1 week ago

Change Drake to a middle class guy in west Lawrence who is trying to keep a drug crazed man out of their house , same charges , I doubt it.

Rick Aldrich 5 months, 1 week ago

But it was a 4 to 1 ratio. No shooting required.

Josh Berg 5 months, 1 week ago

I have seen videos of people on Meth before where it takes 4 police officers to take them down. Maybe you should keep your comments to yourself from now on Rick

Richard Aronoff 5 months, 1 week ago

Obviously, Me. Aldrich has never been exposed to someone high on meth. Had Mr. Holladay gotten back into the house, it is unlikely that he would have sat down and asked for a cup of herbal tea.

But first degree murder? If the jury is not instructed that they may consider a lesser manslaughter charge, Mr. Drake walks.

Jim Slade 5 months, 1 week ago

If he walked away, into another room, to grab a gun that means his life was not in imminent danger and that he is showing his intent to kill him was thought about.

In the time they took to shove him out the door, fight him at the door, and pepper spray him, then walk to another room to retrieve a firearm... the police would have arrived to handle the situation.

I have to agree with the prosecutor on this. It boils down to him just being frustrated and aggravated by the guy and instead of doing the right thing and letting the police handle it, he took the law into his own hands.

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