Nevada’s ‘stand your ground’ law in spotlight

RENO — A 73-year-old man has been charged with murder in a shooting that killed a man and wounded a woman who had done meth and entered his vacant duplex without permission in suburban Reno.

The defendant, Wayne Burgarello, acknowledged the Feb. 13 shooting at a property he owns in Sparks but said he was acting in self-defense under Nevada’s “stand your ground” law, according to court records.

Activists working to bring attention to the case hailed prosecutors Wednesday. Debbie Peckham, mother of 34-year-old Cody Devine, said her son was “in the wrong place at the wrong time” when he was killed. She said he was unarmed and wasn’t dangerous.

More than 30 states have “stand your ground” laws that allow deadly force against attackers posing an imminent threat regardless of whether the aggressor is armed. Nevada law states the shooter cannot be “the original aggressor.”

Burgarello was not asked to enter a plea during an initial appearance at Sparks Justice Court via video link Wednesday. His next court appearance is Monday. He is being held in Washoe County jail without bail after being arrested Tuesday. He doesn’t yet have a lawyer.

Prosecutors said Burgarello shot 29-year-old Janai Wilson and Devine without justification as the two were resting on a pallet on the floor.

“How can you feel endangered if they are sleeping?” Peckham asked at a news conference Wednesday.

Wilson told police she met Devine the day of the shooting and that they had injected methamphetamine together before entering the vacant property and going to sleep about 4:30 a.m. She said over the past three years she had occasionally stayed at the duplex, which was often vacant and unlocked.

Burgarello entered the residence with a high-powered revolver and a semi-automatic handgun, according to police reports. He told police he identified himself as the owner and warned, “This is private property and nobody better be in here.”

Wilson said that as Burgarello approached, Devine started to get up from the floor and said they were just sleeping. That’s when the shooting began, she told police.

Burgarello told police Devine had moved his arm in a threatening manner. “The arm came up like a gun, and I reacted,” Burgarello said, according to a police affidavit.

Devine was shot five times, including once in the head, an autopsy determined.

Wilson was shot in the arm, stomach and leg, but she was able to flee for help, according to police statements. Authorities have said she was recovering but have provided no other details.

The Rev. Howard Dotson, a Sparks pastor, organized candlelight vigils after Devine’s death and criticized police for failing to charge Burgarello. He said Wednesday he hopes the arrest signals that “you can’t hide behind ‘stand your ground.’”

“These stand your ground laws — people are getting killed for Skittles,” he said. “People are getting killed for throwing a popcorn box or having loud music, and now Cody was killed for being on a date.”


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