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Farmer who fatally shot teen intruder fleeing his property gets jail sentence

David Pettersen will also serve 2 years of probation and carry out community service.
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The Madelia farmer who fatally shot a 19-year-old intruder fleeing his property has been sentenced to spend 90 days in jail.

David Pettersen, 65, learned of his sentence at Watonwan County District Court on Tuesday, where he appeared in connection with his killing of Nicholas Embertson, 19, of Madelia on Jan. 28.

After pleading guilty to endangering safety with intentional discharge of a firearm, the Star Tribune reports Pettersen was handed the jail sentence along with two years probation and 100 hours of community service.

In exchange for the guilty plea, a second-degree manslaughter charge was dismissed, the newspaper notes.

The January incident saw Pettersen confront and scare off three teenagers who showed up at his home unannounced, and as they tried to drive off, he fired his .45-caliber handgun at the vehicle, hitting and killing Embertson, who was behind the wheel.

One of the two 18 year olds with Emberton later told police they were casing Pettersen's house for a possible future burglary.

Emotional scenes in court

The court on Tuesday heard statements from Pettersen, his attorney and members of the Embertson's family.

The Mankato Free Press reports Pettersen, a pig farmer, was overcome with emotion as he told the court: "I take no satisfaction from his death and I will carry that awful responsibility with me for the rest of my life. But none of you who wish to call me a murderer were there that morning."

"It was obvious the driver was trying to run me down," he added, saying he and his family no longer feel safe in their own home.

Embertson's mom, Tracy McCabe, told the court her son had to overcome some difficulties as a young adult but Pettersen didn't have the right to take the law into his hand, adding her son wasn't a threat, KEYC reports.

“My son did not enter his home. He was given a death sentence," she said.

The TV station notes Watonwan County Attorney Stephen Lindee pointed out that confronted with a possible burglary, Pettersen chose not to call police, and the judge ruled that while he had shown remorse for his actions, the incident exhibited "fear, anger and stupidity."

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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