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Why You Don’t Shoot An Intruder In The Back: Homeowner Charged With Murder


In May 2013, a homeowner found a man inside his home and when he fought back, he shot the intruder in the back as he was trying to escape through a window.

That homeowner now faces a murder charge, and his lawyers are trying to have it dismissed.

Lawyers for James Stiffler, the Helena Valley man accused of deliberate homicide in a 2013 case, want the charges dropped.

Stiffler allegedly shot and killed Henry Thomas Johnson on May 22, 2013, after Stiffler found Johnson burglarizing his home.

Stiffler says he fired his 9-millimeter pistol as Johnson threatened to hurt him and charged him with clenched fists.


Defense lawyers claim Stiffler fired his pistol at Johnson with a kitchen counter top in between them.

Prosecutors claim Stiffler changed his story about the shooting, at first saying Johnson charged him, then saying he didn’t remember the shooting, and then saying Johnson turned away at the last minute before the shot was fired.

In any event, shooting someone in the back –as they retreat– is never a good way to end things, as the person who was a threat is no longer a threat. That’s the important difference that every gun owner needs to understand, or they could find themselves in a similar circumstance as this homeowner.

In the heat of the moment, emotions can run high and adrenaline can change the way things are handled. However as badly we want to stop the bad guy, we can’t always do it… at least from a legal standpoint.

Categories: General
About Brandon Curtis | View all posts by Brandon Curtis

Brandon is the founder of Concealed Nation and is an avid firearm enthusiast, with a particular interest in responsible concealed carry. His EDC is a Glock 27 that holds Hornady…

Brandon is the founder of Concealed Nation and is an avid firearm enthusiast, with a particular interest in responsible concealed carry. His EDC is a Glock 27 that holds Hornady 165 gr FTX Critical Defense rounds, and rides comfortably in an Alien Gear Cloak Tuck 3.0 holster.

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  • Massolo

    For me, it would depend on if the criminal was inside or outside the house. We all know it takes only a millisecond for someone to change their mind, and come back for a second attack. But the facts are that there was a criminal in his house. That fact alone should mean the charges should be dropped. If a repeat offender can slam a brick into the side of someone’s head on national TV, and get let off because he “got caught up in the moment”, I think the same should apply here.

  • yort

    and the heat of the moment was brought to you by the idiot burglar.

  • BlueSCCY

    Wouldn’t the castle doctrine protect you if your state has one?

  • Declan Dillman

    Castle doctrine says that by being in your home unauthorized by you, they can be considered hostile merely by their presence. merely turning their back doesnt nullify the affirmative defense.

    • Clay

      I pray this is true for this guy.

  • Arthur Morse

    Funny how the cops get away with this all the time. Don’t get me wrong, the cops have a tough job and don’t get paid nearly enough, but they are human and they do make mistakes and they do let things go to far sometimes when their adrenaline is going.

  • anarchyst

    I wonder how many times this prosecutor let cops go for doing the same thing…

  • LouisianaPatriot

    I’m sorry to disagree with the author, but I consider any time the intruder is in the home, they ARE a threat. Even if they are outside. I’m sure we can find lots of cases where an intruder appeared to be fleeing and then turned around and shot the homeowner, who is the victim of the crime.

  • Jim

    BS Criminals know if they spin around fast enough and get hit in teh back your screwed so they do so. Problem for them is police ad armed civilians have beat this problem in court.