Northwest Georgia’s Stand Your Ground Incidents

Both Catoosa and Walker County have been swirled around in the media with two shootings by two gentlemen in separate incidents who were standing their ground this past month.  The first was in Catoosa County where a 17 year-old teenager was shot by a homeowner during an attempted burglary on Veteran’s Day:

The shooting occurred around 4 p.m., when 69-year-old Fred Youngblood, who lives on Post Oak Road, woke up to the noise of McConathy and his 16-year-old buddy Craig Wilson making their way into his basement, while McConathy’s 18-year-old girlfriend Ansley Chrnalogar was waiting in the get-away truck.
Shortly thereafter, Youngblood grabbed his pistol and confronted the boys.
As the boys took off running, Youngblood fired, striking McConathy in the neck, reports show.
McConathy collapsed into the bed of the truck as Chrnalogar drove away, but was stopped by Catoosa County sheriff’s deputies moments later on Boynton Drive.
To date, there have been no charges filed against Youngblood, and the Catoosa County Sheriff’s Office still has the case classified as “under investigation.”

The other was last week in Walker County where an elderly man with Alzheimer’s was shot by the renter when he thought the man was trying to break in to his house:

That porch light at 188 College Crest Court possibly attracted Westbrook to what ended up as a fatal encounter about 2½ miles from his own home.
A couple who had moved into the house on College Crest Court only a couple of weeks ago heard Westbrook trying to enter their home and called 911 at 3:54 a.m., the sheriff said.
The woman of the house stayed on the line, listening to instructions from the dispatcher as to what to watch for while two patrol cars were en route to the small subdivision just west of Chickamauga.
About 10 minutes later, and before the first officer arrived, the man of the house, Joe Hendrix, 34, armed himself with a handgun and stepped outside to check the property.
Hendrix turned a corner and saw Westbrook in silhouette, the sheriff said.
Despite repeated commands to stop, Hendrix said the prowler — Westbrook — said nothing but kept coming toward him.
The sheriff said Westbrook’s wife told deputies that her husband had recently become non-verbal due to the progression of his illness.
Fearing for his safety, Hendrix fired four bullets from a .40-caliber pistol. One bullet struck Westbrook in the chest.
It was at this point that Hendrix went into the house, and while his girlfriend was still on the telephone with the 911 operator, said he had shot and possibly killed someone.

Both of these incidents are sad. I’m sure that both gentlemen are remorseful towards what transpired, but should they be charged?

I don’t know.  My understanding of the “Stand Your Ground” law is that you can use deadly force if you believe that your life is in danger, so it’s possible that those men won’t be charged because they felt threatened at the time.  I don’t know what sort of circumstances there were or what I would do in their shoes.  I’m just not going to assume I would have reacted differently.  However, I would have hoped that I would not have shot in either case since, in the first, the boys ran off, and, in the second, the elderly man was outside roaming around and didn’t enter the home.

I’m sure anti-gun advocates will point to the second case as a reason to nix Stand Your Ground in our state and other states, but I don’t believe it needs to be.  I believe in protecting my loved ones and my property.  However, I do believe that there needs to be common sense applied here. It would’ve been better had Mr. Hendrix stayed inside (I’m not sure if the 911 operator instructed them to remain inside or not) and not venture out to investigate on his own.  I know, hindsight is 20/20.  So, what say you?  Stand Your Ground will probably garner some attention during the next legislative session.  Discuss in the comments about your views of Stand Your Ground laws and if the state legislature make tweaks to the law….or not.

Disclosure:  I knew the elderly victim.  I went to church and played in the church orchestra with him about 10 years ago.  He was a talented trumpet player.  He was also a Colonel in the US Air Force, gave flight lessons, and was a genuinely nice guy.

Update: Mr. Hendrix in the second story is a renter of the home in Walker County and not the actual owner of the home.


  1. HCL3 says:

    These are not “stand your ground” incidents.

    There has never been a duty to retreat from an intruder in ones own home.

    “Stand your ground” refers to incidents where in the past you would have had a duty to retreat (if you could have done so without harm) – such as an incident occurring in a public place

  2. RichardWest says:

    It’s our right to live in peace — without fear of anyone — in our own homes. Mr. Youngblood didn’t know who these people were and what their motive was. For all he knew, he could be further provoking future conflict by catching them in the act. If the teens had been a couple years older, no one would care about a 20 year old man getting shot during a burglary.

    And this situation with Mr. Westbrook is indeed a tragedy, but this doesn’t seem to be the fault of Mr. Hendrix. While it’s harsh, when my grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimers, my grandmother quickly put locks on both sides of all the doors in the house. It’s rarely popular to question the judgment of an elderly woman, but sometimes it’s prudent.

  3. HCL3 says:

    Also – the first incident is not “sad.” It’s not “sad” when a couple of bad guys try to break into someone else’s house and the intended victim shoots one or more of the bad guys – it’s simply not something to lament.

    In this world there really are good guys and bad guys, and the world isn’t diminished when the bad guys are shot and/or killed.

    • D_in_ATL says:

      I’m glad you injected such subtle distinction to a very complex issue. Ethics, morality, natural law and the obligation to your fellow man are often thorny issues but you have somehow overcome all that to arrive at a true understanding of things. This forum is lucky to have you.

      • Noway says:

        Hey d, I thought you were for free speech? HCL’s comments are every bit as important as yours and I dare say more folks share his short and sweet opinion that yours.

  4. saltycracker says:

    They are sad incidences. When someone breaks into your home or threatens you, bad things are probable. Determining responsibility between the perpetrator, the shooter, public services (somehow they get pulled in) and the caretakers (someone knew they were potential problems) of those shot is going to be a complex and biased process.

  5. George Chidi says:

    Charge both of them. You don’t get to shoot people just because they’re on your land. You get to shoot people when they’re threatening your person.

    If the law does not permit charges to stand in these cases, then change the law.

  6. Three Jack says:

    In the first case, the kids falsely thought they could take advantage of an old man, they were wrong and suffered the consequences. I can’t believe there is even a question about charges being brought.

    The second case resulted in a man unwittingly finding a way to end his own suffering. It’s a shame how it happened, but Mr. Westbrook no longer feels the personal humility of living in such a mentally disabled state. Again why are charges even being considered?

      • Three Jack says:

        I guess that depends SFG, what if the teen was going to get a gun or some other weapon? Either way, the 17 year old broke into a man’s house, was confronted and ultimately paid the price for his actions. One thing for sure, he won’t do it again.

        • That is the dumbest what if I’ve ever heard. First of all – call the police or drive to the police station if you’re worried about that. Clearly at the moment, the kid does not have a gun/planning to shoot you or he wouldn’t be running away.

          Good lord – look if someone comes in your house or is actively threatening you, by all means use deadly force if you must. But this what if stuff. What if I catch a guy taking something out of the back of my pickup truck and he runs away – well, he just might be running to get his gun to track me down later. I better go ahead and shoot him.

          What if I cut someone off in traffic and they mouth “I’m going to kill you MF”. Well, they might be going to get their gun. Better go ahead and shoot.

          Hey – want to do a petty crime or mouth off? Better be prepared to pay the ultimate price on THREE JACK JUSTICE.

          • Three Jack says:

            Chris, read the story posted by SFG below including this gem, “It was a little out of the ordinary,” one employee said. “He was tricking squirrels. … He was faking and acting like he was going to feed them, and then when they’d get close enough he would try to hit them with a stick. I just thought it was cruel, terrible behavior.”

            Squirrel karma!

            • Did the guy who shot him know about that? How is it relevant. So he was a bad kid, I don’t think anyone is disputing that. But a lot of good kids do dumb things every once in a while, and you do not deserve the death penalty for simply doing dumb things or being a messed up kid.

  7. Noway says:

    Did the kid die in the first case? I see no reason to charge the homeowner in incident one. I need to know more about the shooter’s state of mind in number two.

  8. John Konop says:

    A lot of this debate is pure politics…….The left screams about a black lady going to jail for firing a warning shot in her house, ie “stand your ground” defense……….And the right is silent……As a good friend of mine pointed in the famous “Martin” case he was being followed by a guy with a gun……and if you are a real believer in “stand your ground” the law should of protected Martin since the other guy got into his space…….ironically both sides went in the opposite direction and played politics. Hannity looks like a fool backing a guy with real issues…..Rev Al is pulling the weight for a woman using the stand your ground defense, while screaming about the law in the Martin case……a real head spinner……

    Truth is not everything falls into a nice little box……We end to many times trying to create catch all laws like 3 strikes and you are out, War on Drugs……at the end we make the problem worse…We need to have less laws and more common sense sentencing….And realize nothing is a 100%, but taking all judgment out and more laws only makes the problem worse.

    Florida woman given 20 years for firing warning shot gets new trial

  9. Will Durant says:

    Both cases deserve charges being filed and letting a judge and jury decide. I suspect a local jury of their peers would let both go free regardless of “stand your ground”, but they each took a life and admittedly without all of the evidence, for me it appears needlessly.

    In the first case a defense attorney will have a helluva time proving self defense if the kid was close enough in his flight to fall into the truck. On the face of it that appears to be self offense.

    In the second case I suppose self defense can be argued since there are no witnesses and being stupid isn’t really a crime. The guy went into the backyard of his own volition and didn’t tell his fiance that he was exiting the house. He couldn’t identify if the old man was a threat because he didn’t turn on the back porch light or even carry a flashlight out with his .40. I grew up around guns, hunting and varmit shooting and was taught to never even point a gun without identifying my target and not to put my finger on the trigger until taking aim on the fully identified target.

    I know there are those on here who want to carry their guns to church, school, bars, airports, or possibly even the community swimming pool, and will back anyone using a gun no matter what. But there should be consequences for using it irresponsibly. Even if the only consequence is having to pay some attorney fees.

  10. gcp says:

    For those that want to charge, what do you want to charge them with? Do you charge murder, vol/invol manslaughter, reckless conduct, agg assault? Unless there is more evidence in both cases there is not much of a criminal case. The Walker DA and the Catoosa DA may take the cases before grand juries and they will likely no-bill the Walker case. The Catoosa case would be slightly more likely to true-bill but it would probably result in a not –guilty murder, manslaughter at trial. Always remember criminal law is the base line of behavior; just because one does something wrong or inappropriate does not make it a criminal violation.

  11. saltycracker says:

    ….I rest my case.

    BTW, if we can charge a bartender for their part in a drunks crimes why not charge the parents and guardians of the above for their part in the crimes of minor or incapacitated dependents ?

  12. dorian says:

    Hyperbole and histrionics aside, there’s a law for that:

    § 16-3-23. Use of force in defense of habitation

    A person is justified in threatening or using force against another when and to the extent that he or she reasonably believes that such threat or force is necessary to prevent or terminate such other’s unlawful entry into or attack upon a habitation; however, such person is justified in the use of force which is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm only if:

    (1) The entry is made or attempted in a violent and tumultuous manner and he or she reasonably believes that the entry is attempted or made for the purpose of assaulting or offering personal violence to any person dwelling or being therein and that such force is necessary to prevent the assault or offer of personal violence;

    (2) That force is used against another person who is not a member of the family or household and who unlawfully and forcibly enters or has unlawfully and forcibly entered the residence and the person using such force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry occurred; or

    (3) The person using such force reasonably believes that the entry is made or attempted for the purpose of committing a felony therein and that such force is necessary to prevent the commission of the felony.

    So the moral of the story is that neither can be prosecuted. If you don’t like it don’t take it up with a judge, take it up with your legislator.

    • On the contrary, it seems to me that the Catoosa County case could easily be prosecuted. If the alleged burglar was indeed running away, then the unlawful entry had already been terminated. Rule of thumb: Shooting someone in the back, particularly while he/she is fleeing, can get you in trouble. Cops can’t shoot someone in the back (though they do, of course). Seems like a stretch to argue that this code section protects the Catoosa shooter with that set of facts. I’m not saying he should go to prison, but he should be charged and let the court sort it out.

      To those who say the burglar got what was coming to him: Burglary is not a capital crime. If a perp is fleeing, call the cops and let them shoot him in the back. (Not really, of course. But a citizen becomes a vigilante in my book when he shoots someone AFTER the commission of a crime.)

    • DavidTC says:

      That law applies to _neither_ of the cases.

      atlanta unfiltered already pointed out how it didn’t apply in the Catoosa County case (Shooting someone as they flee from you is not stopping them from entry. You don’t get to shoot someone because they had entered but then _left_.), but it doesn’t apply in Walker County either.

      Read what it says carefully. The old man _had_ attempted to enter, but he was shot later while coming towards the shooter. The shooter, who was at that time walking around outside.

      Now, I don’t know about you, but ‘trying to enter a house’ does not usually involve ‘walking towards someone who is outside the house’. In fact, as the shooter had to go around _looking_ for the old man, it actually sounds like the old man had _wandered off_ and was roaming the yard.

      You can’t shoot someone just because they are outside your house at night. Under that law, you can shoot someone outside if and only if _are currently attempting to enter the house via violent means_. That’s _it_. Neither of the shootings in the article fall under that exception.

    • saltycracker says:

      Too late – in these cyber times we made up our filtered minds in the first sentences of the first reports……

    • DavidTC says:

      ‘toward his direction’, as the article clearly explains, being _outside_.

      ‘When no one answered the door, Sheriff Sisk said the two boys went into a basement door in the rear. He added the 69-year-old homeowner followed them and confronted them outside with his gun.’

      He was _outside_. They were _inside_. They headed in his direction because his direction was _the exit_.

      In other words, this moron cornered people breaking into his house, pointed a gun at them, and told them to leave, and then proceeded to shoot one of them _when they tried to do that_, because _he_ was standing in the doorway that they had to leave by.

      If you stand in the door, and point a gun at someone, and say ‘get out’, and the people attempt to do so…you don’t get to shoot them because the only route out of the room is _past you_ and you’ve decided to feel ‘threatened’ over people _doing what you just threatened them into doing_.

      Now, someone’s about to claim that the basement could have had some interior entrance to the rest of the house, and the burglars could have fled _into his house_…although that raises some questions about the rather odd choice he apparently made to exit his house and circle around outside, instead of just walking to the basement. It actually makes his actions even stupider, and why on earth would the burglars assume he meant to exit through the house when he’d just ordered them out…usually, when people hold guns on you, they don’t want you wandering out of sight, _and_ they want to comply as quickly as possible.

      • mpierce says:

        Where did it say the homeowner was standing in the doorway?

        When one of the criminals “poked his head out”, I would guess he was in the doorway. I doubt they were occupying the same space. “That’s when the individuals came out from there” to me would mean they were no longer in the basement. From there maybe that could have backed away instead of running toward the gun-toting homeowner?

          • mpierce says:

            “the two boys went into a basement door in the rear.” … “the individuals were in that backroom”

            • DavidTC says:

              Erm, WTF are you trying to argue here?

              You realize the article you just posted says, quite clearly, that McConathy was running away when shot.

              So, basically, you first post an article that says Wilson says McConathy ‘went towards’ him, and I pointed out that, in that article, it also says they were inside and he was outside, and thus asking them to leave would pretty much require they go towards him, and is not justification for shooting them.

              So you…post an article that just flatly says Wilson shot them while they were fleeing from him.

              Well, I guess you proved _me_ (And you?) wrong. Wilson didn’t shoot McConathy as McConathy was trying to comply with Wilson’s demands to leave, but happened to be headed ‘towards him’ as that was the exit, Wilson instead…shot McConathy as McConathy was trying to comply with his Wilson’s demand to leave, and was headed _away_ from him.

              As we all know, it’s perfectly fine to shoot people running away from you. Or whatever your point is?

              • mpierce says:

                You realize the article you just posted says, quite clearly, that McConathy was running away when shot.

                First article I posted:
                “That’s when the individuals came out from there and came toward his direction.
                “But Youngblood told law enforcement the boys were running toward him and he felt threatened.”

                Second article:
                “According to investigators, Youngblood felt threatened and pulled the trigger because they boys were running in his direction.”

                “Wilson’s family says that’s true, but they were running in his direction

                Perhaps you should re-read the articles.

  13. DavidTC says:

    I’m sure anti-gun advocates will point to the second case as a reason to nix Stand Your Ground in our state and other states, but I don’t believe it needs to be. I believe in protecting my loved ones and my property. However, I do believe that there needs to be common sense applied here.

    We _do_ have a way to apply common sense here. It’s called a _trial_.

    The problem isn’t that ‘Stand Your Ground’ changes the requirement to no duty to retreat. That’s not a good thing, but it’s not the real problem.

    The real problem is that those laws idiotically change self defense from being an _affirmative_ defense to something the police just have to _accept_.

    It used to be, you shoot someone in self defense, unless it was obvious what had happened, you were getting arrested…and eventually found innocent via the system. Now, the police _literally_ are not _allowed_ to arrest you. They have to somehow prove you didn’t fear for your life, instead of you proving you did.

    And before anyone gets worked up about ‘innocent until proven guilty’…please look up how ‘affirmative defense’ works. When you plead self defense, you are asserting you _did_ commit the actions the state is charging you with, and then you have to _prove_ that the specific circumstances exist to make those actions not criminal at that time. The police are not supposed to have to _disprove_ self defense, the person claiming it is supposed to have to _prove_ it.

    And that’s how it worked, until recently, when the NRA decided that having people who _shoot and kill other people_ spend a single night in jail and suffer the indignity of a trial is too much. (We’ve now managed to go past ‘shoot first and ask questions later’ to ‘shoot first, not ask any questions of anyone’.)

    Look, the actual truth of the matter is that we don’t need any law beyond self defense at all. Both of those people should have been arrested for shooting someone else, probably the correct charge being manslaughter. Whether or not they should have been found guilty or not would be up to the jury.

    Aka, ‘common sense’.

    Incidentally, stand your ground laws create entirely preposterous circumstances where _both sides_ can claim self defense. As was mentioned by other posters here, I wonder how Trayvon Martin would have fared if he’d carried a gun and shot the person who was chasing him in the dark? But, as others have pointed out, somehow all these idiotic laws never apply when the shooter is black and the victim not.

  14. Doug Deal says:

    In the first case, it is unclear where this happened, the conditions at the time of the shooting and where things were in relation to one another. Without knowing this, people are too quick to formulate an opinion.

    If it occurred outside and the teen was fleeing away from the shooter, I think he likely should be charged, since the shooter could have went back inside and been safe from harm.

    However, if he was fleeing in a way to the side or toward the shooter (running to the truck), that pretty much meets the definition of a threatening action, remember this person was stopped in a the process of a felony.

    Finally, if this happened inside the man’s house, it is hard for me to have sympathy for someone shot burglarizing someone’s house. Even if the intruder was fleeing, the shooter could not be certain that it wasn’t just for cover or if the intruder would circle back around when he got the upper hand. As the intruder is inside, there is no longer a barrier between the victim and harm, so I think the default should be that the intruder is a threat for serious harm to the victim.

    In the end, it soundly like this little trouble maker needed to have someone intervene and teach him to value the lives and the property of others and live like a civilized being instead of terrorizing peaceful people and animals.

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