Little Falls, MN – A 64-year-old man has been charged with second-degree murder after he encountered two teen burglars in his home, shot them both to death, then hid their bodies in his basement for a day.
Byron Smith was at home alone on Thanksgiving when Nicholas Schaeffel, 17, and his cousin Haile Kifer, 18, broke into his home through a bedroom window and made their way down to the basement where Byron was tinkering in his workshop. In response to finding the two teens in his home illegally, Byron shot them both dead. He then left them in his basement for a day before calling a neighbor for a good lawyer and asking them to call police. When police arrived at Smith’s home, he reported the burglary and confessed to shooting the teens.
In Minnesota, it’s perfectly within your right to use deadly force if someone has broken into your home and you are in fear for your life, but police say Smith went too far and that’s why he has been charged with murder. Initial reports didn’t say what evidence they had that suggested Smith had went too far, but now some of those details have come out and I have to admit, I can understand why he was charged.
Now hear me out before you start discounting me as some anti-gun, bleeding-heart artist. I carry concealed and have no issues with someone killing another to protect the lives of themselves or others. But keep reading and tell me if you think the shootings were justified.
According to the charges, Smith told investigators that Schaeffel was walking down the basement stairs when he shot him with a rifle. After the teen fell and lay on the floor looking up at him, Smith says he shot him in the face because he thought the teen may have a weapon and that he “wanted him dead.”
Smith says after he sat down in a chair, he used the rifle to shoot Kifer as she walked down the basement stairs. He told police that after she fell he tried to shoot her a second time, but the rifle jammed. He said that Kifer laughed at him when this happened and that made him even angrier. “If you’re trying to shoot somebody and they laugh at you, you go again,” he told police. So Smith pulled out a .22 caliber revolver and shot Kifer several times in the chest. A few minutes later, as Kifer gasped for air, he shot her once more under her chin.
Byron’s brother says the man simply panicked. “Put yourself in his shoes after you shoot two people in your basement,” Bruce Smith said. “How are you going to react?” He has a point. I’m not sure how I would react if two teens surprised me in my home. I’m not saying I wouldn’t shoot them, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t do it quite like Smith, and I would definitely report it immediately afterwards — if I thought the shootings were justified.
A lot of articles covering this incident go on to describe Smith as a strange loner who loved guns, and the murdered teens as being well liked by their peers with friends saying they did not deserve to be murdered, even if they did break into someone’s home. Brady is described as having a “million dollar smile” who liked to make his friends laugh. Kifer was a senior at Little Falls High School where she competed in gymnastics and swimming while also helping manage the boys wrestling team.
I thought it was odd that these two teens, as described, would end up shot to death in the basement of someone else’s home. It wasn’t until I found an article by the Star Tribune that a more clearer picture emerged. There it was reported that students who knew Brady say he got into trouble a lot at school, and they were not surprised that he would be involved in a robbery. As for Kifer, she reportedly had been in treatment multiple times for drug addiction and had just recently returned to school.
The Star Tribune also reports that Smith had been the victim of several burglaries over the last two years, the latest one in October when thieves broke into his home and made off with $10,000 worth of guns, electronic gear and cash. Wetzel planned to hold a news conference sometime today where he said he would release a fuller picture of what happened. “We do want to give the public a clear picture of what happened,” Wetzel said.
Byron Smith remains at the Morrison County jail, with bail set at $2 million.
There are a lot of lessons to be learned here, but I think the main thing to take away from this that if you don’t want to get your ass shot to death in someone’s basement, don’t break into their home.
Feel free to disagree with me, but with what we know currently, do you think Smith was legally justified to shoot these two teens in the manner he described, or are the charges against him deserved?