ELKHART – What would you do if you found strangers breaking into your home in broad daylight?
An Elkhart man told police he “feared for his life” and had no choice but to shoot.
Elkhart County Prosecutor Curtis Hill cleared that homeowner of any wrongdoing Tuesday and charged 4 teenagers with felony murder in the alleged break-in, even though none of them pulled the trigger that killed a 21-year-old also apparently involved in the attempted burglary.
It was a split-second decision at approximately 2:32 p.m. on Wednesday, October 3.
“This man took action that he felt was necessary at the time without being in a position to think about it," Hill said about the homeowner. "He had to react instinctively as to what he felt was appropriate at the time.”
Because of those instincts, the man who lives at that home in the 1900 block of Frances Ave. in Elkhart forever has to deal with the fact that he took a life.
And 4 teenagers will be tried as adults for felony murder. Hill said Indiana law allows him to charge them with murder because Danzele Johnson, 21, died during the alleged felony burglary.
“People breaking into homes, whether there’s someone there, whether there's someone not there, it’s got to stop. And from our standpoint, we’re going to use every available measure under the law to stop it,” said Hill, who added 4 of the teens were inside the home and one was standing outside as a “lookout.”
He said the 54-year-old homeowner, who lives alone, was napping upstairs in his bedroom when he heard a noise downstairs. That’s when he grabbed his pistol and cell phone and went to check it out.
Investigators said the homeowner found several intruders, some armed with knives from his own kitchen. Then, he started shooting.
Once he felt he was no longer in danger, the homeowner called police and advised that medics were needed to treat Johnson, who was later pronounced dead at the scene and 16-year-old Brandon Layman who the homeowner shot in the leg. Layman was transported to the hospital, treated and later arrested.
Police caught and arrested 16-year-old Jose Quiroz a block away from the home on foot moments after the 911 call and picked up 17-year-old Levi Sparks Monday night. Investigators are still looking for 18-year-old Anthony Sharp of Goshen.
Hill pointed out what happened in this case is “not a green light” for other homeowners to make the same decision as the man on Frances Ave. should they find themselves in a similar situation. He said investigations such as this one are done on a case-by-case basis and don’t always come without legal consequences for the shooter, even if it was in self defense.
Elkhart’s Homicide Unit continues to investigate the incident.