Trooper's Shooting Of Burglary Suspect Spotlights Self-Defense Law

Professor: Unarmed Burglars Can Be Lawfully Shot

Laws allowing people to use deadly force to stop someone from unlawfully entering their dwellings are being highlighted by this week's fatal shooting of a burglary suspect by an off-duty state police trooper.

Police said Trooper Joel D. Wilson, 39, was alone inside his east-side Indianapolis home Monday when he fired two shots through the front door, striking Theodore E. Hixenbaugh at least once. Wilson told authorities that Hixenbaugh had first knocked on the door and, when Wilson didn't answer, Hixenbaugh tried to kick the door down.

Wilson told police that after Hixenbaugh knocked, Wilson watched Hixenbaugh from a concealed position and determined that he didn't know who Hixenbaugh was.

Information on whether Hixenbaugh was armed wasn't available. Indiana University law professor Henry Karlson said state law says citizens can use deadly force to stop even an unarmed person's unlawful entry into their dwellings.

"If there are people in the residence, (burglars) are putting them at risk, and that's why Indiana law allows a reasonable person to use deadly force to prevent that," Karlson said.

Karlson said the law allows people to defend themselves from burglars without first exposing themselves.

Theodore E. Hixenbaugh

"You don't have to put yourself at risk. You don't have to say, 'Oh, by the way, I'm here,' and give (the burglar) the first shot. You don't have to give the burglar the first shot," Karlson said.

Police said Wilson's home also was burglarized about three weeks before Monday's shooting.

State police are investigating the shooting. The findings will be forwarded to the Marion County prosecutor's office, which will determine whether any charges will be filed.

State police said they will seek a court order to search the car of Hixenbaugh, who was a 22-year-old Noblesville resident. Police found the car about a half-block away from Wilson's house.

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