Charges: Homeowner shoots, kills teen driving away after burglary attempt

The man told investigators he woke up to people trying to get into his house.

David Pettersen told investigators he woke up Saturday morning to someone trying to get into his locked home.

Over the next few minutes, Pettersen confronted and scared off the three teenagers that showed up at his home unannounced. But as the trio tried drove off, Pettersen said he fired a .45-caliber handgun – ultimately striking and killing the 19-year-old behind the wheel.

That's according to charges filed in Wantowan County Monday against Pettersen, charging him with second-degree manslaughter and dangerous discharge of a firearm in connection with the incident.

Nicholas Thomas Embertson, the 19-year-old who was killed, was with two 18-year-olds at the time – one of them told investigators later they were at the southern Minnesota home, in a rural area outside Madelia, to case it for a future burglary, the criminal complaint says.

According to the charges:

The three teens found all the doors were locked, so Embertson and one of the other teens boosted their third partner up to a deck.

Pettersen had been sleeping, but heard people trying to get in. So he woke up and opened the door right on to his deck – where he ran into the 18-year-old.

The teen jumped off the 10-foot deck, breaking his ankle, and Pettersen saw him crawl away back to a car on the property. Pettersen went to his bedroom and retrieved his handgun, then went outside through an attached garage.

The three teenagers made it into the car and began driving away.

They drove past Pettersen perpendicularly – and that's when Pettersen opened fire from about 10 feet away. He told investigators he fired two or three shots, and was trying to shoot out the tires. He then returned to his home and called 911.

Inside the car, the teen with the broken ankle said they heard a couple shots, then Embertson – who was behind the wheel – said he thought he'd been hit. He went unconscious, and the car drove off the driveway.

The 18-year-old with the broken ankle then got in the driver's seat, and drove the car away from the property.

A sergeant with the sheriff's office – while responding to Pettersen's 911 call – saw the car with the three teens inside and stopped it.

Inside he found Embertson with a gunshot wound. He and the teen with the broken ankle were taken to a hospital, where Embertson later died.

Both charges against Pettersen are felonies. Together, they could lead to up to 15 years in prison and/or up to $30,000 in fines.

Laws about protecting your home

Minnesota had one of the most high-profile cases in recent memory about the lengths people can go to protect their home.

It concerned Byron Smith, a Little Falls man who shot and killed two teens who had broken into his house on Thanksgiving Day in 2012. He was found guilty of murder in April of 2014, with prosecutors saying he went far beyond what was necessary to stop the threat – he shot and incapacitated both of them, but then continued firing anyway. The teens were hit with a total of nine bullets.

Minnesota law says you can kill somebody to prevent great bodily harm and death, or to prevent a felony from being committed in your home.

What exactly that means isn't always clear. During the Smith case, the sheriff in Little Falls said someone's actions had to be "reasonable," The Daily Beast reported. But he acknowledged that isn't always clear-cut.

Minnesota does have what's referred to as "duty to retreat." As WCCO explained, if the threat no longer exists, you're no longer defending your home and have to stop.

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