A mother home with her two young children and a neighbor who came to help her when a stranger reportedly tried to break into the woman’s house both feared for their lives, Clark County Sheriff Gene Kelly said Monday.
The neighbor confronted the stranger, who had a rock in his hand, then shot and killed the man, Mark Owens, 41, early Saturday morning.
“(Owens) was still clutching a rock in his hands when paramedics arrived, and they had to remove the rock from his hands,” Kelly said.
Investigators said Owens might have been under the influence of drugs and alcohol while attempting to gain entry into a home in the 800 block of Blee Road.
According to a 911 call made by the homeowner, she heard a loud noise on her deck and saw Owens, dressed in a T-shirt and boxers.
Before calling 911, the woman said she called her neighbor, 34-year-old Brandon Coffey, who came to help her armed with a shotgun. Before Coffey arrived, the woman told dispatchers she could hear Owens, a stranger, pounding on the door, apparently trying to get inside. She also heard a gunshot.
Coffey confronted Owens and fired once, striking Owens in the left side of his chest, said Kelly.
Owens was taken by CareFlight to Miami Valley Hospital, where he died.
Authorities are awaiting toxicology results from Owens’ autopsy. He was at a party with friends near Blee Road prior to the incident, and Kelly said witnesses there said Owens consumed a large amount of alcohol and narcotics. While on his way home from that party, Owens reportedly got in an argument, got out of the car he was riding in on Blee Road and walked off, Kelly said.
Sarina Unangst, Owens’ fiancée, said she was the one driving when he got out of the car. She said she gave him some time to “cool off” before driving back to get him, but she found sheriff’s deputies blocking Blee Road. It wasn’t until she went with deputies downtown that Unangst said she learned Owens was dead.
“He was the most wonderful, amazing, loving, caring person that I had ever met in my life,” Unangst said through tears.
Unangst said she believes he was not trying to threaten anyone but was confused and trying to get into what he thought was his own home.
“Even if he had a rock in his hand or something, the guy had a shotgun,” she said. “I know he wasn’t trying to break into that woman’s house. He wouldn’t cause harm on anybody else.”
Coffey has been questioned by detectives but is not in custody nor facing charges. Kelly said once toxicology and ballistics results are available, the case will be presented to the Clark County Prosecutor’s Office for consideration.
“This was a violent confrontation where an individual was attempting to get into the house of a very, very scared and frightened neighbor, and this man was the aggressor and came onto this property,” Kelly said. “This was unprovoked (and) they had no knowledge of this person and this homeowner was there defending himself and the other property owner.”
Whether Coffey believed himself to be in “imminent danger” would be key to proving if his use of deadly force was justified, said Tim Apolito, a law professor at the University of Dayton who reviewed the case at the request of the Springfield News-Sun.
“If the potential burglar, if his plan was to throw the rock through the window, that could be one thing,” Apolito said. “If the neighbor believed that person was going to use that rock to harm him, that would justify it, but that is something the jury would decide.”
Owens was found guilty of criminal trespass, a fourth-degree misdemeanor, in 1990. His sentence was not available in Clark County Municipal Court documents.