Palm Beach Country Estates burglary shooting sparks self-defense debate on "Stand Your Ground"

Homeowner claims he feared for his life

PALM BEACH COUNTRY ESTATES, Fla. -- -  The Palm Beach Country Estates shooting, involving a homeowner who shot an alleged burglar, is fueling a new conversation regarding self-defense laws such as the "Stand Your Ground" law.

Investigators said the homeowner told them he shot a 16-year-old after the suspected burglar broke into his home.

Palm Beach County Sheriff's deputies said the homeowner told them he feared for his life when he fired his weapon.

The suspect underwent surgery at St. Mary's Medical Center earlier in the day and was in critical condition Friday evening, according to Teri Barbera, spokeswoman for the sheriff's office.

"If it is proven that this individual was not given permission, did not have the legal right to be on the property or inside the home, then certainly the homeowner has the right to protect themselves," said Attorney Michelle Suskauer, WPTV NewsChannel 5 legal analyst.

Suskauer said if it is true what investigators said happened, Florida's "Stand-Your-Ground" law could be applied. She said investigators will be thorough when deciding if the homeowner is in the clear.

"Certainly after the George Zimmerman case and Trayvon Martin shooting, they're going to be extra careful and make sure they're crossing their "T's" and dotting all their "I's" before they make any hasty decision in whether or not somebody is going to be charged," said Suskauer.

It is not clear where the homeowner shot the suspect. Investigators did not reveal whether  the 16-year-old was shot inside the home, outside, or whether the suspect was trying to get away.

"That goes back to the George Zimmerman situation if somebody is injecting themselves into the situation and being the aggressor. But there isn't any hard-and-fast rule with that. I think, again, these cases are looked at on a case-by-case basis," said Suskauer.

Given the controversy surrounding "Stand-Your-Ground," Suskauer said it could take some time to confirm if Friday's shooting was self-defense.

Suskauer also said if the law is applied, it would protect the homeowner from both criminal and civil charges.

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