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Read & React: 72-Year-Old Man Kills Intruder

by Richard Nance   |  October 23rd, 2012 94
Burglar

Stock photo.

According to The (Riverside, Calif.) Press-Enterprise, a 72-year-old Lakeland Village, Calif., man shot and killed an intruder, 51-year-old William Ragsdell, climbing through a window into his residence on October 5.

The homeowner, identified as Jerry Duncan, told a reporter during a phone interview, “He had a flashlight and I told him to get out.” When Ragsdell didn’t leave, Duncan fired his pistol once.

“I tried to scare him more than shoot him,” said Duncan. “He hollered. I thought he ran off. He was just gone out of the window. He made it about 15 feet. The police found him.”

Riverside County Sheriff’s deputies responded to Duncan’s residence in response to a 911 call at about 5 a.m. The call indicated that the resident shot someone breaking into his home. Deputies found Ragsdell with a single gunshot wound; he was declared dead at 6:15 a.m. at Inland Valley Regional Medical Center in Wildomar, Calif.

Duncan was interviewed at the police station, then released following the incident. Duncan said he was awakened by a loud noise and realized the power to his residence was out; it was later determined that the electrical lines had been cut by Ragsdell.

“I made my way by feel downstairs. It was black,” Duncan said.

Ragsdell had apparently forced a window-mounted air conditioning unit into the house to gain entry, likely resulting in the loud noise that woke Duncan. Duncan saw that the window was open but realized he had left his cell phone upstairs. He decided not to retrieve his phone because he feared that would give Ragsdell an opportunity to enter the residence. However, Duncan did arm himself with a pistol he had stowed under a cushion.

Duncan explained that someone tried to break in to his residence in a similar manner only days prior, but his wife came into the residence and the intruder ran away. Since that time, Duncan kept his gun readily accessible.

“All I was thinking about was defending myself,” said Duncan. “I’m in no shape to fight anybody. I’m 72 years old. … I’m sorry it happened that way, because I’m sure he’s got a family. I feel bad for them.”

Without question, Duncan did several things very well, as evidenced by the fact that he was not physically injured as a result of the home invasion. Judging from Duncan’s statements, it’s clear that his intent was not necessarily to kill Ragsdell, but rather to defend himself.

While the story doesn’t reference Ragsdell being armed, he is 20 years younger than Duncan. Therefore, it would seem reasonable that Ragsdell would have a distinct advantage over Duncan in a physical confrontation. In some cases, this “disparity of force” would make it justifiable for the defender to use a weapon against an unarmed assailant.

While it admittedly worked quite well for Duncan, keeping a gun under a cushion obviously presents its own set of problems. Not only could this prove tragic in the event a child found the gun, but who’s to say an intruder wouldn’t find it?

The notion that Duncan fired his pistol without necessarily intending to shoot the intruder is concerning. In most cases, firing a “warning shot” does more harm than good. We need to be accountable for every round we fire. A hastily fired shot intended to miss the intruder could potentially endanger neighbors or even members of our own household. From a tactical standpoint, firing a warning shot gives the bad guy an opportunity to draw his own weapon.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m glad Duncan was armed and successfully defended himself. No one is likely to perform flawlessly under such conditions. I only bring these issues up as food for thought. Please don’t assume that my comments are intended to slight this incredibly brave man.

What are your thoughts on this incident?

Richard Nance
  • Souroda

    A man who keeps a gun under his pillow, might as well keep a cell phone by his side and a torch.

    • HENRY BOWMAN

      The difference is that the response time for the police when they receive a 9-1-1 call varies from ten to twenty-three minutes. The response time for a .45ACP is 900-1100 feet per second.

      For the bleeding hearts who feel that someone doesn't deserve to die for simply committing a home invasion robbery, my answer is maybe so, but nobody came to the burglar's home and shot him in his bed. He had it within hi power to avoid being shot dead, and that is to don't go burglaring.

      If an Esceutive Order were sign tomorrow making speeding on the freeway more than five miles per hour over the limit punishable by the death penalty, it wouldn't bother me on bit. Why?; because I don't speed. DUH!!!

      • Ben

        All I can say is RIGHT ON Henry!!
        If you don't want to risk getting shot – don't go poking around in someone elses home! Simple

      • bob

        like your response way to go henry

      • Ethan

        I wish the police responded that fast where I live. Where I live the response time is more like 45 minutes to an hour.

      • 317avenger

        Well said Henry! I totally agree with you!

      • https://www.facebook.com/matthew.rakowski.7 Matthew Rakowski

        and nobody you care for speeds either? im not condoning burglery, but your comparison is poorly thought out, mabye if we enact the death penalty for bad posts were enacted, youd either stop and think, or just stop

    • Starky

      It is people like you who make the best vicitms then complain because nothing is getting done about the crime today. Mr. Duncan had to make a tough decision and carry out the actions necessary. I am sure there will not be a day that will go by that he will not reflect on this woundering if there would have been another course of action, but some times the only course of action is the one taken by Mr. Duncan. May the good Lord never palce you in this position.

      • Brandon

        Amen to that, I carry my ccw with the hope to never need but have it so I can return home to my family at the end of the day.

      • Dave

        If / when it does happen . . . it won't be God that placed you in that situation.

    • Drjekyl30

      What good would a cell phone do? While I do keep both by my bed I can tell you that if someone came into my home uninvited I would grab my gun and have it trained on the intended target. I would not remove my eyes to find the cell phone and dial 911. In the instant that you do could be all the time the intruder needs to gain the upper hand of you.

  • Spook89

    You're right, of course. Great care must be taken in the event of such circumstances. I always practice 'dry runs', and 'wargame' different scenarios that have occurred in real life.

  • Roger

    this man needs a very good lawyer

    • Ray Flaherty

      Agreed. It's California after all!! Had he just put one round in the crook's groin, the miscreant could still run for public office should Brown, Pelosi, Boxer or Feinstein decide to retire.

      • Bob

        And by your "Teadouche-bag Zealot…." comment, you must be a F'ing idiot.

      • Homeland_Defender

        Since you know better, what's your address so an intruder could visit you sometime?

      • Nunya

        avenger, you obviously have no sense of humor. Besides that, what's wrong with the Tea Party? They want lower taxes and smaller government, what's wrong with that?

    • 317Avenger

      And you need to shut up it was self defense!

      • https://www.facebook.com/scott.switzer.3 Scott Switzer

        Unfortunately, Roger is right. This is Kaliforniastan.

    • shooting rob

      for what?

    • STATMAN

      For what? He's not being charged with anything.

  • SanDiegoShooter

    Let me see. Innocent person is safe and ahole criminal is dead. Hmmmm. Sounds like a fair outcome to me. Any prosecutor cruel enough to file charges on this set of facts should be fired. Fortuntely, he is in Riverside County rather than Smell-A

  • 317avenger

    Just kill all those SOB's. The DA that decided to press charges has no family!
    This man is 72 yrs old, too bad he shut the guy only once…kkkk I guess was enough! Give him a prize not charges!

  • BigAl

    What's there to think about? The good guy is alive and the bad guy is dead.

  • Maybejim

    Even in Kalifornia, case law says if someone breaks into your house you can assume he is there to do you harm and act accordingly. The good guy is in good shape, and the home invader is dead. All is well.

    • guest

      You are right. I,m going on 40 years in the law enforcement bizz in CA. Been to more than a few scenes where a homeowner shot a burglar dead in their home. We were not out to get the homeowner. If the story matched up with the physical evidence they were cleared. Did have one case where the shooter shot a 16 year old in his backyard and then shattered the rear slider and staged a burglary and drug the dead kid into the house. That didn't work out too well. He is still in prison.

      • Steve B.

        Glad you're not out to get the homeowner. Just one question; If the burglar is unarmed how would the homeowner know this before it's too late. I think once someone is inside your home you need to assume you and/or your family are at risk. Am I correct? I hope I never have to deal with this but I do have a shotgun for home defense. Thanks.

  • MacDaddyScott

    Kudos to the old man, except for the fact he was NOT trying to kill the intruder. An intruder in anyone's home puts themselves in that position. If someone invades my home, and I have a reasonable amount of reaction time, they are going on a gourney to the morgue. Shot. Dead. Period.

  • http://www.facebook.com/john.dorr.50 John Dorr

    I think he may have been very lucky with the outcome, so good for him with respect to that. I say that because It sounds like he did not know exactly where or what he was shooting at.

    • Jim M

      True. Good thing for him it wasn't a family or friend, but instead the bad guy. I live about 45 mins from this area and can tell you that there are quite a few Speed freaks; I've also worked their too.
      BTW, good shot old dude! ;)

  • Richard

    Kudos !
    One less.

  • Wizard

    I have every bit of respect for this man. It's easy when you are young (below 60) and you can shoot a tight group at 50 yards with a handgun. This man stood up for his wife, planned ahead and survived. He didn't want to kill the guy but when you have physical limitations you shoot and hope you hit him or at least scare him into running. It's even more brave that this man took this guy on because of his age. This man is a Hero!

  • MMcQuown

    I'm 72. I have emphysema. If I shoot, especially an intruder in my home, I shoot to kill. The record of home invasions is very high for killing all the residents, usually committed by three or four-man crews. Even so, the resident could not know what weapons the intruder might be carrying. And you can kill a man with a big flashlight very easily. I don't think the cushion was the best place to stash the gun. As pointed out, the intruder could have found it easily if he had gotten further into the house. Over all, I think the resident didn't use the best judgement, but the outcome was still good.

  • shootingrob

    I think it is wonderful that this guy had the presence of mind to keep a gun in his home for protection. He may even keep protection in his automobile, which leads me to why I am writing my comment. For those of you that are out there and read this story and dont realize it. The man didnt need to purchase any special licenses or permits to keep a gun in his house, nor does he need one to keep in his car for protection. This is one of the privledges of being an American.
    When you are inside your home or inside your car this is considered your castle. If you are INSIDE your castle and someone means to do you harm, you have every right to defend yourself from anyone threatining you.
    You only need a concealed weapons permit it you are going to carry that protection with you OUTSIDE of your castle, and then you must carry it un seen. ie: in a holster, under a jacket, or in your purse.
    I hope the police chief in this guys town buys he and his wife a steak dinner because he just saved them a ton of work and gave some more work for the coroner to do. All around it was a win win situation.

    • jko9581

      Rob, I agree with just about everything but a point of clarification – in California, it is illegal to carry a loaded firearm in your vehicle (even if it is your mobile castle). If you do carry a firearm, it must be unloaded with the ammo separate (away) from the weapon. As for saving them a ton of work, there was still a lot of paperwork for the cops, I'm sure.

    • uscitizen1970

      FYI…rights aren't privileges. That being said, each state is its own country in America because of lazy Executive branch not enforcing laws. DC, NYC, Chicago, and so many other places unlawfully enforce 'laws' of their 'state' that conflict with US Constitution and are therefore void. Most people can't afford lawyers to fight the communism.

    • guest

      In CA to carry loaded in the car in a public place you have to have a CCW permit. Not so for your home or place of business.

    • Steve B.

      I didn't think you could keep a loaded gun inside your car. Couldn't you be arrested for that? Thank God we can still keep guns in our homes…for now.

  • Ben

    I sleep with a 12 gauge at the ready and hope I never need it! I know its there and know how to use it! This 72 yr old is alive and so is his wife for quick thinking on his part. He had his pistol at the ready and he knew how to use it!

  • bob

    way to go henry one less bad guy

  • Mac

    The law should be very simple and clear; you break into a home and the residents should be legally able to do whatever they need to do in order to repel the attack.
    It's time for citizens to take back their right to be safe in their homes, offices, schools and communities.
    It's ironic that we accept the fact that if some idiot enters an animals den/burrow, he's going to get messed up or dead. Why is it that legislators won't afford that same basic right [common sense] to humans living peaceably in their homes ?
    If I hear my front door being compromised at 0-dark hundred, it had better be the Fire Department and my house had better be on fire.
    Well, in this case the good guy prevailed and that's a good thing.

    • uscitizen1970

      The rights already exist. There's just no money in allowing the victim to just kill the criminal; we must stimulate the economy by arresting the victim and making them prove they were in danger. Google Zimmerman.

      • Mac

        Well put and unfortunately a very accurate description of the legal mindset.
        After 22 years in law enforcement, the "justice system" has become utterly redundant to me.
        It has been replaced by special interests, media sensationalism and political correctness. Common sense and integrity have left the building.
        The blind lady with the scales should be replaced with the three monkeys – speak no evil, hear no evil and see no evil.
        Anyways, I hear my old Remington Rand calling for a bath.

  • Steve

    That's the way it's supposed to happen. I'm sure this wasn't the first house the perp broke into so he got what he deserved.

  • Gary Chenett

    Frankly had that been in Michigan the intruder would have been killed twice……
    See we don't have the liberal freaks that you people in California have to put up with.
    We can conceal carry, a handgun, pepper spray and any gun with a barrel under 18"
    I hope the intruder got to get laid to rest in the City Cetetary next to the molesters

    • msamples

      Please define "cetetary" and make sure it is indeed a word. Credibility means a lot in these replies. You don't have it.

      • Reifenstahl

        IT WAS HIS CHOICE> YOU KNEW WHAT HE WANTED TO SAY __________SO SHOVE IT !

      • bigboy

        are you spelling be champs..

      • Gary Chenett

        Try getting a life and a brain and use common sense and spell check, Bimbo.
        You have to much time on your hands.
        Speak to the issue at hand

  • https://www.facebook.com/jon.weatherspoon Jon D Weatherspoon

    Perp permanently dismissed = justice

    Firing at a would be assailant breaking into a home in Kal-E-Forn-I-A…unwise without being unable to equivocally state "fear for life" of and by the victim…possibly unwise due to the mindset of those on the bench and the Prosecutors' Offices on lunie bin of the Left Coast.

    Should the homeowner be charged or liable for civil action? CASTLE DOCTRINE prevails where I live, but I'm not so sure about the laws set forth by bleeding-heart liberals in Mr. Duncan's home state. 10 round magazines limitations, "bullet buttons" on modern sporting rifles and other such ludicrous gun and ammunition restrictions that are in direct conflict with the US Constitution via the 2nd Amendment is my reasoning that the elderly gentleman may face unnecessary strife at the whim of the legal system.

    Conclusion…Good Guys 1 v Bad Guys 0. Leave it at that.

    • uscitizen1970

      And he is through if the criminal was black and he was white. Have Reggie and Al been notified?

  • http://www.facebook.com/bahiabob Bob Liberty

    Good job, Jerry! Gun control means hitting your target.

  • BuckShot-California

    SHOOTING AN UNARMED TRESPASSER OUTSIDE YOUR HOME IN THE PEOPLES REPUBLIC OF CALIFORNIA? IS THIS GUY NUTS? UNLESS HE'S GOT CONNECTIONS, HE'S LOOKING AT SOME SERIOUS PRISON TIME. BUT, HAD HE NOT SHOT HIM, HE'D STILL BE FACING MANDITORY TIME FOR BRANISHING A WEAPON. .

    • popgun

      I don't believe there is a jury that could convict him of anything, even in Kalifornia.

    • BJC

      What story are you reading in this one the intruder was shot inside the home he broke into. Typing in all cap's is more like a heated rant and branishing is not a word. SFB

  • Ross Walters

    The intruder should have beat feet the second Mr. Duncan yelled at him. He didn't and therefore was ready and willing to confront the homeowner. That confrontation could have turned out badly for Mr. Duncan had he not been armed.

    I'm surprised to learn some people still own guns in Kalifornia.
    I'm also shocked at Mr. Duncans accuracy with a pistol shooting in the dark.

    There have been many stories recently of armed homeowners defending themselves against criminals.
    Maybe after enough of the bad guys are killed the live ones will realize the 'easy targets' aren't all that easy anymore so they'll go out & get a job – yeah right, like that's gonna happen.

    • uscitizen1970

      The death penalty doesn't deter criminals, but a 45 does! God bless America!

      • BJC

        The death penalty doesn't work cause it's not used enough and takes 15 to 20 years to be carried out. That's why it's necessary for armed citizens to put these criminals in their place, the ground.

    • Homeland_Defender

      Shooting in the dark… That's why I have a laser on my 1911. So, if they can't hear me, they still get the message. If he chooses to ignore the 2 second warning… That's his choice. The bad guy has to accept responsibility for his actions.

  • msamples

    Learn to spell gurney!! Credibility means a lot on these forums. If you can't spell, do not reply.

    • Brandon

      I like how no one liked your condescending remark.

      • Anishinabi

        That is one reason I don't usually post on this type of forum. Stupid crabby old men who just criticize others. Credibility is important, but it's not like the guy's spelling will be ridiculed by Media Matters or the Brady bunch.

  • Viet Vet

    I'm 64 and would enjoy buying this man a beer. Training teaches two in the chest, one in the head. My family comes before any puke in my home.

  • uscitizen1970

    God has blessed this man and may He continue blessing. While he does need to learn proper storage, on hip holster perhaps, he did what needed doing. God bless America.

  • Raazorblade

    Some people learn the hard way that when a man gets too old to fight all he is going to do is KILL you….

  • Rancott357

    To bad he dont live in ND….we have the castle law here…..we dont dial 911, we call 357 !

  • Starky

    I would love to know the past criminal history of Ragsdell. I would bet it is extensive. After all you don't decide one day at age 51 to start a new career as a burglar.

  • jiminga

    The author's comment on "warning shots" and "shoot to wound" are correct. If you pull the trigger then you should put two rounds in center mass….period. The story indicates Mr. Duncan doesn't practice much (if at all) and has no situation training, both of which could have led to a different outcome. I am 68 and visit the range at least once per month with the wife where we each practice with sidearms and an AR-15. I practice two handed, right hand only and left hand only, as well as double taps. This is to ensure I can hit a "target" even if my strong hand/arm is injured.

    Mr. Duncan appears to have been lucky, but luck is not a strategy.

  • Phil

    I'm 70 years old and there is no doubt in my mind what my reaction to an intruder in my home would be.

  • Bob

    I am 85 and if an intruder broke in here and I can get my judge out of the bedside table he is dead.Bob

  • Imalarduss

    What amazes me is the, according to the article, perp was 20 years younger than the 72 YOA homeowner. That would make the turd 52?!?!?!?? How did he make it that long in his chosen profession?!?!?! In the Great State of Texas 35 is old for a crook. They are usually reformed, and some of them deformed, long before that here. Tony Beretta said, "Don't do the crime if you can't do the time." TS for the crook and good shooting to the homeowner. 22 years of law enforcement in this state may have soured the following opinion.

  • Fireangel

    Perp was coming in through a window; one can only assume that the targeting area was diminished, so that a hit in a "crunchy bit" would be more likely…

    That being said, anyone else find it funny that the old man wanted to scare him away, but instead of hitting anywhere in the wall, he bestowed upon the perp – in the window – a lethal shot?

    Y'know… meaning the old man MISSED what he was aiming at?

    • BJC

      In his mind telling that story may have just been his way of convoying he didn't intend to kill anyone.

  • popgun

    I love a story with a happy ending!

  • guest

    good shooting old man, for myself i have a lot of range time and two to the head is where i practice.

  • Rich

    reporter needs to get a grip. all of these what ifs what ifs. if it comes down to you or the crook I shoot to kill no warning shots and I imagin that when the grand kids came over the old man put up his pistol. most people have a little common sence.

  • Jim

    In the aftermath, the police only need to know your name and that you were defending yoursel; no further details until your lawyer is present. After that, speak only to and through your lawyer. No interviews, no comments, no nothing.

    • John

      Not in Georgia.

  • Jerry

    52 years old climbing through a window? At that age group he must have been a homeless mentally challenged alcoholic. Might have been at the homeless shelter watching Halloween movies. Maybe he thought he was going to rescue a princess from some evil castle.
    Or maybe he just wanted to kill everyone and cook some eggs and bacon.
    Or he was just trying to steal the air conditioner and reached in to unplug it?

  • Gary

    I did not read the full report but it is a must to have a light of some sort in my opinion. Just for the simple task of confirming your intruder is someone of a threat. A light can make you vulnerable but before firing you may want to know that your intruder is not family or little Billy from next door making his first and last mistake of trespassing at your house.

    • Mike

      Someone takes out the air con window unit to gain entry into your home will not be a family member and billy next door should know better then to do that. As an American under the Bill of Rights, you do not need to JUSTIFY to anyone why you shot an intruder inside your home.

  • Jerry

    When a person awakes to a very loud noise and finds his electricity (lights) not working, he has reason to fear for his life and the lives of any others in his household.
    If little Billie next door is strong enough to push a window air conditioner into the house he must be pretty big and high on some wild street drugs.
    Little Billie should not be out busting into houses at 5 am in the morning.
    If this crime happened as stated in news articles something is very wrong. Even the average brain damaged 51 year old burglar would leave the area when the air conditioner crashed to the floor. And so would little Billie.

  • Corey

    Forgive me spelling overseers, I meant to say "choice" in my last post but I don't type well.

  • Jerry

    Too bad he cut the power. It tends to raise the stress level.
    The last time that I had a power outage I was very surprised how dark my house was without those few very small night lights glowing. Waking up and feeling around for a nearby flashlight was a problem.
    Many houses have outside electric breaker boxes and many people leave them unlocked.
    I think that any criminal who cuts or turns off the power to a house increases the chances of getting shot or meeting some other weapon in the dark.
    Maybe the criminal thought they were on vacation and he was trying to turn off any possible burglar alarm.
    Or maybe he was trying to impersonate someone like Charles Manson’s killings? His victims did not have guns.

  • Jim

    Deadly force used. Deadly force justified. Castle law reigns in Mich. Hope it does in Ca. too. Old men rule!!

  • Anishinabi

    Arizona has a ballot proposition changing the law so that anyone who shoots a perp while committing a felony whether killed or wounded may not sue or prosecute the shooter. I notice in the booklet publishing the intiatives it was the only one I saw without any opposing comments. Viva El RKB

    • tired in texas

      I wish that would become a law in every state.

  • Ken

    The intruder knew the risk, took a chance, lost. The homeowner was forced to defend himself and won. Nuff said!

  • http://www.facebook.com/solicit.employmen Solicit Employmen

    you can't make any comment without censorship.

  • DbarEmployee

    Good for this guy. It happens too often in the times we live in that you hear of the elderly being beaten to death in an attempted robbery. It is about time that one refused to be taken advantage of. May be this will make people think twice about attempting to forcibly take what is not theirs. Congratulations on having what it takes to survive Mr. Duncan.

  • tired in texas

    If more people had the presence of mind to act in the same manner as the homeowner, there would be far fewer attempts to invade the homes of others.

  • aircommuter

    If someone is entering through a window, without knocking on the door first, something bad is intended. This must be stopped. How is the owner’s choice.

  • Dale Sulak

    It doesn’t matter age or sex. When it is dark and someone is entering your home, there are to many unknowns. When I was young, I feared on man, I could take’m down. Now that I am older and hopefully smarter, once an individual has entered my home and I can not leave and know my family is safe, he’s dead. Nothing is deadlier than a wounded creature seeking revenge.

  • Barry Soetoro

    Good for the homeowner.

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