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OK veteran faces 1st-degree murder charge for killing burglar


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Yahoo! News

LaRue Bratcher, a 34-year-old Black Army veteran from Oklahoma, remains behind bars on a charge of first-degree murder more than a year after he shot and killed a white man allegedly trying to break into his marijuana grow business.

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In 2018 when Oklahoma voters legalized medical marijuana, Bratcher established Premium Smoke LLC, a marijuana grow shop located in Oklahoma City, whose business license expired a year later. Bratcher had planned to renew his license in 2019, his wife said, but learned he would not be allowed to do so until he made nearly $100,000 worth of renovations to the warehouse that housed it, so he held off.

 

On May 27, 2020, around 1 a.m., Bratcher was at the grow operation warehouse when Daniel Hardwick, a 42-year-old white man, allegedly attempted to break into the business for the second consecutive night. Video from that night reportedly shows Hardwick park his car at the rear of the shop, walk to the business's door and jostle with the door handle, attempting to gain entry.

 

"He was trying to break in when the business owner, who was inside the business at the time, apparently opened fire with a handgun, striking and killing the man who was breaking in," Master Sgt. Gary Knight with the Oklahoma City Police Department told KFOR.

 

Bratcher called the police shortly after the shooting, and once at the scene, officers called the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority to ensure the business was legal. When they found out that the business's license had expired, Bratcher was arrested for operating a grow shop illegally, a felony, and was held on $5,000 bond. He was not, however, initially arrested in Hardwick's death. In addition to arresting Bratcher, authorities also seized 480 marijuana plants worth an estimated $1,500,000.

 

A day after the arrest, Bratcher was released on bond. But just a week later, the city's district attorney's office reviewed the case and upgraded Bratcher's charges to second-degree murder. One week later, police raided Bratcher's home, escorting him, his children and his wife to the street, and arrested Bratcher again. Then, after he refused to accept a plea deal late last year, Bratcher's charges were upgraded to first-degree murder. The family told Yahoo News that it does not understand why.

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Despite Oklahoma being a state with a "stand your ground" law, or castle doctrine, those rights do not apply to those who are found to have committed a felony. Prosecutors say that because Bratcher operated his grow business without a license, he was felonious and any self-defense clause is thrown out.

 

Knight also told Yahoo News that because Hardwick was on the other side of the door, Bratcher had no legal standing to shoot him.

 

"[bratcher] shot a burglar who had been working on the doorknob," Knight said. "To use deadly force you have to determine you or the life of an innocent person is in imminent peril. The guy was on the other side of the door. ... This is not 'stand your ground.'"

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Bratcher's wife, who also served in the U.S. military, believes the courts are making Hardwick out to be the victim and using her husband's Army training against him.

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Vicky [LaRue's wife] added that at last year's bond hearing, prosecutors said her husband was a "threat to the community" because of his previous combat training and expertise with a weapon.

 

"They used our experience of being a veteran [against us]," she said. "That's literally a slap in the face."

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The trial date for Bratcher has been set for Oct. 11 of this year.

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Meanwhile, the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority updated its policy this year to allow cardholders to apply for a new license while still using their expired one until the new one comes in the mail.

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I was wondering about the use of Castle Doctrine since it usually covers just a residence.

But in Texas it also includes vehicle and work place.

Understanding the Castle Doctrine - U.S. LawShield (uslawshield.com)

 

I am skeptical of the justification of shooting someone for jiggling a door handle. Are they an intruder if they have not entered the premises,

or forcibly trying to enter?

As others have said, it is a decision for the court.

 

The article gives no justification for its listing the races of those involved.

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I was wondering about the use of Castle Doctrine since it usually covers just a residence.

But in Texas it also includes vehicle and work place.

Understanding the Castle Doctrine - U.S. LawShield (uslawshield.com)

 

I am skeptical of the justification of shooting someone for jiggling a door handle. Are they an intruder if they have not entered the premises,

or forcibly trying to enter?

As others have said, it is a decision for the court.

 

The article gives no justification for its listing the races of those involved.

Exactly my thinking. Until said person becomes a burglar, i.e. actually enters the establishment, it's a very grey area at best. Granted, I think the person was testing doors nightly for someone forgetting to lock. But, Neighborhood watch people do exactly the same thing. So, there is doubt.

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