Fatal Shooting of Burglar Shows Real Risk of Crime in Oklahoma

The holiday season is peak time for burglaries and theft in Oklahoma and around the nation. While homeowners are advised to make sure windows and doors are locked and valuables are out of sight, those who would consider breaking and entering should be aware of the risks they face when they burglarize a home in Oklahoma. On Saturday afternoon, police were called to a northwest Oklahoma City neighborhood in response to an alarm.  As they arrived, they could hear the burglar alarm sounding. In the meantime, a homeowner's son called 9-1-1 to report that his father shot an intruder. When police arrived, they found the suspect's body found outside the home. The homeowner claims that the intruder was shot inside the home and died as he attempted to leave. Police are investigating the shooting. Reports indicate the homeowner involved in the shooting was Windsor Hills Baptist Church pastor Tom Vineyard, who has made news in the past when the Southern Poverty Law Center listed his congregation as a hate group in response to his inflammatory statements about homosexuality. In Oklahoma, breaking into an occupied home with the intent to commit a crime is first degree burglary. The penalties are severe: seven to 20 years in prison. It is also an 85 Percent Crime--a violent crime that requires anyone convicted to serve a minimum of 85 percent of his or her sentence before being given even the possibility of parole. However, in a state that has permissive gun laws and fully supports the Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground laws, the real risk of committing burglary is not the criminal penalty associated, but the risk of being shot and killed by an armed homeowner.

  • On New Year's Eve 2011 in Blanchard, a recently widowed 18-year-old mother shot and killed an intruder breaking into her home searching for drugs.
  • In October 2010, a Midwest City mother shot two teenagers who broke into her home to steal a flat-screen TV. One of the 15-year-old burglars died of his injuries.
  • In October 2012, a 12-year-old girl in southeast Oklahoma shot an intruder through a door as she crouched and hid in the closet.
  • In October 2014, a Shawnee homeowner shot a burglary suspect in the chest.
The Castle Doctrine supports the rights of people to feel safe and secure in their own homes. If an intruder breaches the sanctity of one's home, the homeowner and any occupants have the right to assume an intruder means harm and thus, have the right to use lethal force to protect themselves. If you are considering letting yourself into someone else's home and lifting the presents from under the Christmas tree, be aware that the immediate risk you run in Oklahoma is far more serious than the penalties of conviction.