Affidavit: Neighbor shot teen at Lawrence apartment complex amid Roman candle war; he says shooting was self-defense

photo by: Mike Yoder

The Douglas County Judicial and Law Enforcement Center, 111 E. 11th St.

An incident that ended with a 17-year-old girl being shot with a gun began as a Roman candle war at a Lawrence apartment complex, court documents say.

The man accused of shooting the girl was an otherwise uninvolved neighbor — either fearful of or angered by the fireworks, depending on whether you ask his attorney or the state. His attorney has argued that the case should be dismissed because he shot in self-defense. Prosecutors disagree.

An arrest in the case was not made until September. After that, the case began to progress in court, and additional information about the circumstances has recently come out.

Defendant Rashan A. Gill, 20, of Lawrence, is charged with one count of criminal discharge of a firearm, a felony. Gill currently is scheduled to go on trial Jan. 14.

The girl was in the backseat of a car when she was shot, shortly before 12:50 a.m. July 5 at The Reserve on West 31st, in the 2500 block of West 31st Street. The friends she was with drove her to the hospital, where police said she arrived with serious but not life-threatening injuries.

According to detectives who summarized the investigation in an affidavit for Gill’s arrest, which was requested and recently obtained from the court by the Journal-World:

The victim told police that she’d gone to the apartment complex with three friends to participate in a Roman candle war.

But she didn’t want to participate, so she stayed in the car and lay down in the backseat. At some point, she said, the other three got in the car and started driving away.

Then, she said she heard a loud noise and felt pain in her torso and arm, and believed — correctly — that she’d been shot.

Doctors at the hospital confirmed to police that the teen had injuries to her torso and arm but that medical staff was unable to remove the bullet. Police found a bullet hole in the trunk of the car, with the bullet’s path traveling through the trunk into the backseat.

The friends told police that they were shooting fireworks at the building, which made some people there mad. At one point a man ran out of the building toward them, and the friends hopped in their car and shot a Roman candle toward him as he chased them on foot.

The friends told police they saw a pistol in the man’s hand, and that as they sped away in their car, the girl said she’d been shot.

Based on descriptions from the people in the car with the teen, neighbors at the apartment complex and tenant information from the complex manager, police identified Gill as the suspect.

After the preliminary hearing in the case, Gill’s appointed attorney, Branden Smith, asked for the case to be dismissed altogether. Citing Kansas’ so-called “stand your ground” law, Smith’s motion argued that Gill shot in self-defense and should be immune from prosecution.

The Roman candle war created “utter chaos” for 10 or 15 minutes outside Gill’s first-floor apartment, Smith wrote. Three times, Gill went outside to tell the people to leave, taking his gun the second and third times, Smith wrote.

As the people in the car drove away, one of them leaned out the window and shot Gill in the chest with a Roman candle, fired out of “a “makeshift-like gun thing.”

“In self-defense, Rashan (Gill) shot at the car,” Smith wrote. “Unfortunately, the shot hit the car, passed through the trunk into the passenger compartment, and hit (the victim), who was in the back seat.”

Under Kansas law, A person is allowed the use of force, including the use of deadly force, in the defense of a person or property, including a person’s dwelling, Smith wrote.

Gill feared his building would catch on fire, which could be deadly, Smith wrote. He also feared being shot by something that could be construed as a gun, or by fireworks that could cause great bodily harm.

“The building was under attack, albeit stupidly for fun,” Smith wrote. “… Given these facts, the defendant was not required to stay inside (i.e. retreat) and wait for the building to catch on fire. He was allowed to stand his ground.”

In her written response, prosecutor Alice Walker emphasized that the victim was shot as the car was pulling away and that the defendant was actually chasing it.

She said the “makeshift-like gun thing” didn’t actually look like a rifle but was described by witnesses as white and hollow, “kind of like bathroom pipes that go into the sink.”

Other neighbors were coming and going without alarm, even taking their dog out during the fireworks, Walker said.

“The defendant knew the people were shooting off fireworks and instead of staying inside or calling the police, he provoked the use of physical force against another person,” Walker wrote. “… no reasonable person in the Defendant’s circumstances would have perceived that the use of deadly force was necessary to defend himself, others, or property.”

Gill’s next hearing is scheduled for Dec. 21. He remains jailed on $50,000 bond.

Contact Journal-World public safety reporter Sara Shepherd


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