Aug 282006
 
Authors: JAMES BAETKE The Rocky Mountain Collegian

Police are investigating why a Fort Collins homeowner shot a suspected prowler in the backyard of his house Monday, sending the gunshot victim to the hospital.

David Ebner, 28, was shot at about 2 a.m. Monday morning in a gated community on the 300 block of High Pointe Drive. Ebner was sent to Poudre Valley Hospital where he is listed in critical condition.

The homeowner, 58-year-old Steven Ray, reported shooting Ebner who he says was prowling in his backyard, according to a Fort Collins Police Services press release.

Rita Davis, spokeswoman for FCPS, says Ray was awakened by barking dogs. An unrelated power outage in the area left Ray unable to have lighting in his house, Davis said.

Subsequently, Ray armed himself with a .45 caliber handgun and stopped Ebner in his unfenced backyard where a struggle broke out, Davis said.

Ray shot Ebner when he attempted to flea and police found the victim about 20 minutes later approximately 100 yards from the home in a vacant lot, Davis said.

It is unclear why Ebner was in Ray’s backyard. Whether he was staking out the home or passing through is still under investigation.

Joyce Payne, a close neighbor to Ray, lives in one of about 12 homes on High Pointe Drive. Residents must enter with a private gate code, and although backyards are unfenced, Payne said they push up next to a canal ditch and pond.

“It is a very safe neighborhood, really,” Payne said. “I couldn’t imagine anyone in the neighborhood shooting a gun, even Steven.”

Payne said people rarely pass through the neighborhood uninvited and only a few residents use the canal for recreation.

Davis said it is too early in the investigation to “jump to conclusions,” and said it’s unclear whether Ray is protected by Colorado’s “make my day” law.

The so-called “make my day” law recognizes the right for citizens to expect complete safety within their homes. Residents may be justified in using any degree of physical force, including deadly force, against another person who makes an unwelcome entry into the home who might commit or already has committed a crime.

“Very generally, (the law) includes an intruder who is trying to break into a residence, but we cannot conclude anything because the investigation is ongoing,” Davis said.

Ray is not in custody and charges have not been filed against either of the parties involved.

Staff writer James Baetke can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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