Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Rural W.Va. sheriff in flood area warns looters that armed citizen patrols might not be taking prisoners

Fayette County (Wikipedia)
Looting in rural West Virginia communities ravaged by floods has led to an increase in armed citizen patrols, leading local law enforcement to issue a warning that crime could be deadly, Erin Beck reports for the Charleston Gazette-Mail. Fayette County Sheriff Steve Kessler, who said the department has received reports of looting in flood areas, said in a statement that “citizens have implemented armed patrols to protect what is left of their homes and possessions. Anyone we catch looting will be arrested and jailed. If the residents of this area catch you first, you may not make it to jail.”

While West Virginia law permits deadly force by residents in certain instances where they feel threatened by a home intruder, the law does not apply to shooting someone in another person's home, Beck writes. Fayette Sheriff’s Capt. Jim Sizemore said the department doesn't encourage armed citizens patrols, but are unable to prevent such acts. He told Beck, “That’s a Second Amendment constitutional right, right there. Those folks are not breaking the law by arming themselves and protecting their community. It’s not sanctioned by the sheriff’s department. It doesn’t have to be, but they have the constitutional right to protect themselves and their families and we’re not going to tell them they can’t exercise that constitutional right.”

Sgt. Brian Humphreys, spokesman for the sheriff in adjoining Kanawha County (Charleston), told Beck that the department has received only limited reports of attempted looting in its flood areas. Humphreys, who said that because damage is so extensive police may not be aware of looting yet, told Beck, “I wouldn’t dare tell people don’t protect your property or the property of others. I’m also not going to say you’re justified in whatever means you use because that’s not the case.”

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