A grand jury recently determined that a Prineville man who fatally shot another local resident during an altercation this past October was justified in using deadly force to protect himself and his home.
The shooting in question happened mid-afternoon on Oct. 22, at a Northwest Second Street residence. Neighbors and other eyewitnesses said that 56-year-old Kenneth McBeth came to the home of 40-year-old Larry Hoevet uninvited and unannounced. According to Crook County District Attorney Wade Whiting, McBeth and Hoevet were longtime acquaintances with a recent past history of physical aggression.
McBeth began knocking on Hoevet's front door demanding the return of personal property. When Hoevet refused to open the front door, an angry exchange of words between the two followed. This heated exchange went on for several minutes.
McBeth then gave a final ultimatum to open the front door or he was coming in anyway, Whiting said. McBeth then counted to three, picked up a nearby patio chair and threw it through Hoevet's front window. The patio chair and shattered glass landed on the living room floor.
Hoevet told authorities that he was in fear for his life, believing McBeth was trying to enter his home through the broken front window. So he fired two shots in the direction of the broken window, striking McBeth in the left chest with one of the bullets. McBeth was able to retreat from the house to a nearby parking lot before collapsing where several citizens came to his immediate aid.
When law enforcement officials responded to the reported shooting, they found McBeth in critical condition with several people trying to render aid. Despite the efforts of emergency medical personnel on scene, McBeth was pronounced dead a short time later. The medical examiner found the cause of death to be chest trauma resulting from a single gunshot wound.
The Prineville Police Department and Crook County Sheriff s Office secured the scene, detaining Hoevet within minutes of the incident. Hoevet had called 911 immediately after the shooting and remained on the line with dispatch as the police arrived. He was cooperative, Whiting said, turned himself in without incident and was transported to the police department for further questioning.
With the assistance of the Central Oregon Major Crimes Team, the scene was quickly secured with evidence collected and processed, Whiting stated. Detectives from numerous agencies canvassed the area to interview eye witnesses and gather evidence. The Oregon State Police Forensic Services Division sent several forensic scientists to examine and collect evidence.
At the conclusion of the investigation, the case was presented to a grand jury over the course of several weeks. After hearing witness testimony and reviewing evidence presented, the grand jury determined that Hoevet was justified in using deadly force to protect himself in his own home.
Whiting points out that under Oregon law, a person has an absolute right to feel safe and secure in their own home. A person can be justified in using deadly physical force if another person is committing or attempting to commit a burglary in their dwelling or if another person is committing or attempting to commit a felony involving the use or threated imminent use of physical force.
"In this instance, the grand jury has determined that Hoevet was justified in using deadly physical force under the circumstances he encountered and it was reasonable for him to believe his life was endangered at the time he discharged the firearm from his own home," Whiting said.
While the law does allow people to use deadly force in such situations, Whiting urges people to seek help from law enforcement whenever possible if they feel their home or personal safety is in danger.
"The Crook County District Attorney's Office would like to remind the public that the purpose of our local police force is to preserve the peace and ensure public safety for all," he said. "Our dedicated law enforcement officers are well trained in de-escalation tactics and have the ability to diffuse difficult situations in a safe manner. When possible, please make every effort to call the police and request assistance before taking matters into your own hands. A quick phone call and response by an officer can quickly resolve a situation before matters escalate out of control."
Whiting went on to express the condolences of the Crook County District Attorney's Office to the McBeth family.
"In time spent with the family, it is abundantly clear that Kenneth McBeth was a dearly beloved family member who will be greatly missed," he said. "The McBeth family has been very gracious and understanding as we have worked through this lengthy investigative and legal process. The support and patience of the McBeth family has been greatly appreciated."
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