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

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?

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