PLATTE COUNTY, Mo. — Platte County prosecutors released new information regarding a shooting that left two people dead in Parkville this past February.
A grand jury declined to indict a Platte County man, 22, in the killing of 34-year-old Kalob Lawson and 44-year-old Johnathon Lutz, citing Missouri’s "stand your ground" law.
Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd described the shooting as a tragic outcome, telling KSHB 41 News the shooting took place after a dispute over $200 worth of firewood.
Lawson and Lutz failed to deliver $200 worth of the wood, which prompted the man to pursue the men. Eventually, everyone got out of their respective vehicles and an altercation ensued.
Zahnd said one of the two men delivering the wood threatened the shooter. The 22-year-old told the court he then raised his gun but the man got back into his own vehicle where he grabbed his gun and started shooting at the man.
Lawson and Lutz were killed.
The jury heard testimony from the man and a teenage witness, after which the jury of 12 declined to indict the man under Missouri's "stand your ground" law.
“The pursuit itself doesn’t necessarily change anything. Again, this wasn’t some sort of a road rage incident where these people didn’t know who was following them. In fact, it’s very clear from the testimony from the 17-year-old in the car that they knew exactly who was behind them," Zahnd explained.
The jury decided the Platte County man was defending himself, but the law can be complicated.
“Now under Missouri 'stand your ground' law, if you’re in a place that you have a right to be, like all of these people who were in a place they had a right to be on the side of Highway 9, no one had a duty to retreat from that situation,” Zahnd laid out.
However, KSHB 41 News also spoke with criminal defense attorney John Picerno, who explained the law is not a simple self-defense argument.
He gave an example of how if the scenario were slightly different, it would likely not have been considered self-defense.
“'Stand your ground' would never work in a fact situation where you pursued somebody who you felt stole from your home, and then you pull them over on the side of the road, and then you get out of your car and you approach them with your firearm drawn and then you fire shots," he said. "You know, that would be murder."
Picerno said there are three key facts to keep in mind when it comes to "stand your ground" and how it works in the Parkville situation.
“You have to be in a reasonable belief that you are in danger, so that's number one. Would a fact-finder find that looking at these facts objectively that you are in reasonable fear of danger? Second, is it imminent? In other words, is it going to happen right then? And then third, you do not have to retreat anymore in Missouri as of the passage of the law in 2016 that you can stand there and you can defend yourself,” Picerno explained.