Shooting of nighttime intruder called citizen's arrest

It was almost midnight Sunday when someone crept onto Robert Perkins' lawn and broke into his Ford pickup.

Across the street, somebody was watching.

Monique Gunby had just awakened and peered out her window after she heard dogs barking. As she saw someone inside the truck, she called her neighbor and the police.

Her husband, Brete, grabbed his 9 mm handgun and went outside to stop the intruder, according to a Richmond County Sheriff's Office report. When the intruder ran, Gunby followed. The chase lasted nearly 100 feet, with the suspect throwing an ice scraper and a calculator at Gunby along the way.

Capt. Scott Peebles said the fleeing man reached into his pocket a third time, which Gunby took as a threat. He raised the 9 mm and shot 19-year-old Milo Frederick Hayes III in the abdomen.

"He was basically intervening, trying to effectively citizen arrest and hold the individual until the police got there," Peebles said. "He did for his safety." It was a nonlife-threatening wound. When Hayes is released from Medical College of Georgia Hospital, he will be arrested and charged with entering an automobile, Peebles said.

For the man who shot him, no charges are expected. In the eyes of the law, it was a citizen's arrest.

State law says a resident cannot use deadly force in defense of property, but Peebles said Hayes' threatening gesture was enough to justify the shot.

Criminal defense lawyer John Garcia said citizen's arrests are often upheld in court.

"If he's trying to at least keep tabs of the guy, if not catch him -- it's a lawful act," Garcia said. "Each person has to figure out if they would have said, 'OK, he's off the property, I'm just going to let the cops handle it.' But within the law there is such a thing as a citizen's arrest."

He said that although Gunby began chasing Hayes in defense of his neighbor's property, a court could see justification in using his gun when Hayes made a threatening gesture, and juries would agree.

"The number of cases in which criminals are shot and successfully prosecute the people who shot them are not very many," Garcia said. "It gets to a jury and a jury acquits because they see a someone being shot for being a criminal."