Three suspects arrested in fatal Pine County home invasion


Three men are now in custody and being questioned by police in connection with a home invasion that turned fatal near Sandstone early Thursday morning.

KARE 11 reports that police also identified the deceased suspect as 23-year old Gypsy Wayne Watts of Pine County.

Pine County Sheriff's authorities say a homeowner in his 60s or 70s used his handgun to fatally shoot one of two intruders, whose apparent intent was to rob him, the Associated Press reports.

The second intruder fled the home and escaped. He was on the loose for hours before law enforcement took him into custody. Two others who were also arrested are believed to be accomplices, according to KARE 11.

The homeowner was not injured. He is not expected to be charged at this time, according to the Pine County Sheriff's Office.

The Northland News Center reports that Pine County Sheriff Robin Cole said, "It is a very frightening situation alone to have someone break into your home when you're present...but to have people break into your home that are armed that brings the level of danger to a point that is's unbelievable."

Minnesota law allows citizens to use deadly force in self-defense, although there is no automatic immunity for people who kill intruders in their homes.

State law allows people to stand their ground in their home and approach conflict with deadly force, if necessary. That's only if the victim – and ultimately, a jury – reasonably believes the victim could be greatly harmed or killed.

Last year, the Minnesota Legislature debated a "castle doctrine" defense bill that would have given homeowners more latitude in the case of intruders. The proposal was backed by gun-rights groups and opposed by Minnesota's law-enforcement organizations. It would have broadened the legal justification for citizens who use deadly force when threatened, the Star Tribune reported. But Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed the bill.

The controversial debate over the castle doctrine was rekindled last year in the wake of a high-profile Little Falls case in which Byron David Smith, 65, was accused of killing two unarmed teens who broke into his home on Thanksgiving Day.

Smith told investigators he shot the two as they came down the stairs to his basement. He said he first wounded, and then fatally shot them, according to the criminal complaint.

Morrison County authorities have said Byron's actions amount to cold-blooded executions, not self-defense, the Star Tribune reported.

Smith was indicted earlier this year. Smith has tried to have the first-degree murder charges against him dismissed, arguing there is not enough evidence to support that charge.

Lawyers in the case were scheduled this month to file their arguments related to Smith's request to have the charges dismissed.

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