Man shot after going to wrong house in northwest Las Vegas

A man who believed his home was being burglarized early Thursday shot through his front door, hitting a man in the chest, Las Vegas police said.

The victim, a man in his 20s, and the second person were at the door after confusing the home with another in the neighborhood, police said.

They had been celebrating a birthday with another person at a nearby house. They left for a short time and thought they were returning to the same house, but instead confused the homes and knocked on the door at 9218 Wittig Ave., near Fort Apache and Elkhorn roads, just before 2 a.m., police said.

They did not understand why they weren’t being let back in and banged on the door while arguing with the homeowner, who had come to the door, police said. The homeowner shot one time through the closed door, hitting one of them in the chest.

The wounded man was taken to University Medical Center. His condition was not released.

Police did not release the names of anyone involved.

The home is owned by Victor Thompson, a captain with the Las Vegas Fire Department, according to property records and a fire department spokesman.

Nobody answered the door Thursday morning, and a phone call to Thompson went unanswered.

A bullet hole was visible just inches from the front door’s peephole, and two Las Vegas fire trucks parked outside while crews went inside for a short time.

Residents who live nearby described the neighborhood as quiet, yet easy to get lost in.

Keith Patton, who lives the street behind where the shooting happened, said he and his mother have confused the houses by driving or walking up to the wrong driveway several times.

The shooting remained under investigation.

A homeowner’s decision to shoot through the door because he believed someone was breaking into his home could be within Nevada’s “stand your ground” law, two Las Vegas defense lawyers said.

Whether the shooter will be charged is unclear. In the past, investigators have asked the Clark County district attorney’s office to review such cases and determine if a crime was committed.

In 2012 prosecutors declined to charge a man who fatally shot a would-be burglar through a backyard window.

Demarcus Carter, a 19-year-old with a history of committing residential burglaries, was unarmed when he was killed in March 2012, prosecutors said. There was evidence Carter was trying to enter the Summerlin home when he was shot.

A difference between Carter’s death and Thursday’s incident is that police said the men knocking on the door were not trying to break-in but trying to return to a birthday gathering.

However, Nevada’s “stand your ground” law allows a reasonable person to protect himself in such a situation, defense lawyer Chris Rasmussen said.

“You can use deadly force if you have a reasonable belief that your life is being threatened. If someone’s breaking through your front door, you don’t have to wait for them to get through the front door” to shoot, Rasmussen said.

Nevada’s “stand your ground” law has been a staple in state court rulings since the 1800s, when gun violence often erupted in mining towns. However, it wasn’t codified by the Legislature until 2012.

The key language in the law is whether a shooter had a reasonable fear.

“It all comes down to what a jury is going to think is reasonable,” Rasmussen said. “That it happened at 2 a.m. and not 2 p.m. is significant.”

Defense lawyer Dewayne Nobles concurred.

“Did he feel he was in imminent danger for himself or his family?” Nobles asked.

Nobles pointed out that investigators should look at the circumstances of the incident, including whether the men outside were yelling or pounding on the door.

“It might be different if they were knocking on the front door saying they forgot their keys,” Nobles said.

In a 2008 case, Emmanuel Dozier awakened to the sound of men trying to break into his Henderson home. Believing they were attempting a home invasion robbery, Dozier shot through his front door and wounded three men. At the time, his girlfriend, her 13-year-old daughter and the couple’s 3-month-old son were in the home.

It turned out the men were Las Vegas police SWAT officers serving a drug-related search warrant. The SWAT officers said they announced themselves as police before using a battering ram and a shotgun to try and break down the door.

Dozier, when he realized he was shooting police, quickly surrendered.

He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to between four and 10 years in prison.

Rasmussen said Dozier’s situation was different than what happened Thursday. It is why police must announce who they are before entering a residence.

Contact reporter Francis McCabe at fmccabe@reviewjournal.com or 702-224-5512. Find him on Twitter: @fjmccabe

Review-Journal reporter Colton Lochhead contributed to this report.

Contact Ricardo Torres at rtorres@reviewjournal.com and 702-383-0381. Find him on Twitter: @rickytwrites. Contact Francis McCabe at fmccabe@reviewjournal.com or 702-224-5512.