Donald Rattanavong, an Elgin homeowner and father of three, is now on trial for fatally shooting 18-year-old Guillermo Pineda in July 2011, the Chicago Tribune reports. Rattanavong, who is charged with involuntary manslaughter and reckless discharge of a firearm, claims that the shots were meant to warn Pineda and his friends, whom Rattanavong believed were trying to break into his car.
Some may see this as somewhat similar to the highly publicized shooting of Trayvon Martin, which took place in Sanford, Florida. However, the two self-defense laws that may come into play in the cases are quite different. While Florida has a "stand your ground" law, Illinois' self-defense law is less broad.
The reported facts of the case are this: At around 11 p.m., Rattanavong allegedly saw a group of young men approaching his home. Believing that the youths intended to break into the family's cars which were parked out front, Rattanavong reportedly stepped out of the house, yelled at the group to leave, and fired three shots from a .25-caliber handgun. The group quickly scattered.
Rattanavong's attorney argues that his client fired the shots into the air as a warning. However, when Rattanavong walked into the street to check on his cars, he saw Pineda slumped over with a bullet wound near his left ear.
While the case bears a passing resemblance to the shooting of Trayvon Martin, does Illinois self-defense law protect Rattanavong in the same way Florida's stand your ground law may protect George Zimmerman, Martin's alleged shooter? Not quite.
Under laws like Florida’s stand your ground law, a defendant is "justified" in killing another person if he can show that he acted in self defense against great bodily harm or in certain other circumstances. In Florida, the laws allow the use of deadly force in any place the defendant has a right to be with out the requirement he or she retreat first.
Illinois has a similar law that is largely based on the Castle Doctrine, which holds that deadly force may be used to protect an intrusion or attack upon one's home. Under the statute, deadly force is justified where a person "reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to prevent or terminate such other's unlawful entry into or attack upon a dwelling."
In this case, one question that may come up is can the defense against breaking into cars parked in front of the home be justified the way the defense of the actual house would be?
This statute likely contributed to Donald Rattanavong being charged with manslaughter rather than a more serious charge for the shooting of Guillermo Pineda. Pineda's family, like that of Trayvon Martin, feels that such self-defense statutes only serve to cloud the issues and protect those who they feel have committed murder.
- Find a Chicago Criminal Law Attorney (FindLaw)
- Elgin Man Going On Trial For Firing Warning Shot That Killed Teen (CBS News)
- Trayvon Martin Death: Do Illinois 'Stand Your Ground' Laws Exist? (FindLaw's Chicago Criminal Law Blog)