'Make My Day' law may apply in fatal shooting in Denver's Capitol Hill neighborhood

Suspect found unresponsive in basement of home

DENVER — The death of a man found in the basement of a home near the northwest corner of 14th Avenue and Downing Street is now being investigated as a homicide.

Denver police were called to that home around 8 p.m. Friday after receiving a call about a burglary in progress.

The homeowner told police that the suspect refused to leave. When officers arrived, they checked the entire house and the yard outside.

The injured party was found downstairs in the basement "unresponsive," and was pronounced dead a short time later.

Police say the homeowner, who was apparently armed with a 9 mm Smith & Wesson, is cooperating with investigators, "and that no charges are pending at this time."

Does Colorado's "Make My Day" law apply in this case?

The Make My Day law grants immunity to people who kill a home intruder, if they fear they are in danger.

A law enforcement source told Denver7 that "Make My Day may apply, but it will be up to the district attorney to decide."

That has neighbors talking.

"I think people should always be able to protect themselves in any situation where they may be in harm, especially in their own home," said neighbor Sarah Antonucci.

"It was quite the commotion last night," said neighbor Will McNamara, who lives across the alley. "I don't know all the facts of what happened here, but if it could have been resolved without somebody getting shot, that would have been nice and certainly less violent."

McNamara told Denver7 that he remembers his house being ransacked once while he was attending college in Maryland.

He said he was asleep downstairs and was awakened when he heard some people enter the house.

"I assumed they were my roommates, so I went back to sleep. The next morning, all of our stuff was gone," he said.

McNamara said he's glad he didn't go upstairs.

"I don't know what they would have been willing to do," he said. "I've thought a lot about the Make My Day law in that context, actually."

McNamara's roommate, Michael Sylvester, said he is familiar with the Castle Doctrine, a self-defense theory that gives a homeowner the right to protect his home with the use of deadly force.

He said Colorado's version of the Castle Doctrine, Make My Day, is stronger than most other states.

He said that’s a little concerning, especially since he’s read a number of stories about drunk college age kids getting shot after entering, or breaking-in to someone else’s home.

“But if I were in a situation where someone was breaking in, I think I would feel a lot safer being armed,” he added.

Family members asking questions

Authorities have not yet released the name of the man who was shot, but family members tell Denver7 that he was 36 years old and that he lived on the south side of town.

“He was apparently shot in the back of the neck,” the man's uncle said. "We don't know why he was here."

When Denver7 tried to contact the owner of the house, a man who answered the phone hung up.

The neighbors we talked with say they have never seen any unusual activity at that house.

Denver7 has requested a list of the “calls for service” to the residence.

We will update this story once that information is provided.

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