In another one of the “stand your ground” cases that have caused national controversy over the past year, a Missouri man who shot an Army veteran dead as the victim’s wife and friends watched in horror could go free if a jury believes that he was merely protecting his property from those who would urinate upon it.
James Robert Crocker (pictured) faces a $877,000 bond hearing later this week on charges stemming from an incident in his backyard the weekend of July 20, when he fired into a crowd of people after seeing a man relieving himself on his lawn.
Crocker, 59, makes his home along the Meramec River, where thousands of revelers take “float trip” vacations every summer. The trips function as large, floating parties that have irritated homeowners along the river for years, especially when the partygoers use their lawns, which abut the river, as outdoor restrooms.
That’s what set Crocker off. According to witness accounts, he became enraged when he saw a man, part of one such large group, urinating on his lawn. He fired a 9mm pistol into the group, grazing one woman with a bullet.
When Paul Dart, 48, a married army veteran and union carpenter, tried to step in and calm Crocker down, the armed homeowner shot him in the head. Crocker then ran to a neighbor’s house, telling the neighbor to call 911 because “I just shot somebody down at the river.”
The neighbor described Crocker as “very calm,” according to a report in the Riverfront Times newspaper.
When Crocker was arrested, police say they asked him why he didn’t just call the cops on the allegedly trespassing partyers in the first place.
“I guess I could have, but it’s my property and I was going to protect it,” Crocker is reported to have replied.
Bert said that his client’s defense would hinge partly on his property rights, but also on self-defense.
A state trooper who was on the scene said that Crocker showed no sign of injury after the incident.
Missouri enacted this “stand your ground” law, designed to let homeowners protect against intruders with deadly force, in 2007. The state is one of 30 with “stand your ground” laws in effect.
SOURCES: Associated Press, Riverfront Times (2), Daily Journal